From Kimbanda’s Spirit-Deities
Kimbanda can generally be defined as the cult of the rascals, the so-called Eshus and Pombagiras. However, in its theology, traditional Kimbanda goes beyond and organizes the cosmos hierarchically under the concept of condensed and expanded energies. In addition, as a marginal religion, it brings together other classes of spirits that, like Eshus and Pombagiras, are also often left out of society, both physical and spiritual.
Eshu Maioral, also called Eshu Mor or Eshu Belzebu, carries with him the balance of the universe. Unlike Eshu Spirits, which, as already described, are spirits subject to the phenomenon of embodiment, Eshu Maioral does not embody in any Medium, no matter what! This is because Eshu Maioral is not a spirit, has not had an earthly life, nor is he disincarnated. Much more than that, Maioral is a cluster of energies, a powerhouse: the magical gathering of the positive and negative poles of universe, the symbolic marriage between male and female, the concentration of the five elements of magical nature: earth, fire, water, air, and spirit.
Commonly represented by the image of Baphomet--a goat-headed androgynous creature with female breasts and ox feet--it epitomizes the universal balance. The position of the hands, pointing up and down, is a clear reference to the rule common to all religious traditions: “all that is above is also below” or “on earth as it is in heaven.”
One of Kimbanda’s exponents in southeastern Brazil in the mid-1970s, Tata Augustin de Satã, describes the hierarchical position of Maioral in a famous Kimbanda sacred song:
Olha a catira da Umbanda,
Espia, espia quem vem lá.
É o chefe, é o Rei da Kimbanda,
Chefe dos chefes, é o Maioral.
Oh worshippers of Umbanda,
Look, look who’s coming there
It’s the master, the Kimbanda King,
Chief of all chiefs, it is Maioral.
Eshu e Pombagira
Eshu and its female counterpart, Pombagira, are the most well-known Spirits of all those manifested in African-Brazilian religious practices. This is because, in all of them, the other Spirits are always kept at a certain distance that divinizes and sacralizes them, while Eshu is seen as close and intimate with the human being, and even treated by his faithful as “my buddy” (in Portuguese, compadre).
In addition, the archetype represented by Eshu also contributes to the creation of this almost affective bond between men and Spirit. Outcasts of every kind, marginal in the literal sense of the word--those who live on the margins--Eshu and Pombagira represent human nature itself with all its vices and virtues, free from the moral bonds imposed by Western Christian society. They are therefore parents, siblings, friends, and, why not, reflections of those who worship them, even serving as an element of catharsis.
It is precisely for this reason, combined with the freedom that Eshu gains within Kimbanda for his insubordination to other Spirits, that when embodied in his Mediums, He maintains and reproduces the ways, tastes and desires of when He was incarnated and can often be easily confused with a live person.
“They are lovers of the night, the gambling, the balls and the parties of all kinds. The carnival, street parties, drinking, smoking and addictions in general attracts them. They are curious, restless, sometimes irreverent and proud, haughty, moody, fickle and easily irritated. They can be kind and understandable, as well as rude and intolerant; of tender words or profanity. They fear nothing, they are bold, insightful, cunning, ironic, very interested, always following, however, the laws imposed by Kimbanda’s Maioral.” (Omotobàtálá, 1999, p. 41)
The Eshu Spirit also takes on the characteristics and premises of the Orísa from which it has inherited its name: it is fast, light, cunning, malicious, clever, and often self-interested. From the oral tradition of Candomblé, some phrases that define him are passed down from generation to generation and symbolize its nature: “Esu can carry [palm] oil in a sieve without spilling the liquid”; “Esu killed a bird yesterday with the arrow he played today”; and “Esu makes the mistake hit, and the hit turns wrong”.
Front and Back Eshus
The Eshus in Kimbanda are organized into seven Realms, each with nine Dominions. These Realms, in addition to their place in nature, also have specific places of worship within the physical domains of the temple and can be broadly classified as front or back.
This definition is directly related to the distribution of ritual rooms within a temple, be it Kimbanda, Candomblé, Batuque, or otherwise. In them there is an established order for the placement of some energy: Esu/Bará and his inseparable brother Ògún always stand over the main gate in front, in a clear reference to the proximity to the street. In the same way, Eshus belonging to the Crossroads, Cruises, Lira, and Beach Realms are classified as front and their rituals are performed either in open air, near the main gate, or inside the main hall of the temple.
Likewise, the Eshus belonging to the Woods, Cemetery, and Souls Realms are classified as back and have their own ritual room. In this same room, most of the time, the Eshu settlements of the temple’s priest and its initiated are maintained, and it is also there that the Omotés (Eshu Earth Holes) and the Eshu Ìgbàlè (The House of Souls) are kept.
This room, in turn, is located at the back of the property, just as in Candomblé and Batuque the Ilè Ibo Akú and Orísa Ìgbàlè, places of worship for the souls of their ancestors, are located at the back.
In addition to the division by type of energy or vibratory range, there is also a generalist classification as to the field of action of the Eshus and their Realms. Although the separation between each of the seven Realms is recognized, in the day-to-day life of a temple the front Realms become one, “The Crossroads,” and the same is true for the back Realms, which merge and unify into “The Souls.”