ESPIRITISMO CRIOLLA / CRIOLLO
ESPIRITISMO DE LA MESA BLANCA
Second only to Catholicism no other religious movement has had such a profound impact on the island of Puerto Rico as Espiritismo. It has spawned various belief systems on the island such as Espiritismo Cientifico, Espiritismo de la Mesa Blanca, and Espiritismo Folclorico, and has influenced Santeria and Vodou on the island so much so that traditions such as Santerismo "a blend of Cuban Espiritismo Cruzado with Puerto Rican Espiritismo", and Sanse "a blend of Braziliam Umbanda, Haitian Vodou and Puerto Rican Espiritismo" where spawned; and has influenced Spanish European Brujeria, African Magic, and indigenous Taino Chamanismo and Curandismo beliefs. Espiritismo in Puerto Rico is as colorful as the people who inhabit the island and each culture has infused and embedded the traditions of their ancestors into the particular sect of Espiritismo one practices. As many descendants of Tainos and Africans had forms of ancestral veneration and trance possession that predates Kardecian Spiritism, these elements became infused, absorbed and adapted into these traditions. In the island there are two divisions "each with subdivisions" of Espiritismo currently practiced, the first division was and still is practiced by the middle class and well educated which utilized the traditional French Kardecian Spiritism and is similar to the Spiritism practiced in France and Europe. The second division, the more popular of the two is Espiritismo Folclorico or Espiritismo de la Mesa Blanca which traditionally was set in rural and urban settings on the island but recently has seen a growth with the middle class and well educated.
The Mediamidades or Espiritistas of the second division have been traditionally called the psychiatrist or the doctors to the poor. As most of them worked from their homes in the rural mountainside of the islands, and were called on from anything to removing a curse, the preparation of resguardos, helping remove the evil eye, calming an intranquil spirit or even setting bones.
The most important event of this religious and spiritual movement are called La Reunion or la Sesion, which are spiritual reunions and sèanses that were traditionally held in the rural settings of a Mediamidads or Preseidente de Mesa's house, but since the 50s through the 70s have been held in what is called as Centro Espirituales or Templo Espirituales. The Centros and Templos saw their most popularities and growth within New York where Puerto Ricans migrated and Puerto Rico in the late 1960s until the 1970s "prior to this were usually held in homes" with a decline in the 1980s as many practitioners went into other traditions such as Cuban Lukumi or Paleria, but has seen a regrowth in popularity within the last few years and has witnessed a resurgence as the centros and templos of old are becoming more popular amongst Puerto Ricans in and out of the island. This is due to the fact that many Puerto Ricans are searching for a belief system that has its roots within their culture.
For the most part each Centro and Templo has a similar structure and setting, some have elaborate altars while others have simple altars with a white cloth, vases of flowers and goblets of water. Traditionally a Centro or Templo has a large rectangular table covered with a white cloth known as La Mesa Blanca. Behind the mesa blanca are chairs in which the leader of the Centro or Templo known as the Presidente de Mesa, sits in the center, the Mediamidad de Mano Derecha, sits to the right side, and other mediums of various spiritual faculties take their rightful seats according to spiritual abilities. Usually the godchildren known as the Ahijados sit at the end of the mesa blanca or on separate chairs off to the side of the mesa blanca.
Within Espiritismo their exists no hierarchy, priestly order or spiritual leaders and one is viewed and respected by age, wisdom and Facultades Espirituales. Also gender roles and sexual preference have little importance within Espiritismo Folclotico as women and homosexual men have important roles within a centro or templo, and have as much Facultades Espirituales as their heterosexual male colleagues.
On the Mesa Blanca one will see books of prayers, usually a paper back book titled La Fe en La Oracion as well as books by Allen Kardec. There are often copas or fuentes filled with perfumed holy water, cigars, ashtrays, and bottles of Hoyt's colognes and Murray & Lanman Florida Water. Behind the Mesa Blanca an elaborate altar often called La Tableau Espiritual, with Catholic Saints, African deities, Angels, Hindu Gods, Buddhas, Indian Statues, gypsies and even Arabian busts adorn the altar and are known as los Atributos de los Santos. Vases of flowers, and bottles of Agua Florida, and paños "cloths" of various colors trim the base of the altar. Some Presidente de Mesa's or Mediamidades are also baptized into Sance and keep the Tinajas to their Sances within the Tableau Espiritual.
On the floor tin cups adorned with various colored ribbons, beads and shells filled with offerings of liquor or coffee are placed, while white candles and other religious paraphernalia surround the altar. Above the wall behind the altar a myriad of crucifixes, and pictures of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and other Catholic saints adorn the wall. In front of la Mesa Blanca is usually a space for the Presidente de Mesa to lift what is termed as "las Causas", and then pews of chairs for the congregation which can be anything from plastic white lawn chairs or old wooden dining room chairs are aligned into rows or pews.
Within the Centro or Templo, various ceremonies are held, not just Sesiones, but also Misas, veladas, velaciones, investigaciones, novenas, bautismos, limpias, refresco de cavesas, psychic surgery, cleansing, removal of negative vibrations and some even spiritual wedding ceremonies. Usually the Spiritual Reunions and Sesiones begin with the Presidente de Mesa or another medium reading prayers from the Colección de Oraciones Escogidas by Allan Kardec which contains prayers and invocations for the mediums to conduct a successful sèance, and other prayers for inviting the protective spirits and keeping at bay negative or unwanted spirits from interfering with the sesion. Other popular prayers are those for blessing a new born child, the prayers used for a recently departed family member, and prayers used for healing the sick. Some Templos or Centros include the singing of spiritual hymns, have drummers, or use spiritual music from a cd player or mp3 player.
After the prayers and hymns are sung the mediums are ready to "Travajar la Causa". Working a Causa as it is called in Puerto Rico which means to lift negative vibrations, or bad luck caused by the influence of an earthbound or ignorant spirit. This is done by a Medium identifying the cause of an individuals problems which can be either material or spiritual. When a Causa is identified as material, meaning that the cause of the ailment or problem is not caused by spiritual forces, it is the responsability of the Espiritista to inform the person that they should visit a medical doctor, but also the Espiritista will perform prayers over the individuals head, perform the pases "healing of the hands"; and often prescribe herbal baths for a quicker recovery. When the causa is identified as being of a spiritual matter, herbal baths, prayers and other forms of healing and removing the root cause of the problem are undertaken, but also a Novena is often prescribed or a Misa to "darle luz" or give light to the spirit that may be the cause of the encausado's ailments. An encausado is a person who is suffering a spiritual causa.
When the causa is identified as Espiritual, the process of levantando la causa or lifting the root cause is undertaken. This is done through a process known in Puerto Rico as sanacion or santiguar which translates to healing and uncrossing. This is done by the Espiritista trying to educate and orientate the melevolent spirit and darle luz "give it light" or to align or position the Spirit away from the material body.
It is the Espiritistas obligation to also understand the roots and origins of a particular Causa, and why it has attached itself to the encausado "individual suffering la Causa". There can be many reasons for "una causa" but some of the causes of a Causa are as follows.
An Espiritu de la Obscuridad or travieso has attached itself to the afflicted.
The person is under a spell in which a Necromancer employed an earth bound spirit or a recently diseased spirit to cause harm on an individual.
A past life wrong done to another person, in which the Spirit of the person still harbors a grudge or wishes to forfil a curse made in a past life.
The soul of an over jelouse partner from this life or a previous life which will not let you live in peace.
A person venerating or working with a spirit that does not make up or belong to his/her cuadro.
(Amazingly the latter being one of the major reasons)
When la causa is identified as spiritual the process of healing commences which is done in three steps. The first is to try and educate the spirit or to "darle luz" give it light and that it goes peacefully and of its own free will. The Espiritista also has to identify the symptoms the individual is afflicted with to be sure with out a doubt that the causa is of a spiritual nature and not material, at this time he/she performs a method of divination which can be anything from casting lots, using a tarot deck / playing cards, or interpreting the ashes from a lit cigar. When the answer is obtained and la Causa is identified as espiritual the Espiritista takes on the proper procedure in becoming possessed. This is usually done through a Misa or a Sesion with other mediums present to make sure the Casilla's body is guarded during possession. For the most part the Espiritista becomes possessed by a spirit that belongs to his/her Cuadro Espiritual in the hopes that his spirit can speak in behalf of the spirit afflicting the encausado or that ones spirit may speak directly to the spirit causing the problem: but other times the Espiritista can become possesed by the actual spirit that is the root of la causa. When this happens it is the responsibility of other espiritistas present to guard the physical body of the Casilla / Banco from harming itself.
There are two major functions why a spiritual dialogue with the spirit causing la causa is done. The first is so that the spirit may express its intentions, or communicate on why it has attached itself to the afflicted individual. This is important because through this the Presidente de Mesa has a general idea why the spirit has attached itself to the encausado and what procedures can be taken to fix the problem. The second is to help lead the spirit into the light, or lead the spirit away from the individual it has attached itself to. If the spirit realizes the problems it is causing the afflicted encausado, it will usually except being lead into the light. But many times Espiritistas invokes the spirits of their Cuadro Espirituales to help educate the spirit so that it can not cause others further harm. The Spirits take the spirit causing la causa to what our limited human minds call, an Escuela Espiritual, where the spirit is orientated on the wrong it has done, or the spirit is lead into the light and away from the material plane where it can not cause further harm.
There are times that the Spirit can be an Espiritu Obscuro, an Espiritu Endurecido or a Demonio, in which case greater ritualistic actions need to be undertaken; which usually result in a full blown Exorcismo "exorcism". When this is the case, one's spiritual cuadro can not handle or tackle these situations and Puro Misterios are called on. These exorcismos are far and few and the duration of the excorcismo can leave the Casilla, which usually is la Mediamidad de la Mano Derecha or el Presidente de Mesa completely drained and out of commission for a time being until they regain their facultades. Also Espiritistas understand the great importance of conducting a proper Amparo ritual of protection on themselves before and after the Levantada de Causas as many times the Obscuro, Endurecido or Demonio can become attached to the physical body of the Espiritistas becoming an Espiritu Obsesionado.
At the ending of all misas and sesiones especially those of "Trabajado / laborando las diferentes Causas" a prayer is recited to end the sesion and thank the spirits for their help.
"That which you seek or love the most.
I have to state this. I am amazed at the trend of people placing altars to spirits that are not part of their cuadro. Or individuals claiming to be Santeros, Houngans, Sancistas, or Conjure Men who have never received proper initiations, and 99 percent of their knowledge does not come from an elder or spiritual teacher, but from a book or a Hoodoo internet course, which to the true spiritual practitioner is just a marketing scam to take your hard earned cash. I have come across so many individuals who set up altars or bovedas, " Call them Bow Vay Duhs, as if we all have bovedas" and place Santisima Muertes with Madamas, or Indios with African slaves. They work with their La Madama as they call her, or El Indio as they call them. Like they walk around in the spirit realm saying, "My name is La Madama or I am EL Indio" And then I ask. Ok so who performed la investigacion of your cuadro? They dont have the slightest idea what I am talking about, and say. Oh they presented themselves to me, or came to me in dreams.. Um have you ever heard of Espiritus Burlones or Obsesionados? They will tell the weak minded anything they want to hear in order to feed off of their energy. Then they mix and match their altars, place spirits from one division or comision within another with no order or cohesiveness. Then I ask, who is your teacher. They have none, they read books. If you look deeply into these people you will see that their lives are chaotic, out of balance, and no order, they are depressed, problematic and argumentative, "Que Causa Eso?" and yet they set up altars and start buisnesses, taking advantage of those who understand no better. These individuals are often manipulative and can often bring more harm and problems into your life then good. Educate yourself and investigate.