"Centinela Alerta? Alerta Esta!"
When I began this blog a year and a half ago, one of the first articles I wrote about was on the importance of the Centinela as this Spirit and "Division" is viewed within the Sanse tradition. A short while after I had come across a video on youtube about a person proclaiming, that their Madama, who in life was a Southern Baptist, was his alleged Centinela, and he proceded to say his Centinela's name for the world to know. Now I never attack anyone, as this is not my nature, "unless in self defense" but I have to be responsible enough to fix the misinformation as would anyone who follows a tradition.
The video made me a bit confused because, one, a Madama / Madamas are not, nor were they ever in life Southern Baptist. "Spain ruled the Latin Countries it colonized with an Iron fist and Catholicism was the dominant religion. At the time when these woman lived, many where often Cuban woman of African descent who not only where followers of Catholicism in public, but also practiced their ancestral traditions in secrecy, these Madamas where Iyalocha "Santera" priestesses. Any one caught practicing any religion out side Catholicism was deemed a heretic and was punished by death, this of course included any denomination of a Christian religion outside of the Roman Catholic doctrines, remember the Spanish Inquisition and its mindset came to the Americas with the Spaniards. It was not until the ending of the Spanish American war, and the independence of many of these Latin Countries from Spain, that other religious belief systems "often of African or Indigenous descent" as well as Spiritism and Brujeria and its folk branches came out from hiding and began to be practiced in the open. Southern Baptist missionaries, Pentecostals and other Christian traditions where then introduced to these countries in the latter part of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century. Often the people who began to follow these new religions were the Jibaro and Guajiro rural folk, as these traditions often shunned its nose from towns and cities of a more African population.
Know Madamas although some were Housemaids, most were respected midwives and healer woman who took care of the Spanish aristocratic white children, but the Afro Cuban Madamas were regarded in a similar fashion as the Voodoo Queens of New Orleans of old, who practiced Catholicism during the day and at night participated in outlawed rites and were highly respected within their African communities. They were woman of authority, dignity, strength and pride, who as I have stated practiced Catholicism but also kept the African Religions of their ancestors alive.
I have noticed a trend in many American practices where spirits that belong to La Morenas, Las Negras, and Las Congas are often being confused and grouped up as being one and the same, with las Madamas = plural or La Madama = singular. "But those things are a part of Espiritismo Cruzado and Espiritismo Criolla, and another subject in itself.". As my Abuelita would say. " en el mar hay peces de todos los colores." and "Cada cavesa es su mundo."
The Centinela as is viewed in Puerto Rican Sanse is the head Punto Spirit of our Cuadro Espiritual and very similar to the Haitian Vodou concept of the Spirit known as Gros Bon Ange "The Soul", while the Emisario "messenger" spirit that works under the Jefes of your Cuadro would fall under one of the Spirits of your Comisiones, such as a Madama, Gitana, an Indio, a Pirata, an Arabe, est, est, est, and this Guia which is also known as a Guia Prinicpal, represents the Consciousness or the voice of the Higher Self, which is also similar to the Ori in Lukumi Santeria. The Centinela is like the voice of the Soul which is the human anamalistic drive and will. Yes a Madama can be a Guia Principal of the cuadro espiritual, while a Sanse is the mouthpiece or messenger of the Misterio, and lastly the Centinela itself is the main punto and mouth piece of the whole. "The collective higher consciousness."
Centinelas have their own Court or Comision as we call them in Sanse, Santerismo, Espiritismo Criollo, Folclorico or Espiritismo de La Caridad and other Espiritismo traditiones. Now although some Comisiones can be found in all Espiritismo traditions, some have Comisiones or Courts that are not known or not as popular in another tradition, for example. In Puerto Rican Sanse, and Espiritismo Criolla we have la Comision de los Sanse and La Comision de los Centinela. These are not known in traditions such as Venezuela Espiritismo de Maria Lionza which has Corte de los Vikinga or Corte de los Malandra Calé, just as Cuban Espiritismo Cruzado or Espiritismo del Cordon has La Comision del Triangulo or Comisión de Santa Clara: which are not as popular or known in Puerto Rico or Venezuela. Even in Puerto Rico itself, being a small island, Espiritismo traditions such as Evangélico Espiritista, and Trincadistas "which are similar to Trinidad and Tabago's Spiritual tradition known as Spiritual Baptists, has Guides that are not used in Sanse, Santerismo or Espiritismo Criollo / Folclorica.
Now back to my point, because I am jumping around. One major important factor of ones Centinela is that one is taught by one's Padrino or Madrina, is that one never is to reveal ones Centinela's name to anyone or for that matter the identity of your Centinela in public, for this reason we often hide it or synchronize it with a Catholic Saint, such as Saint Sebastian, and use that name when we talk of our Centinela, to protect its true identity. The Centinela is our private guardian and messenger, and his / her name is never revealed to anyone. When we call Centinela by his/her true name, we do so in private, and use the term Centinela or the name San Sebastian or San Se for short in public.. Many Sancistas I know also call him, El Gran San Se, "the Great Ancestor".
Everyone is born with a Centinela, and within Puerto Rican Sanse its name is revealed to an individual through a misa espiritual known as an Investigation de Cuadro. Similar concepts of the Centinela can be found in Dominican 21 Division (often spelled Centinela or Sentinela) as well as Haitian Vodou, Gros Bon Ange and Ti Bon Ange. Everything that is alive has a soul, and every thing that has a soul has Ache, and everything that has Ache has a Centinela, even Buen Dios has a Centinela, known as Simamayo Pie, Buen Centinela de Dios or Centinela de Bondye. which in Sanse is synchrenized with el Espiritu Santo or Saint Sebastian. Under Buen Centinela de Dios resides Centinela Sangriñé, who has a Guede vuelta known as Guedé Sanguiñao or Ghede Sanguiñé and is synchronized with San Cipriano. The Loa themselves have Centinelas, but these names "within Sanse" are not often revealed to an individual. A well known Centinela who is also a Ghede is Feribunda who is the overseer of the Cemetery; he works closely with Ghede Cemitiel who is a Ghede that is viewed as the actual grounds of the Graveyards and Cemeteries, another vuelta for Feribunda is Guede Senche. A darker fierce vuelta of Feribunda that is never worked in Sance is Baron Kriminel, who is a Ghuede with a mean temper. Feribunda himself has four Centinela that guard the four corners of the Cemetery and work under El Baron del Cementerio, the Petro Division and the Ghuede. Feribunda is always synchronized with a male Anima Sola. Belie Belcan's Centinela is known as Centinela Tribunal, some of the Ogun Loa work with Sentinela Tin Jan or Centinela Indio Juan, and the Gran Bwa have Sentinela Sabalo, other known Centinelas are Criminel, Sabalo, Zabalo, Kriminelo, Kriminel, Criminal, Tribunal, and the list goes on and on. Although all that exists has a Centinela, the Centinela that are mostly widely known are those of the puntos of the Petro / Division Prieto / Negra.
While within Dominican, 21 Division Vudu "Vodoun" a Papa Boko and Mama Mambo can work with the Centinela of the 21 Division, in Sanse we do not. We work with our own Centinela and respect those Centinela that work under the puntos of the Siete Jefes or the Siete Divisiones of our cuadro, even though most Sancistas are not revealed these Centinela's names.
The Centinela in themselves as are all Divisions, are a very complex group of Spirits. In Sanse everyone is born with a set group of Misterio Spirits, and the Centinela make up one of these groups, and as one grows, more Misterios come into play. This is the same with the Cuadro.
The Centinela are viewed differently in Dominican 21 Division as they would be viewed in Puerto Rican Sanse. Sanse being a mixture of Vodou and Espiritismo Criollo work heavily on the Emisarios of the Misterios. These Emisarios are the Messengers of the Loa and are the ones we generally work with and are the ones we call Los Sanse. Many confuse Los Sanse with Los Antepasados "the blood ancestors" Los Muertos or Seres of the Comisiones or Cuadro Espiritual. "Yes los Sanses are Muertos and Seres, and they are Ancestors but not necessarily of the blood line and yes in Sanse they have their own Comision but of a different level. (A godfather's, godfather is your godfather, thus in death your ancestor.) In life they where servitors of the Loa, and their wisdom and knowledge should be past on to you.
Now to make it a bit more complex the Centinela are Muertos and are a part of a Comision which in the Sanse tradition is a Division but not necessarily a Nation, (Nation as in an African Nation such as Fon, Ewe, Dahomey, Nago, Arara, Ibo Lele, Mayonbe, Wangol, Kongo, Makaya, Ghuede, Bantu, Togo,
Ogou, Angola, Ketu, est. ) and not all Centinela are Sanse as not all of them necessarily served a Loa in life, "many did, but not all". Just as many Comisiones did not honor the Loa such as Los Arabes, Los Hindu, los Orientes and so forth. Just as some Comisiones did such as las Madamas, los Congos and so forth.
Unlike spirits from Comisiones which demonstrate many qualities of how they where in life, the Centinela as honored in Sanse do not come down as an Espiritu de materia. They often manifest as spirits of radiant bright light, who seldom consume or partake of material offerings. The Centinela are a bit above ones Muertos, but lower than the Nacion Ghuede but still of an equal vibration level,
"The Centinela and the Ghuede, the Yin and Yang", the natural dualities, female & male, dark & light, low & high, cold & hot, water & fire.", which makes them easily excesable to a Sancista.
The Centinela often are confused with the Sanse, which the latter "the Sanse" often come demonstrating traits and qualities of the Loa they represent, while ones Centinela does not.
A mane difference between Puerto Rican Sanse and Dominican Vodou, is that Puerto Rican Sanse also works with the Cuadro Espiritual, while Dominican 21 Division traditionally does not. Thus in Sanse, ones Centinela becomes a messenger and guardian of one's Cuadro Espiritual as a whole, while in Dominican 21 Divisiones, that do not work with the Cuadro Espirituales, the Centinela works for, and under the Loa, which in Sanse would be the task of of a Spirit from our Cuadro known as an Emisario that we call los Sanse.
Luke 23:42 – “Then he "Dismas the Good Thief" said, ‘Yeshua (Jesus), remember me when you come into your kingdom.’. Yeshua replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”
In life Centinela where often thieves and sinners, who at the end of their life repented. Buen Dios being a forgiving God, forgives their humanly sins and trespasses. But unlike the Anima Sola, who must cleanse their humanly sins in Pergatory, the Centinelas did have the chance to repent at the last moment, and in order for these spirits to find elevation and forgiveness, must complete a spiritual mission, which is that of leading us into the right paths of spiritual evolution. Whether they complete the mission or not, at the end of our life, they often find elevation, into a higher form of being, or are assigned another mission that they must complete. They are our personal messengers, gate keepers, guardians, and work as tribunals, in the sense that they have the authority to speak for us in the celestial courts. The Centinela are also our guardians against psychic and occult attacks, and can only protect us if we are willing enough to listen to their voices of reason and experience. Who best to teach you not to follow the rocky path or be misguided by earthly desires and wants, then the very spirit who in life had the same experiences.
People have asked me, do people with mental disabilities, drug or alcohol addictions, murderers psychotic disorders and tendencies have a Centinela. My answer is yes, although these individuals Cuadro Espiritual is weak, and often many Spirits do abandon the individual, for an individual who may need them more, or serve them better, leaving the individual accessible to lower and higher demons, it is these very people who need the help and support of their Centinela, Guardian Saint and Angel "Loa" the most, and it is those very spirits who never give up on the person, until their very last breath is exhaled.
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If one looks at the major arcana of the Tarot, one will see a close relationship or resemblance to the 21 major arcana with the 21 Divisiones, although there are 22 cards which number from 0 to 21. The four trumps or minor arcana as they are called can represent , Rada "Coins / Earth" , Petro "Swords Fire", Agua Dulce "Cups / Water", and lastly probably Ghede or Legba "Clubs / Air", with a little minor abjustment on the suits. But hey maybe that will be a future blog post that I will write about. Centinela as perceived in Sanse would be The Hanged Man from the Major arcana, card number XII "twelfth". The following description is from Aclectic Tarot, one if not the greatest resource on Tarot Cards ever compiled.
SANCISTA BRUJO LUIS
THE HANGED MAN
Basic Card Symbols
A man hanging by one foot from a bar or tree. His free leg is always bent to form an inverted "4," his face is always peaceful, never suffering. Sometimes his hands are bound, sometimes they dangle. Sometimes coins fall out of his pockets or hands.
The Fool settles beneath a tree, intent on finding his spiritual self. There he stays for nine days, without eating, barely moving. People pass by him, animals, clouds, the wind, the rain, the stars, sun and moon. On the ninth day, with no conscious thought of why, he climbs the tree and dangles from a branch upside down like a child. For a moment, he surrenders all that he is, wants, knows or cares about. Coins fall from his pockets and as he gazes down on them - seeing them not as money but only as round bits of metal.
It seems to him that his perspective of the world has completely changed, as if his inverted position has allowed him to dangle between the mundane world and the spiritual world, able to see both. It is a dazzling moment, dreamlike yet crystal clear.
Timeless as this moment of clarity seems, he realizes that it will not last. Very soon, he must right himself, but when he does, things will be different. He will have to act on what he's learned. For now, however, he just hangs, weightless as if underwater, observing, absorbing, seeing.
LA MADAMA, OR LA CONGA, IS NOT A CENTINELA, MANY PEOPLE WHO PRACTICE HOODOO AND HAVE NEVER PARTICIPATED IN ANYTHING HISPANIC OR ESPIRITISMO, OFTEN THINK EVERYTHING IS LA MADAMA. OFTEN PLACING LA MADAMA NEXT TO STATUES OF MEXICAN SANTISIMA MUERTE, WHICH HAS REALLY NOTHING TO DO WITH, SANCE, SANTERISMO OR ESPIRITISMO CRIOLLO.