Thursday, December 20, 2012

TCHA TCHA LINEAGE Sacred Rattle the Power in Your Hand.

Sacred Rattle the Power in Your Hand.

One thing that every tradition, every culture, and every spiritual or earth related tradition share in common is the use of the Sacred Rattle, it is present in some form in every culture and Continent.  Whether the rattle is a coconut or gourd maraca, filled inside with sacred seeds, or a latticework of glass beads or cowrie shells woven into a net and covering the outside of a dried gourd, such as it is with the Shekere or the cabasa; or a stick with shells, bones or nuts tied to one end.  The rattle in its many forms and shapes is one of three man made musical instruments found in some form in every culture and country.  "The others being the drum and fluits, which is another article in itself.".  In many societies around the world the sacred rattle always distinguishes those individuals of power, such as a Shaman, witch doctor or Medicine men, and it in itself is considered one of the most sacred of tools.  There was a time that the Maraca and Sacred Rattles were viewed by Christians as the Devil's instrument, or the instrument of savages, because of their association with shamans and witch doctors, and for this reason its use was outlawed.  In the Caribbean the instrument went into hiding, and was used by secret societies or within private ceremonies, as to be caught using the rattle was punishable by death by the Spanish Government officials and Cristian authorities. But the ancient gourd rattles, shekeres and maracas would not stay quiet for long, and after the Spanish American war these instrument came out of hiding and soon it became a popular musical instrument, adapted into the musical styles of Mambo, Guajiras, Le lo lai, Merenque and Salsa, and was used in a similar fashion as the Bohiques and Bohitu Shamans who used them in their  Arieto ceremonies long passed.
The various African and Indigenous earth related magico spiritual and religious systems within the Americas has and to this day uses its sacred rattle.  Haitian Vodou has its Asson, Cuban Santeria uses its Asheke, Dominican 21 Division uses the Tcha Tcha, and Puerto Rican Sanse uses the Amaraca, which is also called the Matraca or simply la Maraca.  For this reason one will often hear that many Vodouist are part of the Asson lineage while traditions such as Sanse and 21 Division are of the Tcha Tcha lineage. 

The Caribbean Taino Bohique and Bohitu "Chamanes / Shamans" as the Shamans in every other culture also treasured their rattle, known as Amaraca "a Taino word from where we get the modern word for Maraca".  It was used as a tool to aid the Bohique in focusing his energies and as a tool for clearing out a space of unwanted energies.  The Maraca is an instrument of great power, and similar to that of a European Wizard's wand, through the Maraca rattle, the Bohiques could communicate with the realm of spirits, and summon deities.  They could repel or vanquish unwanted spirits, heal, bless, activate the healing properties of roots, herbs, talismans, amulets, beads and stones.  Like a European Sorcerers Wand, the sacred rattle is an extension of the body and works as the pointing finger in which we get our desires, and will pointed and focused outwards from the body.

The sacred rattles are emblems of seeking that which is Holy, and it establishes a connecting link between the material world and the spiritual realm.   Through the proper use of the rattle, the Shaman could manifest the presence of spirits and deities.  The sacred rattle is viewed as the phallus or a phallic symbol, and is always associated with the male sexual organ, and through the use of the sacred rattle we project our energy and acts as a symbolic male orgasm.  Symbolically the Maraca or Tcha Tcha represents the joining of the two most important magic principles: the sacred and protective circle at the round end and the magical wand at the handle.


The Maraca or Sacred Rattle works through sound vibrations, and is always used to concentrate sacred space, and create protective barriers.  In Haitian Vodou the Asson as is the Sanse Amaraca is used to summon the Loa, the Sances or the Messengers while at the same time warding of negative earth bound spirits which often get confused or can not tolerate the sound frequency.  It literally acts as a Rattlesnakes rattling its tail letting predators or unwanted energies and vibrations know that you acknowledge their presence, and to take your warning or you will attack.

It is also used in all Vodou, Sanse, Santeria and 21 Division rites of passages, and ritual ceremonies.  Along side herbs, tobacco, blessed waters and salt the sacred rattles are used for cleansing an individuals aura.  It helps the practitioners of Shamanism, Sanse and Vodou in opening up blocked energy fields and help in binding or fixing weak or torn layers of the auric layers, which helps in re-establishing energy flow known as Ashe and removing psychic dirt or unwanted energy. 

But one of its most fundamental uses within Sanse, 21 Division and Vodou is to help in altering the state of mind or consciousness, which allows for the possible mounting of Loa, Orisha or spirits of ones spiritual frame.  The Maraca or sacred rattle helps the brain to concentrate, focus and tune in to the frequency range of the Spiritual realm. 

Traditionally a Shamans rattle was inherited, and more were accumulated with the passing of generations.  In Sanse as is with 21 Division Vudu, the sacred rattle is received during a baptismal ceremony and never directly purchased by the aprendis or ahijado/a.  The rattle is blessed and concentrated by the Papa Bocor, Mama Mambo or Sancista in front of the badji altar and is given to the ahijados, often in his/her last ceremony, usually la Coronacion, as a symbol that the ahijado is know a Bohique, a Shaman, a Sancista, a Papa Bocor or Mama Mambo. 

One thing that some societies of Sanse shares similar with Haitian Vodou are three major tools, with the exception that Hatian Vodou often use three tools in one, while Sanse keeps them separate but often use them simultaneously.  In Haitian Vodou they have a beautiful and unique sacred rattle which is unique to Haitian Vodou alone called the Asson.  The Asson takes three diftent instruments and combines them into one.  The maraca, the shekere and the altar bell.  In Sanse we do not combine the three into one, but use them separately and as I have stated often use them simultaneously.  In Sanse we use the Maraca as the first tool of choice, and this sacred rattle represents Agua Dulce or the Indian Division.  The second item we use is the brass bell which represents Division Blanca, and is also used to call on Catholic Santos, the Division Blanca known as Rada, and the Emisarios and Comiciones that work under them.  A small shekere or cabasa instrument is used to represent and call la Division Prieta also known as Division Negra or Division Morena "Black Division", and is used to call not only the Prieto or moreno spirits, but also spirits of the Comisiones such as los Congos, las Madamas, los Esclavos or los Cimarones.

In my summers in Puerto Rico as a kid and under the care of my Abuela and uncles, I was fortunate enough to visit the Centro Espirituales, where my grandmother was a participating member and well respected Espiritista medium.  On the white clothed table where the Presidente de Mesa and all the mediums would sit around, stood a desk bell, the kind that is rung by hitting the little nob to make it ring.  This item was a very popular ritual tool in Puerto Rican Espiritismo.  Although I personally favor the bell with the handle I have one on my ancestral shrine and tap it every morning when I awake and every night before I go to sleep.  When I have Misas and Sesiones those who bring offerings such as candles, flowers and other items, tap on it before placing it on the altar.  

The use of the sanctus bell is highly used in spiritual masses, and fiesta espirituales as a form of letting all those know who have come to attend the event that a supernatural event is taking place before the altar.   It is also rung heavily when a medium is about to mount a Loa or Spirit as a protective measure so that no earth bound or malignant force enters.

While the Rattle symbolizes the masculine phallic symbol, the bell represents the joining of both, the joining of the phallic with the yonic or vulvic "womb or vagina" to create life.  The tongue or clapper of the bell is often made of two parts and symbolize the male semen and the female clitorus.  "The ball part of the rattle can also be viewed as a womb, the sacred circle and earth."

Present day Church bells derive from ancient Pagan traditions and not the other way around as most would have you believe.  It is believed that the first metal bells appeared in the Bronze age around 3000 B.C. in either Eastern or Western Asia.

Like the rattles bells are a powerful space and area cleanser.  Obviously they do not pick up material dirt and debris but they are excellent tools in summoning benevolent spirits, expelling malignant entities, for healing and meditation.  The bells are always rung to let those know a ceremony is to begin and when a ceremony is to end. 

The traditional metal for bells should be iron, brass, or silver, and they are always kept on the house altars and shrines. 

Bells can be hung near doors on windowsills, outdoors and indoors.  As the wind blows on bells and chimes it acts as a repellent for unwanted vibrations.

It is believed that if an indoor bell rings by itself, this could be a sign of danger, often of an occult kind, and proper divination should be done and cleansing of the home.  Also if a bell falls unexpectedly, this is a warning sign of envy, gossip or a psychic attack. 

Every tradition uses its bells in some form, may it be a cow bell, altar bell, a bowl bell with mallet, or chime bells and should be added into your daily use.




Tuesday, December 11, 2012



One of the most iconic symbols in both Mexican and Puerto Rican folk art is the Mano Poderosa or the All Powerful Hand, and while it does have much Catholic "Cristian" elements, and its based on the Cult of Saint Ann and the Holy Family.  Much of its elements are rooted in folk Espiritismo traditiones, West African Religion and Indigenous Spiritual beliefs.

The Mano Poderosa as we know it today is an ancient symbol of protection and its idea was brought to Mexico and the Caribbean by Spanish and other European settlers and missionaries who settled in Latin America.  Saints and religious paraphernalia such as Las Cinco Personas or Los Cinco Señores, was used as a way of teaching the then illiterate African and Indigenous population the life and veneration's of its Catholic saints.  Originally the Santos brought to the Americas where wooden statues or expensive art paintings.  The earliest known folk art of the Mano Poderosa "with hand intact" comes from Mexico in its tin Retalbo form that dates back from around 1807 through 1809, and then in Puerto Rico in its Santo de Palo wooden saint carvings forms that date from 1915.  The Puerto Rican Wooden Mano Poderosa mimicks its elder Mexican predecessor Tin Retalbo, with some differences.  Often the Mexican Mano Poderosa demonstrates the Cinco Señores "Seniors"  or Cinco Personas each on top of a finger of the hand, while the hand rests on a chalice, as blood from the wound on the palm over flow es and quenches the thirst of a group of 7 "Seven" sheep or lambs.  The Puerto Rican Mano Poderosa does not include the Chalice or Lambs, but rests on a heavenly cloud, surrounded by what seams like four Archangels, which are believed to be Saint Michael, Saint Rafael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Uriel. Each of the angels is holding an emblem of the Passion of Christ, one angel carries the thorned crown, another the cross, one the holy sponge, hammer and nails, while the fourth is holding what seams like a pillow or bowl of blood, in some instances only three of the Angels hold an item from the Passion of the Christ while one clasps his/her hands in prayer.  Another difference between the Mexican Mano Poderosa and the Puerto Rican Mano Poderosa is the position of the Saints.  In the Puerto Rican Mano Poderosa, the child Jesus, or Niño Jesus sits on the thumb, the Virgin Mary stands on the pointing finger, Saint Joseph on the middle finger, Saint Ann on the ring finger and finally Saint Joachim on the little finger.  Its Mexican predecessor follows this order.  Saint Joachim on the thumb, Saint Joseph on the pointer, the Christ Child on the middle, Mary on the ring finger and Saint Ann on the pinky.  In painted form, both include cherub angels looking down from the sky.  The Mexican Mano Poderosa often includes either God or a white dove "holy spirit, la palomita blanca" above the hand, which often is not included in the Puerto Rican Mano Poderosa and symbolizes the holy spirit.   Both Mexican and Puerto Rican Mano Poderosa depict the open palm which demonstrates the stigmatic wound made by a nail.  Some say the hand is the adult hand of Jesus Christ, while others say the hand is that of Saint Francis of Assisi who is commonly believed to be the first Saint to have suffered and lived with the stigmata.  In both traditions, the hand is the right hand, and on rare occasions one will find the left hand used. 


For those who understand the art of Western Palmistry or palm reading "as apposed to Eastern Palmistry", in the Mexican Version the Hand is often an Earth hand, while the Puerto Rican version is a Fire Hand.  Also the wound appears to be in the center of the head and heart line, while the tip of the wound closest towards the fingers touches the line of the destiny or fate, which is jointed to the life line, each of the lines are strong and very visible.   Again Mary stands on the Jupiter finger, Joseph on the Saturn finger, Saint Ann on the Sun finger and Saint Joachim on the Mercury finger.  The thumb is called the Moon Finger and it is where Jesus stands.

"In Puerto Rico the term Santero had nothing to do with the Yoruba Ocha tradition, usually a Puerto Rican Santero was a practitioner of Espiritismo or a Catholic who was a carver of Saints of wood."

To my knowledge the Mano Poderosa has not been officially recognized by the Catholic Church, but it has become a staple religious icon not just in Mexican and Puerto Rican cultures but in all Hispanic cultures which have included it into their folk religious practices, many usually of an Espiritismo tradition. 


The Hand in many cultures has always been seen as a symbol of protection and magical occult and arcane powers, from black magic to white and everything in between.  We know of the Hand of Glory, the Hand of Power, Hand of Fatima, the Mano de Azabache "Mano Fico" , and the Mano Cuernuto.

The Hand in ancient and primitive times has always been viewed as a source of magical powers, and gestures such as the form we bestow our Benediction, the way we communicate messages, and as a form of directing our energies.  It is with our hands that we clasp them in prayer and deviation, we greet others, and use our hands to manifest our wishes and desires with Spirits and deities.  With our Tcha Tcha, Maracas, Chekeres and Cabasas we invoke our spirits which is held in our hand, and with our hands we draw our Sigils, Firmas and Veves as a form of communicating with the Spiritual world.  It is with our hands we play music to the spirits, and through our hands we communicate the will of the Spirits through oracles and divination. 

In many religious traditions, the right hand is associated with cleanliness and benevolence, while the left hand is associated with filth and evil, it is for this reason the Left Hand Path is another term for black magic and Satanism. The right hand is viewed as the hand of God while the left is viewed as the hand of Satan.  In Vodou and Sanse we do not hold this view.  In our traditions we view the left hand as the hot hand, the hand in which we venerate our Spirits which deal with a hotter energy such as the Petwo and Gede, while our right hand, we view as the cooler hand, that which deals with cool energy such as that of the Rada.  This does not mean that the Spirits of a hotter energy are demonic or evil as would be viewed in a Christian point of view, this simply means that these Spirits of nature and the cosmos are seen in our limited human minds as being of a hotter more aggressive nature.  It is no surprise that when we make offerings we hold the candle and fire water "liquor" offerings in our left hand, while our water offerings we hold in our right.

If you enter any Botanica you will often come across 7 day candles, holy cards, pictures, prayer pamplets, oils, powders and even statues of the Mano Poderosa.  It is a very important Espiritismo talisman used for protection, and warding of evil and it is a staple altar piece for those who practice Puerto Rican Espiritismo and Sanse.  As is with the traditions that use the talisman the Mano Poderosa is a blending and syncretism of various beliefs, such as Taino, West African, and European Spanish beliefs.

La Mano Poderosa The Powerful Hand and the Loa "Oricha" that are represented.
Similar to the image of the Seven African Powers which demonstrates seven Catholic Saints with African Orisha names printed below each one, the Mano Poderosa in Sanse temples and societies are viewed as Loa Spirits, for example.

  1. Saint Joachim = Papa Loko or Papa Boco
  2. Saint Joseph = Ogun Herrero, Ogun Carpintero or Ogun Guerrero
  3. Saint Anne - Gran ErSili "Erzulie' , Grann Aloumba Daome
  4. Virgin Mary - Anaisa Pye
  5. Child Jesus - Piti Solier or Chiqui Sole
Three of the four angels also represent a Loa.  Saint Michael is Belie Belcan Tomeh, Saint Rafael is Indio Alague or Tindjo Alawe, and Saint Gabriel is Gran Cali.  Saint Uriel has not been associated with a Loa in Puerto Rico, "although some say he is part of the Legba or Gede Nation" but still greatly respected, as each of the Angels also represent Los Cuatro Vientos. 

There are generally 9 main figures in the Mano Poderosa, 9 in Hispanic cultures is known as the number of the dead, "la Novena" but it also symbolizes patience and harmony.   Nine is the number for accomplishing ones destiny and divine will, as well as the number of immortality.  Also it is said that Jesus died on the cross on the 9th hour, and he appeared to his disciples and apostles nine times after his Resurrection.


"O Powerful Hand of God! I place my Christian soul before you, and in my despair and anguish, beseech you to aid me with your almighty power. At your feet I place the devotion of my sorrowful heart that I might be delivered from my suffering. May the loving kindness of your power help me and give me strength and wisdom to live in peace and happiness. Amen.

Aquí vengo con la fé de un alma cristiana, a buscar Tu misericordia en situación tan angustiosa para mí. No me desampares y la puerta que quiera abrirse en mi camino, sea tu mano poderosa la que me la cierre para no entrar en ella si no me conviene, o me la deje abierta, si ha de volver mi tranquilidad tanto tiempo deseada. A tus pies dejo esta súplica, que te hace un alma obligada por el destino a grandes sufrimientos, que ya no puede combatir si Tu mano poderosa no tiene la ley de la razón. . Dios mio, perdona los desaciertos que yo he cometido durante esta existencia, la cual llevo de frente, dame fuerzas para soportar las amarguras de esta vida.

Sancista Brujo Luis