Saturday, January 5, 2019

Gypsies: Spirit on the Wind

Please keep in mind that the title of this blog, as I have noted previously, includes the phrase "other interesting stuff." 

So, today I am writing on Spiritualism or Spiritism. A subject which has increasingly interested me is the interchange between Masonry, spiritualism, and Afro-Caribbean spiritualities. This entry doesn't directly address those Masonic connections, but others will. I assume that people involved with Afro-Caribbean traditions are more familiar with Masonry than vice-versa. So this may be of interest, although I am not covering basic history or background. It may at least interest esoterically minded masons.

Spirit is the wind. Spirit is smoke. Spirit travels. Spirit is.

Contempory western experience has become all about individualism. In other words, bounded experience in isolation. For most of humanity, the boundary between "me" and "other" is not so stable. Indeed, it isn't for anyone, but we like to pretend it is.

It occurs to me that African Diasporic Religions are not so much "animistic" in the sense that they believe all things have spirit, as they are "animated." I am suggesting they see all things as being potential points which spirit may enter and, and at least temporarily, inhabit. That is a significant distinction. Apart from anything else, it collapses the notion that there is a difference between for example, the spirit which inhabits a human from that which inhabits a rock. The vessel is incidental, which it has to be, since in any case it is only temporary.

All this brings me to the Gypsies, the Gitanas, the Ciganas, the Romany.  

In popular Cuban Espiritismo, the gypsies are represented by fairly stereotypical imagery. Knowledge of Gypsies is in Cuba, a matter of cultural memory. Unlike Haitians, Chinese, Spaniards, or Congos, Gypsies appear to have arrived in Cuba in the barques of memory and dream. There are those, storytellers from the tribes of both journalism and academia, who in the search for new material seem eager to fashion historicity from legend. 

It is improbable that given the porousity of travel from Spain to Cuba in the nineteenth century that no people of Romany extractìon arrived in Cuba, but the absolute lack of formal documentation of their presence establishes with certainty that if any came, their numbers were too few to establish any real community. 

That leaves us with memories, legends, and metaphor.

The Gypsy in Cuba is smoke and shadow; spirits that seem compelled to travel. Most do not peer deep beneath the surface of the popular imagery of Cuban Espiritismo, being more concerned with the practicality of working with spirits for immediate results. That of course, is an acceptable approach.

Those who are looking to develop their gifts, however, may find that beneath the characters or rolej of spirits, perhaps especially the Gypsy, there exists an imaginal hermeneutic, a descriptive language; if you will, a visual roadmap, that can teach us much.

The spirit is a gypsy. Our spirit is a gypsy as much as any spirit is. Spirit is immaterial; animating objects to materialize for a time, or making its presence felt among the living. Indeed, using the expression "our spirit" may hint at a more complex understanding of individual experiece. It suggests we all share a single spirit. At the least that we may experience consciousness in ways and contexts that are unbounded by individual personality.

While people may consider both ancestors and the spirits of one's own guides to be separate from oneself, it is also true that they are not fully so. Our ancestors live on within us materially through our dna - their blood runs in our veins. Similarly, as Espiritu Santo has noted in her book, "Developing the Dead: Mediumship and Selfhood in Cuban Espiritismo," the guides of Espiritismo are both within and without us, "are not just a 'part' of [us], but in fact, interconnected on a number of causal and structural levels." (2015:39)

Gypsies therefore, as a symbolic set of imagery for certain spirits, also provide powerful understandings of archetypal truths about the nature of spirit - those we may have relations with, and indeed our own. Gypsies are travelers. They do not occupy any space for too long, and they make their home where they are. They love the road; in other words they focus on the journey rather than the destination. 

As Essra Mohawk sang, "I am the wind; I can go anywhere, yes, even there..."

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