Spirited Things, 2



Ejamba ... and the Dialectics of Ensoniment

Stephan Palmie'


pp. 47-8 & 51 & 57 introduction to article in Philadelphia newspaper duving 1908 : mystery of impersonating deity E`kwe, as manifested by way of a peculiar musical timbre

p. 47

"the journalist's interlocutor, a ... black Cuban ... named Leay {for Chinese /Lieh/?} ... amiably explains : "I am [the] Ejamba, the leader. I show the true way;

our symbol is the rooster, and we pray to him and dance in his honor. {The Yoruba likewise trace their cosmogony to divine chickens.}

{After "nine suns" (cf. 9-suns god in CBM, p. 40) were shot out of the sky, a "night owl" (cf. owl in CBM, p. 42) praeceded the rooster's crowing (HChM, s.v. "Yi", p. 232).}

How we worship is a secret; and only the initiated ... join in {the worship}. ... I talk with the spirits and they talk with me. See my

p. 48

echo?" ... The journalist expresses amazement. "There's something worth the while [:] that echo," he writes."

p. 49

"the symbolic centrality of the sun (ebio`n)" {Strong's 34 />ebyo^n/ 'beggar' [cf. "a beggar" (CI-ET&F-L, p. 52)], cf. Strong's 35 />biyo^nah/ 'caper-berry' (namesake of isle-resort Capreae of imperator Tiberius, who had a city built named /Tiberias/ for himself in Galil ['circular ring'] ha-Go^yi^m -- where /go^y/ may be for /gay/ 'a ravine (i.e., space between cogs)'}

{cf. centrality of "cogged disc" in CBM, p. 41? Herein, two gods pierce their penes to indicate similarity with Priapos (: Old Norse /friof/ 'semen' -- TM, p. 213, fn. 1) = (DWP, p. 126) Danish god Fro 'frolic' (TM, p. 210), who is worshipped as yet in Belgium (CI-ET&F-L, p. 51, fn. *). (/frolic/ = /caper/)}

"a cross in the temple's window might be taken to evoke the high god Abasi` (... represented by the ... crucifix in many contemporary abakua` temples)."

{cf the Hellenic Orthodox cross in the hair of each of the humans emerging from the skeletal god (Huitzil-opochtli) in CBM, p. 42.} {/aBaSi`/ is apparently cognate with As^anti /oBoSum/ 'deity' : the most prominent whereof is Tega ("TNy--AR"), who "is a spectacular dancer" (like unto the miniature Huitzil-opochtli, who danced on the palm of the hand of Tezcatli-poca, a god depicted in CBM, pp. 41-2), and who is (also like unto Huitzil-opochtli) "left handed".}

p. 50

"the "Queen of Ethopia" could have represented ... Sikan, the woman who first encountered abakua`'a central cult agency in the mythical time-space known as Enlleniso`n".

p. 51

"it is a woman who gives an approximation of ... "the echo." "Do the spirits really talk?" asks the journalist. "Why," she answers, "I have been in there alone and the drums have started beating on their own account, and the echo made a noise this this -- Whoo-o-o! ...""

p. 57

"Was the "echo" at 2132 North Fairmount Avenue "el E`cue​"?

Chances are good that the journalist simply misheard ... ."

{But, given the wide variations in African idiomata, chances may be even better that the name was (and is) pronounced /ekwo/ (or the like) in a different dialect of the Ekoi language, and that the "Ancient Grace" practitioners were from that particular sub-tribe.}

TM = Jacob Grimm (transl. from the 4th German edn by James Steven Stallybrass) : Teutonic Mythology. London : George Bell & Sons, 1882. https://books.google.com/books?id=mDHXAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA210&lpg=PA210&dq=

DWP = Richard Payne Knight : A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus. London, 1865. (reprinted 1894) https://books.google.com/books?id=ef4LAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA126&lpg=PA126&dq=

CI-ET&F-L = Walter Keating Kelly : Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-Lore. London : Chapman & Hall, 1863. https://books.google.com/books?id=_C0CAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA51&lpg=PA51&dq=

"TNy--AR" = "Temple of Nyame -- Annual Rites". http://www.templeofnyame.org/#!events/c17et

{Is the invisible deity audibly beating material drums (supra p. 51) related to Aztec drum-playing god Ueue-coyotl?}

p. 49 "the mythical time-space known as Enlleniso`n"

"Temple of the Ancient Grace" as described in the PHILADELPHIA NORTH AMERICAN May 4 1908

N~an~igo (Abakua`) cult in Cuba

"jute masks"

"afo{-}i`reme, the characteristic body masks" donned to impersonate the i`reme deities

"feather dusters" [adorning caerimonial staves (p. 48)]

"mun~ones, plumed ornaments that crown Illamba's iton, or sacred staff"

"the sun"

"ebio`n" {cf. antique Christian sect-founder Ebion}

"ritual designs"


"a cross in the temple's window"

emblem of "the high god Abasi`"

"seven constellations"

["seven ... personages ... transformed into the seven major titles" (p. 50)]

"Ecue`'s Atlantic". In :- Stephan Palmie : Africas of the Americas. Leiden : Brill, 2008. pp. 179-222.

p. 51 baroko {cf. Strong's 1293 /BRaKah/ 'benediction, blessing' : cognate with Strong's 1295 /BReKah/ '[fish-]pool'}

"What they re-presence in the course of a ... baroko -- ceremonies lasting upwards of twelve hours -- is the mystery of the voice of E`cue ..., so does the sounding of E`cue's voice beckon its hearers to ... attest to ... it".

{"the Abakuá hear what is known as “the cry of Ékue,” produced by a secret friction drum that channels the magic voice of the fish Tánze known as Boko" ("RGu&AS", p. 15).}

"RGu&AS" = Berta Jottar : "The Acoustic Body : Rumba Guarapachanguera and Abakuá Sociality ...". LATIN AMER MUSIC REVIEW, Vol. 30, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2009. https://www.academia.edu/5647913/The_Acoustic_Body_Rumba_Guarapachanguera_and_Abaku%C3%A1_Sociality_in_the_1990s

pp. 51-3 the myth of the Abakua`/N~a`n~igo cult-origin

p. 51

"Sikan ... first heard the voice of Tance, the piscine ... presence that she accidentally scooped up in her calabash when drawing water at the embankment of Usagare` {cf. the name of Ar-US^A province in Tananyika} from the river Olda`n {cf. the name of OLDuwai Gorge in Tananyika} that bisects the territory of the Efo` region ... .

p. 52

A caiman initially blocks Sikan's path to the river, but the man soon to experience transformation into the i`reme Eribangando` clears her way with a ritual brush. She ... scoops up a calabash of water, but when she hoists it on her head, a tremendous roar issues forth from the container. It is Obon Tance -- ... in the shape of a fish -- who speaks to her in his otherworldly voice. Having been the first to hear ... Sikan is variously said to have confided ... to her father, Mocongo, or to her husband, Isun[-]e`cue. Either or both betray her to the supreme chief, Illamba, and the sorcerer Nasaco`, who had been tracing Tance's movement and vocalizations ... in the lagoon for days. ... However, ... Tance is dead ... . ... . ... Sikan is seated on three stones ... when she begins to menstruate, thus foreshadowing the feeding of the three-footed friction drum ... enabling men to cause other men to be "born over the drum skin" ... . ... Nasaco` fuses her skin to that of Tance ... . He and the other obones will sacrifice the snake (n~angabio`n) that had coiled itself around the palm tree that night ... . ... But ... soon ... the original thirteen obones of the "tierra efo`" ...

p. 53

transact the secret of the voice across the river to a group of men soon to constitute ... the "tierra efi`."

pp. 53-5 acoustic rite for E`kwe

p. 53

"Even before midnight, the titleholders ... will assemble in the famba` (inner sanctum of an abakua` temple) ... .

Nasaco` begins to concoct ... the basic ingredients of "la mocuba," ... a liquid conducer of E`cue's extrasonic powers;

Empego` will begin to write authorizing glyphs (... anaforuana) with yellow chalk ... on the ground leading from the innermost sanctum ... toward the door of the temple, charting the path the voice will travel ... . ...

By then Ecuen~o`n will step out into the first light of daybreak, announcing the impending sonic incarnation to the profane world. ...

p. 54

What emerges from the temple door is ... the major "plazas" (titleholders) followed by a full drum orchestra; guided by the i`reme Eribangando`, who once more clears the path ... . Only when they return will Illamba, who has stayed behind in the fo E`cue (a corner of the famba` secluded by a curtain), begin to apply ... mocuba to the llin -- a plumed piece of "can~a brava" (bamboo) -- poised on the resonant surface of a small, three-footed friction drum ... . ...


{cf. Aztec god Ixquimilli}

he himself only hears but does not see how the llin in his hands induces the vibrations on the drumskin that activates E`cue's voice. ... From the moment it begins to resonate from within the temple, the drone of E`cue's vocalizations ... directs ... the exoteric part of a plante ... in the isaroco's public space ... . ...

p. 55

Transmitted to nambe eri` -- the drumskin -- ... E`cue's power shifts from numinous to ..., as Ortiz (1952-55:5:234) recognized, not just aesthetic but ethical modalities. ... And it will give birth to new eco`ria n~ene eribo` (men born over the drumskin) soon after, when, in the course of a series of esoteric procedures, the head of a new initiate is placed on top of the sese eribo` -- the mute drum ... -- and is "crowned" with ... E`cue herself."

Ortiz 1952-55 = Fernando Ortiz : Los instrumentos de la mu`sica afrocubana. Havana : Ca`rdenas y Ci`a.

pp. 56-7 consecration of the E`kwe

p. 56

"the interior shell of a coconut now known as"... Efique Buto`n" (... in Regla in 1836) ... figures as the transmitter of ... uyo` to any new E`cue drum ... . Such transmission is ... a complex and protracted

p. 57

process during which a full set of seven different voices have to be brought into successive mystical resonance ... for activation. In order to effect this, ... while the functioning E`cue drum of the potencia sponsoring the "birth" of a new one is suspended in

a tub ("batea" or "palangana") of water

{Strong's 5592 /SaP/ 'basin' is perhaps the origin of the Qabbalist divine name />e^n So^P/.}

from which the transfer is being effected by the phonic emisssions of four further objects and two animals."

pp. 58-9 sound-amplification for sacred functions

p. 58

"at their Temple of the Ancient Grace ... the contraptions at 2132 North Fairmont Avenue [in Philadelphia] were a ... sound-system ... offshoot of abakua`."

p. 59

"[Athanasius] Kircher's speaking trumpets and panacoustic technologies were directly inspired by the baroque magia naturalis that informed his theories of cosmic harmonies. In line with his theories ..., Kircher also designed ... giant speaking trumpets that ... would beckon the faithful to hear ... the universal harmony projected by

the divine organist (one of Kircher's favorite metaphors)

{ought instead to be : "supernatural guild-collective of divine organists"}

and reverberating through ... creation."

{This is mainly Pythagorean, and, to a lesser extent, Platonic and Hermetic.}

p. 61 timely publicization of spirit-rappings

"it may come as no surprise that the spirit rappings of Hydesville, New York, commenced a mere four years after Morse had successfully demonstrated ... his system".

{Spirit-rappings had been heard worldwide for many centuries : but, with a commercially-available electro-mechanical devise invented, analogous spirit-effects had now suddenly become considered newsworthy.}

pp. 67-9 acceptance of mystic occultism by inventors of electrical sonic devices

p. 67

"But ... the phonograph may not have made much of an impression on people [viz., AmerIndians] accustomed to communicating with disembodied others -- in vision quests, oracles, shamanistic performances, or spirit possession".

p. 68

"By 1878 [Thomas] Edison had taken up correspondence with Madame Blavatsky and become a member of the Theosophical Society."

"[Alexander Graham] Bell's assistant, Thomas Watson, ... in his autobiography,

happily rambles on about asking the spirits for help in bringing Bell's telephonic experiments to a successful conclusion (Watson 1926:100)".

{The only way that an inventor of electrical (or any other) devices could obtain assistances from "spirits" (or divinities) would be to communicate with them directly; for, because spirits are limited in their communication to the actual knowledge of the topic by the communicator, an ignorant-of-physics human spirit-medium would be of no avail.}

p. 69

[quoted from Edison 1911 :] "Our intelligence is the aggregate intelligence ... . There is no soul, distinct from mind, and what we speak of as the mind is just the aggregate".

{This doctrine is rather similar to the Bauddha (a teaching of each Buddha) : that there no propre atman (self), but only an aggregate of mental skandha-s.}

Watson 1926 = Thomas A. Watson : Exploring Life : an Autobiography. NY : D. Appleton.

Edison 1911 = "Thomas A. Edison on Immortality" Interview by Edward Marshall. COLUMBIAN MAG 3.4.

pp. 71-2 "direct-voice" spirit-mediumship

p. 71

"As Connor (1999:212) describes the practice that

appears to have originated in the 1850s (Schmidt 2000:238) ...,

{actually known many centuries earlier in India and in the Near East}

"direct voice" manifestations involved "a voice which speaks independently of the medium's vocal organs." As

p. 72

Connor explains, "Often in 'direct voice' manifestations, the spirits would employ a trumpet (resembling a speaking trumpet or megaphone rather than the musical instrument), or even a series of trumpets, which might be placed in the room at a distance from the medium. The trumpet served to amplify the voice,

and to change its position : trumpets would be moved telekinetically through the air and around the room" (ibid.: 212-13)."

{Whenever moving about the room by telekinesis, however, the trumpets would usually needs be spectral (ghostly), rather than material, ones.}

Connor 1999 = Steven Connor : "Spiritualism, Technology, and the 'Direct Voice'". In : Peter Buse & Andrew Stott (edd.) : Ghosts. NY : Macmillan. pp. 203-25.

Schmidt 2000 = Leigh Eric Schmidt : Hearing Things. Cambridge (MA) : Harvard Univ Pr.

p. 76 belief vis-a`-vis masking

"Ever since Le'vy Bruhl, the anthropology of ritual ritual masking has uneasily ... vacillated between suppositions either

{Both suppositions are accurate.}

that the wearer of the mask is believed to undergo an actual transformation into the numinous presence the mask is supposed to bring into the world or

{Although the deity involved may be invited to observe the performance of the masked human personifying that deity, the deity is expected to remain outside the human impersonator's body, remaining in the region of the ordinary audience. It is hoped that the deity will be so impressed with the performance as to grant numinous blessings both to mortal performer and to mortal audience alike.}

that maskers and their audiences are well aware that masquerades are based in histrionics and

{The mortal audience is, of course aware of this; but may also be aware that the actual deities (or their divine delegates, i.e. their angels) are expected also to be praesent in the immediate vicinity, vouchsafing blessings.}

the kind of pious suspension of disbelief they maintain in the course of masked performances (Napier 1986; Pernet 1992)."

{The typical Catholic missa (mass) could better be described as a " pious suspension of disbelief"; for the audience is well-aware that the elements of the eucharistic host cannot "really" be transsubstantiated. But, if so instructed, the congregation may hope that angels are immaterially in attendance (for a truly "missa angelica"), bringing compensatory benediction.}

Napier 1986 = A. David Napier : "Masks and Metaphysics". In :- Sidney L. Kaspir (ed.) : West African Masks and Cultural Systems. Tervueren : Koninklijke Museum voor Midden-Afrika. pp. 231-40.

Pernet 1992 = Henry Pernet : Ritual Masks : ... Revelations. Columbia : Univ of SC Pr.

p. 77 extending from a supernal immaterial divine world into the material : praeternaturally-sanctified "conduit ... to the world"

"In "Brown's (2003) felicitous phrase, the "physical space of the temple" and {of} its ritual personnel is merely a conduit through which the voice "maintains its relationship to the world," and if it is E`cue itself that enlists the agency of men born over the drumskin ..., then we arrive at ... a "found" (but already amply enchanted) technology to the propagation of the acoustic mask that is E`cue ... . ... any contemporary alleyway in Havana is transformed into the embarcadero of Usagare` in the course of a baroco".

Brown 2003 = David H. Brown : The Light Inside : Abakua` Society ... . Washington (DC) : Smithsonian Institution Pr.

pp. 77-8 technological "inventions" are, in reality, disclosures to the mortal "inventor" by a supernatural deity

p. 77

"Robert Lowie (quoted in Brady 1999:31) offers an anecdote about Clark Wissler's paeans to Edisonian technology ... : "... an aged Blackfoot ... man would have ... the inventor ... not a whit abler than

p. 78

anyone else, ... he merely had the good fortune of having the machine, with all its details,

revealed to him by a supernatural being."

{Mortals' thoughts are (especially if they so earnestly requaest) adeptly guided by divinities, whether they be aware of this fact or not. Many famous scientists, inventors, artists, and others have admitted to the sensation of having been divinely prompted.}

Brady 1999 = Erika Brady : A Spiral Way : ... Ethnography. Jackson : Univ Pr of MS.


Paul Christopher Johnson (ed.) : Spirited Things : the Work of "Possession" in Afro-Atlantic Religions. Univ of Chicago Pr, 2014.