Spirited Things, 3-4



... Aithiopian Spirit-Delineation

Patrick A. Polk


pp. 81-2 mediumship trance-channeling of a minstrel-spirit

p. 81

"the renowned trance medium Mrs. Frances "Fanny" Conant held a public se'ance ... of a blackface troupe. ... the April 3, 1858, edition of the Spiritualist newspaper The Banner of Light includes includes ... spirit dialogue ... given through ... Conant at that gathering. The record opens ... with ... not just ... popular 1853 minstrel song ... but a rendition of it by a departed songster momentarily back from the other side."

p. 82

"In June 1854, the ethereal entertainer dropped in at a New York Spiritualist meeting where his spirit-controlled guitar deftly struck the chords of such old minstrel standbys as ... "The Shaker Song" (Linton 1855:50 ff.)."

Linton 1855 = Charles Linton : The Healing of the Nations. NY : Soc for the Diffusion of Spiritual Knowledge.

pp. 84-5 mediumship trance-channeling of Negroid spirits

p. 84

"Frances Conant ... interacted with countless deceased African Americans during her long career. As described in The Banner of Light, her renderings mirrored prevailing ... "blackness" ... (see Polk 2010). The editorial preface to a message from a deceased slave

p. 85

... asserts that readers "will recognize the true negro style ..." (February 20, 1858). ...

A New York medium consulted by publisher Isaac Funk frequently channeled an African American female ... whose defining characteristics were .... "... a broad negro dialect" and "... a very earthy negro humor" (1904:45-46).

Likewise, Mrs. C. J. Hunt reported to Spiritual Magazine that when "Negro Bill" manifested through a channeler, he "talked loud, laughed, whistled, danced," and engaged in many other "negro antics" (1875:400)."

Polk 2010 = Patrick A. Price : "Black Folks at Home in the Spirit World". In :- Andrew Apter & Robin Derby (edd.) : Activating the Past : History and Memory in the Black Atlantic World. Newcastle : Cambridge Scholars. pp. 371-414.

p. 85 Sambo, Ambo, Hambo, and Morambo

"The celebrated British medium Annie Fairlamb Mellon channeled her own "Sambo" (Anonymous 1878:533),

as did the less-well-known Mr. Fogon (Dickson 1885:762).

The American Catherine Berry brought forth an "Ambo" (1876:26) in her circles, and

one Mrs. Olive embodied a mulatto spirit called "Hambo" (the Hambone of blackface and later vaudeville tradition?), "a joking, amusing sort of fellow ..." (Marryat 1891:198).

Mrs. Wallis, yet another John Bull {i.e., English} psychic, gave voice to "Morambo," ... in South America (Austen [1932]...:128)."

Anonymous 1878 = "A Spiritualistic Se`ance in the Trongate, Glasgow". MEDIUM AND DAYBREAK 9.Aug23 (438):533-4.

Dickson 1885 = George Dickson : "Dudley Colliery". MEDIUM AND DAYBREAK 16.Nov27 (817):762-3.

Berry 1876 = Catherine Berry : Experiences in Spiritualism. London : James Burns Spiritual Institution.

Marryat 1891 = Florence Marryat : There Is No Death. NY : Lovell & Coryell.

Austen 1932 = A. W. Austen : "Woman Who Was a Medium for Fifty-two Years". PSYCHIC NEWS. (reprinted 2006 PSYPIONEER 2.6:127-30)

p. 86 material instruments played directly by immaterial bodies of spirits themselves (without mortal mediumship)

"Se'ance observers routinely marveled at the melodic skills of the dead as, time and time again, disembodied singers offered favorite tunes to the supernatural accompaniment of banjos, guitars, tambourines, horns, and whistles. These remarkable demonstrations of spirit power most typically occurred during "cabinet" or "curtain" se'ances where instruments set aside in apparently inaccessible spaces nonetheless issued forthharmonic sounds.

Describing such manifestations at the Koons family farm in Ohio ..., Charles Partridge wrote, "I have seen ... minstrel bands ...; I have seen the best performers in the country; but they cannot perform equal to these spirits" (quoted in Daniels 1856:25)."

Daniels 1856 = J. W. Daniels : Spiritualism versus Christianity. NY : Miller, Orton and Mulligan.

pp. 89-90 Jim Crow

p. 89

""Jim Crow," the foundational minstrel archetype introduced by Thomas Dartmouth "T.D." Rice in the early 1830s, ... became a veritable international craze (see Lhamon 1998). Not long after Rice brought his trademark stylings to London audiences in 1836, "jumping Jim Crow" took on ... the mesmeric experimentations of British physician John Elliotson (1791-1868). A university professor and practicing physician, Elliotson was an ardent champion of avant-garde healing modalities ... associated with ... powers of the mind. [Winter 1998] ... In 1837, ... the sisters Elizabeth and Jane O'Key ... began to exhibit ... that a "black" or "Negro" spirit would sometimes appear to them ... . ... An anonymous writer for the Lancet noted that

p. 90

during a treament (performance) before a packed audience, one of the young women "whistled and sang ... with ... very artist-like variations ... . Ending, at last, with Jim Crow, she stopped ... '... over from Kentucky', like Mr. Crow, and then volunteered to 'wheel about, and turn about ...' ..." (Anonymous 1838:287)."

Lhamon 1998 = W. T. Lhamon : Raising Cain : Blackface Performance ... . Cambridge (MA) : Harvard Univ Pr.

Winter 1998 = Allison Winter : Mesmerized : Powers of Mind in Victorian England. Univ of Chicago Pr.

Anonymous 1838 = "University College Hospital : Animal Magnetism". LANCET 26 (May):282-8.

p. 95 Keeler & Christy

"in the last decades of nineteenth century, Pierre Louie Ormand Augustus Keeler ... resurrected George N. Christy himself and put the actor to work as his own guiding spirit or "control" (Lippitt 1888). A "materializing" and "slate-writing" medium who produced phenomena through musical instruments, chalk writing, and other means, Keeler was widely respected ... during a career that lasted more than fifty years."

Lippitt 1888 = Francis James Lippitt : Physical Proofs of Another Life. Washington (DC) : A. S. Witherbee.



Spiritual Agency ... and Knowledge in Cuba

Kristina Wirtz


pp. 102-3 how the spirits are channeled

p. 102

"spirit possession as ... fact in a particular place and time constitutes ... part of a ... representational economy involving relationships among agencies (people, spirits) and materialities (bodies, things ...). But it is ... the spectacle of ... manifesting ... dramatic signs of another presence['s] directing the body's actions and making pronouncements with the vocal instrument of the possessed person.

But Josephina ... as an adult woman ... after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, ... learned how to manipulate ... candles, altars, prayers, songs, dolls, and plaster icons ... and to train the sensitivities of her own

p. 103

body to effectively channel the spirits as a Spiritist medium and Santeri`a practitioner[ess] (santera)."

pp. 103-4 habitations of spirits; altars for interaction with spirits

p. 103

"practitioners of the Reglas de Palo ... work with what, in Kongo ritual jargon are called individualized nfumbi ..., the dead. ... Moreover, religious practitioners recognize the ... orichas of Ocha, and the mpungu, or deities, of Reglas de Palo ... . And then there are what folk practitioners of all kinds ... refer to as spirits ... which are seen to inhabit places, plants, stones, rivers, and ... locations (for example, crossroads, trees, mountains, as well as human-made objects including dolls ...), where they must be ... appropriately handled. ...

p. 104

Multiple altars in the same home are common, ... when ... one can never have too much spiritual protection ... . ... Here ... folk practitioners of all affiliations sense and interact with this vast spiritual world interpenetrating the tangible {material} world ... signal spiritual presence ... the actions of specific spirits or deities in the tangible world. ...

The nfumbi captured in nganga[-]s, or vessels of ritual power owned by Palo practitioners, were often ... powerful ... characters in life."

p. 107 rites of purification

"Some households ... roll a coconut around the corners of a room on special occasions like New Year's Eve ... .

And many folk-religious rituals follow a similar procedure of brushing someone's body with a branch of porsiana (or ... even a dove);

of having the person pass perfumed hand over their head, neck, shoulders, torso, behind, and legs, then shaking ...; or

of a medium, santero grabbing a person's hands, spinning them first one way and then the other, as if dancing, then flinging their hands up in the air ... with ... snapping of the fingers."

p. 110 statue or altar

"The vase of flowers and bowl of fruit put before the statue and the lavish gold cape draped over it, like the recorded music or live drums played before the altar,

index the relationship between the human keeper of the altar and the deity lavished with these objects of devotion.

{They are intended to remind both mortal altar-keeper and (especially) deity of the helpfulness implied in such indications -- helpfulness whether in the waking-world, in trances, or in dreams.}

Such relationships of similarity and of contiguity -- iconicity and indexicality -- ... that flowers, fruit, fabric, and music are desirable to spirits ..., are meaningful only when taken up {by spirits}, processed {by spirits}, and framed by semiotic regimes {of meaningfulness from the spirits' (deities') points-of-view}".

{More so than that such may be "desirable to spirits", they are particularly intended to remind deities that such accommodations (and the like) may be useful to the mortal keeper; so that the deity will be reminded to provide the mortal with benefits -- whether in the waking-world, in trances, or in dreams.}

pp. 113-5 unwished-for spirit-possession

p. 113

"It sometimes happens that the performance of music and movements to induce trance in folklore {i.e., theatrically-simulated re-enactment} settings can accidentally bring down actual spirits, a situation understood ... by religious practitioners and folklore directors alike ... (Hagedorn 2001:107-16). ...

p. 114

On ... occasions I heard religious practitioners criticize such shows because those hosting them would be unprepared to properly handle an accidental spirit possession ... if the spirit refused to leave. ...

As on any occasion of spirit possession, an accumulation of cues, from his

p. 115

brief "crisis" of falling into trance under the influence of the sacred music to his wide-open, staring eyes, stiff comportment, change of speaking register, and even his refusal to cooperate, cued the shift ... to being possessed."

Hagedorn 2001 = Katherine J. Hagedorn : Divine Utterances : the Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeri`a. Washington (DC) : Smithsonian Institution Pr.

p. 115 initial episode of exceptional spirit-possession as sudden acquisition of healing-powers

"The initial episode of spirit possession can be quite dramatic : ... a santero in Santiago [de Cuba] related how, as a child, he attended a bembe`, or festive drumming ceremony, and was possessed by

a muerto.

{[in Yoruba] egun}

Once possessed, he fled ... with other participants ... to the nearby house of someone ill, where his possessing muerto called for particular herbs and ... the person was healed ... through his affinity with this one possessing spirit."

p. 118 sacred objects, power-objects

"spirit possession ... is also indicative of how spirits saturate all manner of things, imbuing them with spiritual agency. For this reason, the ceding of control at the heart of spirit possession serves as a model for the susceptibility of the entire physical and human world to the influence of spirits, and hence the necessity to work with the spirits in order to receive their positive attention and assistance in matters of material existence. ... Whether in the practices of Santeri`a, Palo, Spiritism ..., or some combination of these, all sacred representations serve both as icons of spiritual beings and as indexes {indices} of their presence. ...

In feeding one's oricha[-]s or nganga, within Santeri`a or Palo, ... offerings, from flowers to food ..., are placed directly in front of the sacred vessels {and/or idols}.

Practitioners of Santeri`a and Palo agree that such offerings serve to re-energize the spirits so to that they can act in the world; santeros use the Lucumi` word ache` to describe this sacred energy that humans must provide ... in order for the saints to act in the world."

{Besides a description, in terms of energy-exchanges, of the interaction between planes-of-existence : the process can be alternatively be described as employing signaling-devices, whose signaling is conventionally accepted in Otherworld-parlance as invitations (to deities) to put in a personal apparitional visitation, in the course whereof mutually useful information may be exchanged.}

{It would seem, as a concern of practicality, that esoteric information (especially that relating to other-than-one's-own, almost completely inaccessible, planes-of-existence) is the principle substance (to be supplied into the universewide communication-network for calculation of local ephemeral need-circumstances) in demand in the subtle planes-of-existence : which is analogous, in the material plane, with the demand for energy, of various types (realized through fuels supplied to engines). [written Dec 11 2014]}

pp. 119-20 music is offered, with suyere` (hymns), to the deities

p. 119

"offerings include not only the durable ... but also the more ephemeral ... offerings of ... candlelight, and even music and speech ... . ...

If there is one important thing in the religion, it is the songs sung to the oricha[-]s. ... This is what invokes ... . ... to do

p. 120

any spiritual work ... one always has to invoke. This has to be done with the prayers, ... with the chants which are the suyere`. That is, one sings a story to the oricha so that the oricha can work in the space one creates {by consecration} ... the ritual space. ...

Moreover, offerings of prayer, song, and music usually accompany offerings of food and other perishable items (flowers ... or perfumed water) during ceremonies ... . All kinds of offerings serve ... to attract the spirits ..., and to elicit their cooperation in human projects."

pp. 122-4 for souls of the recently defunct : aromatic herbs in tub/basin, so that those souls can disclose their praesence through bodily response to a proverb-parable

p. 122

"a large, white plastic tub ... next to the central altar ... was filled with water and herbs. ...

Iku` lobi` ocha ... . ["The dead gave birth to the saint ... ."]

... the tub contained herbs representing both the oricha[-]s of Santeri`a and the muertos of Spiritism ... {which "muertos of Spiritism" can better, in this context, be better understood as egungun of Lukumi`}.

p. 123

... JOSEFINA : ... ["and I begin to feel ... in all of my body ..., with the {electric-like tingling} current ..."] ... !Aaaaa! ["marked rising then falling intonation like a siren"] Es la prueba! ["It is the proof!"]"

p. 124

"Consider ... a practitioner of Palo's ability to sense the spirits, which were always present but sometimes required the stimulation of words ... to become manifest, even in ... momentary vibrations :

"The dead ... appeared ... and inhabited her body as the restlessness that woke her ..., just as

{Timely sudden awaking can be ascribed to machinations of "los muertos", who may wish one to perceive at that moment some transient event (whereof evidently they are well-aware) in the waking-world.}

her dead (mis muertos {'my deads'}) subsisted in encounters with old sayings and parables" (Ochoa 2007:476, 482-83)."

{In the authoress's case, the "old sayings and parables" wherein the encountre "subsisted" was for the authoress, in translating "a common proverb" (supra, p. 122), "(rather pedantically) to explain what each Lucumi` word meant." (supra, p. 123)}

Ochoa 2007 = Todd Ramo`n Ochoa : "Versions of the Dead : Kalunga ... ". CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 22.4:473-500.

p. 124 terms in Spanish


meaning in English







p. 126 sensing of spirit-praesence

[quoted] "They are allowing me to see different scenes and different places ... but also I am allowed to see the action of a spirit".

"Spiritist friends have described giving a reading in terms of seeing an unfolding movie ... as they read the cards for someone, and others have described receiving these sorts of spiritual transmissions as akin to hearing a radio transmission or even feeling it in one's skin. Josefina frequently referred to feeling the spirits' vibrations and ... what the shivers up and down her arms told her about the presence of the spirits around us.

Such signs simply escalate in case of full possession ... . Spirit presence begins with prickles and shivers ... but ascends to the cinematics of spiritual transmission and the full dramatic spectacle of spirit possession."

p. 128 communication of secret; accurate prognostication

"The medium who communicated someone's secret plan ... out loud, demonstrating the veracity of the spiritual transmission but also necessitating an immediate response ... to keep the information from becoming public.

The saint {a dead one, as possessing-spirit} who dispensed advice in the special, barely understandable register of such spirit speech, and whose prognostications indeed came to pass."


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