A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Exu & The Quimbanda of Night and Fire

I received Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's latest book, Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire about a week ago and I have not been able to put it down since. Visually stunning in night black cloth with blood red letters, it is an exquisite work of art and quality I have come to expect from Scarlet Imprint. But it is the content that makes this book come alive; I would consider this book to be Nick's magnum opus.

From beginning to end the book is filled with so much information about the little known cult of Quimbanda that it has something for everyone whether initiate or not. Nick beautifully weaves the history of Quimbanda by untangling its serpentine roots from the forgetful fog of the past and in doing so shows stellar scholarship that makes this book not only practical, but deeply impactful for academics and anthroplogists looking for a source text. But he goes much further than providing a history lesson on the roots of Quimbanda, he reveals some of the deeper theological mysteries guarded by the cult.

Quimbanda like all the African Traditional Religions is a modern day mystery cult revolving around the synthesis of mysteries drawn from the Old World and birthed in the New. For the first time, an initiated Tata Quimbanda reveals some of the myesteries as part of the cult. He discusses the gnostic elements of Exu and the connection with Christian and African mysteries while providing one of the most lucid and articulate descriptions of the cult as it is practiced. He acknowledges the variations within the cult while presenting a complete view from the inside.

Some of what he has written is clearly meant to be understood by initiates alone, while the rest is fully understood by all. He navigates the tricky boundary between what he can reveal and what is hidden by oaths, but dares to take everyone right up to that boundary without obfuscation. One of the best features of this book is the section on the herbs of Exu under the name of Gardens of Hell,  this alone is worth the books weight in gold. He provides a thorough listing of the various herbs, roots, sticks, and minerals employed in the works of Exu that will come as a delight for the ethnobotonist as well as the practicing initiate.

He briely touches upon the magical technology of Quimbanda hinting at that underpinning spiritual powerhouse of macumba that makes the sorcery of Quimbanda so deadly effective before diving into one of the most comprehensive spirit catalogues where he introduces the major Exus, their lines, Kingdoms, while also providing their songs, signatures, and various workings.

But what the book does above all else, is reveal that Quimbanda is more than just a system of black magic--though it is that too--but is the path of the sorcerous warrior who heals and works medicine for people and community. He allows the reader a peek behind the devilish mask of Exu to reveal how this host of spirits who have been demonized and viewed in one-dimensional terms are actually some of the most powerful mentors and teachers out there who act as our mirrors to temper the character and soul while granting access to a kingdom of untold power and mystery.

Nick is part of a breed of mages who is also a scholar and for this I give thanks. He sets a high standard for occult books of the future as we move away from books which were too imbalanced, either being entirely impactical by being nothing more than works of anthropology, or works that were nothing more than a collection of spells with no context or foundation. Nick provides the whole package and his audience ranges from the academic, to the practitioner, to the curious and all can benefit from reading the book. But what is most remarkable about this book is that its a work of pure magic. While Nick's skills as an author, anthropologist, and practitioner cannot be ignored, neither can his ability as a medium. The book is the inspiration of spirit born of blood and fire. Reading it aloud reveals a cadence of an oracular prophecy as through ink Nick transcribes the words of Exu himself and thus births not just a book, but a sorcerous text that will transform the study of the cult of Quimbanda.

My only hope is that Nick continues to write and hopefully devotes smaller more focused books on the specific aspects of the cult as there are always limitations to trying to write an overview or general book on a religion or magical path. Together with his Pomba Gira book these two mark the beginning of a new age of Quimbanda with more wonderous things hopefully to come.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Exu & The Quimbanda of Night and Fire and Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila.


1 comment:

Jake said...

hear, hear; Nick is an important writer and this book is a landmark.