madamas, gypsies, indians and other spiritual guides in espiritismo cruzado

There seems to be some confusion on the internet about the nature of certain spiritual guides that populate the afro-Caribbean varieties of spiritism. For the record: when I talk about espiritismo on this blog I am always talking about my experience in espiritismo cruzado, because that is what I have worked in over the last few years.

It is important to note that there are quite a few different forms of espiritismo in the Caribbean. Just in Cuba alone there are a variety of forms. We find for instance purer kardecian scientific spiritism; then there is espiritismo de cordon; and then also espiritismo cruzado which functions more closely alongside the African-derived traditions such as palo and santeria. Puerto Rico has its own unique forms of espiritismo, where espiritismo and brujeria are very popular and widespread. That's without even going into spiritism in the Dutch Antilles or Brazil! There has been a lot of exchange in those regions too which makes the topic even more complex.

It's good to be specific and mention which stream of practice I am talking about because when we say 'espiritismo' we could be talking about a variety of creolized Kardecian-derived practices - and while they are part of continuum it certainly cannot be claimed that they are a single thing. There is a great deal of variance in practice even though they tend to follow a similar pattern with similar Kardec-inspired themes.

So to get back to the issue I was mentioning; there seems to be confusion about the role and nature of the madama, gypsie, arab, congo, indian etc spirits. It seems worthwhile to present the explanation as I have been taught it in our line of practice with regard to the nature and role of these spirits in espiritismo cruzado.

Firstly, these spirits are considered to be a class of egun, which is to say, the spirit of someone who used to be alive at one time but now works in the spiritual world as guide for the living by bringing their own unique stream of wisdom to the white table. Elevated dead people. So, when an espiritista is talking about 'their' madama spirit they usually mean that they have a muerto that has certain characteristics that allow it to be categorised in that grouping of spirits. They aren't necessarily talking about a single entity called The Madama.

Similarly, you might have a spirit that was a gypsy in life and therefore an espiritista will talk about 'their' gypsy (or their indian spirit, or their arab spirit and so forth). They are usually referring to individual spirits of the dead that fit into that stereotype with whom they are working. These spirits work in their charge's spiritual framework in order to develop themselves spiritually. It's symbiotic. Each person is understood to have network of spiritual entities that have been chosen to guide and protect the medium. And one can and should develop, elevate and expand that network by working with it in a skilled and dedicated way.

As I have been taught you definitely cannot pick and choose these guides. They choose you. What's more; there is a degree of protocol for identifying which spirits reside in your spiritual framework. This usually takes the form of an  'investigation' which is a special misa focussed around a single medium. The other mediums will then spiritually 'investigate' the medium for whom the service is being held to inform him or her about the constitution of their spiritual framework, thereby identifying which spirits they have and what they need to do for them in terms of spirit dolls, offerings, implements, pots and so forth.

This is to avoid self-delusion and the medium getting tricked by evil spirits that want a free ride. Just because you have strong draw to a certain kind of spirit doesn't mean you have that kind of spirit with you. Just because you find a pretty doll doesn't mean you should stick it on your altar and feed it! This is a distinctly inadvisable course of action.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that espiritistas will say that this is dangerous when considering that espiritismo traces almost all illness, variances of fortune or well-being to the influence of good or bad spirits.

That's why it is called spiritism after all.


  1. What about when a spiritist encounters someone who is from another belief system entirely, such as Paganism or Shamanism? Is it common for them to completely ignore the validity of other systems? I just had someone basically tell me that my twenty years of spiritual work are a dangerous delusion because I'm not part of his particular tradition. If this kind of attitude is common, I should probably steer clear of spiritists altogether.

  2. R. L. Lloyd I think you are confused. This blog post is about espiritismo cruzado. I never mentioned the 'validity' of other systems because I am talking about a specific element of this system. You may notice that the title of this post is: "madamas, gypsies, indians and other spiritual guides in espiritismo cruzado".

    I do not care about, nor ever do comment on 'paganism' or 'shamanism' - whatever you mean with those tellingly vague religious labels.

  3. Very Nice topic :-)
    Could you elaborate on How espiritismo cruzado and espiritismo in general came to be? How did it form?

    And what is egun?


  4. Well, espiritismo cruzado is a cuban variant of spiritism via the teachings of Alan Kardec. A 'crossed' (cruzado) form of it arose in cuba as it absorbed native herbalism, aspects of folk catholicism and the scent of african magic from the diaspora traditions that it rubbed shoulders with. It plays a symbiotic role in many of those african-derived traditions in Cuba (and abroad) where many palo and santeria houses will hold misas for various reasons connected to the workings of their own religion. 'Egun' is a lucumi word for spirits of the dead. I use the term advisedly in context of espiritismo cruzado because there is some connection and overlap with santeria, and many espiritistas who are also santeria initiates will talk about their "egun" in the context of misa espiritual. From the perspective of pure spiritism another spanish word that is used interchangeably at times is "muerto". ;-)

  5. I agree. Santeria initiates speak about egun from a lukumi perspective. if you would look at it from a espiritismo perspective they probably would say "spirit" or "spirit guide"

    but how and why did espiritismo cruzado form?

    spiritism itself formed in France. at that time you had catholicism.

    you had dissidents of that faith who did not accept the intolerance, and the taboo of the catholic church about contact with spirits.

    Alan Kardec, it's codifier, always put spiritism like a sientific doctrine and philosofical, without giving it a religious stamp. ( he was smart).

    but its adherents met the channeler in his teachings of their dissatisfactions.

    How did crossed spiritism (espiritismo cuzado) emerge then from spiritism?

  6. I already briefly mentioned how espiritismo cruzado formed in my previous comment. There is a lot more to be said about that but it deserves more space and time than a blog comment. I have an essay appearing in print in the not distant future on subject which, in part, is dedicated to the topic.

    I will however say that espiritismo cruzado should not be confused with santerismo. Santerismo is a relatively new phenomenon in Puerto Rico and the US where orisha worship is being mixed in with spiritism. This Espiritismo Cruzado explicitly does not ever do. This prohibition is based on the longstanding lucumi taboo of serving the dead in separate rites to the Orishas. Cruzado, or "crossed" in this context simply means that certain african and indigenous Caribbean practices and materials have merged with Kardecian spiritism.

    1. I am looking forward to reading your essay.

      and would love to discuss with you about the topic of "mixing", and "merging".
      and from what perspective we are talking about.

      I can tell you that the Original Brazilian Umbanda, emerged with dissatisfied spirits and it's mediums, with the Elitarian spiritist at that time, who did not accept spirit manifestations of indian, black and crossbred spirits. they were labeled ignorant, and poorly evolved.

      It's dissidents found in the indian spirit "Caboclo das sete encruzilhadas" (caboclo of the 7 crossroads), and it's meedium, Zélio Fernandinho de Moraes, the channelers for their dissatisfaction.

      then within Umbanda arose several "Umbandas", many of them denying the foundation in the physical plane by Zelio Fernandinho de Moraes.

      this, with just one century of existence, right?

      therefore, who founds religions are people and spirits, all dissatisfied with some existing religion.

      All founders serve from a pre-existing base or divine foundation, that support all that were and still will be based.

      It is clear and indisputable that all the founders were inspired and felt supported in their initiatives as well as it is also indisputable that they channeled the discontent of many people and many spirits, if one led the new religions wisely.

      Others were unhappy and saw their initiatives of light, dwindle and disappear in a short time.

    2. That's interesting. Thanks for sharing that parallel in Umbanda Huis van Ibukole.

  7. Luz, Luz!! Y Mucha Luz y Progresso en ambundancia. In Puerto Rico there are variations of Espiritismo, infact each and every Hispanic Country has their own variation. Maria Lionzeros in Venezuela, Espiritismo de la Mesa Blanca or Folclorica in Puerto Rico, Espiritismo de Cordon in Cuba, Espiritismo del Sorte est, est, est.

    How did these traditions begin. Simple befor Kardecian Spiritism ever entered the Carribean or Latin America, Africans and the Indigenous people had their form of trance possesion and ancestral veneration that predates Kardecian Spiritism. Espiritismo is not a religion persay, it is a Spiritual belief system. And many espiritistas are Catholics, Pentecostals, or even Voudists.

    And yes Santerismo and Sanse may or may not be viewed as a religion, but this must be understood. All Sancistas and Santeros are Espiritistas, but not all Espiritistas are Sancistas or Santeros.

  8. May I also state that I am happy to read new posts on your blog, you are a great writter. Luz Y Progesso.

  9. Thank you for writing this. This has been driving me crazy for a while now. People speak of "La Madama" like there is only one.... that is a CATEGORY of spirit - there are millions of them. Whenever you hear of someone speaking about La Madama as if she is one spirit it points to the fact that the person either 1) has not been properly trained in the ways of Espiritismo, or 2) they haven't actually contacted any madamas at all because they will be the first to tell you that they have a distinct name.

    I have a madama - so does my padrino. They have different names and are different spirits but both are "Madama" type spirits.

    I don't understand why this is so hard for people to comprehend. Thanks for your thorough and clear write up on this topic. It is very much needed in this era of internet open-source spirituality where folks lift stuff off of other people's websites and think it is a sufficient substitute for proper training.

  10. Exactly! Well, said Eddy. The very same thing has really been grating my nerves too - and is what prompted this post. Each madama is an individual spirit with a name and her own personality. This trend I think is symptomatic of people not understanding espiritismo or the nature of these spirits.

  11. Well put Balthazar this blog is very informative I am really glad to have a source of intellectual information. I recently recieved my madama and I now have a clear understanding of things and where to search for further information