Hetep (Peace & Blessings) Family
In this post, I decided to share a little and give you a little insight into how I practice Kamta. I credit the inspiration behind this post to my lovely sister and Boricua (Puerto Rican Sister) who had my back and was in my corner.
What happened and why I am giving major thanks to my Sister? Well, as most of you know, my father is preacher and my mother is a strong, loving Christian woman. Now, before anyone goes there, I have already surpassed the basic and superficial things dealing with Christianity, so now I see it for what it is which is metaphorical lore. Like most lore, Christian lore has a host of metaphysical and metaphorical truths. As urban shamans it is important that we see this connection so that we can change the physical reality as we see fit, by using scriptures from the bible, Tibetan prayer flags, African iconography or anything we can find to influence the spiritual universe.
But, my mother. I love her dearly, but she is determined to save me from “heathen ways.” Like most good mothers who knows their child, when my mother is visiting. She never questions me about my altar when my guard is up and I am expecting her to do so. It is always the sneak attack when my guard is down and then I find myself trying to justify to her that “We don’t worship idols.” For instance, while bringing in groceries, or watching TV that when she pops the question, “Hey, so why do you have that altar thing again?”
My response to my Mom’s strategically, carefully time planned questions have been good but they aren’t good enough for her to leave the subject alone. I think because part of her doesn’t want to accept it but the other part, the egotistical Set part (or lower spirit) tells her based upon her conditioning, “This is not Christianity. He’s going to hell.”
Yeah, if it was anyone else who asked me, I would simply say, “Go kick rocks. It’s personal” because it is none of their business and this is not a religion, so there is no proselytizing going on. If it were anyone else the conversation is simple and goes like this:
Them or Agent Smith: “So, Mr. Moore. In one life you are respected professional. In the other you go by the Kamitic alias Rau Khu. One of these lives is a good Christian but the other is a Heathen. Why, Mr. Moore do you say…you have an altar and work with “spirits?”
Me in Pedro Cerrano mode: “I work with my spirits because it helps me.”
Them or Agent Smith: “Mr. Moore. I don’t understand why you need to ‘Work with spirits’ anyway. Why do you need to work with your spirits? Why are they Your spirits? How did you acquire them? Did someone give them to you? You can’t even see them, so how do you know they even exist? How do you know that they are real or not? Are they listening to you? Why can’t you just be a good Christian and let Jesus help you with whatever you need.”
Me in Pedro Cerano mode: “Hahahaha (jajajajaja). Jesus (pronounce Hay-zeus) is good but he no good for bat. Go kick rocks! ”
Cerrano was a power hitter in the movie Major League but he struggled throughout the film to hit curveballs and every pitcher knew it. For help, he turned to alleged spirit Jobu. When a fellow player suggested that Cerrano try Jesus Christ. Cerrano’s response was that Jesus is good but “he’s no good for bat.”
In other words, our spirits are archetypes and have a purposes. Jesus can’t help me with my woman because he ain’t had one. Damn the conspiracy, he was a 30+year old man with no love interest. He can’t help me with that. Jesus didn’t have any children, so it is pretty hard for him to help people with their children. Umm, Jesus didn’t have no weight issue, so he can’t help people trying to diet and stay healthy. The bible never talks about how Jesus dealt with his coworkers while building a house and doing his carpentry work, so he can’t help me deal with my coworkers. Our Spirit understands that Jesus is only good for “Saving Souls.” Meaning you want to go to heaven and deal with the afterlife….you better call on Jesus. For everything else, if you don’t know your spirits, then you are left without a paddle being religious. I am very conscientious about my Spirit (Knowledge of Self). I know how my Spirit works in my life and I know my Spirit is strong but in order to work it, I need a spiritual paddle. I needs SPECIFICS to feed my Spirit. We need spirits that have accomplished specific tasks, which is why as Cerrano has said “Jesus not good with bat.”
It is difficult to explain holistic thinking to people in a non-holistic culture. Think about how long it took Americans to understand why Native Americans kept saying that the land was sacred. Yeah, 500+ years to change that mentality and at great cost. This is why unless someone is interested in my spiritual tradition. I usually don’t share or waste my time.
But my Moms, that’s a different story. Your Mom as the Brandon Lee said in The Crow (I paraphrase) “Mother is the word for God on the lips of all children,” so it is hard to go against God. It is one of the hardest spiritual tests to pass is to tell the woman who carried you for nine months, birthed you, taught you to read, write, do math, fed you, taught you how to pray and talk to God, that what she taught you doesn’t work. It is a challenge because no one wants to hurt their Mom’s feelings, at least no one with a sense of humanity. You always want to let her down gently so she can respect what you do and stop asking questions about your spirituality, when she is not really interested in it. In other words, you have to find a way to tell your Moms to shut up, mind her damn business TACTFULLY. Yeah, you have to pass this test because it teaches you how to “catch flies with honey”.
Right, a work in progress.
But, that’s when “IE” (we should call her to protect her identity) comes into the picture. When IE wanted to see my het aakhu/netcharu (ancestor and guardian spirit house), I did a reading and my shells said “Yes with a blessing.” When IE saw the altar, the scent of the Florida Water and other colognes I had out for my spirits, she said reminded her of her late grandmother in Puerto Rico. A sort of calmness and peace overcame IE as she took in the various icons, images and symbols that adorned my sacred space. After a few minutes she said, “Thank you for allowing me to see this” and exited the room.
Now, I didn’t know why my spirits granted me permission to allow IE to gaze upon the altar, but I soon learned why. You see, several months later IE and I were visiting my brother’s family, and while she was alone with my sister-in-law, she was asked what her thoughts were about me having an altar. IE told her, “I think what he is doing is right in line with my culture. It is not religious, it is spiritual,” which is what people on the island do all of the time.
PERFECT! Yep! She nailed it! No divide between me and my baby! No demonizing my ancestral ways.
You see, everywhere African people were taken during slavery, they hung on to their culture and today in places like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, Cosamaloapan, Haiti, Colombia, Jamaica, Dominica, etc. The African influence is celebrated, loved, respected, cherished and used as a tool of liberation. Only stateside in the United States are we made to be ashamed of our history, heritage, culture, ancestral practices and literally pimped for our cultural ingenuity. Only, in the United States are we divided because of religion.
So, not too long after, I like the unsuspecting swimmer didn’t hear the Jaws music when my mother was visiting me and that’s when she attacked, “So, what does IE think about that altar-thing?”
“Well, Mom,” I said calmly and non-defensively, “To be honest with you, she is okay with it because it is not religious. It is spiritual. It is our culture and it reminded her of her culture and a practice that her grandmother would do.”
The look on Mom’s face….PRICELESS.
Why? Because our cultural practices are SPIRITUAL. It has nothing to do with going to a church, mosque, temple, etc. It is God and our ancestors that unite us and all of these Western religions that have divided us. In other words, spirituality is personal and is concerned with making us better individual by overcoming our egocentric lower spirit or Set. This is how “they” get us all of the time, so we have to constantly remind ourselves about the true enemy.
I am reminded of this every time I gaze and think about my het (spiritual house or altar). As I have mentioned before, the Kamta altar draws upon the Afro-Cuban Espiritismo Cruzado (Crossed Spiritist) tradition but is totally based upon the Kamitic tradition and the remnants of the Kongo philosophy that survived in North America. I draw upon the Espiritismo Cruzado because my godfather, Papa, taught me that the Cruzado altar called a boveda, was the most fluid, multi-purpose altar in the Afro-Diaspora that functions according to how you feel. I was taught that there were only two rules that should be obeyed when it comes to working with the boveda and they are: 1) always keep the altar clean, and 2) never put images of living people on it. Other than that, if you get a hunch, a feeling, a thought to place something or take something off of the het, then follow your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, then remove it because you are in control and this is your altar. It was through following these rules that led me to find my spirits. As I said, it is spiritual, not religious, which means there is no dogma attached to it.
This needs to be clearly understood because similar icons are used and I have seen some people trying their best to put a trademark on our ancestry. No. You do you and let me do me! My godfather was an old, stern Black Cuban man. He was a babalawo (high priest in Santeria) and a member of the Abakwa Society, and in the little time that I knew him, he taught me a lot. And, one of the most important things he taught me about my spirits is that NO ONE CAN DENY YOU what you have experienced. If someone else didn’t experience it, guess what? They didn’t experience it but it doesn’t mean that your experience was not authentic. Failure to understand the nature of one’s Spirit is how good people are taken advantage of.
This is why I don’t care if people believe what I do or not, because your spirituality is not a religion. It was not created to save your soul. It was created to help you to prosper while on earth. It is spiritual, which means it only needs to make sense to one individual and that is YOU.
It has to be remembered that our ancestors didn’t lose all of our culture as people claim. What our ancestors lost due to slavery was the philosophy and theology behind our cultural practices. So, the het aakhu (the ancestors/spirit guide altar) represents KAMTA or the spiritual realm where the aakhu dwell. The cross symbolizes the four directions of universe and hence the presence of the Divine. I have nine clear glasses, symbolizing the nine netcharu who in my mind united with Osar (Asar, Ausar or Osiris) against Set. I also use this symbolism to signify the various African ethnic groups or nations that were brought to the Americas and forced to work together for a common goal due to slavery. See How to Honor Your Ancestors the Kamitic/Kemetic Shaman Way.
I put on my het photos of my ancestors but it is also adorned with icons of four important African American spirit guides who I believed helped my family to survive slavery. The first two iconic images are of an elderly black man and woman. They are known by various names. In Cuba they are called Francisco y Francisca, in Brazil they are called Los Pretos Velhos (The Old Black Ones), in the Mexican tradition they are called Los Negritos (The Little Old Blacks People) and in the Puerto Rican tradition they were called Los Congos, Los Esclavos, La Madama, Negro Jose, etc. African Americans respectfully referred to these elderly men and women as Papa or Uncle and Momma and Auntie because they were believed to be the first Africans (or first descendants of these Africans) that were enslaved. Being the first, they still remember the Old Ways. Many, including myself, believe that these aakhu were Kongo spirits and this is why they are commonly associated with various Espiritismo spirits.
There are also two Amerindian or Native American spirits that adorn my het as well. The first is Black Hawk (shown but his weapons and offerings are not shown) and second is a female spirit who sits across from him. There are numerous stories of how many Native Americans harbored runaway slaves and even adopted early African Americans into their tribes. While it is true that some Native Americans also participated in the slave trade in North America. History reveals that they were not as cruel as white slave owners and allowed their slaves to have various rights and could even marry into the tribe and their offspring were born free. The Native American spirits sit upon the het and continue to fulfill this role as protector spirits, so when I gaze upon my het. It reminds me of those brave souls that fled to the hush harbors in order to practice their spirituality.Black Hawk sits on the edge of the het with a watchful eye protecting my cultural practice.
I cannot show you my het netcharu (house for my guardian spirits) but above is a het (spirit house or altar) for Npu. Npu also called Anpu, Enpu or Anubis in Greek, some call him Sebek. He is akin to all of the trickster spirits like Ellegua, Exu, Pomba Gira, Papa Legba, Lucero, St. Peter, Brer’ Rabbit, Anansi or Aunt Nancy, Nino de Atocha and the Native American spirits Coyote. Npu is a crossroad spirit as one of his praise names implies, Apuat means “Opener of the Way“.
According to legend, when Oset (Isis) learned that Set had killed Osar and she went in search of his body to provide him with a proper burial. Her initial search was unsuccessful, until Ra sent Npu to help her. Npu is therefore the finder of lost things. Like most trickster spirits, Npu is a psychopomp meaning he escorts or guides newly deceased souls into the afterlife and participates in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, which established a soul as an ancestor. Npu therefore crosses in between two worlds, hence the crossroads. He intercedes on our behalf and is everyone’s personal guardian but he wears the mask of a dog because dogs can be loyal or disloyal depending on how their owner treats them. When they are loyal, they will protect you, guide you and pull you in the safe direction, but when they are disloyal because of your maltreatment, they will lead you into a traps or run off when you need them the most.
In Kamta, the netcharu are not worshipped but they are treated as honored and respected. Since Npu’s like all crossroad spirits are unique to the individual. This Npu shown above is fond of cigars, coffee liquor and candy.
These are just some of the spirits that I work with and this is the reason I was so happy to have told my Moms that it was SPIRITUAL, and that it was our culture and IE’s culture. It is our culture that unites us, and no Christian would dare say that their ancestors were enslaved in order to become a Christian. When you truly understand history, is when you will have Culture Freedom.
Yes, I finally did it! I finally passed the test without getting upset and without trying to explain why I do what I do to a “Parent that just doesn’t understand” and I owe it all to IE (Thanks Girl).
You see, we in the United States always feel that we have to explain ourselves because mainstream America has demonized our cultural way of life. As a result, we find ourselves really trying to explain our spiritual practices especially to our loved ones because even though we know our spirituality is not a religion. We have been told all of our lives that if we weren’t in the Church we were going to hell and a small part of us still believes this. We only stop believing in this lore and start accepting that heaven and hell are states of mind when we seriously begin honoring and working with our spirits. It only when this happens, we realize that we are truly free and the only thing that enslaves us is what we have been taught as children to believe.
On this 100th post, I am happy I have been able to touch so many peoples’ lives. I have met some amazing people through the LandofKam blog and I have enjoyed reading your comments, criticisms and suggestions. No, we’re not signing off but I just wanted to thank you all for your support and look forward to another 100 posts.