The Setting: PantheaCon 2012
The Players: The American Magic Umbanda House, a Bay Area house that is centered around the Orixa, They also work to a degree with the lwa, and their membership has a small amount of overlap with Hrafnar, Diana Paxson's group of Norse practice.
The Ritual: A throbbing, gyrating, rhythmic, captivating invitation to offer your body as the altar of dance to the Blessed Sacred Prostitute, Pomba Gira.
The Motivation: Most of the members of AMUH whom I have spoken with about Pomba Gira do this: I ask a a question about Pomba Gira. They blissfully close their eyes, smile a bit shyly, and deepen into a brief memory before responding. That's how you know who She is in their minds, hearts, and bodies.
The Prep: everyone scurrying about, filling a hundred glasses of water, laying our offerings on the main table, checking microphones, stretching and warming up hands and voices- there's going to be a LOOOOOOT of singing and drumming. Mama Maeva says to me, "Rabbit, look at this. This is where the lights need to stay during this ritual. People are going to try to turn them down. Come turn them back up." Sure enough, about an hour in, the lights in one part of the room start to fade. Come on, people! This isn't a high school dance! We are actually in a hotel. YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A ROOM waiting for you in just a little while! Get your dance on here and your groove on upstairs, kthxbai.
The Scene: Beauty, beauty, everywhere beauty, all decked out in red and black. Swirling skirts, skimpy dresses, slinky blouses revealing a perfect curve of cleavage. Hips rocking and swaying. Beauty of costume, of heart, of spirit. Beauty in vulnerability and passion. Beauty and joy in each face, beauty in bodies moving to the grinding, pounding pulse of the drums. The drummers begin coyly, innocently (I am among them, as is my partner Albert, Druid James of the House of Danu, and other guests, plus Kaerla and Gwebby, AMUH drummers par excellence.) The bodies begin to move shyly, slowly, stretching into luxuriousness. The song is rising, rising (singers Ember and Esther are the navigators of this pirate ship. Ember looks out from under her lashes slyly at the crowd and her voice curls to a growl, then soars like a bird.) "Pomba Gira, Pomba Gira, Pomba Gira O-A-O!"
The Vibe: In the red light of Pomba Gira's sacred gaze, I know myself to be sexually whole, beautiful, and free.
The Divine Moment: The drumming is channelling through the drummers powerfully. I am dancing my hands across the skins and you are flirting, shaking your hips at me, undulating nearer and then darting away, panting with delight, face flushed, excitement bubbling. Our eyes meet and there is electricity...Now, times that by about 250 people. Whew. Is it hot in here or what?
The Denouement: Kaerla and Gwebby join Ember and Esther at the microphones, and their voices harmonize slowly, sensuously, kindly, "Go to sleep, lil baby...go to sleep lil baby.." People fanning themselves, laughing, lingering in the hallways for another kiss, walking away still humming the songs...
The Drama: It's stated so specifically. DO NOT TAKE PICTURES WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD NOT TO. At Eleusis, if you revealed what you had seen within the secret rituals, you could be sentenced to death. No one is that rough and tough nowadays, but we all deserve to have our personal moment of the enactment of sacred sensuality held in reverence. In the grand scheme of things, however, this was one minor blip and is easily solved if we all just get behind the rules.
The Verdict: Mama Maeva reported to me that this was the largest and most popular Pomba Gira Devotional held yet at PantheaCon. Axe-O!