Anitos, Diwatas, Spirits Roam Urban America?
a few years ago i was a guest artist speaker for a class at stanford.. i spoke on the role of indigenous spiritual practice in the development of my work… a dancer shared this experience….while visiting New Orleans, she was drawn by the infectious rhythm of the drummers in Congo Square…. she joined the dancing crowd… and pretty soon she was ecstatically swept up into the middle dancing vigorously with a throng of people ..… then…next thing she knew she was flat on her back on the ground, sweating profusely looking up at strangers’ faces … she seemed to have fainted or lost consciousness .. they told her she went into a trance and was taken by the spirit….
she asked me if it was really possible for an outsider, like her, to be taken by the spirit like that…
my staunch response was ‘no way!’… ….hah! what an arrogant answer…if asked today, my answer would be different..
for the past 10 years I have participated in numerous rituals in Mindanao where I’ve witnessed native people consumed by the diwatas perform magnificent feats .. here’s a few…
he leaps across the yard in flight, streaks of yellow and green warrior wrap-around-cloth cut the air, his kampilan sword glints faintly against the dark sky, ahh.. the moonlight illuminates his muscular curves… an apparition? No, a man in a tranced state dancing, embodied by the divine warrior spirit, Bantuggan..
a local B’laan healer starts with a mumbled prayer then eyes blazing..sucks the sickness out of a cancerous body part…he chants again.. tells the sick girl she’s well..three weeks later she comes back fully re-covered… same shaman tells the young man, a foreigner, that he will travel far and will experience many unpleasant and dangerous adventures, but will be ok… neither of them knew at that time that the young man was to be sent to fight in Iraq..
an old lady ritualist, with her offering of live chicken, crocodile-shaped black & yellow rice on shiny green banana leaves, eggs and flags.. twitching and stretching her arms in sensuous wing like flight, walks into the dark waters to commune with her twin spirit.. the river…
an Ifugao elder reads the innards of my chicken offering and tells me my project ahead will be fraught with difficulties but with perseverance all will be well….the project was a huge struggle, a total bear of a project.. but I survived it!!
the shaman forcefully swishes the 3-inch tip of a sharp sword in his mouth and the insides of his cheeks.. he turns the tip of the sharp kampilan sword into his belly.. stabbing his sides…without sustaining a single cut!!!
they say the spirit world is alive in the Philippines..kasi wild pa rin dun.. unlike here in the US where we’ve literally paved over the earth..sementado lahat… our greenery eloquently landscaped.. controlled growth…deliberately placed and designed….
But..hold up..teka muna…. chiang-ka man yo… sandali lang po..check these out..
a frantic text….i was singing a chant during a show, my face started to feel thick and i started to be so emotional..tears pouring down my face….my muscles are stiffening and cramping up… i don’t know why.. i’m scared…all i could do was leave the stage?
another text.. what to do? I stopped singing the chant but every time the baylan character is to appear..i get that overwhelming feeling….and my muscles stiffen and cramp up again…what does it mean?
in the 1980’s a friend in a Brazilian group, during a show…. rigorously dancing with eyes blazing, she convulses, her eyes roll back, she falls down foaming at the mouth… luckily the director, a Brazilian, knew what to do….
a 4o year-old woman tells me…as a child she would sometimes blurt out people’s “secrets”…these are people she just met…and sometimes she would tell their future…. she did it often enough that her dad would beat her up every time she made these crazy talks….
a teenager would ‘see’ desperate scenes of people in trouble except these are people from a distant part of the planet and maybe even from a different time.. she would sometimes speak in a foreign exotic language to communicate with these ‘people’ …one time a kind of click language of Africa, another an Indian language of the Andes..asked how she thought she can help these people.. clearly the people she was talking with were not in her present physical reality..she would simply say.. “my prayers help them…even if they don’t see me they hear me…”
yes you guessed it.. these are all Americans.. Americans of color…born and raised in this country..some have never been to their ancestral homeland..
so i’ve been thinking that maybe spirits are like electric current..energy.. and we, humans are like matter with various level of conductibility.. some of us, like me, are like rubber, zero-zilch- nada non- conductors.. while others are totally live wire… like the folks i mentioned above…. basically they are gifted with this ability to see, feel, speak to, or embody energy-soul-spirit-diwata-anitos….and the rest are somewhere in between? what do you think?
photo #1- Tigwa ritual; photo #2- Maguindanaon sagayan; photo#3- Klagan woman; photo #4- Ifugao carvings, Banaue; photo # 5- carabao horns, skulls & jaw bones Ifugao house; photo #6- Talaandig