We weren’t really lost, the bus had just missed the narrow dirt road leading through the fields toward the small settlement near Gibara in Cuba’s Las Tunas province. As our bus driver backtracked down the deserted country road Jorge Hernandez, professional film maker and our guide and translator, described the religious house we were looking for. This group, he said, followed a pure form of Kardecian spiritism, that is they only invoked pure spirits of the dead, calling on the high spirits and commissions to carries the messages between their human mediums and God. This group eschewed the types of African elements we had seen in other locations. Here there would be no Orisha, no stones, no dried blood, instead only pure spirits in a pure environment. Finally we stopped in front of an open-air building. We could hear the chanting and hand-clapping from inside, but no drums, no cow bell or hoe blade.
Before entering the building each of us circled the white cross in the yard three times and sprinkled ourselves with water from the basin at the door. Inside we
were directed to the center of the circle of practitioners, women on the left, in front of our female hosts, men on the right, in front of the men. The circle closed around us, men and women chanting, clapping, stamping their feet in time to their own singing. Suddenly a woman behind me barks, others answer her. The energy level of the group rises as the circle begins to move around us. The pace quickens and the singing and other vocalizations become more compelling. I feel a subtle touch and skin of my left arm is covered with goose bumps. Maybe it’s just the flutter of the women’s skirts, maybe it’s something else. I’ll never be sure. Suddenly the dancing and singing stops.
The spirits have messages for several members of our group. The mediums and translators help the recipients understand the messages while the rest of us listen. Afterwards the senior mediums discuss the beliefs and practices of this group with us while the women present us with cake and a fruit drink. We are encouraged to take pictures, ask more questions, get to know these friendly people. In the center of the room stands another white cross with a smaller cross on each arm. The blue and white colors of the cross are repeated in the dress of the people. “Why do you all wear the same color of clothes?” “One of our spirits requires it. These colors are the symbol of this house.” Opposite the door is a table draped in white. Above the table is a crucifix and a picture of an Indian representing one of the spirits called into this group. Behind the flowers is a picture of Our Lady of Caridad, patron of Cuba. Later, at Casa del Caribe in Santiago, we would have an opportunity to see Jorge Hernandez’s own film about Cordon and to hear Joel James describe the spirit chain religion of Africa that developed into modern Espiritismo, but today we stood in the center of the circle and the spirits spoke for us.