Pomba Gira, the Mistress of Witchcraft, is a spirit veiled in mystery and magic. She forms one part of the principle spirits called upon in Quimbanda though she also makes an appearance in the other Afro-Brazilian cults. Her nature, like that of her counterpart is often a mystery revealed only to those who are her devotees and initiates.
To the outsider she is known as the Lover and Mistress of the Devil; a woman of the night who embodies sensuality and witchcraft. But to her initiates she is the wise sorceress born from a legacy of African necromancy and European witchcraft.
It is theorized that the etymology of “Pomba Gira” can be traced back to the Bantu spirit of the crossroads, Bombojila who is also known as Pambu Jila. How the rather masculine figure of Bombojila became Pomba Gira, a decidedly female spirit, rests in the nature of Bombojila as containing both sexes. Some depictions of this spirit often showed both male and female combined into one figure.
Along with this connection to the Kongo spirit of the crossroads, the figure of Pomba Gira is linked to the concept of the African witch. Any syncretism between the iyami and Pomba Gira would be misleading, but certainly the idea behind the African witches can be seen as the spiritual ancestor to Pomba Gira. She is the force of woman that is lethal in its power and mighty in sorcery, a nearly inhuman force of the night. From this springs the image of Pomba Gira as a serpent descending from a tree in the middle of the crossroads.
Her European heritage can be found in the figure of the red witches of Spain and Portugal. Women who worked malefic magic for love and destruction and who find their epitome in Maria Padilha, the legendary sorceress and mistress of royalty whose name is immortalized in incantations that call upon her alongside devils and demons. The red witches, like Maria Padilha were famed for their mastery of gypsy potions and poisons, and for their mastery of the magic of the Moors and the necromancy of the ngangas.
And it is through this melding of the red witch schooled in the magics of Africa with the inhuman night witch of the West African people birthed in the fires of the crossroads ruled by Bombojila that Brazilian Pomba Gira is born.
While both Exu and Pomba Gira are deeply connected to their African roots, Pomba Gira in her various incarnations is a true spirit of Brazil. Like the nation that birthed her, she is rooted in Africa, accepts a European influence, and yet retains her own unique identity. While there may be attempts to syncretize her with other deities, orishas, and spirits, she is uniquely her own and there is none quite like her.
Pomba Gira is legion, and like her counterpart, she is the collective sorcerous spirits of witches and priestess of Quimbanda, nurtured in fire and found in her respective queendoms of crossroad, tavern, ocean, forest, and cemetery among other such places of power. Her power rests in the liminal tied to the fires that spark in the night. Sometimes called Exu Woman, she is in reality no one’s woman, but her own. She represents the free woman whose powerful sexuality is both a seductive lure to men and a threat to patriarchal society which seeks to label her.
The vulgar see her as a whore to be bought, but the wise recognize her as Woman unfettered by the restraints of society and brimming with sexual potency and sorcery. She is sex for the purpose of sex, love for the purpose of love, and best knows the human heart with all its woes and troubles. To those who place these woes at her feet, she offers quick solutions bringing them the love that they desire while offering them solace and comfort.
She is a demanding and voluptous mistress whose path truly is harsh. Born from a mingling of blood, fire, and sulfur, Pomba Gira is a force that sometimes defies definition and challenges you to see beyond the restrictions our socialized mind puts on her. Approaching her can be dangerous to the uninitiated for she is fiercely protective of her cult and will challenge the weak of mind and heart.
While her magic is capable of anything, she is particularly skilled in all matters dealing with women, the erotic, and love. She combines her sensuality with her sorcery in the most lethal of witchcrafts; with a look she can inspire lust and love in the hearts of even the coldest of humans, or lay waste to her enemies. She is the crossroads where death, love, and sex meet.
Where Exu is met at the four-way crossroads, Pomba Gira rules the T-crossroads. When her devotees call she arrives in a flurry of skirts to grant prophecy and work magic. Each Pomba Gira has their own tastes, but generally enjoy roses without thorns, wines, champagne, cigarillos, ribbons, fruit and fine cloths and jewels. But for those who attempt to use her as a whore, or appropriate her from her cult, she’ll feast on them rather than the offerings.
There have been some attempts by North American and European practitioners to appropriate her into Thelemic circles as Babalon, or by others (like the so-called New Orleans Voodoo practitioners) as a Sacred Feminine. These attempts are based off incorrect ideas about her and contrary to her nature. She is neither Babalon nor is she some love goddess. She is a legion of spirits who in addition to love and sex is associated with death and destruction. Such appropriations are not only incorrect, but potentially lethal for they assume that she is nothing more than an idea to be used. This is the pitfall. She is a demanding spirit who will burn those who dare to try to use her.
To those she takes as her devotees she is the oracular serpent of the crossroads whose words of truth bring wisdom and whose magic can weave the threads of destiny in their favor.
While there are legions of Pomba Gira, some common ones are:
Pomba Gira Rainha das Sete Encruzilhadas
Pomba Gira Maria Padilha
Pomba Gira Cigana
Pomba Gira Maria Mulambo
Pomba Gira Calunga
Pomba Gira Menina
Pomba Gira Rainha dos Sete Cruzeiros
She is Queen, She is Legion, She is Pomba Gira. Sarava Pomba Gira!