Spiritual War in Havana?

Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — One afternoon, I was walking near the old Tallapiedra thermoelectric plant, a place close to where I normally catch the bus home, and also near a primary school where I was once doing an ethnography study, about Anthropology in Education.

Something with a white outline really caught my eye on the pavement. Remotely related, I remembered those outlines of dead human bodies which forensic police draw out on the ground in foreign movies and series.

I walked closer, and it was in fact a human silhouette. However, it didn’t have any signs of a police investigation; rather, it was mystically executed: traces of a sacrifice, clearly a feathered animal, and recipients which seemed to have been used for homeopathic magic, like a roll of surgical tape, and other accessories. A display of artefacts, seemingly to induce an action from the spiritual world onto somebody. And there were traces of blood there too.

In Havana, a city full of Afro-ancestral spirituality, this kind of magical set up is, without a doubt, rare. You can often see the remains of ritual sacrifices under trees, and a lot of magical objects being carried around by believers who walk along Havana’s streets; as well as a drum here and there, and the clear signposting of places where ceremonies are held.


Not too long afterwards, when I passed by this place again, I noticed that where the head of the humanoid drawing was painted on the pavement (the spatial arrangement of the set up had been scattered over time), there were sketches which corresponded to what seemed to be some signs from Ifa’s afro-ancestral prophetic system.

This system uses binary symbology; however time, passers-by and maybe some rainfall had already spoiled the design of the symbols, and so it was difficult to identify what each of them were. I realized that I hadn’t seen these symbols the last time I was there, because they had been covered by the remains of the animal sacrifice. In the Ifa faith, every believer has their own symbol…

It continued to look like an attack, maybe I’m mistaken in interpreting it as such?

It’s an interesting remnant of a spiritual war, of mystical conflict, which God willing, won’t be transformed into a war between all of us here in Cuba.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov has 254 posts and counting. See all posts by Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

3 thoughts on “Spiritual War in Havana?

  • “It’s an interesting remnant of a spiritual war, of mystical conflict, which God willing, won’t be transformed into a war between all of us here in Cuba.” this is the last sentence written in the article. It’s interesting to me MERCER BROWN that a mere silhouette wants to be so condescending to me. I published my Response with a Picture…my Own…where is yours? All I can read from your response to me is nothing but cognitive dissonance to what I wrote. It doesn’t surprize me coming from a mere silhouette, know-nothing no-body. Apparently reading English must be difficult for you to comprehend. I answered his poorly written article quite accurately. You went on a hysterical tangent. You lack Critical Thinking skills. How depressing….for you.

  • And what is this so-called “Traditional Culture”, Mr Suarez? I put it to you that you pretend to be a believer but feel ashamed, for the well-known racial reasons, to give proper attribute to the origin of this religion! There is no “traditional culture”! There is, as Dmitri correctly described it, AFRO-SPIRITUALITY!!! And there is again – muchissima gracias a Dmitri – IFA’S AFRO-ANCESTRAL PROPHETIC SYSTEM! Repeat that 10 times everyday, facing Africa, not Spain, Mr Suarez!!!

    As to your supposed slight by Dmitri, it holds no water. Afro-spirituality in Cuba and in Africa demand RESPECTFUL practice in the appropriate place and context. Time and time again, the babalaos and priests of Vodou have explained that Afro-spirituality rituals are not meant to cause harm but to heal and to pray to and praise the orishas and ancestors, It is the abuse of the religion by people ashamed of its African origin, people who shamelessly produce images of Santa Yemaya as a blonde, blue-eyed caucasian goddess, it is this racist revisionism and denial that leads to the graffiti-ing of IFA’s AFRO-ANCESTRAL PROPHETIC SYSTEM. Afro-Cubans and those of other racial origins who accept the religion with respect will never deny the religion’s roots and proper practices. They do not also deny the syncretist nature of worship, based as it is on the harsh circumstances of enslavement, when the practices had to be disguised.

    Repeat ten times before going to bed also, Mr Suarez, and of course, facing Africa: IFA, AFRICA, AFRO-CUBA!

    Thanks again to Dmitri for writing with a very respectful, scholarly nuance and orientation about this street phenomenon.

  • If you have nothing to fear…then you shouldn’t be trying to instill fear in others. Was your name or all of the names of every single Cuban citizen on the Island written anywhere so that they might be affected by this spell? It wasn’t was it…..So therein lies your answer. Don’t try to foment panic and prejudice where none belongs. Don’t be sensationalistic with what comes natural to us as a people and with our true TRADITIONAL CULTURE. It’s wrong of you to do it. You could have reported this in many other ways or even better, NOT have reported about it at all unless you had something good to say about it. Because of what you wrote it can easily be said that the Catholic Church which has of late been making inroads to Cuba or the U.S. based Evangelical cults are more prone and likely to bring harm to the Cuban People and Cuba than our Traditional practices are likely to do. You see…it’s not a nice thing to do. Our Traditional Practices have always been there in Cuba and they always will…. before you and I were ever born and they will be there way after you and I will die. Don’t try to shine an unflattering light on these practices that attempt to mark them in a shade unbecoming of them. It is historically and socially far easier to do that to the “Traditional” Western Religions and Cults involving Christianity due to their history in the world. Respect the Ancestors of our land. Respect the ways of our people. This is just a friendly word of advice. I hope you heed it.

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