Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila

By Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold
Scarlet Imprint 2011

This book has been on my radar for quite a while but as I have plenty of unread books here I always gave it a by. After several months of struggling to complete a couple of books I threw the towel in and bought a copy.

I can’t begin to describe what it is about Pomba Gira that attracts me. What little you find on the web does not paint a pretty picture, with epithets such as the Devil’s mistress and warnings about the uninitiated and untrained working with this spirit it should have put me off. Yet, like a moth drawn to the flame I kept checking this book out and regularly searching the web to see if there was anything that would satisfy my curiosity.

Unfortunately, there is very little about Pomba Gira or Exu in English on the Internet. If you can read Portuguese good, otherwise your choices are very limited. The daily Portuguese lessons from 15 years ago when I worked there are of little use now. I can just barely ask for specific tools and order a round of beer now in Portuguese.

First, I enjoyed Nicholaj’s writing style. Plain and direct which made it for me an enjoyable and easy read, unlike the previous 3 books that I gave upon. One reason I’ve not read anything and suppressed interest in ATR’s and regional variations is that in someway I didn’t want to be seen as some privileged white European jumping on the ‘bandwagon’. Nicholaj briefly touches on this in the book when he traces the influences in Catholicism, traditional European witchcraft along with roots in the Congo. Even highlighting similarities with Polish folk stories of vampires.

There is plenty of warnings throughout the book about doing any workings with Pomba Gira. Some simple workings are given but proceed with caution. It would be better to be introduced to Pomba Gira by an initiate of the cult and then build up a relationship with her first. Failure to do this could result in burnt fingers, or worse.

Quimbanda is not a system you can casually practice, there is a high level of commitment and involvement required. Again, there are warnings about this.

There is an extensive section in the book covering some of the more common manifestations of Pomba Gira, with her history, Pontos Contados and Ponto Riscado’s. There is also a brief Glossary with the translation and explanations of the Brasilian Portuguese terms used.

Despite my initial reservations about I really enjoyed this book and my only complaint was that it was over all too soon. There is a dearth of information in English on Pomba Gira and this book will leave you wanting more. When I worked in Basil 15 years ago I did not enjoy the country, now I’m hoping for an assignment there in the near future and might just dust off the old language course that I never did much with.

If you think Quimbanda is for you, a good starting point would be to have a consulta with Nicholaj.

My review is based on the PDF that Scarlet Imprint sends free with every book purchase. When I receive the book I’ll update the review with some additional pictures.

If you wish to read more, Peter Gray’s essay on Pomba Gira is excellent

Salvé Pomba Gira Rainha!


Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba NzilaPontosPontos