Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Book Review: The 21 Divisions, Mysteries and Magic of Dominican Voodoo by Hector Salva

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Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I was provided a copy of this book for an honest review.

Let me begin by stating that I am not a practitioner of Dominican Voudou nor have I been initiated, but I was extremely honored when I was approached by Weiser to review a copy of The 21 Divisions: Mysteries and Magic of Dominican Voodoo by Hector Salva. I'm really glad I agreed to review this book because it certainly opened my eyes to practices that differ from my own.

Hector Salva, commonly referred to as Papa Hector, comes from a long line of brujos that practice 21 Divisions, a specific type of Dominican Voodoo or Voudou. In his first major work, Salva discusses the spiritual practices of the 21 Divisions which are a combination of Catholicism and Indigenous, African, and European occult practices.

This book was absolutely fascinating and very easy to read. Salva breaks down the history of the Dominican Republic and its neighboring country Haiti to explain how the 21 Divisions originated. It's hard to understand Dominican Voudou without historical context. You see, the Spanish worked hard to convert their slaves and indigenous peoples to Catholicism, attempting to rid the "savages" of their devil craft. While they appeared to be successful on the surface, the spiritual practices of the "savages" remained, hidden under the guise of Catholicism and saints leading to the rise of what we now call Voudou or Voodoo. I learned so much from the first half the book on how voudou arose in Hispanola and how it continues to thrive today through the work of brujos, and honestly, this was probably one of my favorite sections.

Salva goes on to explain the basic magical practices within the 21 Divisions, the role of a brujo or bruja, as well as the major groups of Misterios or Lwas that brujos commonly work with. However, he makes it very clear that he is speaking from his experience and while there are common themes within the 21 Divisions, different groups practice differently. Furthermore, the 21 Divisions has been largely an oral tradition, meaning that things change quickly and different regions have evolved very different practices from each other, but this does not negate their validity. Finally, Salva explains that some practices are a secret, revealed only to those initiated as a brujo. I deeply respect this need for secrecy. I enjoyed Salva's honesty and his stories. Within each division of Misterios, he offers tales of success in working with these spirits. Hearing about his workings and the workings of others made the book authentic and real. It is obvious from reading this text that Salva is an authority figure within the brujo community and speaks from vast experience.

While reading the sections on the different Misterios I was visited by three of them. This is one of the ways I often gage the authenticity of the author. The three that visited me did not appear to me in a traditional sense, or in a way that they often appear to brujos. I usually smell the spirits before I "hear" them. The first of the visitors, Santa Marta, was very protective of Salva's work and made it very clear to me that my skepticism was unwarranted but that she understood as I was not one of their children. However, she also explained that I would better know her as a gorgon like Medusa and that the Lwa often visit those of us in a form that we most understand and in a way we are most familiar with. This is not the first time I have heard this from a spirit. You see, we are all connected by the Collective Unconscious, so it should come as no surprise that all spirits and deities are connected throughout the world. The other two that visited me, Metresili and Anaisa, were less defensive. Metresili simply made her presence known, but my interaction with Anaisa was much more personal. In fact, she tapped me on the shoulder which scared the crap out of me if I am being honest. I have never been touched by a spirit, but she touched me and laughed when I jumped. I'm not going to divulge what she had to say to me, because it was private, but this final visit drove home the point that Salva speaks with authenticity and truth. I do want to make it known that these three Misterios were here on Salva's behalf; all three were protective of him and his book in a way that I have not quite seen before. However, they left me with a lot to think about, and to that, I am utterly thankful. Hector, if you are reading this, I hope you know they have your back far and wide.

The book finishes with how you can get started on the path. While Salva says the practice is open to everyone, you must be initiated to practice safely and successfully. This section comes with a host of warnings to those who practice without proper care, work, and initiation. I am thankful he was open and upfront about the dangers, because all too often authors make spiritual practices seem "fluffy" and light. Working with spirits of any kind is not a matter to be taken lightly or without care.

I highly recommend this book to all my readers because this is a great way to learn about a different occult practice straight from the source. It was eye-opening to me and gave me a different perspective on the world than I had previously. Expanding our worldview is a critical component of our growth, especially spiritually. You can pick up your copy of The 21 Divisions: Mysteries and Magic of Dominican Voodoo by Hector Salva now.

Note: Salva uses the terms black magic and Indian to describe indigenous peoples. There is also trans-exclusionary language in this book. However, it should be noted that this is due to cultural differences. 

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  1. What extraordinary experiences to have via a book. Thank you for sharing about the impact that reading this title had on you. I've experienced physical connections with spirits (and Spirit/deities) before and know full well that most unforgettable of feelings. It stays with you always, no matter how many times it happens, and generally, that is a wonderful thing.

    The classic adage "knowledge is power" exists for good reason. I'm a firm believer in reading extensively on both subjects that pertain to your life/interests/practice and to those of others as well. The world is so much larger than just our own individual lives and it is a gift and honour to expand our knowledge of subjects beyond what we're most familiar/comfortable. All the more reason then, IMO, to dive into books like this captivating title from Weiser.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. It was certainly an experiencing. I've never encountered spirits that were so protective of an author. Haha!

      This was definitely an eyeopening book with eyeopening experiences. I completely agree with you on reading anything and everything. We can appreciate the culture of others through books and experiences without appropriating from them.


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