Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Book Review: Espiritismo, Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic 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 received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second book by Hector Salva I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing. The first was The 21 Divisions, which details the practices of Dominican Voodoo. I thoroughly enjoyed Salva's other work so when presented with the opportunity to read Espiritismo: Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic I jumped right on it.

Espiritismo: Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic details Puerto Rican Spiritism or Spiritualism, which combined religious and occult practices of European Catholics, indigenous Tainos, and African slaves to create a unique blend of mediumship and magic. Salva begins, as he always does, by briefly introducing the topic at hand before discussing the history of Puerto Rico and Espiritismo. This is always my favorite part as much of my history education was severely white-washed and focused almost entirely on Europe and the United States after European colonization. I always learn something new and the history puts the entire practice into focus. You cannot separate spiritual practices from their history. Furthermore, Salva makes it well known right from the start that this practice is transmitted through apprenticeship and requires years of intense study. Failure to do so is not only disrespectful but also potentially harmful as detailed later with personal stories and warnings. The principles, however, are for everyone and Salva is sure to let the reader know that the world needs Espiritismo now more than ever, so while the practice is not open to all, the principles that make it up are.

After introducing Espiritismo's history, which includes Kardec's Spiritism (there is a movie about Kardec on Netflix btw), Salva breaks down some common practices, spiritual guides, mediumship, and spiritual healing practiced by most espiritistas. Salva discusses various ways mediums communicate with spirits, touching on everything from hearing messages to smelling scents. As someone who smells rather than hears or sees, it was nice to be included. He also discusses the difference between being an empath and being empathetic. I really wish he would have expanded on this topic because the misconceptions and misinformation spreading across various occult groups is profound.

Salva weaves magical tales throughout the book, ending each chapter with stories from his own life. Honestly, I would read an entire book of Salva recounting things that have happened to him and those he knows. His stories are by far my favorite part, as they were in 21 Divisions. He is a marvelous storyteller and chooses stories that promote the lessons outlined in each chapter. These stories also include cautionary tales about improper initiations and charlatans and the consequences that befall those that attempt to take shortcuts or refuse to do the work required. Spirit is a messy business, and I wholeheartedly agree with Salva that cutting corners is disastrous. Often times this is perceived as gatekeeping, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Sometimes practices require a teacher, not a book, and that's okay. 

This book, however, is not a definitive guide to Espiritismo, but instead is a preservation of a dying culture. Both Catholics, scientists, and the United States worked desperately to wipe out Espiritismo, resulting in the generational loss of history, religion, and spirituality. There are some practical applications, but because this spiritual practice requires a tremendous amount of work under the guidance of an experienced espiritista Salva avoids giving too much information. This is likely in an attempt to protect readers from potentially harmful practices. Despite this, Salva does discuss how to set up your own altar, how to find a spiritual teacher, and how to perform simple cleansing rituals, practices open to everyone. 

I commend Salva for his work and I am sure espiritistas appreciate that much of their practices have been kept secret, but well-preserved within this book's pages. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wishes to learn about something outside of European witchcraft. The general principles, as Salva mentioned, are for everyone and even experienced witches can glean a new perspective about their own practice by reading Salva's work. You can purchase Espiritismo: Puerto Rican Mediumship & Magic by Hector Salva now. 

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