Seasonal Salon

In the Pool of Night


Ye ye kebwe. Oh miwandzi elsenge. Oh miwandzi a kombi oh, nanga mi suo.

Yei the beginning. Spirits of the earth.
Spirits of the heaven, the place where we pass through.

So begins an invocation of Bwiti, a religion of the Fang people in west central Africa. Its central sacrament is ritual consumption of Eboga. This psychoactive root was known to the Babongo ("pygmies") of the great forests of Gabon. Its use is said to have been discovered by an aboriginal woman called Disumba, "because she is the beginning of Bwiti." Or, according to other accounts, she was a Fang woman, Benzogho, who learned from the Babongo.

As they were being overrun by warlike invaders, the Babongo gave Eboga to the Fang and other settlers, knowing that it would transform their culture. It did, and this equatorial forest region was restored to what has been called an oasis of peace and cultural diversity. As Rene Bureau wrote, "Gabon is to Africa what Tibet is to Asia, the spiritual center of religious initiations."

Although the Fang culture is patrilineal and quite patriarchal, Bwiti is described as attempting to restore balance between the sexes. It has a dual-gendered leadership and cosmology. "Its universalist tendency blurs the distinctions between races and between sexes… The Fang Bwiti is dynamic in the face of the universal religions, it is individualistic and feminist, and preserves the community spirit..." Bwiti places great value on nlem mvore, one-heartedness.

These principles flow from visions attained in Bwiti ceremonies and Eboga journeys, each of which are understood as a death and rebirth. Dying to all previous experience in order to enter the spirit world, the initiate "experiences what it is to return to a nothingness which is also, paradoxically, everything." In this state, the visionary meets ancestors and achieves communion with Nature.

Bwiti teaches that the human spirit "is created in certain absolutely still pools of clear water which gather deep in the forest." This happens "when a moonbeam filtering down through the forest canopy strikes into the water of these pools."

The moon and the pool are both forms of Nyingwan Mebege, "the female principle of the universe and Goddess of the Night." She is the giver and protector of life. Her brother is the day god. He brought the bone of humans like iron from the creative forge, but it is she who clothes them with flesh and fills them with the life-bearing blood.

Nyingwan Mebege or Nyingono is called the Sister of God. But it is in her realm of night that the Bwiti ceremonies happen. Her sacred pool is recreated within the Bwiti sanctuaries, and remains the focus for important ceremonies.

The female Source, painted with white kaolin clay of the ancestral realm. Gabon.

We are in the realm of Night again, that immense pool of dreaming that is the winter solstice. It is the realm of uncreated Nyx who existed first as a great black-winged bird hovering over the vastness. It is the time of the Water Panthers of the underworld mysteries. Ix Chebel Yax is traversing deep Space carrying loom sticks which she crosses to ward off the night jaguars, as the Lacandones say. This goddess who is also a Spider, spinner of knowing.

O the darkness, divine dark of dissolution where pain melts away into Nothingness. Where afflictions are transformed, all trapped energy released and the demons of trauma thus redeemed. Where our wounds are salved by nectar flowing from the Mother. O Nyingwan Mebege who restores us in a unifying vision of the Totality. O Mehet-weret, the great flood, Neith "who brought forth in primeval time herself, never having been created."

In deep night the shimmering heavens turn in their vast spiral of time. Stars send their luminous beams across light years to reach the eyes of earthlings. Many of us hardly see them shine. Our skies are occluded by artificial lighting, and most of our lives are lived indoors, apart and unconscious of the dark and light. Still, we feel them, and the intensity of this time, which is especially powerful for casting off dead wrappings, divesting ourselves of personal and cultural bondage, and recovering expansive vision.

This December is a crucial gateway, with Uni conjunct Kali (Jupiter and Pluto in the Romanist norm) in the last degrees of Sagittarius, and now joined by the Sun and Mercuria, a potent breath of spiritual renewal. The conjunction of Kali with Uni offers tremendous potential for transmutation and integrative knowledge within the emergencies and pressures we are facing. Uni as the greater benefic in her own sign can inspire us with optimism and faith in our vision, even grant liberation.

As the two planets wind to the end of Sagittarius, Kali lays bare the flaws and pitfalls in doctrine, religious or otherwise. Careful now, to stay clear of any fixities or excesses involving dominance and coercion. Kali is calling for transmutation at the sub-cellular level, at the ultimate root where body and soul and mind are interwoven. That inner healing is what will potentize us to create change and transformative action.

From the Earth’s perspective, these planets occupy degrees of late Sagittarius that are aligned with the galactic center. The culmination on December 21, 2012 of the great baktun of the Maya calendar is not the end of the world, as some would claim. It is the end of a great cycle that began in 3114 BCE. The Maya based their calculations on when the sun would return to a galactic center orientation at the winter solstice, according to John Major Jenkins. The sun’s movement in this long cycle is due to the glacially slow precession of the equinoxes. Its alignment with the center of our galaxy, the "bulge" in the galactic equator or plane, does not happen on a single date but over a period of years, during what Jenkins calls "an alignment zone." The winter solstice connection is why December 21 is regarded as the terminal date of the cycle that Mayan seers envisioned back in the 4th millennium BCE.

The sun will have passed into Capricorn by the time you read this, but Mercury in conjunction with Kali will strum the chords of these galactic potencies before both planets pass into Capricorn in January. Then it will be time to address the way our reality, our physical survival and social institutions are structured, and face the big changes coming for those structures. We have one last retrograde before Kali enters Capricorn for good next fall. Now is the time to wrap up loose ends and clarify vision for the re-shaping to come.

Also, we have just gotten a taste of the extremes and splitting energy of Saturna in opposition to Urania. The two only came within 6.5 degrees of orb before Saturna started a long retrograde backup, but it was enough of a glimpse to allow us to prepare ourselves for the pressure of this aspect when it fully joins next fall. The big challenge will be avoiding schisms and fission under the intense forces at work. Cherishing negativity and polarization and enmity only causes trouble. These tendencies are no help at all; in the words of the I Ching: Nothing that would further.

What needs to die can be allowed to dissolve without a sense of loss. Dissolution can become the portal of liberation. We are continuously being reborn in every moment, and across the states of waking and sleeping and dreaming. Out of deep Night, there in the hidden pool, radiance is birthing new, fresh formations of life.


The Bwiti incantation is recorded in "Tabemanthe Iboga: Narcotic Ecstasis and the Work of the Ancestors," by James Fernandez, 1972

Babongo giving Eboga which restored peace: Natalie Gina Bremner, Tabernanthe Iboga: The Sacred Wood" Online:

Disumba: James Fernandez, Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa. Princeton, 1982 (p 321)

Benzogho: P. Barabe, "La Religion d’Eboga ou le Bwiti des Fanges." Online:

Tibet comparison: Bureau, René, "La Religion d’Eboga,"1971 dissertation, Paris. (In P. Barabe)

On Fang patriarchy and restoring balance of power to women: James Fernandez, Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa. Princeton, 1982 (see pp. 154-8, 169)

Universalist and feminist: Barabe

One-heartedness: James Fernandez, "Unbelievably Subtle Words: Representation and Integration in the Sermons of an African Reformative Cult." History of Religions, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Aug 1966) (p. 61)

Death and rebirth: Bremner

Moon, pool, Nyingwan Mebege: Fernandez, 1966 (pp 59-63)

For John Major Jenkins, see, and his book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012

Category: Winter Solstice 2007