Contents of Bolsa de Mandinga

Inquisition File of José Francisco Pedroso

Manuscript:

In the Inquisition Court case, Processo 11774, located in the Arquivo Nacional da Tòrre do Tombo in Lisbon, Portugal there was an oration found on Jose Francisco Pedroso. He was a slave who was originally from Ouidah, Benin. This Christian oration was one of the items found in his bolsa de mandinga and he was prosecuted for being a mandinguero in Lisbon, Portugal. The most notable drawing found within manuscript is the depiction of the cross that represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

"The written word was a magical talisman that provided powerful protection, perhaps drawing its power from Christ or the Catholic saints, but more likely drawing its strength from the world of the dead" (Sweet 186). 
Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770. By James H. Sweet (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2003) 296 pp.

 

Inquisition File of José Francisco Pedroso

Manuscript:

Pictured above is another Christian oration in the Inquisition Court case, 
Processo 11774 of Jose Francisco Pedroso. The cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has also been drawn in this oration. According to As bolsas de Mandinga no espaço Atlântico Século XVIII by Vanicléia Silva, the cross could also represent cosmological interpretations of the Bakongo people within Western Africa. In respect to the power of the mandinga, the cross represents the symbol of the cosmos as well as the continuation of humanity. This manuscript exemplifies the religious syncretism that was known to occur between Catholicism and traditional African religions.

 

Fon Voudon Sculpture

Cowries: 

This Vodou sculpture was created by the Fon people in the current West African nation of Benin. They practiced traditional African religions that were later preserved and duplicated in Portugal, Brazil and other areas in Latin America via the trans-Atlantic slave trade. What is important to note in the sculpture above are the cowrie shells that surround the figure. Cowrie shells were of extreme importance and were sometimes placed inside bolsas de mandinga. In the Inquisition case: Processo No. 11767, found in the Aquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo in Lisbon, Portugal, a slave named José Francisco Pereira was found to have sought the help of a mandinguero named Luis de Lima. He was given the shells as a way of achieving success in his new slave master's house. 

 

Close up of a Cowrie Shell Pedra d'ara

Portable Altar Stone:

The pedra d'ara was one of the most significant items found inside of a bolsa mandinga. This item was a piece of marble that had an internal compartment that was to be filled with relics of martyred saints (Sweet 203). The significance of this item is directly related to sacred symbolism with the Catholic Church in that the marble was to be used for transubstantiation and to allow for mass to occur when a cleric was away from the church. The Luso Brazilians incorporated the altar stones into the mandinga pouches because they believed the stone to contain immense power to bring about luck while also warding off evil. These adherents to traditional African religions also incorporated a prayer alongside the stone that ensured their protection from any evil.

In the Inquisition Court case, Processo 3670, located in the Arquivo Nacional da Tòrre do Tombo in Lisbon, Portugal, a pedra d'ara was found within a bolsa. This was used as evidence to prosecute a Cape Verdean Afro descendant in Lisbon in 1690. 

Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770. By James H. Sweet (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2003) 296 pp.