Stones collected by Santería practitioners are only stones until they are activated in a ritual; the same is true of the wafer, which is only a thin cracker until it is consecrated during Catholic Mass, and of mass-produced plaster figures of the saints, which are only plaster figures until they are baptized by Puerto Rican brujos (Spiritist witch healers). In all these cases, a mystified transformation takes place during the ritual, causing mere matter to be “activated” or spiritualized as a manifestation of the spirits. Similarly, processes of subjectivation processes alter the moral and religious dispositions of devotees. Following the emic Spiritist notion of “manifestations,” certain gestures form a bridge between material and spiritual realms and the various dimensions of the self. These gestures are thereby examined as affective and practical technologies of subjectivation that defy “belief” and “cognition.” In both cases–activation and subjectivation–a process of transformation or “ritual labor” is sought to alter the ontological status of things and people. Drawing on visual documentation collected during my intensive work in the altar-home of a Puerto Rican espiritista-bruja, I examine everyday rituals and gestures that “do,” that is, the transformational processes that contribute to sacralizing altar-homes, creating spatial proxies of distant sacred places, and embodying the ethos of Spiritist notions of cause and effect and reincarnation in the here and now.
Raquel Romberg©Prayer at the altar
Raquel Romberg©Botanica with Chango and San Lazaro
Raquel Romberg©Legal Trabajo