Origin: Puerto Rican Espiritismo
When I first received a statue of La Madama, I wasn’t sure why I was being given an image of Aunt Jemima. I soon learned that La Madama is the powerful matron of fortune-tellers, psychics, mediums, and healers, but unless you’re familiar with her, some of her traditional images are indistinguishable from those of the pancake queen.
There is one dominant La Madama who presides over a host of Madama spirits:
* Devotees who seek protection and sponsorship without personal communion can focus on the one presiding spirit.
* Mediums or shamanically-inclined devotees may discover that they possess their own personal Madama spirit.
The name Madama is a generic term used in Espiritismo (Spiritualist) traditions to identify non-Hispanic, female spirits of African descent. There are an infinite number of Madamas, just as there are an infinite number of guardian angels, Caboclos, or Pretos Velhos. My Madama may not be the same as your Madama. La Madama spirits are souls of once-living women who were shamans, mediums, diviners, and healers and so are naturally attracted to people in those fields. Extremely communicative, responsive spirits, they offer training, initiation, advice, and oracles.
The tradition of working with these spirits derives from the Spanish Caribbean, but you’ll note that the name is not La Señora. La Madama is a Spanish quasi-translation of the French madame. In 1780, the Spanish government authorized Puerto Rican landowners to import slaves from the French Caribbean. Some French landowners fleeing the Haitian Revolution resettled in nearby Puerto Rico. As slavery was not abolished in Puerto Rico until 1873, some brought slaves with them.
Who is your Madama? Talk to her and find out. La Madama is activated via her image. Different methods are used to initiate communication:
* Place a lit candle between you and her image in a dimly lit room, gaze at her image in a relaxed but attentive manner, and wait for her to speak.
* Tie seven or nine kerchiefs together and placethem on her altar or around her image to signal your desire to communicate.
* Some Madamas communicate with devotees via dreams, mediums, or séances.
Personalize your Madama: adorn her with bead necklaces, toy snakes, real snakeskin, or whatever seems appropriate to you. Her image is sometimes placed near the door as a barrier against evil (human, spiritual, vibrational, or generic). For this purpose the most effective Madama holds a broom. Images, sold with and without brooms, come in all sizes from inches tall to virtually life-size. If you are unable to find one, a traditional Aunt Jemima dressed in red is really a dead ringer. An old cast-iron Aunt Jemima may house a very powerful Madama spirit.
La Madama, powerful healer, banishes demons, ghosts, and nightmares. She is invoked for prophetic dreams, especially dreams for winning lottery numbers or general good fortune. Place her image by your bedside and tell her what you need before you go to sleep. The appearance of La Madama, especially if unbidden, may indicate someone’s destiny, talent, and aptitude toward mediumship, clairvoyance, or healing.
Variations on the traditional La Madama include:
* La Madama Francesita dresses in the traditional folkloric costume of Martinique, including an elaborately tied madras headwrap. She may be a Vodouiste.
* La Madama Negrita dresses in traditional African clothes as opposed to the standard Madama’s Western garb. This form of Madama is often represented by a handmade soft doll. She dresses in black and white as well as the usual red and white and is profoundly identified with herbal healing.
Favored people: Fortune-tellers, psychics, mediums, traditional healers
Iconography: The traditional, mass-produced Madama is a statue of a cook or kitchen worker. A strongly built woman, she usually wears a headwrap and a large white apron over a long red dress. Look for an image that makes good eye contact. Handmade La Madama images may be more detailed and personalized. An image called Siete Potencias Madamas (“Seven Madama Powers”) serves as a protective amulet. Seven Madamas are portrayed. The largest holds a book while six smaller figures surround her.
Attributes: Broom with which to banish evil and perform cleansing rituals, fan
Colors: Usually red and white, sometimes black and white
Altars: Fortune-tellers, healers, and psychics may leave tools of the trade on the altar for La Madama to bless, purify, and empower.
Offerings: Flowers; liquor; tobacco products including cigars or snuff; sea shells; cowrie shells; red fabric; fortune-telling devices (tarot cards, crystal ball, bones); medicinal herbs; fruit; a basket filled with herbs, oils, and other botanical products plus a deck of playing cards with which to tell fortunes
See also: Caboclos; Ezili Dantor; Lwa; Metresa; Preto Velho