Spirit guides are discovered usually in person through seance sessions or folk spiritist misa or misa investigation with several experienced mediums. One can at times see a guide standing next to a person, or be able to communicate with them using cards to start to look into your spirit court, called a cuadro in spanish or your spiritual frame energetic makeup. This can take some time to shape up, but the main ones should come across first or as directed by your main spirit guide, called the centinela or guardian. This spirit is the gatekeeper and boss of the rest of your court. This is not the guardian angel that is the title we use for a person's head spirit higher misterio such as a Lwa. We can have negative or positive links to spirits called cadenas or chains. Spirit guides are contracted to help us for their own elevation and are elevated spirits free from the need to incarnate. We may have past lives links to them, but they are most not likely ancestors, but may have ancestral connections. Spirit lines and court are not by your current race, but this may also be reflected in some of your spirits.
The spirit guides are not angels. They are not folk saints, or anyone who died that you knew in life.
You may have some idea of who they are, but the way to work this tradition is to be open minded about how you are read, or you can be wrong about the spirits who are your main guides. Not everyone will have a certain class of spirits or commission, and the spirits can be in more than one class but will settle or identify where they want to be identified or placed, such as if they are mixed occupations or races. For example you may think you have a madama spirit, but maybe she really is a conga. Do not be overly attached to the spirits you think or want to have, because it will make you strongest to work your spiritual frame which can be weakened by not working on this relationship. They are all individual dead humans and people will not have the same one. We say that there are 21 commissions of spirits as it is an important number, along with 3,7 and 9 in the diaspora. But really there are infinite types and courts of spirits, but these are the most common in puerto rican espiritismo.
1) Shamans, brujos/witches, herb workers/curanderos/conjurerers, spirit and spiritual workers
A broad category which can encompass many cultures, usually denotes an indigenous knowledge such as the indian or indios from several tribes, but not always. The spiritualists. Responsible for mediumship, herbal knowledge and healing, visions, dreams, omens, magic.
2) Gypsy commission: Romani people, gyspy jews, spanish gypsy, eastern european. Gypsies travel around a lot and may be any number of nationality therefore. Known for assisting card readers, divination such as skrying or palm reading, dance, music, flirtation and glamour. Have their own systems of folk magic. May have interest in horse training as they had caravans.
3) Madamas: known incorrectly as one being La madama, these were the house caretakers and mammies who took care of the children, and were house servants or slaves. They could be cooks, or have indigenous knowledge of herbs for healing when the family was sick. They may still practice their african religion in the forest at night. They range from a mixed creole to very black color, but technically a caucasian spirit can still be a madama. A male madamo can be a butler, stable keeper, garden or groundskeeper etc. This is a very popular commission and I will do a separate entry about them at another time. Again not everyone has one and they do not belong to Santeria or Hoodoo. Can have public or partial names such as Negra Thomasa or Negro Jose.
4) Pirates and Mariners, Sailors, Vikings, Fisherman, Buccaneers. Pirates and Vikings are very aggressive for the most part and may include criminal behavior. I have heard of one wild west outlaw identify as a land pirate. May identify with or served under famous names. Can be like robin hood figures or freedom fighters. Associated with the mysteries of the seas, lost souls and abundance.
5) Indians, Native Americans, Caribbean indigenous, South American Indigenous, First Nations Tribes, Aboriginal. Chiefs and Chieftess
Puerto Rican Taino Tribe and Arawak speaking peoples are very important here. Local spirits of the land where you are born or live. Usually referring to pre-columbian people in the new world. Patience, peace, warfare, justice, knowledge of their ways, tracking or searching. Work with animals, plants such as tobacco.
6) Orientals and Asians
Chinese, Japanese, etc Samurai, Buddhists, Shinto, Daoists, Tibetans, Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal tea and energy workers, meditation, i-ching divination, Mathematics, Astrology, Martial arts. Generally happy and peace loving good for luck, money and business, love. Love citrus oranges type fruits.
Work with Djinn, Astrology, Mathematics, elementals, ceremonial magic, Muslims, Persians, Middle eastern philosophy. They work oil lamps.
8) Medicas, Doctors, Leaf doctors, curanderos, Healers, Nurses, Paramedics, surgeons, Herbal teas, cures. May include faith healers, nuns, knights hospitalliers, midwives
9) Congos, Palero/as, Myomberos, Angolan Sorcerors or witches, royal Lisa heritage and/or slaves. Went to many areas in the new world such as Hispanola or Brazil. Pa Jose, Pa and Ma Francisco and Francisca, but they may also fit in africana commision. Francisca does not like to work without her husband kept by her side. A Madama may be a congo, but not every congo is a madama. They work necromancy, black magick and breaking negative conditions, protections, healing. They love to work and can be very loud and firey, thus easy to hear like the madamas.
10) Saints, Santos
More common if you are Catholic and this can be named in confirmation, or practice modern Hoodoo, but not necessarily. The are canonized elevated dead. Some see saints on the level of Lwa, and keep them on the divisional table instead. They may also be folk saints, which depending on their tradition, energy makeup (example the dead San Simon or Santisma Muerte) and request may be kept on the ground or on a separate place on their own. They belong to another culture other than Sanse or Puerto Rico but can come through spiritism. (Example Venezuelan Jose Gregorio Hernandez The Doctor is more of a Medica). The saints can be contacted by anybody but the relationship differs to you as a personal spirit. They may be associated with a birth date or occupation.
Vedic, may practice Hinduism and be polytheist and have their own religion and these gods.
Same relationship as saint. Many are confused as angels and saints can be used as the face or cover for other spirits. And people may think they have or work with these other indigenous spirits but using the saint or angel image are actually just working with the saint or angel, or a random dead who takes the function or deceives. Catholic voudouisants will honor the guardian angels on their feast dates.
13) Slaves, Esclavos
Negro Felipe, Negro Jose can possibly fit in this category.
They identify more with their capture or abuse and struggle and can be freedom fighters and liberators or chain evil. They represent courage, patience, and the ability to overcome obstacles and sacrifice.They can come across aggressive, at least at first. They can be any race.
14) Children or infants
May have died at a young age. May have adult intelligence. They may like parent figures and can be mischievous but also protective. Work with higher misteries like nino de atocha, Legba, Marassa, nino divino, the promised sun child. When people have children spirits they seem to have more than one or can attract other playmates.
15) Anima Solas
Lonely earthbound or purgatorial souls, can be good, neutral or evil. Need to be assisted and elevated. Useful or necessary. Juan minero, trapped miners, tommy knockers. Desperate and willing to do anything. Usually given nothing more than water and candles to help them with light and quench their suffering and thirst, while purifying and cleansing. They may have to be dealt with separately than your white table in the beginning. They can be cooled with glasses of ice, and holy water.
16) Liberators and Freedom fighters
Military, Militia, Academics, people who took a stand. Founding fathers, justice, fight for rights and against false imprisonment such as good judges, pro bono lawyers or liberate from disease.
17) Vagabonds and Bohemians
Writers,scribes, musicians, artists, librarians, teachers, poets, free spirits, hippies. Can help with inspiration.
18) Heroes and Leaders
Cultural heroes, folk lore legendary myths and heroes. Military figures, may be famous or historical figures or tied to past events. Aid in battle, courage, justice, liberation. Lead movements or spiritual groups.
West africans, voudouisants, houngans, mambos, papa boko and mama mambos. Yorubans who work with Orisha and Ifa or lucumi, santero/as and babalwo. A general category which does not include congo for the most part. They may show characteristic or use the same colors of their misterios they worked with still as in life.
We view them as earth and land spirits, indigenous, under Baron Samedi, ceremonial magic, the fae, can be either gender, genderless or have different vast forms. They are associated with the 4 winds, 4 directions or corners or coasts of a place or a map and the cross.
21) Juans and Marias, a varied commision. Tobacco workers such as Juan del Tobacco, and can work for court cases. A very general list as slaves were given christian names. Juan Indio, Juan Negro cross many commissions. They are teachers who kept secret their lineages and cultural ways. I have not had much contact with them but some may be creole part spaniards and like crossroads spirits.
Another common commission are the priests, monks and nuns monejas
They help with mystic christianity, revelation, prophecy, prayer, protection, cleansing and working with the bible. They are usually though not always more european based or spanish.They are stern, spartan, watchful, and do not work "pagan ways", but can be more open minded than you would think.They may be difficult to placate or try to block your other spirits, and usually must give them rosaries and/or a bible, holy water.
Spanish spirits such as the Hispanola line are seen sometimes as flamenco dancers. Many confuse these with gypsies.
Each commission and individual has their own color combination such as the candle or bandana used, or may wear the color of a higher spirit they serve as emmisaries or messangers and priest/esses.
Each commission has general offerings they like in common, but as they are individual dead humans they will direct you to the items they want that they like or need to work for you.
A water glass on the boveda is dedicated to them, or one is placed nearby for them. Some may sit on the white table, other on either side, usually the congos to the left, and indios to the right are kept seperate. Some such as the madamas and africanas may desire a wicker or branch chair to sit on beside the table. Food is usually placed on the floor or on these chairs. As discussed in setting up the ancestral altar, the Cubans keep a seperate tableau espiritual for the guides than the ancestors.
We do not venerate to pray to the guides. There are prayers and songs but these are used for evocation and for asking for protection and guidance. They are respected and given honor but not worshipped. We can ask them to pray for us and pray to higher spirits or god for their elevation and assistance. Other people can give thanks to your spirits such as in your household but not on a continued basis as they have their own guides to pay attention to that will better benefit them.
Their dolls or statues are prepared as the spirit desires. For example La madama may want a cloth doll or a particular ceramic statue prepared. An indian may want a ceramic statue or carved from wood. They are packed with secret recipe mysteries or small pot beside them. Their desires are made known through spiritualism and sessions. A connection is forged by in the relationship working with them and in the crowning ceremony in espiritismo.
Most of this information comes from my godparents teachings and personal experiences. However the public list of commission builds on the list from Sancista Brujo Luis blog, even though our Sance has slighty different rama which you will find house to house.