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Lady Pomba Gira, The Great Witch - Who is She?

Lady Pomba Gira
Maria Padilha

By Papa Pimenta

Pomba Gira: the name has a deep mystique. Pronounced “Pohm-ba Shira”, this Brazilian female entity has a huge body of lore of her amongst the followers of Umbanda, Kimbanda, and Candomblé. She is also revered by many lay people both in Brasil and elsewhere. Her cult is undoubtedly growing in this modern time of connected communication. She is considered a “hot” and powerful spirit and can be dangerous to work with. Her lore is complex.

In order to understand Her, it is important to understand what she (or They) is/are not first. She is not an Orixa, a Loa, a succubus, or an angel. Although certain correspondences of energy do exist in different bodies of lore (the most common being her associated with the Klepoth) the Lady is entirely her own entity. She is not some weak new-agey entity with vaguely good intentions, nor is she entirely the devil some make her out to be.

In many ways, she is the female counterpart to Exu as given by her title Exua. She is a Lordly (or Queenly) spirit of great power, force, and puissance. She is the Great Witch, the representation of the power hidden within all women. She is a mistress of transformation, witchcraft, love, healing, and divination among many, many others. She is a warrioress that loves to spill the blood of her enemies. Her nature is born of fire and earth. One of her Pontos (sung invocations) describes Her as “Having seven husbands.” In essence, no one owns Her.

She can also be associated with “marginal” female behavior such as prostitution, drinking, sexual freedom, rejection of male control, and lewd behavior. Her nature can vary from kind to stern. She is difficult to pin down to any rigid definition by her very nature. She can be totally enchanting and quite terrifying at the same time. She is the best of allies, and also the worst of enemies. She represents the “lower soul” and the quintessential Free Woman. She represents freedom from oppression and slavery in Her own way.

To work with Her is to invite Her attention, and you can be sure she will ardently test those who enter Her domain to ascertain their worth of Her time. Those who approach Her with disrespect are often punished severely. For example, there are documented reports of Her mediums who have displeased her being left in their working clothes in public places after the end of a possession, or of them having cuts or injuries on their bodies after Pomba Gira departs. It is said She likes to mark her mediums physically (as does Exu).

Pomba Gira likes things such as cigars, gin, cachaçha, champagne, anisette, cigarettes, well-opened red roses with thorns removed, perfumes, apples, and the colors red and black in general. She is associated with dangerous places, liminal spots that are the margins of different areas such as graveyards, forests, riverbanks, crossroads, and the ocean. She is often approached at T-shaped crossroads as far as works with Her go.

There are many different Pomba Giras. Although they have some similarities and shared portfolios they are all different spirits. They may like different things depending on the entity in question. Most of them are the souls of dead witches, sorceresses, gypsies, and women of great power. These entities are not to be trifled with lightly. They have their own minds and are living entities, not the dry interpretations the occultist often reads in books of esoteric lore.

And they can be dangerous. Again, there is a thread in American commercial spiritual culture of selling invented Pomba Gira items to the gullible. Do most of the sellers even know which Pomba Gira they are referring to? Probably not.The heat from that energy is not one to be trifled with. Fortunately most “inventos” are only good at taking away your money. If it was not made properly by an initiate it is just art.

There are different thoughts as to Her origins. Pomba Gira’s name may also derive from the Bantu spirit “Bombogira” according to some lines of thought. Monique Augras in her works describes this by referencing the two Portuguese words that make up her name. Pomba is the name of a dove. Gira refers to the Portuguese word gira/girar (to turn) derived from Bantu “njira, njila” which is direction or way. Mediums that incorporate her often turn or spin during their trances. In Brasilian Portuguese her name literally means “dove turning”.

There have been comparisons between Her and the African spirit Iyami Oxorongá made as well. The Iyami are powerful witches known for their love of black magic and violent tendencies. The differences between the Iyami and Pomba Gira illustrate they are different entities. However, in some Candomble houses in Brasil Pomba Giras are “made” with their mediums in a strongly similar Africanized manner.

Some Pomba Giras have undoubtedly European origins. Rosa Caveria, Maria Padilla, and a host of others were historical figures who became revered in European witchcraft and black magic. Later European emigrants to Brasil were sometimes forcibly deported persons who had practiced witchcraft, black magic, or anything outside the official Church paradigm. Some of those people brought along the spirits they had worked with, and Maria Padilla was one of them.

Let’s meet one of the most famous Pomba Giras:

Maria Padilla

Maria Padilla was a historical figure mentioned during the reign of Pedro I of Castile in the thirteen hundreds. Maria was reputedly a powerful witch and influenced Pedro (known as the Cruel) to many acts of torture and murder. Her name continues to pop up long after this. Slightly less than a century later her name was mentioned in a Brazilian black magic ritual. Her name is mentioned many times in the annals of the Inquisition in Lisbon. Prosper Merimee mentions her in his novel “Carmen” in 1843. She is one of the most loved of the Pomba Giras now, and one of the most powerful.

One of her songs (pontos cantados) goes thusly:
“She is Maria Padilla
Who wears the little wooden sandals
She works for good
But she also works for evil.”

There are different theories on why these spirits return to this world to work with people. One of the most common is that by doing so, they “gain light” and continue to evolve spiritually. Another of Pomba Gira’s pontos says, “… I have come to work.” In essence the work they do helps them grow and transform spiritually. It is in their best interest after all to do work form those who call upon them.

Lady Pomba Gira is a complex and powerful entity. She accomplishes works of great spiritual force and can be both blessing and bane depending on which side of her you are on, figuratively speaking. Her cultus continues to evolve and grow as do Her mighty legions.

Sarava, Pomba Gira!

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