Differences between 21 Division and Sanse–
I know I have spoken on this before, but due to the very closely related nature of these two traditions, I have been requested to expound upon it further as to the differences. It is often very difficult to tell the two Traditions apart, even by many practitioners. This is due, in part, to the regional differences in each of the two Religions.
This article reflects my view and expierence as I have seen, witnessed and been a part of. Being an initiate of both traditions, I can often easily see the differences between the two Traditions. I am sure others will be of other opinions and views, but that is why God gave everyone their own set of eyes, ears, and head to expierence and understand as per their capabilities.
A common misbelief and mistake that people make is to think that no one in the Dominican Republic practices Sanse — only 21 Divisions is practiced there. And in Puerto Rico, one will only find Sanse. That is definately not true. There are many practitioners of both traditions in both islands. There are Sansistas in the DR just as there are Papa Bokos and Mama Mambos in PR.
The main difference between the two traditions is the way that the practioners practice and approach the Spirits. How they work with the Spirits, the Spiritual Contracts (for lack of a better word) that they make with the Spirits and how they do their rituals, ceremonies, etc.
The best way I can describe Sanse is a marriage of Espiritismo Criollo (Or del Pueblo, like we used to say) with La 21 Division. This is part of what causes much of the confusion in determining which is which. Secondly, in Sanse, there are lineages who are more strongly influenced from the 21 Division side of things, and other lineages that have a stronger Espiritismo influence. Sanse also incorporates Puerto Rican Brujeria and Curanderismo practices.
The second obvious and major difference is the culture and therefore the major influences upon both practices. For example, in the 21 Divisions, when it comes to the Misterios the African Influence is stronger than in Sanse. The number of Misterios known as Misterios (under their African names) is larger. The primary focus is on the Misterios. Most Catholic Saints have a name and way they are served as a Misterio. There is a practice for the dead and some elevated Dead and Spirit guides, but this is a bit less common overall and somewhat of a secondary focus.
Except in certain lineages.
Also, the African tribe or nations that are of major influence differ in the two Traditions. In the 21 Divisions, there is a greater number of African tribes and nations that have influence or significance amongst the Divisions. However, in Sanse, the tradition has the majority of it’s African influence stemming from the Kongo and their practices. THis has to do with the fact that the majority of the Slaves in Puerto Rico were of Kongo origin. However, in the 21 Divisions, the Kongo influence is one of many African based influences.
In Sanse, all of the Major Misterios of the 21 Divisions are known and known pretty much the same way. Baron de Cementerio, Candelo, Metresili for example. However, the overall number of Saints referred to as Misterios, or rather by their African name, is lesser. In Puerto Rico, much of the African influence was removed much more so than in the Dominican Republic. Therefore, it is common for a Sansista to refer to the lesser known Misterios only under the way of Saints (or Santos). But in Sanse, working with Guias espirituales (Spiritual Guides) is much more pronounced, and often a primary focus as they are seen as the Messengers of the Misterios. While Misterios are worked with and do come in possession, it is generally the more major Misterios (those with the largest followings) that are most commonly seen or mount. It is very common however, for a Guia to come as an Emisario of the Misterio and deliver the messages or do the spiritual work.
In Sanse, however, the Taino Indian influence is much stronger in the way of practices. Although the 21 Divisions definately does have the Indian Divison and those practices, the appearance of Indians and their significance in the Sanse tradition is more readily seen and worked with. Due to this, and the Kongo influence, is another reason why the Sanse tradition takes a greater focus on the Dead and personal Spiritual Guides, Elevated dead, than in the 21 Division.
Another difference is also in who can rise to certain levels of the priesthood within each tradition. The focus on different spiritual abilities is also present. In the 21 Divisions, the focus tends to be more on the possession by the Misterios as the main form of communication. And to recieve the Bautizo ceremony, one must be called to serve as Caballo de Misterio (a horse for the Spirits, someone who gets possessed). That ceremony is reserved for those individuals and for those individuals who are meant to serve in that capacity.
NOte that, Other ceremonies (refresco, aplasamiento) can be received in the 21 Division by others with different capacities, but not the Bautizo.
In Sanse, the Bautizo (or Bautismo) ceremony can be attained by anyone who has developed their spiritual faculties enough, whether or not that be that they can become possessed. To function in the form of Priest in Sanse, possession by the Spirits is not necessarily required. The focus is just as much, if not more so, focused on the other spiritual communication abilities of the person or Priest than that of becoming possessed.
The way that spiritual issues and problems are dealt with also is different between the two traditions. In Sanse, it is working the Causa that takes precedence. And removing or elevating the Causa in order to resolve the issue is the way most situations are approached with. Causa is a very long thing to explain and quite complicated, and it is something that I get into with my students and teach them how to work with these, but to give you an idea — a causa is a negative spirit that is the source or result of a problem or issue.
That I have seen and expierenced also, in Sanse the focus tends to be more on healing or Spiritual Healing. Brujeria and magic do exist, but that focus is somewhat secondary. Where as in the 21 Division, the focus tends to be more on the magical practices and aspects of the Spiritual work. Again healing does happen, quite often, and exists but often it’s focus can be made secondary.
Now rituals. In Sanse, generally you will not see any sacrifice of animals. THis is due to the Espiritismo influence on the tradition. However, in the 21 Divisions, there are some lineages that indeed sacrifice animals and some that do not.
In 21 Divisions, there are more ceremonies oriented towards dancing, singing, drumming, etc. than in Sanse. Manis, Prillis, Fiestas de Palo, etc in the 21 Divisions. While Sanse does have it’s Fiestas Espirituales, the main focus tends to be on Misas, Velaciones and Reuniones are of primary focus. These ceremonies often do include some singing, but usually are more prayerful and “quiet” in nature, for lack of a better word. In the 21 Divisions, there are also these more quiet types of ceremonies (Hora Santa, Aksyon de Gracias, etc) however the first is more common than the latter.
Another thing that I would like to note, and I know some people are not going to like it — but everyone doesn’t like the truth.
As far as I learned, know and am aware, the practice of having a Postiza for the Misterios to reside is one of Sanse — not of the 21 Divisions. I’ve been involved and grown up around these traditions for more than 20 years. It is only until now that I am hearing people claiming the use of a Postiza in the 21 Divisions. In the 21 Divisions, no such object is given to you — because the Misterios are anchored to the person and their body, and reside with the body. While we have certain objects in the 21 Divisions for the Misterios, they are puntos and are not the “home” and is not a place where the Misterios reside.
Secondly, not all Lineages of Sanse use the Postiza. Some do use the Postiza, some do not. In some it is only used in certain cases, and in others no.
This certainly does not cover all the differences between the two Traditions. But if I were to go into that, I think I might be writing for the next 10 years.
Really the best way for you to know the differences would be to go to the ceremonies of both and expierence for yourself. Both are beautiful but both are definately different.
Best of Luck