by Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed is a different kind of writer, and Mumbo Jumbo, a mystery, gives the reader a glimpse into his kaleidoscopic imagination. Papa La Bas, the founder and head of the Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral, is on a holy quest to find the sacred and ancient text of the Jes Grew movement. The Jes Grew believers are black, honor the life of the body and spirit, and praise through dance. Their philosophical nemesis, the Wallflowers, are firmly rooted in a Judeo-Christian belief system. Hinckle Von Vampton, a white man and member of the Wallflower Order, hopes to find the holy text as well, but to destroy it.
Central to the enjoyment of this intriguing and quirky novel is Reed's revision of religious history, slanted to a black point of view. The history of religion begins in Egypt with the black prince Osiris. His principal praise form was dance. His main adversary was his brother, Set (the original Evil). In form, Set manifests as conformity, rules, and censorship. Moses, a direct descendent of Set, surreptitiously acquires a written record of Osiris's ancient mysteries of nature, but does so during the wrong phase of the moonóthat is, with malicious intent. He knows, then, only the opposite sides of the teaching. Reed postulates that the teachings of Moses, his Commandments, its "thou shalt not's," and the Bible are distortions of the text. Moses, and those who follow historically from himóChrist, the Apostles, and othersóare impostors.
Reed's Mumbo Jumbo is irreverent, incisive, crisp, and trenchant
Paperback: 223 pages