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Palo Mayombe

This Is I!  Taita Enpungo Casinbi Masa

Palero, Santero

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What is Palo Mayombe?

Encunia lemba sao, enfinda, cunanfinda


     This religion of Palo Monte Mayombe, Incunia Lemba Sao infinda cunanfinda, is from the seven kingdoms of the Congo’s, Mani Congos, Bacongos, Loangos, Suacos, Carabali, Bantu denominations, which developed in Cuba amongst Central African slaves of mostly Bantu ancestry, Suacos and Angolas. Other names associated with various branches of this religion include Mayombe, Brillumba and Kimbisa, comacuende yaya,  campo finda chamalongo.


    Inpanguis (brothers), the word “Palo” (“stick” in Spanish) was applied to the religion in Cuba due to the use of wooden sticks in the preparation of altars of the Congo’s. This was also called la Nganga, el caldero, kidemo (la prenda), la Wonga, la mula, la macuta, and el enkiso. The altar Congos represents the religion of Palo Monte, the ruler of Palo Monte Mayombe, Brillumba and Kimbisa.


     Reason that adherents of Palo are known generally as “Paleros”, “Ngangeros”, or “Nganguleros”. Membership is by initiation into a “house” or “Temple”. The organizational structure follows the model of a family. During slavery when blood families often were broken up by slaveholders, this model was particularly significant and taken literally


     Palo has its roots in the Congo basin of central Africa, from where large numbers of African slaves were brought to Cuba and the Americas, as well as to the colony of Santo Domingo, the present capital of the Dominican Republic. Accordingly, a great part of Palo Monte’s liturgical chants and invocations are in a mixture of the Spanish and Bakongo languages. Other influences being introduced”, through their presence, in Black Spanish-speaking Latin America. ein, witch I say waculan Congo”. Mambe “Dios” Bantu, loango the foundation.


     During the mid 19th century, Palo began to spread out among the Hispaniola Island (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Afro-Latino communities in the United States, Venezuela, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. Eventually, members of non-African Latino groups, as well as Anglo-Americas, gained access to these traditions. Of the mythology as the relijion of the Congos.


     The religion remains largely Afro-Latino in character. The most traditional form can be found in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The number of followers of Palo in Cuba and the Dominican Republic is not known. In Puerto Rico, the Palo religion has grown among non-black people. In this Caribbean island, a commonwealth of the United States, an extensive study, revealed that over 50,000 people are active as “Paleros.”


     The Palo belief system rests on two main pillars:  The veneration of the spirits of the ancestors and the belief in natural (earth) powers. With Natural objects, and particularly sticks, are thought to be infused with powers that are often linked to the powers of spirits. These objects are known as “nganga” and are the ritual focus of Palo’s magical rites and religious practice.


     In addition, a certain number of spirits called “Mpungu” inhabit the Nkisi (sacred objects, also spelled Inquice, Inquise, and Enkisi). Mpungu are well known in name and deed, and are venerated as gods. They are powerful entities, but they are ranked below the High God Zambi or Nzambi (God).


     The main worship and practice of Palo focuses upon the religious receptacle or altar known as  Nganga or Prenda. This is a consecrated vessel filled with sacred earth, sticks (palos), human remains, and other items. Each Nganga is dedicated to a specific spiritual Nkisi. This religious vessel is also inhabited by a muerto or spirit of the dead (almost never the direct ancestor of the object’s owner), also referred to as “Nfumbe”, who acts as a guide for all religious activities which are performed with the Nganga.


     The divination methods used in Palo are various. One, called Shamalongos utilizes shells or disks of various materials, often coconut shells. A more traditional method, Vititi Mensú, is a form of envisioning or scrying, using a sanctified animal horn capped with a mirror. There are many {Ramas} branches that have developed through the ages such as Brillumba – This Rama has separated into branches such as, Brillumba Congo. The branch born, when seven Tata’s, fathers from Brillumba combined their ngangas to create an Nsasi Ndoki. This {Rama} branch has grown through the years, and is well known today all over the earth.


     The religions of the Congo reached the Americas by other paths than through Cuba. In Brazil Congo, religions are known as Umbanda, Quimbanda, Candomblé de Congo, or Condomble de Angola. The one most closely related to the Cuban Palo Tradition is Quimbanda.


     In Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands, Congo based religions are called Kumina, or when seen as a form of magic without liturgical worship, as Obeah. Closely related to Palo in practice, but like Obeah, lacking Palo’s theological and liturgical aspects, is a form of African American folk magic known as hoodoo, conjure, or root work, which developed out of slavery in the United States.


     The reason for the striking similarity between these traditions is that the core beliefs underplaying Voodoo derive from Congo/Angola. While in Haiti, there exists a Voodoo denomination, known as the Makaya that shares many similarities to Palo Petro Rada.