An introduction to Palo
Palo Mayombe is an african religion originary from the Kongo area.
It has been preserved up to
our times by the slaves who were imported to areas such as Brazil,
Suriname, and Cuba, the latter being the place where Palo (also called Palo Monte) has become
most popular also among people of hispanic descent. Palo is a direct method of comunication with
the Spirits: the belief is strongly animistic and similar to shamanism: all that exists is considered as
animated by spirits, man in particular can become a doorway to other worlds through mediumship.
The spirits which are the most relevant for Palo are: the spirits of the Dead, the Spirits of Nature
(which inhabit trees, plants, rocks, animals etc.), and the Highest Entities which manifest themselves
in the Forces of nature (the Wind, the Lightning, the Sea, etc.) and in man.
The main worship and
practice is being carried around the Nganga or Prenda, which is a consecrated
cauldron filled (amongst other things...) with sacred earth, sticks (palos), and bones, and it is dedicated
to a specifical spiritual energy.
This cauldron is also
inhabited by the spirit of a Dead, which act as interface for all magical and
activities which are performed on the Nganga. Due to religious syncretism a lot of elements foreign to the
original african tradition may be present in the ceremonies, such as the use of the symbol of the christian
cross, images of saints (these much more common in the Palo families of Venezuela and Colombia), and
even using names and attributes of Orishas to describe/call the Enkisi, which are the Gods of Palo, the
powerful Entities which are submitted to the High God Zambi or Ensambi.
The Palero works with
spirits of Light (Ensambi) or of the Darkness (Endoki). The latter being
also the denomination for the Paleros which do not use christian symbols in their practice of Palo.
To be initiated in Palo is
necessary to undergo a ceremony called "Rayamiento" which means
where special marks are traced on the skin of the new adept: a pact is made with the spirit who lives in the
cauldron, this ritual is also called "to swear with the Nganga". From now on, the person who has received
"Rayamiento" will be under the protection of the Nkisi who rules the Nganga of his/her Godfather.
The next step in the
religion is becoming a Tata (Father), or Yaya (Mother) and receiving a
Divination is used to determine which "path" of the Palo Entities is the most appropriate for the new
Nganga. A new ceremony is done where the Tata will swear to the Dead (Enfumbe) living in the Nganga
so that it may help with the spiritual and material development of the new full-fledged palero/a.
The divination method is
called Kujamputu or Chamalongo, and the basic patterns are identical to
Santeria divination. Because of Kardecian syncretism in many Houses of Palo (Covens submitted to one God-
father or Godmother) a Spiritual Misa is acted before the initiation, in order to identify the main spirits which
will help to develop one's life. These guides often speak also through possession, and may give direct advice.
(taken from The Lodge of Ur Website with permission)