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Palo Mayombe

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.orisha, alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: (E. C. Ballard)
Subject: Re: Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' of Santeria? (was Drums & Shadows)
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 20:24:36 -0500

I'm just referring back to a few comments and questions raised
respectively by Dreadcomber and Richard Sprigg.

First of all, to remark on Richard's regretable mention of the matamoros
affair, I pose a only somewhat rhetorical question in response: Do you
consider a mass murderer who claims to be killing people because God wants
him to (as more than one has claimed over the years) to be a
representative (or any kind of) Christian? I would think not. Adolfo
Constanzo claimed many things, but the fact remains that he borrowed ideas
from a number of traditions and perverted them to his own murderous ends.
He was neither practicing anything approaching palo nor was he a validly
initiated palero. He was simply a madman and a criminal.

As for Carlos Montenegro, well I appologize to him for mentioning his name
in the same posting as this other. He is a terrible writer. He appears to
have valid initiations in both Palo and Quimbanda. The problem is twofold.
First of all, Palo and Quimbanda are cousins. They are both religions that
developed out of Bantu traditions, one out of primarily Kongo origins in
Cuba and the other out of primarily Kimbundu roots in Brazil. He can't
seem to understand that one should practice them separately and not as if
they were one and the same. 

As a result, he confounds the two constantly. I have seen some titles that
he produced in limited circulation that were intended originally to be
sold only to palo initiates. In these, his information is more or less
accurate, unlike  in "Palo Mayombe: The Dark Side of Santeria" whicxh is
pure fantasy and rubbish. However, even where he deals with real
traditions he can't seem to keep one straight in his head and mixes them

I'm not being a stuffed shirt about this. They are DIFFERENT traditions
and ought to be practiced as separate traditions even if they get
practiced side by side. Also, while a duly initated practitioner may learn
some useful things out of books, these traditions are de-facto not
receiveable other than through valid initiation by a valid palero who has
been initiated into the level that allows him to do so. This isn't a
subtefuge. The reason is that each house works with specific lines of
spirits with whom pacts have been made. One can only gain access through
the approval of the spirits of a particular house and the services of a
validly initiated priest in that line. There is no such thing as
self-initiation. That may be why there are so many disappointed with new
age, neopagan and wiccan traditions. So they continue to look for
something that really works. However, to enter here, they need to leave
those broomsticks and self-published books of shadows at the door.




From: (E. C. Ballard)
Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.orisha,
Subject: Re: Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' pt 2
Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2000 07:28:41 -0500


I'm inhaling the coffee fumes this morning before going to the office.
Here are a few more remarks. 

If you can't read spanish there are still a couple of decent articles,
chapters etc that you can read for a better understanding of the subject.
There are a couple of useful chapters in two of Robert Feris Thompson's
books "Flash of the Spirit" and "Face of the Gods:Art and Altars of Africa
and African Americas". Another book which has a good section explaining
Palo is Eugenio Matibag's "Afro-Cuban Religious Experience: Cultural
Reflections in Narrative".

Palo is derived from the religious traditions of the Congo and Angola
primarily. In fact, what has been identified as "Congo" and which has been
the basis of African religious traditions covering far more of the
Americas than it's more famous cousin, the Yoruba traditions, is made of
the traditions of various closelyt related cultures from West Central
(Bantu speaking) Africa.

The main focus of Congo religion is the ancestors, as in most of the
southern half of Africa. A great deal of political rhetoric designed to
make the Yoruba religion look more respectable at the expense of the Bantu
was engendered during the pan-Yoruban movement in the Americas in the
final years of the 19th century. Much of this was spoon fed to
anthropologists, who for their own reasons were more attracted to Yoruban
derived traditions than the Bantu. Thus, such ideas found their way into

This brings us to Mr. Montenegro. What you have in his book "Palo Mayombe:
The Dark Side of Santeria" is a work of creative fiction. In only the most
vague ways does it in any way resemble any form of Palo. It should also be
pointed out that there is no such thing as "self-initiation" in Palo. As
one must be formally presented to and accepted by the spirits of a
specific line of palo by one of their accepted priests, self initiation is
impossible. There is great beauty as well as power in Congo religion. 

If you have any specific questions, I will try to answer what I can.




From: Eoghan Ballard 
Newsgroups: alt.religion.orisha,alt.lucky.w
Subject: Re: Palo Cuaho?
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 15:38:54 -0400

You are discovering the essence of Kongo practice. Yourba emphasizes 
cool. Kongo is immediate, hot, and rapid. Palos are sticks, from which 
the kongo religion in Cuba gets its nickname. The proper name is, if you 
are refering to all branches collectively "Las Reglas de Congo" or 
separately it is Palo Monte, Palo Mayombe, Kimbisa, Shamalongo, etc. for 
each sect or denomination. Palos are the branches of trees and shrubs 
(arboles y también arbustres) that are gathered for their specific 

Another note, the names used in Cuban religion for herbs, plants and 
palos are very uniquely Cuban and it is generally not wise to assume you 
know what one is until you chaeck with a good source. By the way, the 
name of a Palo does not indicate the name of the tree. A specific palo 
may come from a tree of an entirely different name but one which fits 
specific characteristics. 




From: Eoghan Ballard 
Newsgroups: alt.religion.orisha,alt.lucky.w
Subject: Re: Palo Cuaho?
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 09:36:01 -0400

As I said before, none of this is something you should attempt unless 
you have been initated properly into Palo. There are no self-initiations 
and one should not play with these things trying to get a feel for them. 

Once you are initiated, you go only at the pace your godfather lets you. 
This isn't Wicca or neopaganism where you can do what you want in large 
part because 90% of it doesn't work. This is not only potent, it is hot 
stuff, literally and metaphysically. The only people who have any 
business making chamba are paleros. by the way, some of those words you 
will not find in Spanish dictionaries because they are Kikongo and not 
Spanish. A significant element of these traditions includes a serious 
mastery of linguistic material. I laugh a lot everytime I meet initiated 
paleros in this country who can't understand even the simplest Kikongo 
vocabulary which is essential to palo. They have had no training at all. 
This is especially a problem among non hispanics (please remember 
hispanics and non hispanics both come in all shades). One cannot do 
effective work as a palero without a reasonable command of both Spanish 
and a working kikongo vocabulary. It IS impossible. One needs to know a 
fair number of mambos (cantos/songs) and to understand them, not simply 
play them off by rote. These songs are usually a criollo mix of Spanish 
and kikongo (known as Bozal) which is unique to Cuba although similar 
forms exist throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

If you want to make a start, rather than attempting to practice what you 
find in Cabrera or elsewhere, read Allan Kardek and begin by setting up 
a boveda to your ancestors and muertos. In this way you can begin 
working in a way that Cubans do and which a large percent of paleros 
include to some degree ( often a significant degree) in their practices. 
It is a lot safer and once you establish real contact with your muertos 
and guides they will tell you if the Congo religions are a path for you 
or not. If it is not you want to stay well away. If it is, then don't 
rush, it will happen and happen better if you don't rush it. Trust me, 
there can be some expensive mistakes - and I don;t mean just financially 
expensive, if you don't take your time.

Making a boveda and working with it genuinely will net you some 
remarkable results, so don't underestimate it. Further, Kardeks books 
are all available in English as are the majority (although not all) of 
the prayers you will use in relation to kardecistic Espiritismo.



From: Eoghan Ballard 
Newsgroups: alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.orisha
Subject: Re: Palo Cuaho?
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 13:51:12 -0400

In article <8oe79o$kpd$>, Kevin Filan 

> Kardek (I've also seen it spelled as Kardec) is the
> founder of modern Spiritualism.  His ideas were a
> huge influence on what later became Santeria and Palo,
> although, interestingly, they seem to have been less
> influential in Francophone (more or less) Haiti...

Huh? I think you have the time frame backwards here. Palo (and Orisha 
worship for that matter were around long before Kardec -- forgive my 
spelling). Also, while some of the techniques of Kardecist spiritualism 
were adopted or adapted by some branches of Palo, they can hardly be 
viewed as a "huge".

Some branches of palo (the term paleros use is ramas) use espiritismo 
but keep it strictly separate from their palo practices. Some borrow 
some techniques from espiritismo (although this is relatively rare in 
real palo) and there are some which refuse to have anything to do with 
influences from either Orisha worship or espiritismo.

In point of fact, palo has had a greater influence on the practice of 
espiritismo in Cuba than the reverse. One of the most popular forms of 
espiritismo is what is called espiritismo cruzado (usually pronounced 
"cruzao"). This is a form of religious practice which evolved out of 
espiritismo but which has picked up the large part of the Congo pantheon 
and has adopted the creation of prendas or ngangas from Congo practice.



Note: This article was compiled by nagasiva yronwode from 
several separate posts made to the usenet newsgroup
alt.religion.orisha and is archived with permission. 
© 2000 Eoghan Ballard.

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