Palo Mayombe

Understanding the worship of the natural forces

By Dr. Albert Diaz
Published on LatinoLA: November 3, 2003

Palo Mayombe

This religious expression has its roots in the beliefs practiced in the kingdom of Congo and other subordinated monarchies of Bantu origin, a term that, following the western ethnology, comprised under one designation the peoples from eastern, central and southern Africa, which spoke that language in any of its dialects.

Also known as Mayombe, this creed or Regla was the initial result of the syncretic process of Bantu beliefs in the Cuban society, in which with the initiation of the Creoles other trends emerged, like Kimbisa and Brillumba, and Kimbisa of the Holy Christ of the Good Voyage, organized in the 19th Century by Andres Facundo de los Dolores Petit.

The Regla Conga in general has as its main characteristic the worship of the natural forces, and considers some of this elements, such as vegetation, to be animated by the spirits, which in turn dwell in the depths of the earth. The ancestors are represented in the water.

The core of this belief is the Nganga, a container in which the soul of a dead supposedly dwells subjected to the will of the initiated by a pact that feed them both. To possess the Nganga or jewel, together with the possibility to use it in unlimited fashion is the characteristic distinguishing this creed's higher hierarchy: the Tata Nganga or Tata Nkisi, who has the power to preside over initiation (rayamiento) ceremonies and to lead its religious group.

For his functions, the Tata relies on lesser hierarchies of followers, like the Bakofula ayonfombe and the Ngueyo, who together with the "godsons" make up the House, which is independent for carrying out rituals and ceremonies.

Graphic symbols with a sacred character (signatures) play a key role in the Regla de Palo to identify the spirits, the ancestors and the orichas (deities), from whom permission is requested before holding the creed's ceremonies.

By drawing the signatures, the believers feel that the supernatural powers rest on them and respond according to the efficiency of the work done. Each of them acquires a personal function for each initiated, who uses it to identify himself in front of the Nganga and in front of the rest of the followers. On the other hand, it expresses the relation with the protecting spirit with which it made the pact.

The leading feature of the brillumberos lies on the worship of the santeria deities, which receive, according to the palero ritual, its corresponding name in material objects.

The Kimbisa cult is tolerant and syncretic towards the Congo element, the Regla Ocha, spiritism, catholicism and the abakua only men secret societies. From the creeds of Bantu origin it took, among other elements, its concepts related to the Nganga, the animism of plants, the water and the earth, and the influence of the spirits and the ancestors. From the Ocha it took its orichas but with other names (Eleggua becomes World Morning Star; Yemaya, Shaking Ground; Oya, Lightning), the assimilation of the use of the coconut in divination and the belief to "feed" and "strengthen" the jewel through sacrifices in which blood flows. From spiritism it took the direct communication with the spirits, on the basis that everything that takes place on earth is guided by supernatural forces. The influence of Catholicism is expressed through the worship of the Holy Ghost, the use of the crucifix and prayers of catholic rituals.

Besides that, the main mentor of the kimbiseros is San Luis Beltran. The abakua element is present in the selection of candidates, who must fulfill certain social behavior.

Historically, the practice of the Regla Conga or Mayombe -- as with any other of African origin -- has been seen by the people as witchcraft or sorcery, interpretation which shows that those who do not know the creed put the magic component of this religious manifestation over the rest of the elements identifying it. Magic is only the means through which the initiated balance the forces of good and evil, and avoid whatever might hinder the normal development or course of his daily life.

I recommend that if you are interested in the religion of Palo Mayombe purchase the book of Domingo B. Lage a writer, metaphysician and Gangulero Palero. "History Has Repeated" has just been released from the Briyumba with Mayombe Volumes 1.

Domingo B. Lage escritor, metafisico and Gangulero. El libro ?La Historia se Repitio Vol. 1? es un pasaje profundo a los secretos antes desconocidos.

Send check for $30.00 to:

Domingo B. Lage
c/o D&T
P.O. Box 876027
Los Angeles, CA 90087
Fax (323) 581-6703
(COD, money orders or check)

About Dr. Albert Diaz:
Dr. Albert Diaz, born in the US, BA in political science, Juris Doctor, and Ph.D. in Law and Religion. A priest (Palero) in the Palo Mayombe religion. Presently, represent writers and artists in the entertainment business and law.

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