Palo Mayombe, I.2


I.2. Mayombe Cosmology

pp. 30-53

pp. 31-2 Kongolese gods

p. 31

"Nzambi was the omnipotent who revealed himself in ... the wood clad mountains ..., hence the ... sticks from the kingdom of Nzambi.

Lukankazi on the other hand was a mpungo of the sky and ... was in a way the God of night".

p. 32

"Both [Yoruba[ orisa and [Kongo] mpungo manifest in ... equating the mpungo Nsasi and the orisa Sango with thunder."

p. 34 tradition

"The houses, munanso[-]s, ... do possess ... proverbs, mambo[-]s (songs) and fragments of myths ... . ...

It is popularly accepted that ... Palo Mayombe arrived in Cuba in the 16th century, brought by Kongolese slaves of royal descent."

{Because slaves were obtained in the first instance only from [supra p. 5 "the Ba'Kongo ... selling slaves"] the "installed ... official Portuguese king of Kongo" (p. 6), therefore certainly no persons "of royal descent" would be slaves, but could, instead, be invited to visit Cuba to assist in managing their enslaved subjects there. While visiting, such royalty may well have suggested that slaveowners encourage traditional Kongolese values among slaves of that nationality.}

p. 34 Creole Freemasons are admitted to membreship in the Abakpa

"The entrance of Creole and white was opened by a Haitian Creole Andre`s Facundo de los Dolores Petit, who was himself a Mason ... . Through his affiliation with one of the two fundamental and traditional Abakua` {Abakpa} societies he created the Kimbisa Order".

pp. 35-6 African sources of the Karabali and of the Abakpa

p. 35

"the Carabali's ... name referred to the cross {Kros, not "cross"} river region of Calabar {in Biafra} ... that served as a slave port. From here they were taken to the city of Regla, which nowadays makes up one of the neighborhoods in Havana. ...

From this ... grew the secret society of Abakua` {Abakpa}, a continuation of the leopard societies of the Efik and Ejagham people."

{Historically (even in their own traditions), Efik and EjaGam in Biafra are immigrant-tribes from Kamerun, where many membres of those tribes yet remain.}

p. 36

"Abakua` {Abakpa} ... dancers are called n~an~igo[-]s or

{N~an~igo is the name of an Abakpa dance, set to Abakpa caerimonial music in "a 6/8 rhythm in the melody section" ("SSGP", p. 170).}

ireme ... .

{"the word i'reme (spirit dancer) derives from the E`fik i'dem" ("SSGP", p. 167)}

They dress in checkerboard costume which is reminiscent of the vestment of the members of the leopard cult. The specific design also brings to our attention the ... neighboring Calabar with their Ogboni society -- they have an important relationship to the leopard and serve as the council of elders ... .

The conical rag used to cover the head completes a costume that actually reminds us of the Egungun cults among the Yoruba."

{The conical hat in worn not only in West African secret societies, but also in North African ones, and in Spanish confraternities. Among other Europeans, it is a "wizard's cap"; among Aztecs, it is an attribute of death-deities.}

"SSGP" = Ivor Miller : "A Secret Society Goes Public". AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW, Vol. 43, No. 1 (April 2000), pp. 161-88.

checkerboard costume

p. 38 eliminating the veil between worlds

"At times the veil between the worlds is seen to fall and what you see is what is there [in the Otherworld], this sight can take form in the mpaka vititi". [p. 205 : "the Mpaka vitit[i] which is equipped with a mirror ... used for divination."]

{Only in a mirror viewed in a dream can there be much likelihood to glimpse supernatural inspiration.} {Some monkeys like viewing their own refelctions in mirrors, and "the nsengi monkey ... finds out secrets by spying on people's dreams" (KPC, p. 86).}

"After experiencing [spirit-]possession in many different contexts I would dare say that it is the state of dream that connects all these forms of possession together.

{This dependency of deity-possession on dreaming (which is also, as is more widely admitted by authors, the basis of shamanhood) is often unjustifiably ignored by authors on spirit-mediumship.}

This is because it is in the oneiric realm that the veil between the worlds is gone and here we can travel and manifest along the same forked road." [forked into twain paths (2 worlds) while awake, but unifiedly "the same" while dreaming]

KPC = Wyatt MacGaffey : Kongo Political Culture : the Conceptual Challenge of the Particular. IN U Pr, 2000.

pp. 38-9 spirit-possession

p. 38

"When a spirit or an ancestor arrives and wants to use your material body it will often identify itself in sympathy with the state of mind and soul you are in, it is crucial to understand that you make the bridge

p. 39

and provide the welcome. ... If this state is maintained and spirit is allowed to flow [into one's body] one can experience a general increase in [spirit-]presence until your own [consciousness's] dismissal [being dismissed by the spirit] from your body which allows ... a steady [intense spirit-]presence to manifest. Here the spirit can break through [the barriers between worlds] and speak its native language and perform wondrous feats and miracles."

p. 40 training in spirit-mediumship

"The favored way of training one[']s mediumship in Palo Mayombe is in the the Misa Espiritual, the Spiritual Mass.

{This ("Misa Espiritual", "Spiritual Mass", infra pp. 211-20) consisteth of an invocation of gods (Zarabanda & Nzambi, p. 212), repeating "wiri ko" (pp. 213-4 -- cf. name of state Wariko ("Guarico") of Venezuela), promising "I leave my bone there, Kongo of Gine" (p. 217), and asserting "I came from Ina Ina" (pp. 218-9).}

It is quite common that a Misa is {be} performed prior to rayamento (initiation) so the spirit guides and [spirit-]ancestry of the aspirant is made known."

p. 40 deities of the Taino tribe of Cuba

"a god, Yuca[-]hu` that they considered as an ancestral deity living in the mountains.

{cf. Nzambi}

This deity/ancestor had a brother, Hu[-]racan {Maya /HUN/ 'one' + /RAKAN/ 'foot' : a monopod}, who manifested in storms {specifically, as the HURRICANE}.

{cf. Nsasi}

Yucahu` was a guard against storms and a provider of peace ... through his wife, Attabeira, often conceived of as a giant turtle."

pp. 40-1 the nature of Taino religion

p. 40

For the Taino all things were Cemi {Zemi}, a word used to denote the common spiritual meeting point between a spirit and god in its material representation".

p. 41

"It has been suggested that the Taino originally emigrated from the upper {northern, not "upper"} parts of present[-]day Brazil, which might explain why we find similar beliefs and practices amongst [Amer]Indian populations in the north-east of Brazil.

It also provides an avenue of explanation for the presence of pontos riscados (marked points) in Umbanda and Kimbanda."

pp. 41-2 Angoro & Angoro-mea

p. 41

"in the rama of Palo Monte Briyumba Malongo ... we find the minkisi Angoro and Angoromea. ... Angoro and

p. 42

Angoromea are said to be chichiriku`[-]s that were stillborn and thus represented by a doll with a skeleton face. [p. 204 : "Chichereku` : An image of wood ... representing the ndoki of the nfumbi."]

Angoro is said to have drowned in poisoned waters and thus the placenta is particularly sacred for him. He is said to be given life by Nzasi, the thunder.

Angoromea is said to be female, similar ... to the Arara` {Arada`} spirit Anabi`. She is said to have been strangled by her umbilical cord and thus ... the hangman's noose is particularly sacred to her. She is said to be given life by ... Baluande. ...

So, the Nzamba and red and white mpungo that takes its powers from the Sun is what animates Angoro and turn[s] him into the Sun of death walking the earth."

In the same manner, Ntala and blue and white mpungo who takes her powers from the moon animates Angoromea and turns her into the deadly moon walking the earth."

p. 42 Guru-nfinda & Cubayende

"Gurunfinda, the Lord of the Greenwood ..., ... possesses the secrets of ... leaves, the waters and the trees. ... He is as important for Palo Mayombe to work with as are the bones provided by Cubayende, the Boneherd himself."

p. 43 Nzambi; death; bones & rods; Funza

"Nzambi is the [deity] also known as Nsambi, Sambia, Nsambia[-]mpungo, Pungun Sambia, Sambia Liri, Sambia Surukuru and Sambia Bilongo."

"Death is the gate of certainty we must all pass through ... as it veils itself in

the multicolored shrouds of death."

{Psychopomp Hermes hath "Variegated plants (because Mercury combines)" ("PCM").} {"Variegated is the colour ... of the Master-poet's dress" (WhG, p. 299, cf. p. 22), and likewise of Athene (Minerva) in "her variegated robe" (IH:C, p. 138), and of "Temperance in a many coloured robe." ("12KBV")}

"nfinda, the wilderness. ... The trees are ancestors -- and they are divine ... . They serve as ladders for divine presence upon earth and ancestors tend to linger around in the windy treetops with Nkuyu. ... Several sticks or medicines are minkisi and when prepared for use they are called bankisi."

"the animating power of all [mi]nkisi when it [that power] came to earth took the shape of Funza, who was to be the ancestor of all men. Funza was given the task of endowing all things in nature with a particular power or medicine."

"man is Nzambi's mirror through Funza".

"PCM" = "Planetary Correspondences of Mercury"

WhG = Robert Graves : The White Goddess.

IH:C = The Iliad Of Homer, translated into English blank verse by William Cowper. London, 1791.

"12KBV" = "Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine"

p. 44 communication with the nkisi

"The nkisi ... communicates through dreams, [spirit-]possession, [divine] inspiration, and shamalongo[-]s (four disks made from coconut shell ...). The {prenda} is also equipped with a mpaka vititi, also called mpaka mensu` -- ... a mirror or glass that serves as the divinatory vinculum. The mpaka is the window out on the world for the nkisi."

p. 44 kimpungulu ('deities')

"Between the forces of nature (kimbiza ...) and Nzambi we find mpungo or kimpungulu in the plural.

The [kimpungulu] ... can be equated with stars and planets and their attending spirits and intelligences. ...

{All the major Chinese deities are each identified as resident in a particular star or planet.}

Lunkanzazi {sic} can be defined as the circle of fire that limits ..., the circumference that restricts movement.

{"Within the circle of turquoise" (ACu, line 2 -- ATh&C, p. 32) : "the Lord of fire and of time" (ACu, line 6 -- ATh&C, p. 33

Then we have Cubayende/Tata Nfumbe who is owner of death and disease, Lord Death ... . He is assisted by

Centella Ndoki/Mariwanga who is the graveyard itself

{"Mariwanga ... lives at the gates of the cemeteries ... Her animal is the black hen. " ("WhCNH")}

and Cubayende the psychopomp who mediates between the dead and the living in the garden of Centella.

Next in importance we find Gurunfinda, owner of the wild forest

followed by Nkuyu/Lucero, a spirit of the wind that brings the parade of ancestors after him in the form of fireflies ... .

The ocean is called Baluande ...,

{"the female guinea hen." ("WhCNH")}

and the river is known as Mama Chola Wengue.

The mountain and its secrets are known as Tiembla Tierra/Mama Kengue

{"Kunankisa" ("WhCNH")}

and the hunters take the form of Zarabanda, the blacksmith

and Watariamba/Vence Bataya master of the arrow and justice.

Finally we find Nzasi who is the thunder and lightning.

These are the most well-known kimpungulu, but there are others, like

Nganga Kissi/Kimbabula who is the mpongo of divination

and Cuye Luamba, Lord of sorcery and knowledge".

ACu = Annals of Cuauhtitlan.

ATh&C = Miguel León Portilla : Aztec Thought and Culture. U of OK Pr, 1963.

"WhCNH" = "Why the Crab Has No Head"

p. 45 centuries (Chr.E.) of arrival of the various religious cults into Cuba


relgious sect arriving in Cuba


Palo Monte & Palo Mayombe




Spiritism ("Palo Cruzado")



pp. 46-7 bones

p. 46

"Nfumbi are the physical bones, and in particular the cranium. ... The memories of the human condition are imprinted on the bones. ... The various bone parts continue to have a relationship with the world of the living when they are reanimated in the {prenda}. ... Each bone possesses an awareness that can be used ... . For instance,

in Kimbiza ... bones ... when used ... are employed in the form of a powder. The bone powder is used

{Powdred bones of the dead are employed caerimonially by some South American Indian tropical-forest tribes; and appear in the Aztec myth of how the human race was reconstituted after it had been exterminated by a universal calamity.}

p. 47

to quicken the awareness of mpungo upon earth. This can be done by simply assembling ... herbs and bone powder."

p. 47 ndoki

"Ndoki, carries the shades and shadows of the person, it is the ... chichereku` ... to be the most essential and true essence of the nfumbe/nfuri. ... Ndoki is often a power that touches upon ... the supernatural powers of the night, this being a manifestation of one's dreams".

p. 47 mpungo

"The power of a tree and the planets are {kimpungulu}, but the physical representation is nkisi. ... As such mpungo ... is the intelligence and non-corporeal spirit that animates every material object and thing with life. ... The mpungo represents a quality and this quality is replicated ... gives a cosmic quality to the nkisi, thus a {prenda} is named in respect to this quality."

p. 48 rotating prenda

"A correctly made {prenda} nkisi will behave like a compass rose, constantly moving and revolving around its axis in a constant recreation of its possibilities in meeting with the minkuyo that rides upon the winds ... . ... The nkisi asembled will use chamalaongas {sic}, mpaka vititi and the vinculum held by the Ngangulero for possession in order to make itself known through conversations and bilongo[-]s (works). The {prenda} nkisi ... centre and the soul ... are made aware through the nfumbi and the ability of the {prenda} to resonate with mpungo. To this are added the macuto[-]s (charms, amulets), the bilongo[-]s (workings)[,] the mpolo[-]s (powders) ..., mbele (blade), the powers of ... the rooster, the vulture and the eagle."

pp. 49-50 emphases in lineages of transmission

p. 49

"Mayombe is a continuation of a particular cult from the hills of Mayombe in ... Cabinda ... that was brought to Pin[~]ar del Ri[`]o in Cuba. Mayombe focuses on the mystery of the nfuri of the mountains and its technology is the origin of what today is referred to as prenda ndoki. A prenda ndoki will use as its prime possession the kiyumba (skull) of a dead palero in his spiritual ancestry. ... In Santeria you need an Oriate ... present to effectuate the rituals and make

p. 50

them valid. In the same manner, the Tatandi of Kimbiza by receiving the mbele ..., is needed to effectuate initiations and found a munsaso. ...

In Kimbiza the mpungo is the important nucleus.

Brillumba, on the other hand, is the opposite; the nfumbe is endowed with mpungo and nkisi qualities and becomes the centre of the {prenda} and is given a spiritual path.

Kimbisa creates a harmonious world,

Brillumba creates a world for the nfumbe".

p. 51 the 3 meanings of /nkita/

"Nkita was a name given to diviners['] and healers['] societies in ... the Angolan part.

This defines the spirit of the deceased, but in particular one who exerts its terrestrial influence by haunting wells, watery ravines and creeks. ...

The word nkita was also used as an alias for mpungo, often understood on the basis of it[s] taking serpentine form {as a watersnake?}."

pp. 51-2 the founder of the Kimbisa Order

p. 51

"It is widely accepted that the Kimbisa order {in Cuba} was founded by a Cuban Criollo of Haitian ancestry named Andre`s Facundo ... Petit (1830-1878). Andre`s Petit, or Andre`s Quimbisa (as both he and his successor were called) ... is credited with instigating a major syncretism of various elements of religious and spiritual practices found in Cuba ... . Petit's order combined elements from Abakua` {Abakpa}, Espiritismo, [Free]Masonry, Ocha {Os^a}, ... but with a strong and omnipresent Congo foundation. ... It is however important to point out that some Paleros referred to themselves as Kimbiseiros prior to Petit's founding his Kimbisa order. ...

Petit is likewise credited with contributing to the survival of the Abakua` {Abakpa} society by

p. 52

admitting politically well-connected white people and creoles. ... His supporters considered this a politically correct move".

p. 52 full name of a prenda

"the prenda is given the name of a mpungo, then the nkisi is given a name {a "path", a particular epithet of that mpungo}, sometimes this {rite of establishing the "path" of the mpungo} is called baptism, and then the rama {the 'branch' of the "house" of the lineage} is added as a family or last name."

pp. 52-3 assuming degrees within a secret society

p. 52

"The reglas of Palo Monte Mayombe follow the ... degree structure, ... these societies often being of the Kongo nations, such as bizango and sanpwel. The degrees are as follows :

First we have the Ngueyo ... . In this stage ... one ... is to be admitted ... . The

p. 53

Ngueyo is scratched (rayado) over the {prenda} of his Tata or Yaya and a pact is made with the {prenda} of the Ngueyo's Tata. This involves defining the particular path theNgueyo has ... . He or she will then receive training according to the oracles.

The second step is Tata Nkisi ... . When a certain mastery of the cult is obtained, especially in relation to the Nfinda (wilderness) and bilongo[-]s (magical works) through alignment with mpungo this degree is ceremonially conferred upon the Ngueyo. ...

A Tata Nganga, also called Padre [Tata] / Madre [Yaya] Nganga or Ngangulero is a Tata [spiritual father] or Yaya [spiritual mother] who is in possession of their {his or her} own prenda. At this stage a pact is made with one[']s own prenda and this completes the Palero. ...

There are also other titles given, such as Tata Ndi[-]bilongo, which ... denotes someone with a deep knowledge of bilongo[-]s and the technology of magical works, but is commonly a reference to a Ngangulero who has godchildren.

Then there is the titleTata Luwongo, which is only applicable when a munanso {'House'} has grown into a second generation of Paleros, where the Ngangulero receiving this title is considered ... godfather of foundation -- [of] the [foundational] prenda[, godfather] who founded the munanso."


Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold : Palo Mayombe : the garden of blood and bones. Bibliothe`que Rouge (Scarlet Imprint), 2011.