Friday, February 10, 2012

Palo Mayombe: Occult Syncretic Religions

Palo Mayombe

Syncretic belief systems are religions that have combined two or more different cultural and spiritual beliefs into a new faith.

Palo mayombe orginated from the African Congo and is said to be the world's most powerful and feared form of black magic.

Palo Mayombe is another syncretic Afro-Caribbean belief system that combines the cultural and spiritual belief systems of the ancient African Congo tribes with the religious practices of Yoruba slaves and Catholicism. It uses magical rituals that manipulate, captivate, and/or control another person, most often for the practitioner’s malevolent purposes. Like the people from Nigeria, the Congo slaves were forcibly brought to the Caribbean and subsequently forced to adapt their cultural and religious beliefs to the culture and Catholic religious tradition of the new land. Through their assimilation process, the Congo slaves also incorporated some of the beliefs, symbols, and rituals of Santeria. The result of this particular syncretism was Palo Mayombe, derived from the Spanish Palo meaning "wooden stick" or "branch" and referring to the pieces of wood practitioners use for their magic spells.

Priests of Palo Mayombe are known as Paleros or Mayomberos. Although the origins of the Mayombero and Santero share similar roots, there are two features that distinguish the rituals and beliefs of these different and individualistic belief systems. First, although many Mayomberos are originally initiated into Santeria, very few Santerians also practice Palo Mayombe. In fact, most Santeria practitioners fear the Mayombero, claiming he practices a sinister form of Santeria which they call brujería--black magic or witchcraft. Second, the rituals of Santeria most often focus magic on positive actions designed to improve one’s personal position or please an orisha.

Palo Mayombe, in contrast, centers its rituals on the spirit of the dead, often using magic to inflict misfortune or death upon an enemy. In fact, the Mayombero does not use the orishas but rather invokes the evil spirit of one specific patron who resides in his nganga, the cauldron used during most rituals.

For a description of the Palo Mayombe Religion (
Some practitioners of Palo Mayombe claim that although they are evoking the spirits of the dead, their intentions are not to harm, that they use Palo in particularly difficult cases because it works much faster and is more effective than Santeria rituals. Regardless, Palo Mayombe essentially is the practice of malevolent magic in the context of myths and rituals of Congo origin, and its magic is accomplished with the use of human bones. Practitioners of Palo Mayombe specialize in accomplishing sorcery through the spirit of the dead.

The source of the Paleros' power is the cauldron where the spirits of the dead reside; the African name for the sacred cauldron, nganga, is a Congo word that means dead, spirit, or supernatural force. The following items are typically found in the nganga; a human skull, bones, graveyard dust, crossroads dust, branches, herbs, insects, animal and bird carcasses, coins, spices, and blood. The initiate in Palo is known as Mpangui, Nganga Nkisi, or Tata Nkisi. The nganga does what its owners order it to do, and working with it is referred to as "playing" with it. When the spirit of the nganga carries out its owner’s wishes, he or she gives it blood as an expression of gratitude.

The Paleros also serve their ancestors, all the dead, and the spirits of nature. Chango is the orisha most often worshipped by the Paleros who call him "Nsasi" and claim he originates from the Congo. Palo Mayombe has a pantheon of Gods with both Catholic and Santeria counterparts. For a complete description of the Nkisi, the gods and goddesses of Palo, see (

For a personal gain or a fee, the Paleros will perform rituals to inflict mental or physical harm, even death, on an individual. A Brujeria or Bilongo is a black magic spell that is achieved in many ways, as when a person is given a magical preparation in food or drink, or when a spirit of the dead is "sent" with the intention of causing torment and misfortune to the victim. Other kinds of black magic include leaving animal carcasses (decapitated roosters, dead goats, human skulls, etc.) at the entrance of a business or home, or preparing special dolls stuffed with ritual items (pendants, herbs, names of people, etc.,) and kept at home.

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