Category Archives for "Palo Mayombe"

santeria rituals

The Orishas of the Santeria Religion

Certain Paleros, including Priests, often mix certain beliefs of other faiths into their worship practices. One of such is the reverence of the Orishas, spirits acknowledged by the Santeria religion.

These Orishas are believed to be forces of nature, spiritual energies sent by the Creator to guide and oversee the affairs of men. The belief system originally originated from the Yoruba religion and has spread through other countries, especially Cuba, the Origin of Palo Mayombe.

These Orishas include:

Oshun: This is the goddess of waters. She is also associated with love and wealth. She can also be called upon in issues affecting female fertility. She is also connected to sexuality, destiny, and divination. Friday, the day of trouble is connected to the Orisha Osun.

Sango: This is the god of forces or weather: thunder and lightning. He is associated with warfare and justice. He is known for his fierce anger and is associated with the red color. He is feared for his ability to strike with lightning when angered. Sango owns Thursday, referred to as the day of fulfillment.

Yemaya: This goddess represents motherhood. She is also associated with the ocean and seen as the bringer of prosperity. She is believed to care very deeply for her children. She protects, cures, cleanses and comforts them. She is known to be very slow to anger but can be very destructive if she reaches that threshold. She controls everything as regards feminity from child conception to safe delivery to motherhood. Monday, the day of financial success is linked to this Orisha.

Obatala: Obatala is known as the Creator of the Earth as empowered by Ifa. He is related to justice and insight. He is also associated with light and purity. Obatala is associated with the day of long life and tranquility (Sunday).

Oya: This goddess engages in warfare using very fierce elements such as tornadoes, violent storms, and wild winds. Wednesday, the day of confusion is associated with this Orisha.

Ogun: This god is in charge of metals and is known for engaging in fierce battles. He is also connected to rum and rum making. He is also associated with hunting, being referred to as the first hunter on earth clearing the path for other gods to have passage into the earth. The day of victory (Tuesday) is connected to this Orisha.

Eshu: He is referred to as the Orisha who runs messages for other Orishas. He is vibrant and vile. He is known to be tricky and full of mischief. He is connected to opportunities and crossroads. He is connected to Saturday and this day is known as the day of evil resolution.

The process of Ifa divination requires sacrifice, commitment, and patient growth. It is also a gradual ascend unto higher heights to attain a better understanding of its mysteries. However, not all Paleros acknowledge or practice Ifa Divination as the belief system is not the same as Palo Mayombe. There are similarities, as much as there are differences in its traditions and teachings.

palo mayombe spirits

The Traditions Of the Paleros

Palo Mayombe, like most traditional religions, has its traditions passed down from one generation to another. These traditions can be defined as beliefs and customs inherited by one generation from the generation before them as part of their legacy or with connection to their origin. These traditions can either be oral or physical. It could either involve songs, prayers, chants or rituals and ceremonies. We would be looking at some of the traditions of Palo Mayombe.

The tradition of Community and Family: Every new initiate into the Palo Mayombe religion is welcomed in as a member of a big family. The titles Yaya/Tata refer to Mother/ Father; the godparents of the new initiates. So as a Yaya/ Tata, you can have lots of children and grandchildren within the fold irrespective of distance and location. It is the responsibility of the Tata/Yaya to guide, mentor and teach the new initiates and beginners as they progress in their spiritual journey.

Traditions of Initiation: Every new participant or anyone with an interest in joining the secret group would have to go through the traditional initiation rites. This is compulsory and there is no short cut to it. These rites are activities that prove the courage and loyalty of the intending initiate. Besides, it also ushers the new initiate into an agreement and connection with the spirits of the ancestors, the deities, the priests and Royal King. It is during such rites that his blood is used as a spiritual signature to seal his oath with these entities forever. Others who choose to also proceed to higher statuses would also need to go through further initiation rites and ceremonies.

Traditions of Symbols and Incantations: Palo Mayombe as a religion requires the use of symbols and incantations. These symbols are complex drawings with hidden meanings. They would require a depth of understanding to activate. The incantations are also necessary to empower the symbols. Every new initiate must be willing to be taught by his Yaya/Tata on the meanings and nature o each of these symbols and where they would be necessary. These symbols and incantations are used to cast spells and create magic; either for positive or negative results.

Traditions of the Sacred Sanctuary: Every new initiate must understand the need for his sacred sanctuary. This is a place to be treated with honor and reverence. This is a place that non-initiates and strangers should not have easy access. This place houses the nganga; the shrine or altar. This nganga is a representation of the spiritual energies of the spirits of the dead and the deities. This is a link between the physical and the spiritual. It is like the place where the supernatural power rests.

Traditions of the Use of Natural Elements: Palo Mayombe as a religion strongly believes in the use of natural elements. The belief is upheld that all-natural elements have been endowed with supernatural powers and the spirits use these natural elements as channels for expressing their powers in the physical realm. These natural elements are used for healing, magic, protection, etc.

Traditions of Ceremonies: Other ceremonies besides initiations are also held. Some to offer sacrifices to the powers reverenced. These ceremonies would involve music from metal and wooden instruments, dancing and chanting. 


The Nature of the 8 Most Important Voodoo gods


The practice of Voodoo includes the acknowledgment and worship of gods called Loas. These gods are believed to serve as mediums interfacing between the Creator god, Bondye, and mankind. These gods are of less significance and authority that the Supreme Being Bondye. They are appeased by sacrifices and ritual ceremonies and are consulted for their support, protection, and blessings.

There are several gods reverenced and consulted in Voodoo but the major eight Voodoo gods are:

Bondye: This is the Supreme god in the Voodoo practice. He is believed to be unknowable and unsearchable. Hence, He is not consulted directly for requests and divination. He is however related to via the lesser gods, Loas. These Loas are the mediums through the prayer requests and messages are presented to Bondye.

Papa Legba: This god is associated with crossroads, mischief, fertility, protection and colors red and black. He is the interface between the physical world and the spirit world. He is often depicted as an old man in rags and straw hats.

Maman Brigitte: This powerful and fierce goddess is the wife of Baron Samedi and is usually portrayed as a fair woman with brunette hair. She is said to be in charge of death and the underworld.

Baron Samedi: This is the god of death, feared and reverenced as the keeper of the cemeteries. He is also believed to be responsible for ushering souls into the place of the dead. He is associated with lewd and immoral behavior such as drinking, cursing and fornicating with other women. He is married to Maman Brigitte and often depicted as a skeletal frame with a hat and a pair of dark shades.

Erzulie: This goddess is connected to feminity, grace, female sexuality, beauty, love and all issues associated with motherhood. She is also associated with weeping as she is said to cry over desires that she fails to obtain. She is often depicted as a classy mixed-race lady dressed in costly clothing and accessories.

Ogun: This god worshiped in Voodoo practice is a result of syncretism with the Yoruba religion. He is known there as the Ogun Orisa and is associated with war and all metal works. He is also known for his extreme likeness to beautiful women and alcohol. He is also called upon for protection and justice and is symbolized by an iron machete.

Damballah: This god is said to be in charge of wisdom, knowledge and healing powers. He is depicted as a very large serpent who helped Bondye create the universe. It is believed he created them by moving his curly frame. He operates from land to seas and has Erzulie as his wife.

Oshun: This goddess reverenced in Voodoo practice is another product of syncretism with the Yoruba Religion. She is known as the goddess of wealth, beauty and sexuality. She is also known for being in charge of the oceans, streams, and lakes. Her devotees perform sacrifices and bring offerings to her at the river bank. She is said to be able to cause great prosperity for those who call upon her.


The Potent Symbols Used In the Religion, Palo Mayombe

Palo Mayombe as a religion has its belief system revolving around spirits of dead ancestors and gods. They usually do so using humans who act as mediums, their ngangas made with natural objects and they also use symbols and objects such as candles.

What are these symbols?

These symbols in the form of sacred writings form a major part of their worship activities and rituals. They are like the embodiment of the mystery of Palo Mayombe knowledge and practices. They are drawn as complex shapes, angles, and diameters speaking to those who can understand them. They are usually drawn with white chalk.


These symbols are often drawn at the start of most ritual practices as a sign of their connection with the elements and forces of nature. It is written or drawn on the part of the floor the ritual would occur. These symbols represent the spiritual identity of a Palo Mayombe community’s head responsible for leading and carrying out ritualistic activities and they are usually kept very secretive from others who do not practice the Palo Mayombe religion.

Other symbolic objects being used:

These objects are seen as sacred and all represent the forces and elements of nature. They include sticks, water, earth, animal remains. There is also the use of mirrors, seas shells, calabashes, beads, cowries, dolls, trinkets, and candles.

There are spiritual implications of the color of candles used

They include:

White Candles: This is used by Paleros for connecting and relating with departed souls. For attracting peace.

Red Candles: This color symbolizes life, blood, and strength. This is used by Paleros for victory over one’s enemies.

Purple Candles: This represents power and to bring breakthrough in very tight and complex situations.

Blue Candles: This is used by Paleros to attract prosperity and fidelity in a home. It also attracts peace and wealth.

Green Candles: This candle is used to promote health, wealth, multiplication, fruitfulness, employment and to bring stability in every situation that requires it.

Yellow Candles: This is used by Paleros to bring healing and to ward away destruction. It is also used to attract healing and boost great sleep and dreams that come to pass.

Pink Candles: These candles are used to achieve success, blessings love and affection. It also represents the self-sacrificing nature and acts of kindness.

Orange Candles: These colors represent vitality, agility, exuberance. They are very attractive and are used by Paleros to draw success and good friendship.

Brown Candles: These candles are used to draw success, prosperity, fruitfulness, increase, wealth especially in times of financial instability.

Grey Candles: These candles enhance and improve on psychic capacity. It is also used by Paleros to drive away evil vibrations and forces in a home or location.

Other Candles being used in the Palo Mayombe religion include Male and Female Image Candles, Skull Candles, Crucifix Candles, Guardian Angel Candles used for protection and candles dedicated to some saints such as Saint Michael Candles, Saint Jude Candles, Saint Barbara Candles, Saint Clara Candles, Saint Martha Candles, Saint Anthony Candles, Just Judge Candles Candles, San Expedito Candles, Baron Del Cementerio Candles, San Alejo Candles, San Exepdito Candles. 


Palo Mayombe religion: know more about this doctrine

The Palo Mayombe is a religion of African origin that gained strength in South America, more precisely in Cuba, due to religious syncretism. The slaves from Africa were the responsible for the spread of the doctrine.

What is the doctrine Palo Mayombe and why it arrived in America?

The Palo Mayombe religion, or Palo Monte, Brillumba and Kimbisa, how it is also known, was created by the African people, because they believed victories, achievements and joys came to them throught faith and prayers, besides worship nature and ancestral spirits. However, due to slave migrations to Cuba and others countries, the africans had contact with other religions, resulting in the interrelationship between them, but preserving their main characteristics individualy. Those who follow the religion are know as Paleros or Nganguleros.

Palo Mayombe Gods

When it comes to Palo Mayombe gods, there is a level of hierarchy strongly regarded and respected by religious practitioners. The main and considered the creator god is Nzambi. Next, are the Kimpungulu (singular: Mpungu). These are taken as deities existing in holy vessels (Nkisi), responsible to represent occurences of nature, such as wind and thunder, for exemple. Other spirits able to inhabit Nkisi are Bakalu, ancestor spirits; Nfuri, ghosts or wandering spirits; Nfumbe, anonymous spirits. 
The Palo Mayombe deities are powerful, and during the rite they lead the conductor of the ceremony.

Palo Mayombe Initiation

During the Palo Mayombe initiation, before being considered part of doctrine, the person needs of the spirits’ scrutiny, in its turn, tell your decision to the spiritual consultant. If the person is approved, a ceremony – known as Nikimba – is made to convert the religious into Nguey if he is a man, or Nkisa if she is a woman. Later, the person will reach the Tata or Yaya level, which will give access to the deepest teachings of religion.
Homossexual are not accepted in the Palo Mayombe Initiation.

What is the vodou importance?

The voodoo practice began also in Africa there are approximately in 4 century a.C. The goal was to captivate and praise spiritual beings, in order to got money, love, health and drive away enemies.
The adherents of some religions of African origin, make of voodoo a way of get in the spirit world, and to ask the gods guidance for dealing with daily mishaps.
During the rituals, the spirits conveys advice for person achive what want. If the indications was not fulfilled, the order will not be placed.

Despite the roots of doctrine to be african, most of the practitioners, currently, are whites. This indicates that religion has indergone changes and adaptations over time, but has preserved its essence.

It is also importante to highlight that Palo Mayombe not have scripture as the bible or quran. There are not a book that adresses a dogmatic profile to be followed in the religion. The vast majoritary of traditions were passed from generation to generations. Some Tatas write book about their knowledge, but are not considered oficial by the religious adherents.


Palo Mayombe; the most Powerful Branch of Palo

Reglas De Congo is a religion widely known to have started in Cuba and also referred to as Palo.

Palo means ‘stick, pole or post’ in the Spanish language and the name were adopted because of the nature of its altars; usually made with sticks. Palo is known to have several branches, an example being Palo Mayombe.


Palo is said to have originated from the slaves brought to Cuba from Congo in Central Africa and is a mixture of different faiths from different African religions and gods. Its sacred language is hebla congo; a combination of the Spanish and Bantu languages.


Like most traditional religions, Palo is a henotheistic religion; focusing on the worship of one god but also acknowledging the existence and power of other gods; thereby the worship of many deities or gods. These gods are worshiped in exchange for protection, power, provision or other types of blessings or empowerment.

These gods include:

Nkunyu; This is known as the god of guidance and balance. He is in charge of all entries: roads and doors. He also rules over the wilderness and crossroads. He is highly referenced and often first acknowledged in every ritual or sacrifice. He is similar to Eshu deity in the Yoruba religion.

Kengue: This is known as the god of wisdom and peace. He is acknowledged as the Sky father and is also in charge of war, knowledge, and justice. He is similar to the Obatala deity worshiped in the Yoruba religion.

Zarabanda: This is known as the god of iron and conflict. He is known to be fierce and powerful and is similar to the Ogun deity in the Yoruba religion. He is usually connected to railroads and machete because they are made of iron.

Mode Of Worship: 

The mode of worship of the Palo religion is concentrated on the altar or the shrine, called the nganga. These altars or shrines are dedicated to certain spirits called the mpungu. These spirits are believed to be very powerful and are connected to via natural objects such as sticks.

Contained in the nganga are different sacred and dedicated objects. It is also believed to be inhabited by the spirit of the dead that directs all activities involving the nganga. Other sacred objects used include horns, shells, mirrors, beads, etc.


Activities involve Palo music created by wooden and metallic instruments such as konga, cowbell, ngama , hoe, dancing, and chanting. There are also different rituals and sacrifices being performed to different Palo gods for several purposes; initiation, cleansing, protection, blessings, warfare, etc.

There is no known central authority in the hierarchy of Palo but the different branches are broken into temples that are headed and led by ordained priests/ priestesses.

Palo Mayombe is a branch of Palo. The other three (3)branches being Monte, Briyumba, and Kimbisa. These branches all have their peculiarities and certain differences in their mode of worship and belief systems. Palo Mayombe however, is widely known to be one of the most powerful branches of Palo.


Louisiana Voodoo: its Origin and the Influence of Voodoo Queens

Louisiana Voodoo is also known as New Orleans Voodoo or Mississippi Valley Voodoo. It is often mistaken with Haitian Vodou but the two religions are not the same. The differences in Louisiana Voodoo include the practice of gris-gris, voodoo queens and the reverence of the snake deity.

This religion refers to a set of beliefs and traditions practiced by majorly the African descendants of the people of Louisiana and the liturgical language is Creole.


The Louisiana Voodoo practice began as a result of the activities of slave traders. African slaves who were brought to French Louisiana came along with the practice of their religions, most of which involved reverence of spirits and connection with ancestors. A syncretism of all the elements of their faith and religious beliefs brought about the practice of Louisiana Voodoo. These different African groups included Benin, Yoruba, Congo, Hausa, Ado, Ewe, Ibo, and the Fon tribe.

The African slave traders were more in number among the population of the French Colony. Unlike the British colony, their communities were kept intact, and this included the practice of their different religions. This practice would include the wearing of amulets, the use of herbs for healing, the worship, and reverence of spirits and ancestors.

Due to the revolt of Vodou practicing slaves in Haiti, the French colony took steps to suppress the practice of Voodoo. However, the Louisiana slaves did not revolt as much against their Masters.


The practitioners of Louisiana Voodoo religion believe strongly in the use of songs. These songs serve as mediums between the spirit and the physical realm. They are taught and handed down from generation to generation.

The songs will be accompanied by clapping, tapping, foot-stomping but exclusive of drums beating. These songs are sung in reverence of the deities; acknowledging and praising them or talking about their traits and personalities. The songs can also be raised from an individual believed to be spirit possessed. Other practitioners would then learn the songs. It can also originate from the dreams of Voodoo practitioners.

It could also be one of the deities singing through a spirit possessed individual.

Singing also forms a major part of their rituals. The rituals are carried out in four stages: preparation, invocation, possession, and farewell.

Voodoo Queens:

Female Practitioners of Louisiana voodoo were known to be very powerful and influential. They were referred to as Voodoo queens and were reverenced by many including political and legal authorities. These women created income by selling charms, gris-gris, herbs and amulets believed to be able to cause desired negative and positive results. Soon, they rose to fame and prominence despite being women of color. 

At a time when the French colonies gave certain privileges to free people of color, which included the purchase of assets and a right to education, these Voodoo queens were given a better platform to exercise further influence.

The most powerful and influential at that time was Maria Laveau. She was called the Voodoo Queen of Queens.


Palo Mayombe; the Religion And Its Higher Deities

The gods of Palo Mayombe are also called Nkisi. They are believed to be the first ancestors on earth, placed by Nzambi the god of creation and were later elevated to the status of gods by the Paleros. They have reverenced alongside the spirits of the dead by the Paleros. The ngangas; that is the sacred altars and shrines are also dedicated to these deities.

Each deity is in control of a unique part of nature. They all have their path in the cosmos and are called upon in respect to different situations, needs, and requests.

The common deities worshiped by the Paleros include:

Nzambi: This is known as the High God of creation. He created the universe and withdrew from it but yet still controls and inhabits all the elements of nature. He also inhabits the spirit of dead ancestors, as when they die and are buried, it is believed that they interact with nature, thus absorbing nature’s power.

Lucero: This is also known as Nkuyu. Nkuyu is the god of the wilderness and crossroads. Lucero meaning light (morning star) of the world in regards to his wisdom. He is believed to be the key that opens all doors to the supernatural realm. He is said to act tricky, childish and mischievous and extra care must be taken when going into agreement with him. It is said that without him, no power can be accessed even among other deities so he is usually acknowledged first in every ritual. To work effectively, every priest or medium must be in good standing with Nkuyu or they would fail to access any power. Every priest must have a nganga dedicated to Lucero in his home.

Zarabanda: This is also known as Zumburanda. He is known as the god of war and justice. He is usually consulted for protection and defense. He is known to be short-tempered, fierce, protective and can be aggressive. He can easily be angered and is said to dislike women on monthly periods being close to his nganga. He is usually called upon by any priest who wants to make mediation or seeks power. Oaths and initiations are usually performed in front of his shrine as it is believed he is responsible for executing justice in the event a party fails to keep their part of the agreement.

Mal Kengue: He is known as the god believed to be in charge of wisdom and logic. He is the father figure. He is said to be a god of peace and purity, hence represented by the white color. However, he can also rise to warfare if the need to ensure justice arises. He is said to be able to grant the Paleros foreknowledge of the future and mystical insights.

Madre Agua: This Sea goddess is known for her gentleness. She is often referred to as the patron of little children. She is also believed to be the ruler of the seas and all life in the water.

These are the higher deities or gods/ goddesses of Palo Mayombe and they are heavily regarded and reverenced. 

Initiation Rites Into The Family of Palo Mayombe

Just like most traditional religions, becoming a member of Palo Mayombe would require certain rites and rituals to welcome you into the fold. Initiation means admitting or welcoming someone into a secret group or society through rituals.

These rituals are very secretive, sacred and secluded from the eyes and knowledge of nonparticipants or the uninitiated.

The Initiator:

During initiation rituals, the High Priest or Tata Nganga coordinates the ceremony and all the activities involved. He is the Initiator. He has been equipped with all the needed training and requirements necessary to birth another nganga. He knows all the songs, herbs, plants, prayers, sacrifices and rites to be done during the ceremony. He has also been endued with supernatural powers having gone through certain rites as well to attain to that level. He is also responsible for attending to different ngangas.

The Process:

The religion Palo Mayombe has a deep connection with spirits of the dead ancestors and deities and their activities center around the shrines and altar erected for the nfumbis (the dead spirits). Therefore, any new intake or potential initiate would have to secure his pact with the ancestors as well as erect his nganga so he becomes one with the spirits, his temple house, and community.

Pact With the Dead:

The new initiate would have to choose a particular ancestor to make a pact and agreement with. Once his choice has been made, he has to get the graveside of the deceased to make his offer. He would offer to give the deceased care and attention, supply him with blood sacrifices, rum, honey and cigar in exchange for the spirit working for him.

If the spirit agrees, which does not happen all the time. He has to take the bones or entire skeleton to his home, to the sanctuary he had erected to set up the nganga.

The Ceremony:

The ceremony itself is called Rayamiento, also known as scratching. This is because certain cuts have to be made on the skin of the new initiate. These cuts are done to form tribal markings. The initiate then makes a blood oath before those present with the deities, the ancestors of the Tata Nganga, the spirits the nganga has been dedicated to and the Tata Nganga handling the initiation. This bonds him with all the entities he has made a pact with by the oath. New initiates are advised not to pull out or leave the Palo Mayombe community as there are very serious consequences. This is due to the blood oath binding his life to the forces of the spirit realm, through the blood sacrifice. The Tata Nganga who handles the initiation now stands as the godfather of the initiated.

Initiation into Palo Mayombe must be done willingly and after clear thought. It also has to done very discreetly. It would require courage, strength, and loyalty. Palo Mayombe is a religion that is very secretive about its activities that there is no particular house of worship but the Paleros have their different ngangas erected in sacred places in their homes.

Palo Mayombe Religion

Palo Mayombe: the Dark Side of Santeria

Santeria is a Spanish word that means ‘Way of the Saints’ It is also called Regla de Osha. This religion is believed to have originated from the Yoruba tribe of West Africa and began its spread through slavery in Cuba. The religion was formed by the syncretism of the Yoruba religion and the Catholic belief systems. The Lucumi language is used as its sacred language and only followers have its understanding.


Ile is a word in the Yoruba language meaning ‘home’. These lles are temples dedicated to the different Orishas being revered by the practitioners. They are found in the homes of priests and priestesses and serve as sanctuaries for the altars called igbodu. In the igbodu, you find three thrones that are a representation of kings, queens, and warriors. These thrones are covered in blue, white and red colors.


The priests or priestesses of the religion are usually found in the Ile, alongside with those intending to attain this height. To have become a priest, a person would have to undergo an initiation ceremony. This initiation process is expected to last a week. During this process, they are taught the beliefs and traditions of religion. They are also armed with the knowledge of the Orishas. They are also exposed to performing various rituals and sacrifices.

Priests are called Santeros or Olorichas. When they are equipped with the ability to carry out divination and healing, they are referred to as Italeros. If they undergo training to handle initiation rites, they are called Obas. If they have been trained to initiate other priests, they are called babalorichas or iyalorichas. 


Santeria as a religion pays attention to the purity of the soul. Before a person is initiated, he has to undergo a cleansing process. During this process, his godfather would conduct the cleansing process using herbs and water. He applies this on the scalp of the initiate moving his hand in a unique rhythm. Any individual who joins from a desire of meeting therapeutic needs would also undergo the cleansing process; the only difference is his would-be conducted using coconut water and cotton.


The initiation process itself is in four phases or stages. Every initiate must completely pass through all the stages to become a priest. These four stages are termed: Obtaining the Necklace, Receiving the Warriors, Making Saints and Ascending the Throne.

Palo Mayombe, as a religion is quite different from the practice of Santeria. Though there exist certain similarities such as having shrines, initiation processes to become members, priesthood, and the family systems of having godfathers, there are several factors that set them apart. Both religions also began their spread in Cuba and originated from the African slaves.

Palo Mayombe is often referred to as the dark twin or dark side of Santeria. Palo Mayombe focuses its practice on connections with the spirits of the dead and other deities called the mpungu, Santeria focuses its practice on connections with the saints and other deities called the Orishas.

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