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.