Palo Mayombe, as a branch of Palo, is said to have originated with Congo slaves that were brought to Cuba. It is also called Santeria’s dark twin and said to be the most powerful holder of black magic. Its sacred language is a combination of the Spanish and Bantu languages. Its worshipers are known as the Paleros.
The Paleros hold a strong belief in the spirits and nature. They do believe that every natural element is inhibited by spiritual energy. They also connect with the spirits of the dead. Their belief systems also are centered on one Creator; the Nzambi while reverencing other Higher Entities. Spirits are also said to be powerful but not as powerful as these other Higher entities.
Their belief system is expressed by making connections to the spirits via mediums. These mediums have been dedicated and equipped through certain rituals. These rituals prepare them to have access to the spirits and can provide solutions or answers to the needs of those who consult them. The priests and priestesses also serve as mediums for the worshipers.
The major practice of worship, however, is centered around the nganga which is the altar. It is formed by a sacred pot or cauldron filled with dedicated objects such as sticks and bones. These pots are said to also contain the spirits of the dead guiding the activities of the nganga.
Owing to syncretism, other elements of other belief systems have been integrated into Palo Mayombe worship. Some worshipers use the cross and pictures of saints as part of their worship.
The nganga is said to be offered blood as well through sacrifices; especially on the anniversary of its creation.
Initiation into Palo Mayombe would involve a process where cuts are made on the skin of the initiate. These cuts are done to create a connection with the spirit of the nganga. The initiation ceremony is known as Rayamiento.
After initiation, another ceremony is done where the new initiate receives his sacred pot to become a Yaya or Tata (mother /father). The nganga is then dedicated to a specific higher entity as decided by divination.
Palo Mayombe is widely believed by Paleros as a religion that is for healing and can cause great positivity. It can be used for blessing, protection, and provision. However, it can also be used for violence, destruction and even the death of a person. It is said that a Palero does not dictate for his nganga what to do, but can intercede and lay matters to it. The process by which the nganga chooses to go about giving answers and solutions to different situations can not be controlled by the Palero. Violence, however, is neither advocated for or suggested.
Paleros are very reserved in their practice. It is like a religion practiced in secrecy. They would not interfere in issues except consulted. However, Palo Mayombe has been linked to several high spiritual and political authorities