The Palo Mayombe is an ancient religion that originated during the slave era in Cuba in the early 1500s. the Palo Mayombe can also be called Las Reglas de Congo. The word “Palo” is a Spanish word for stick which can be traced to the Cuban religion who use sticks to prepare their altars. The Palo Mayombe religion is a mix of two languages; the Spanish language and the bantu language. In this religion, their most spiritual worship are altars which is known as Nganga or la Cadero. The priests are called Paleros. A male and female can both be priests. The male is called tata while the female is called Yayas and their initiates are called Ngueyos.
The Palo Mayombe is a special kind of religion. It’s different from the normal forms of black magic that are known in the world such as the voodoo or the Santeria. At times, the Palo Mayombe is referred to as the twin and dark side of the Santeria. The Santeria is a religion practiced by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The Palo religion is more strongly effective and more powerful than the Santeria or the voodoo. Though, they all believe in spirits, the Palo Mayombe belief is super strong.
Getting initiated into the Palo Mayombe isn’t an easy task. Their prayers, rituals and spells can be very simple yet so complex. To get initiated, you have to undergo a rite of passage which deals with the carving of special marks unto the skin. This ceremony is called the Rayamiento-being scratched. You would have to be bold and courageous enough to sign the oath of loyalty. After being initiated, you can proceed to want to be a Paleros(priest). Once the process has taken place, a lot of responsibilities awaits you as you become a Paleros. As a newly ordained priest, you have certain instructions like:
- You have to dress only in white for a year and seven days
- All meals are to be eaten on the floor.
- Forbidden to look at the mirror
- No physical contacts with non-initiates, meaning no handshakes.
In the Palo Mayombe, being a priest gives you the ability to act as a spiritual medium.
According to a newly ordained Paleros priest Enox. J. Rios, he said “it is very dark. Very draining. But if it is used for the betterment of the people and protection, it is amazing.”
The spirits the Paleros get in contact with are both ancestral and of the natural world. For the Paleros, worshipping comes down to communication with these deities by using iron or clay pots called Nganga. It is sticks that go into the Nganga but not just sticks; if you want the protections of the spirits from a gun, machete or blade, it is put into the pot. Palo believe that a sprit of the dead also lives in us. The spirits of the Palo communicate through ordained medium like Rios. The Palo is used for good.