I have dedicated these last few years of my life to investigate and study Afro-Caribbean beliefs and practices. I am initiated in some of these practices, and, as an initiate I am amazed about the level of profanation and the selfishness that exists in many of them. People want to initiate others, but they seldom take the time to teach.
Thanks to the research I have done I have met a few Paleros and the information I am about to share is essential to help others to distinguish between a real Palero and a shameless charlatan.
Palo comes from the Kongo region and has nothing to do with Santerismo or with Santería. Santería comes from Nigeria and has very little in common with Mayombe, if nowadays there are points of comparison is because of syncretized practices created when practitioners of Mayombe married to Lucumi folks and practices were mixed. Palo alike Santería is learned orally from elder to new initiate of Pino Nuevo.
There are many that say they practice Palo and have Ngangas which they put together themselves with ‘help’ from their spirits or the dead. This is wrong, the dead do not have the power to teach paleros how to put together a Nganga, those have to be constructed according to the Rama or branch where that Palero comes from. The Kongo did not believe in deities like Shangó or Yemayá, the Kongos venerated their ancestors and would worship according to their tribal customs. The first Ngangas in Cuba did not had names like 7 Rayos, Mama Chola, etc. These are names given to Prendas after being syncretized with elements from Santería using borrowed tools that are typical of Orisha pots.
The true essence of a Nganga comes from the Kriyumba and the pact with that particular spirit brought from the Cemetery, without that, there is no Nganga, it is like having a fancy cage with an open door, how to know which bird comes in and out of your cage and feeds upon its energies. The pact established with the particular spirit inhabiting the Nganga allows that nfumbi to dominate that receptable and non-other spirit can come in an out as they please.
Many have empty Ngangas without this pact, what they have is a receptacle where any old vagrant spirit can come in and out to feed and cause havock. Those spirits gain strength and create problems for the owner of the Nganga because they do as they please and they can mascaraed easily as they gain strength.
There are many who go about saying that they are sons and daughters of Mama Chola and 7 Rayos and Zarabanda. Those are not entities, they are just names given to Ngangas, thus they are claiming to be sons and daughters of what? Those, to make it very clear are Kindembos put together with Osha elements, they are no good, not traditional.
When a person is meant to be initiated in Palo, this person must be taken to a reputable Palero and the Kindembo is consulted. Once the person gets accepted and is initiate, the Tata must investigate if this person will in due time receive a Nganga. Not everyone needs to get one right away. It takes years of learning alongside with a Tata to understand how a Nganga works and how to use it. The initiate needs to learn the Pati Mpenbas, the Mambos (songs) and how an Munanso is run. People today want to get cut and become Tata literally overnight, they do not want to be apprentices, they do not want to pay their dues. They want to instant stars, perros de prenda and they want to go into business right away. Everything has a time and a place. Otherwise we get so called Paleros who know nothing about palos, herbs and the fundamentals needed to be a functional Palero. What good is to have all of these charlatans cutting people left and right, planting seeds that will yield crooked trees not proper Pino Nuevos.
I want to honor those old Mayomberos from Cuba who were able to move mountains with their Ngangas, those nganguleros that left their marc on our religion: Orlando Calvo, Oriol Bustamante, Mariata Ponde, Emilio O’Farri, Arcanio Calvo, Tata Gaitán, Rufino Hernadez and other nganguleros not mentioned but never forgotten. Sala Maleko to all of you ke la buena lemba me los ankutare. I hope this information helps those trying to learn about Palo. The true essence of the religion lives on piango piango llega lejos, kiako kiako kiangana kiangana, lengua Kongo no son Manteca, gato no come perro. Awirikuto lowirindinga.