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Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' of Santeria?

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.orisha,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: (E. C. Ballard)
Subject: Re: Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' of Santeria? (was Drums & Shadows)
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 20:24:36 -0500

I'm just referring back to a few comments and questions raised
respectively by Dreadcomber and Richard Sprigg.

First of all, to remark on Richard's regretable mention of the matamoros
affair, I pose a only somewhat rhetorical question in response: Do you
consider a mass murderer who claims to be killing people because God wants
him to (as more than one has claimed over the years) to be a
representative (or any kind of) Christian? I would think not. Adolfo
Constanzo claimed many things, but the fact remains that he borrowed ideas
from a number of traditions and perverted them to his own murderous ends.
He was neither practicing anything approaching palo nor was he a validly
initiated palero. He was simply a madman and a criminal.

As for Carlos Montenegro, well I appologize to him for mentioning his name
in the same posting as this other. He is a terrible writer. He appears to
have valid initiations in both Palo and Quimbanda. The problem is twofold.
First of all, Palo and Quimbanda are cousins. They are both religions that
developed out of Bantu traditions, one out of primarily Kongo origins in
Cuba and the other out of primarily Kimbundu roots in Brazil. He can't
seem to understand that one should practice them separately and not as if
they were one and the same. 

As a result, he confounds the two constantly. I have seen some titles that
he produced in limited circulation that were intended originally to be
sold only to palo initiates. In these, his information is more or less
accurate, unlike  in "Palo Mayombe: The Dark Side of Santeria" whicxh is
pure fantasy and rubbish. However, even where he deals with real
traditions he can't seem to keep one straight in his head and mixes them

I'm not being a stuffed shirt about this. They are DIFFERENT traditions
and aught to be practiced as separate traditions even if they get
practiced side by side. Also, while a duly initated practitioner may learn
some useful things out of books, these traditions are de-facto not
receiveable other than through valid initiation by a valid palero who has
been initiated into the level that allows him to do so. This isn't a
subtefuge. The reason is that each house works with specific lines of
spirits with whom pacts have been made. One can only gain access through
the approval of the spirits of a particular house and the services of a
validly initiated priest in that line. There is no such thing as
self-initiation. That may be why there are so many disappointed with new
age, neopagan and wiccan traditions. So they continue to look for
something that really works. However, to enter here, they need to leave
those broomsticks and self-published books of shadows at the door.



E. C. Ballard

Debajo del Laurel yo tengo mi confianza

From: (E. C. Ballard)
Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.orisha,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
Subject: Re: Palo Mayombe: The 'Dark Side' pt 2
Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2000 07:28:41 -0500
Organization: University of Pennsylvania
Lines: 48
References: <> <> <>  <8m843a$> <> 
Xref: alt.magick.tyagi:24746 alt.religion.orisha:7140 alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic:24797 alt.magick:206455 alt.pagan.magick:24029


I'm inhaling the coffee fumes this morning before going to the office.
Here are a few more remarks. 

If you can't read spanish there are still a couple of decent articles,
chapters etc that you can read for a better understanding of the subject.
There are a couple of useful chapters in two of Robert Feris Thompson's
books "Flash of the Spirit" and "Face of the Gods:Art and Altars of Africa
and African Americas". Another book which has a good section explaining
Palo is Eugenio Matibag's "Afro-Cuban Religious Experience: Cultural
Reflections in Narrative".

Palo is derived from the religious traditions of the Congo and Angola
primarily. In fact, what has been identified as "Congo" and which has been
the basis of African religious traditions covering far more of the
Americas than it's more famous cousin, the Yoruba traditions, is made of
the traditions of various closelyt related cultures from West Central
(Bantu speaking) Africa.

The main focus of Congo religion is the ancestors, as in most of the
southern half of Africa. A great deal of political rhetoric designed to
make the Yoruba religion look more respectable at the expense of the Bantu
was engendered during the pan-Yoruban movement in the Americas in the
final years of the 19th century. Much of this was spoon fed to
anthropologists, who for their own reasons were more attracted to Yoruban
derived traditions than the Bantu. Thus, such ideas found their way into

This brings us to Mr. Montenegro. What you have in his book "Palo Mayombe:
The Dark Side of Santeria" is a work of creative fiction. In only the most
vague ways does it in any way resemble any form of Palo. It should also be
pointed out that there is no such thing as "self-initiation" in Palo. As
one must be formally presented to and accepted by the spirits of a
specific line of palo by one of their accepted priests, self initiation is
impossible. There is great beauty as well as power in Congo religion. 

If you have any specific questions, I will try to answer what I can.



E. C. Ballard

Debajo del Laurel yo tengo mi confianza

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