Our Land itself sits on ancient mountains that have been worn down to hills, volcanic lava had also spilled out leaving green basalt stones which are all over the land. As we move west we cross a large plain, and come to the Catoctin Mountain. Catoctin mountain is an Indigenous name given to the mountain by Algonquian Indigenous People, said to mean "place of many deer", "old hill or mountain" and "speckled mountain". Catoctin was a favorite seasonal hunting ground for the Indigenous People of the area.
As Paleros we are always seeking out the Misterios in their "natural" setting, we are always looking for special palos, soils, or special places in which to "play palo". The Catoctin mountain (which is really one huge formation with many "peaks") is visible from the Land, and we admire it from a distance every day! After years of abuse from logging, milling, iron ore mining, and a stint as a moonshine still during prohibition, Catoctin was preserved as parkland. The park has had less than 100 years of "renewal" however it holds numerous beautiful trees full of spirit and striking rock formations.
On this day we went up to the Mountain looking for Misterio and bringing Anani to explore the various stone formations, trees and plants and soils that are abundant. On a five mile circular walk we came across a large rock formation (called by the park "Wolf Rock") which we recognized as "Palo Rompe Monte". This rocky formation was several hundred feet long and at places about 50 feet wide. It includes cliffs, fissures, boulders perched in what appear as precarious places and incredible trees which grow out of rock and whose roots "SPLIT THE MOUNTAIN". In the photo above we see a ROOT of a tree which acts as a mechanical force to split the rock. Ponder the power of some thing so flexible and vulnerable as a ROOT that can, through persistence and a formidable efficiency of using the available resources, literally split the mountain.
Rock is weathered and chemically altered through contact with water and air into clays and soils, and it is a fact that without this transformation of rock to soil "life" (plant, animal and human) would not be possible upon our Mother Earth. The positive cycle of the growth and decay of trees adds further organic matter and fertility to the soils, further enhancing the power and productivity of the soils. Therefore our physical bodies are derived from rock! As Paleros it is these realizations that enable us to connect more deeply with the "stones" and minerals that we utilize within the practice of palo.
Many of us face situations in our lives where the challenges and obstructions appear immense, and this can be one reason that we turn to Palo or other Indigenous and African traditions, to over come the "impossible" so to speak. This tree above is thriving where one would think it would be "impossible". A Palo from this tree embodies this energy, and when empowered further by the power of our consciousness this becomes a powerful tool in the hands of the Palero or Palera! Merely coming up to this Sacred Spot and making an invocation or prayer resonates that power into our lives or the lives of those we are looking to effect.
The Indigenous Spirit is particularly powerful at this location and as Paleros we naturally honor that Spirit. We recognize that these Sacred Places have been used for Sacred Ceremony in the past, and although a history of misuse has transpired and now the spot is a tourist attraction (although very "empty" during the weekdays and off season), we can link to the Sacred Energy in the here and now!
The stones you see in this photo have been split through a process of water thawing and freezing. The glaciers during the "ice age" came very close to this area and at that time there was a tremendous amount of freezing and thawing during 3 seasons of the year. The Rocks and Stones tell the story of our Mother Earth. These mountain ranges themselves are said to have formed through a crashing of tectonic plates of Africa into the East Coast where we live. As the plates then pulled apart fissures (cracks) opened up and hot lava flowed out giving us the volcanic rock that is all around the area. Water flowing from Rain and Rivers further shaped the landscape and at one point there was even an inland sea that created the limestone that is all around this area (seashell rock!). These rocks were once on the floor of the Ocean! So here we see the power and interrelationship of many Mpungo! We have the Mountain (Tiembla Tierra), we have the effects of the Rivers and Rains and Oceans (Chola Wengue and Kalunga), we have the power of the Volcano (which we see as an aspect of Nsasi), we have the power of the Sun, the power of the Plantas and Palitos, the Power of the Winds (Lucero Mundo) and the Power of Time itself (Padre Tiempo or Kulusu!) We have a tendency to separate the Mpungos where in reality it is not always so cut and dried because it is ONE ENTITY (NSAMBI MPUNGO) with many manifestation which can interrelate with each other in complex ways.
This tree here (above and below) is a Loblolly Pine (native) growing right out of a crack in the rock. How it can be so efficient with the meagre (by most standards) resources it has available is astonishing. It sends its roots deep into the rock to access pockets of nutrients and pockets of water, yet it is able to grow to quite a substantial size! This is a power that is well worth "harvesting" physically and spiritually during a time upon the Earth where resources are in high demand and are getting more and more scarce due to MISUSE and WASTE! This is a power that we go out to seek as Paleros because we are aware and very concerned with the situation that is embracing the Earth globally at this time! We recognize that we NEED the power that this pine has to ADAPT to its situation!!!
Being up on top of the rocky formation "Palo Rompe Monte" was truly being in a different world. It is only accessible from a few points, all other points being cliffs! All around one sees tree tops and one realizes that it is a huge FUNDAMENTO with Palitos encircling the huge STONE in the middle, rich with mineral deposits and Plantas! Our daughter heard us discussing that this would be a wonderful place to bring Fundamento of Tiembla Tierra (or Ta Jose) for Ceremony or to gather energy. She then told us "the Medicine is already here so you don't need to bring the Fundamento here, it is here!" (The wisdom of a four year old!)
By recognizing the space as a Fundamento gives us additional appreciation and understanding when we stand in our Munanso with Fundamentos! The sky is "much closer" in this space, the treetops give it a sheltered sense but it is a high point and very peaceful.
When one looks at the artistry of the space, the way the boulders lie, the deep fissures (cracks) that go down 20 feet or more and the many trees that grow out of the stone itself, one appreciates the masterpiece it is, created by the powers within Atabey (Mother Earth) and the powers of the Mpungo. One also appreciates the BILLIONS of YEARS it took to create this masterpiece and appreciate that it is still changing, it is a masterpiece in motion.
Below a root shows swirling patterns like the patterns that water makes, it also is reminiscent of certain Indigenous Petroglyphs or drawings, drawings made by Ayahuascueros and so on. The root itself is reflecting the journey of water within it, revealed by rain as well as by the footsteps of the many people who have walked over it. Somos o no somos!!!
Palo has traditionally been a way to overcome the "Impossible" beginning with the impossible situation of enslavement and dislocation. Continuing with the impossible situation of Colonization, and the mounting impossible situation of global insanity. This Sacred sight empowers our willingness to eagerly engage Spiritual Teachings, Spiritual Principles and Spiritual Life at time of rampant materialism, decay and global BARBARIC Gluttony and Violence.
Deep fissures created by water freezing force the people who come onto the rock to be very cautious and to respect the space! It is not a space for recklessness or inattentiveness.
As trees grow upon the Stone, through the dropping of their leaves and the eventual decay of their "bodies" they make it easier for the next generation of tree! It is a positive cycle of life, which is true for all trees, that builds the soil fertility and depth and allows us to have more abundance and gives to the Future Generations a richer Soil! This allows us to understand that TREES represent THRIVING, ABUNDANCE and FUTURE IRE!!!! When we plant trees, save trees, respect trees, we gather that powerful cycle into our Spirits! This also bears reflecting on since PALO means TREE!!! TREE is about enriching the soil and enriching the air (Oxygen), therefore enriching LIFE!!!! As the trees are able to grow on the rock, they build the soil together with the rock, through the blessing of the Rain and Sun. There is an ecological importance to this cycle that as Paleros we must not overlook. As Paleros we must also not over look the rampant "deforestation" that has been taking place. In Catoctin there had been a period of deforestation due to the wood mills getting lumber and to the tanneries which used various barks from the trees to tan hides. At this point Catoctin represents an ongoing healing from that mutilation.
Below you can see pinks and reds, greens and yellows in the surface of the stone. These come from the reaction of water and air with some of the mineral deposits in the stone itself!
This weathering and natural chemical reactions reveal Misterios who look out upon everything going on!
Below (7 photos) we track a tree from top to bottom as it grows from the base wedged into the rocks, up and then through the rocks again then out of the top. This tree grew seeking Sunlight, this trail of seeking Sunlight lead it to grow right up through a crack in the stone where it widened to also impact the stone in terms of further cracking the stone. The tree itself was loyal to its need for Sunlight! This tree embodies the energy of standing with one's principles and integrity regardless of the situation one is in. PALO ROMPE MONTE even if it is PALO SOLO!
Another two trees growing out of the Stone.
Below (2 photos) a tree again growing out of the stone.
Palo is a beautiful tradition which gives full appreciation and love to the natural elements that allow Life! When we are building Fundamento or we are working with Fundamento, or we are involved in a process with Fundamento it is very important to understand the materials involved and more importantly to understand their Spiritual Powers and how those Spiritual Powers and Materials relate to us. Our physical body is derived from Rock, Water, Sun and Plants!!!! If there is any rigidity in Palo it arises from alienation from Nature and from the lack of exploration and inability to allow the EGUNS, the NKISIS to be the TEACHERS of these multiple Profound Teachings! It is not just about "commanding" a Fundamento, it is also about learning and studying that Fundamento and the Mpungo it is a manifestation of!!!!
It is important for us to recognize that Palo is a Spirituality rooted in Science, in Art, in Biology, Botany, Geology, in Story (ourstory), in Astronomy, in Meteorology, and in the study of cycles and time itself!