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Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Tree visited by Paleros

"Palo" short for "Palo Mayombe" with its multiple RAMAS (Lines) is a deeply cultural system of Spiritual Understanding, Spiritual Practices, and a deep and enduring Spiritual Root.  It is complicated and most often misunderstood by outside "observers", and it is often maligned, and often misrepresented by both non-Paleros and (sadly) some Paleros themselves.    Palo means "Stick" and is most often explained as being a reference to the various Palos that are found within the typical "Fundamento or Nganga" of the Palero.  


"Palo" is a spanish word, which clearly places its usage within the Caribbean after the arrival of the mad malevolent Ndoki (or Maboya) Columbus and his gang.  Palo is readily accepted by most of its practitioners as being of African Origin, specifically of Bakongo origin.  Some make outrageous and ignorant claims that Palo traveled intact from Africa to the Caribbean within the slave ships and subsequently continued (primarily in Cuba) intact to the present day.  However historical fact indicates otherwise as many of the Mpungos spoken of in the Tradition today were not described or addressed in the Bakongo Traditions (remember we are speaking of a large region) in the way they are described and addressed today.  Many Paleros deny the influences of Taino Traditions within the Palo they practice, and will only begrudgingly acknowledge influences of other African Traditions within Palo.  This is either due to arrogance, ignorance or business/ political agendas.  Our Munanso embraces firstly the Taino Influences within Palo and also the other African Influences within Palo.  In our assessment of historical fact and human responses to oppression and need for survival, we are confident that Palo as an AFRICAN-CARIBBEAN tradition, evolved and transformed greatly due to multiple influences during its 400-500 year evolution within the Caribbean.  


In returning to the term "Palo" as meaning "Stick", we understand that "sticks" come from TREES, and as Paleros and Human Beings we understand TREES to be very SACRED to us.  As we walked by the River we came across the TREE below growing on the bank of the River, sending its roots over and between stones.  It is a "Beech Tree",  native to this region.  It came to our attention because our daughter insisted and persisted in leaving an offering for Mama Chola at the Roots of this Beech Tree.  This Beech, being native to our area, is a tree that we often utilize when gathering "Palos".  In looking at the photo of the Beech, we see an Ancient Face, or Faces, looking at us.  
Beech is Medicinal (although rarely used as a medicinal these days).  It has properties of astringent, antiseptic and disinfectant.  On a physical level, these are properties of tightening or tonifying the body tissues, preventing growth of micro-organisms, and destroying bacteria.  Spiritually this translates to energies of defense, protection and strengthening.  It is a strengthening of protective boundaries.  This also applies to the mental body, and it is important to note that our mental bodies are constantly having to fend off "invasive, parasitical/ Ndoki energies".  

Beech is also very nutritious to animals and humans from the leaves to the nuts and has been consumed Traditionally upon this continent.  This nutritional aspect places the energy of the Beech as also very nurturing and sustaining.  Beech is in the same family as OAK and SWEET CHESTNUT, two other trees that also offer much sustenance to human beings and animals.  In the right conditions Beech Trees can live 500 years.  Tsalagi People (Cherokee) would raid the Beech nut stashes of chipmunks and allow the chipmunks to do the work of gathering, sorting and shelling the nuts for them; a beautiful example of working with the natural energies of Mother Earth, not against them.  

In Europe, among Celtic tribes, the Beech is associated with the development of the Alphabet and writing as well as its root DIVINATION.  Trees inscribe within them a written history of the cycle of seasons that they live through from conditions in the air, soil and water as well as conditions of the Sun.  They are a book that records this natural story.
So we see that the Beech Tree is a tree of great interest to the Palero.  It has significance in all areas to which it is native (Europe and America) and tells us a profound story as well as gives us profound tools.  Are we to, as Paleros, reject both the Beech and the gesture of a Child to insist upon placing her offering for the River at the Root of the Beech, because the Beech is not native to Africa or the Caribbean?  Did the Bakongo who arrived on the shores of the Caribbean in chains reject the traditional plants of the Caribbean because the plants were not native to Africa?  Did they refuse to learn the medicinal and nutritional and spiritual qualities of the plants from the Indigenous People of the Caribbean (Taino, Garifuna, "Carib" and so on), because these plants were not familiar to them?  Not so, lets review any list of plants typically used by Paleros (or other African-Caribbean traditions) and we find many plants native to the Caribbean on the list.  If we are to uphold the principles of the Ancestors, then we need to follow in their footsteps of adaptability and willingness to "remain teachable!" especially in the face of great "Changes" be they changes brought about through colonization, war and oppression or be they the Earth Changes we are facing today, emanating from Mother Earth and the Great Light of our Life, the Sun!  
Returning again to the term "PALO" we arrive at the root.  In Taino Tradition any person walking through the forest (and we must understand that there was more forest than anything else over this whole continent at that time, the deforestation is a travesty and a growing issue), who would see a Tree shaking or moving in an usual way would immediately call the Bohitu (witch doctor or brujo) who would come and determine what the Spirit was asking for, be that a Cemi, or what have you.  Many times a Cemi (Nkisi if you will) would be made from that particular tree.  These roots here called our daughter.  Was it the Taino in her responding or was it the Palero in her responding?  Should we honor one Spiritual Tradition over the other, give one "superiority" over the other?  In our Munanso we uphold the principle of respect for Spiritual Traditions and Roots and do not follow the line of thinking that gives one "Spiritual Superiority" over the other.  For us the most important point is that she responded to this powerful tree, whose Spirit, having received the innocent offering, Nchila, from this child, in that moment strengthened her in terms of defense, immunity, sustenance, and wisdom, all vital spiritual energies for her evolution and progress.  This Spirit also guided us, her parents to seek out further understanding and appreciation of the Spirit of the Beech Tree!  

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