Trato son Trato
There are agreements with the Living and there are Agreements with the Dead and there is the skillful use of Nkisi by the Brujo to navigate through difficult waters.
The tree that is photographed here has a long story, and it is a story of agreements, Nkisi, and the wisdom of the Ancestors guiding the Brujo. This tree was originally planted in a different location, where the Munanso was at the time, before this Land came about. It was also originally a different tree.
The original tree was planted Ceremonially with a large fundameto which was in the process of being created, underneath it. The ceremonial purpose of the tree was to hold the winds of challenge and navigate the Munanso through the difficulties involved in transitioning from a state of "landlessness" to a state of "Land". At the time there was additionally a great state of confusion created by those people and those spirits who did not want to see this transition occur due to their own mediocrity, jealousy, greed and even hatred.
The day after the tree was planted Ceremonially, with the Nkisi underneath it, thousands of flies crowded around it, and the tree became infested with parasites and within a month it was dead as it took the spiritual impact of all the negativity and opposition to the transition we were bringing forth. At this point we removed the dead tree, gave it to the sacred fire, and planted the tree you now see in these photos in the same place, right above the Nkisi. This tree flourished since the original tree had absorbed all the vicious negativity and spiritual attacks that had been projected towards the Munanso.
Once we were able to transition from "landlessness" to Land about a year later, we brought both the tree and a large marble stone that also came from the original location. We removed the Nkisi from beneath the tree and the Nkisi continued its transformations to take on the form that it holds today. The tree was again planted ceremonially to take up its rightful place within the Bateys of the Land.
Here the tree maintains it's thriving good health, and is quickly maturing, never showing any signs of the parasites that destroyed the original tree.
We share this story to share a vital understanding that we hold within our Munanso, which is to always continue to develop one's spiritual practices beyond the confines or prejudices of the dominant "society". This tree is a story of overcoming negativity, of victory within a spiritual battle. This tree is also symbolic of the positive outcome of the Brujo listening to the Ancestral Spirit and not stubbornly walking with "blinders" on, being afraid to develop the spirituality further.
One thing that we know is that our Ancestors were constantly evolving and transforming the ways that they communicated with the Dead. For example if we look at the spirituality of the Arawak peoples as the spirituality changed and evolved we see all through the chain of islands that is the Caribbean the diversity of spiritual practice, which all followed some central principles, yet was very different in its expressions. Spirituality is an expression of the Essence of Ones Spirit inside of this Mother Earth that we find ourselves within the Community of the Living and the Dead. By Living we also include all Living forms, and even include the minerals and metals of Mother Earth. Spirituality is not a stagnation and it is not a dogma.
Many Paleros like to utilize the term "Religion" to describe Palo, however that is a term that we personally find to represent a more dogmatic, stagnated form of spirituality, usually guided by a "definitive word of god" text, which is constantly quoted. Palo in our definition of it, is not a "religion" it is a "Spiritual Tradition" and like all "Spiritual Traditions" or "Indigenous Spiritualities" upon the Earth is always undergoing transformations, yet holding onto Spiritual Principles of Thriving and Evolution and continuing discovery and understanding of Mother Earth and all her Life Forms (Spirits or Relatives).
We are well aware that many folks will criticize our practices and claim that there is no precedent for this particular ceremony with the trees and Nkisi, and we can dispute that on various levels, including historical ones, as we all have to agree that Palo developed in the Caribbean undergoing many transformations, and it is only ignorance that today would have Palo suddenly become stagnant and rigid. However, one of the most compelling "arguments" for this particular ceremony is that "it worked". The original tree with Nkisi underneath did indeed take the impact of all the negativity and indeed "brujeria" and the second tree has been able to flourish. We put many Palos in the Fundamento, however in this case we utilized a "living palo" to enable the Fundamento to overcome the obstacles and opposition.