Over the years I have heard more than one Yayi complain to me about Palo Mayombe Tradition being 'patriarchal' and centered more on the Tata's role than the Yayi's role. From my own experience, while I understand the complaint, I could not disagree more, when it comes to the Munanso here.
We always have to take into account, not only the impact of colonialism and slavery on the growth of theTradition, but also the structure of (white) male supremacy that we are compelled to live with. However, at their root and in their heart, our various Earth Centered Traditions are deeply rooted in the Mother, and her role of giving, and taking life. This is not to say that there is both a lot of male centered rhetoric concerning the role of Yayi out there, and perhaps a domination of the internet by Tatas rather than Yayis. At every turn in my trail, my Camino within Palo Mayombe, I have been strengthened and encouraged as a Yayi to take active and indeed leading roles within the Munanso. For those Tatas that insist on Yayis having nonsignificant roles in the Munanso, my guess is that they are fundamentally threatened by the powers of the Yayi because they are infected by the mental incarceration of white male supremacy.
Before I became a Mother, I was a Yayi, and both of those Initiations and Tratados strengthened the other. As a Mother, giving birth, I realized that the process of giving birth is a process of walking to the world of the Dead and bringing Life from the Dead into this world. Giving birth is a moment of standing on the Kalunga line, much like those moments in the Munanso when we draw the patipemba (firma) on the Earth and invoke the Dead to this Living Moment.
There are many out there who complain about animal sacrifice, most of whom are also carnivores and have no problem eating inhumanely raised battery farmed chickens, hogs and cows, which are slaughtered in the most vicious and heartless of manners. It is never easy or gratifying to take a life, even when it is to sustain ones own, however it is the way of this world. It takes more responsibility, more consciousness and requires more humility to take the life of an animal that you raised yourself than leave the "dirty work" to some one else. It is only in this modern day that such a large portion of the Human Family have become so disconnected from the life that sustains them.
Here, we are going to go on a journey into a specific process that we recently did in order to address some intense spiritual energies, and to fortify, vitalize and strengthen the Nkisi and Ancestors of my Munanso. The 4 chickens that we used were 4 older chickens from our hen house. These chickens had been with us for years, arriving as day old chicks. Besides being entertainment for the family, they ate kitchen scraps and laid eggs for our table to be enjoyed by ourselves, our friends and relatives. In fact our youngest child's first solid food was egg yolk from these chickens. This year we got more chicks, and so the decision was to cull these older birds (which is typical). They are far to tough to roast (for our spoilt modern tastes) but would make good stock, however, we are Paleros and have another use, which to us is a very honorable way to "cull" the chickens.
These chickens were specifically used for the Nkisi of my Munanso, for the Nguenges. When working with my Nkisi, I do everything, other than use the Mbele.
The aspect that I want to share here, is the gutting and cooking of these chickens. Inside the chicken I found not just mature eggs, but lines of eggs getting smaller and smaller, numbering in the hundreds. It was an awe inspiring sight and for those with Vititti, numerous spirit faces and figures can be seen.
Behind the mature egg, eggs yet to be born line up getting smaller and smaller and paler as they go back.
The mature egg was removed to be given directly to the Nguenges (witches) in their tree with a particular message.
Here you can see the numerous immature eggs, almost like a reverse Ancestral Tree, stretching back or forward in time....
The organ meats are cooked in the iron pot, and those immature eggs are included. The energy in them is potent, and can clearly be felt. Here you can see the line up of the eggs from mature getting smaller and smaller. These powerful embodiments of fertility will bring great energy to the Nkisi and Ancestors. They also remind us of the Sacredness of Life, and the importance not to make sacrifice in vain, the importance of taking responsibility for ones actions.
Here the organ meats, feet and eggs are all ready, each holding vital energies that are essential for the continuation of life.
Corn from our Conuco is added, along with palm oil and the food is ready to be cooked.
Three mature eggs (just like eggs you could buy from a farmers market or store) are ready for their journey to the Nguenges Tree.
Chickens and Organs are cooked on the open grill, and I take some moments and burn some sage and tobacco to acknowledge the sacrifice of the Trees that provide the wood and the many small insects that call this wood "home".
The aroma of the chickens cooked in palm oil fills the air, combined with the aroma of the tree wood and fire. When the food is ready it is taken to my Munanso to be presented to the Nkisi.
This resident spider hangs from the rafter above the Nkisis.
Inside my Munanso, the chickens, along with Coffee, Melafo, Nsunga, and Champagne are offered to the Nkisi. The various herbs around the Nkisi are very important in the Munanso, and much of the time, herbs hang from the rafters to be used for various purposes.
Another closer view of the chickens.
The tree is an inspiring sight, a giant within the Nfinda, magical forest, overlooking a sacred spring, surrounded by the herb "touch me not" (jewel weed).
Fertility is everything to life, for without it nothing grows. Even the most powerful seed cannot express itself without the rich moist earth providing it with fertility. No endeavor can come to fruition without the creative energies of fertility, and of course no Ancestor can incarnate into this world without fertility. Without fertility we cannot grow food.
Fertility is being ripped from this Sacred Earth as trees are cut, soils are eroding, and the sacred water cycles are interrupted and distorted. Quiet as it is kept, many conflicts around the world are caused by loss of the Earth's fertility, and are solved by restoring the Earth's fertility. The Yayi holds a critical role in the world of the Palero because she is the embodiment of the energies of fertility. She is the embodiment of the energies of the water cycle. These powers bring life and they take life. Having a healthy relationship to these powers is essential within any Tradition which is focused on a sustained and harmonious existence. For Paleros, Water, Soil, Air, Fire, are not "things", these are living entities, powers, Mpungus, which extend their reach in this world and into the world of the Ancestors.