Comparisons of Eggun, Bakulu, Nfumbe What are the differences?

As we look into the many practices of and identities of Palo Mayombe we can never forget the basis of our practice. The Congo and the ancestors who roamed those mountains and plains in which we call bakulu. Deified ancestors who before us paved the way so that we as practitioners of this religion can understand the embodiment of every aspect that we hold dear. For the laymen out their the word bakulu in palo means ancestor in Congo Cosmology. Many people do not understand that the cultural identity of Palo Mayombe is in peril with Syncretism from other religious denominations. Such is the influence with Orisha worship in the americas. Many people have a total misconception of the meaning in the diaspora that everyone is going around labeling eggun, bakulu, nfumbe as all the same which they are not. It seems for many people out their they want to mix the pot into an invariable gumbo, But the recipe is wrong and many people out there are walking around confused.

 

Eggun

When the word eggun in Orisha practice is used in this conceptual idea based on the afro-cuban concept we see that, Eggun relates to family or what many may see as familiar spirits of your bloodline. Hereditary and those that have passed before you who are in your Orisha house of worship or branch aka rama. Many of the elders and forefathers we propitiate to have to be an initiated orisha priest.

 

Egungun

The ancestral rites are based on masquerade dance in honor of the dead. Mostly the people who do this may or may not be initiated priests of orisha worship. The collective identity is mostly to people in your family that have died and are now being propitiated to come to speak to the community at large. the come down as a single entity through song and dance.

 

Why this clarification?

Well let’s be honest with ourselves how many people in passing has heard some person stating. Palo as eggun. You hear it all the time with these unscrupulous individuals who are going around talking about how they want to make a change in palo but are the first to go and make cross comparisons with other traditions to validate that they supposedly know what they are talking about.  As beautiful and as complex both practices are it leads you to believe that someone out there is crazy enough to give their nganga an offering and claim that it is eggun that it is all one in the same.

 

Bakulu

The source of our existence unlike other traditions the bakulu are ancestral spirits that transcended into the stars as part of the continum of life that is looking over us. These transcended souls are part of Kalunga, Mpemba as my brother Alex La Salle quoted in our group (“Remember that Fu-Kiau teaches that the word kalunga (ka/lunga)is literally translated to mean “that which is complete within itself”.) When we speak of bakulu we speak of our connection to the world and the universe.

 

Nfumbe

A nfumbe is the ritualized bone or powdered bone which is set ceremonies take into play as most paleros would say(jueg0). An nfumbe is set in ritual to work with the person who is receiving it what is most interesting of this. Most nfumbes prior to the early1900’s were ancestral bones and those nkisi’s were bakulu and were not worked like fundamentos today. Most fundamentos today are not even bones that are used that worked palo before ever in their lifetime. So ceremonial incorporation are done so that this bone can function. A nfumbe is not an eggun, egungun.

 

People may take offense to this well if they would be more conscious that being clear with people is a part of making a difference than i would not have to point out their stuff. Many people take an approach of well people know what they are talking about. Honestly they do not and so what happens is that we go into the same old thing. The blind leading the blind and the Deaf  leading the deaf. Well our point is to open the door of understanding so that the conscious reader can get a better grasp of things. When you effect the foundation of people and you challenge the thought process they want to make names for you. Cloak and dagger or whatever erroneous ignorant comments one makes. Coming from people with bad past lives and now wanting to make a mark on their life now. Well start with education and stop being ignorant.

Mayombe tiembla tiembla pero nunca cai!.

Mayombe shakes and shakes but never falls open your minds. Tata Musitu

 

 

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8 Responses to “Comparisons of Eggun, Bakulu, Nfumbe What are the differences?”

  1. Enlightenment says:

    Im in Atlanta Ga, im a black male 23 years of age, how do i find a munaso?

  2. Tukuenda says:

    Nsala Malongo Tata

    Can you clarify what you are saying about the Nfumbe?

    We know the term “Egun” is a term utilized in Orisha worship, Santeria and so on. It is also my understanding that Egun refers to Ancestors. You say that the Nfumbe in the Nkisi prior to 1900 was family Ancestor. Even though “Egun” the term is not a Palo term, the concept of Egun is appropriate in terms of meaning “Ancestor”.

    If I am understanding correctly, what you are saying is that the Fundamento is much more than just the “Ancestor” within it. And so when you make an offering to Fundamento you are offering to much more than just “Egun”. Am I understanding what you are saying here?

    We also know that most of the bones used in Fundamento today are from non-lineage sources, and many times are not even Ancestors of the tradition. It is very rare today that you will find any direct Ancestor bone in the Fundamento. Especially as Indigenous People, we lost the burial rights in this continent.

    I do not agree that you can assume that a direct ancestor in a Fundamento is necessarily “transcended” because you are still talking about the 1800s, 1700s where colonialism already had is claws into our Traditions and our Ancestors were living under very horrible conditions. Colonialism and Slavery has been far more detrimental to the Traditions of the Bakongo Ancestors who came to the Caribbean and to the Traditions of the Indigenous People of this continent than Orisha Worship has!

    Many utilize Orisha concepts to fill in the gaps that are left by their godparents lack of knowledge or unscrupulous conduct. And many of these who have done this have been able to get very good and accurate results with their Fundamentos! The facts are that we are living in less than ideal situation and that our Story (our History) has continuously been corrupted and attacked over 500 years and more.

    Palo has arisen out of conditions of slavery and oppression, unlike “religions” it arose spontaneously out of a meeting of Bakongo Spirituality and the Indigenous Taino (Arawak) Spirituality and Knowledge of the Natural Environment of the Caribbean, and also with some Christian details to protect those practicing it. This was not a “religion” systematically developed with “bibles, holy texts and large “conferences” to develop it. This is a Spiritual Tradition that vibrates from the Earth and Cosmic Environment!

    We also revere the great Elder Fu-Kiau Bunseki! He has brought us a lot of wisdom and insight especially regarding the African trail of BaKongo and how that developed in Kongo Land. We know that many Paleros have been to his workshops and have read his books and have been enlightened by his wisdom and brought that into their work with their Fundamentos/ Nkisis. However, Palo arose in the Caribbean and is a uniquely Caribbean tradition. To truly understand Palo we have to understand the stories of the Caribbean in the last 500 years and understand the Indigenous Tradition that has been in the Caribbean for thousand of years. We have to remember that a lot of the BaKongo who came to the Caribbean were already influenced by Christianity. So we have a very complex situation that we cannot understand if we do not look long and deeply at the historical and cultural stories. Even the revered Elder Bunseki would not want us to throw the “baby out with the bath water”!

  3. Malongo yaya brother, You may seem to disagree with me but the facts are their plain as day Dr Bunseki would not throw the bath water away but he would have separated the dirt from the water and purified it so that the within this schematic you would come out clean with information. This is how the Kongo’s see it, Philosophical views lead to people making cross comparisons with ritual ties of other religions that were not part of Palo Mayombe. Many fill in the gaps with orisha concepts because the elders did not know any better. Not to knock peoples identity or teachings but if we do not re teach people. You will call Makaka/Obi. Buke(honey)Oyin in yoruba. Lets be simplistically real an amalgamation of traditions not arawak or congo. But all the psuedo christian/judeo/islamic systems has no place in mayombe except to bring more dilution to an ever growing population of people who are not learning truth. Truth be told the Congo people were enslaved way before slavery came to the new world between tribes. Then with arabic slave traders and the list goes on and on. An ancestor who was a true healer and miracle worker transcends. In Congo philosophy he does not wait around in limbo or in purgatory… Everyone under slavery has suffered but within slavery the masses had there own wars within popular groups. This is well documented and practitioners of both had many a war. Also word of mouth propaganda and Palo Mayombe got the real short end of the stick. Palo Mayombe has a systematic way of practice and worship but this is a secret society with true revelations of initiations that are based on secret ritual works. Many people have only tapped the surface of their potentiality and so this is why we have created this site to shine the does and don’t from a perspective of respect to all practitioners. We have burial rites and if I have a last will and testament and want to donate my body tomorrow as a form of ancestral worship and ritual I can. It is not only my rite but human remains like ashes and bones are not illegal to have. To steal is to have them obtained illegally. Thank you for your input … Tata Eric

    • Tukuenda says:

      Tata,
      I am not sure you are understanding me.

      I am only saying that I do not agree that you can assume that a direct ancestor in the Nkisi is “transcended”, maybe, maybe not. And what do you mean by “transcended” because without a definition of that, it is difficult to know what you are saying.

      I agree with you that the bones in present day fundamentos are not from those who were “palero” in their lifetime, in fact many of these bones come from India, China or were “donated to science”.

      I am trying to understand what you are saying in the part of your post labeled “Nfumbe”. Are you suggesting that once ceremonial incorporation is done to these bones from “strangers”, they become Bakulu (transcended) by your definition?

      If not, then are you suggesting that the Nkisi prior to 1900 is of higher caliber than the Fundamento today? In which case you are saying Palo has de-gressed in the last 100 years?

      The baby in the bath water- the baby is what has true value (we can compare to the central Spiritual Principles of the Tradition), the bath water is the process by which to clean the baby if the baby is dirty (lets say the tradition is polluted). We can take that bath water and water our garden, or recycle it, but it is the baby that is our primary focus. I see too many Paleros arguing about the dirty water, who dirtied it, which water is dirtier, who recycled the dirty water better, but all the while they are missing the main point, which is the baby. (you tube Paleros being a case in point).

      I also do continue to say that “we” have lost our burial rights. By burial rights, let me be clear, I am talking about the WHOLE PROCESS from the moment of death, through the handling of the body, the purification of the body, the tying of the body, the burial of the body and then the bringing of the bones back out of the grave. Many have had to resort to cremation in order to be able to possess their relatives remains. The cemeteries are no longer treated as Sacred Grounds, they are controlled not by the people or families of those inside them, and as Paleros we are not free to do our ceremonies openly and fully in those spaces. The mere fact that you need a will and testament is a testament to the disempowerment of the people within the process of death. The funeral industry has also been known, not only to treat the bodies of the dead with disrespect, and violation but also to mix up remains and give the wrong ashes to families. I cannot agree that given all this, we have our burial rights intact. There is a growing movement of people who are taking back this process, and we are also looking into that so that we can be buried on our Sacred Land, where our children who have been born right on this same Land can give us the traditional burials unimpeded. We are working towards that but the people in general are struggling to have any kind of traditional relationship to the Dead. When you have to wait for an industry/ institutions to release your Dead to you, and control when and under what terms you can relate to your Dead in the Cemetery, this is not “burial rights”.

      I also still say that synchronizing with Orisha, while not great, is still far less negative than synchronizing with christian, islamic, judeo systems as you say. I understand egun (Yoruba) to mean Ancestral Dead, I understand “ancestor” (english) to mean Ancestral Dead, do we really need to waste so much energy on semantics? Tata, Fact: There are Paleros who use the term Egun when talking to their Nkisi, and the Nkisi clearly understand their language and produces excellent results. The Dead understand all languages. We say “call me whatever you want…” We can’t condemn people because of semantics or language when there is so much need in the world.

      I am not looking to argue with you, I am looking for your clarification and to understand what you are saying about the Nkisi of prior to 1900 and today. There are too many paleros on you tube having these ridiculous fights and giving Palo a bad name, much more so than the propaganda put out by Santeros, Christians and the media. You tube is global and children are on it- what a bad example. I allow my 6 year old to see these videos on you tube so that the child is aware of these ridiculous fights, and knows that this is not the brand of Palo that we are about or we want to support. To put out information does not require spending more time criticizing, condemning and threatening other Paleros than actually sharing information and wisdom.

      Nsambia kutare.

      • Maleko sala hermano tukuenda, What I am saying is that proper ritual and protocol since before the 1900’s was very strict and formulated. Nowadays the nuances in the religion has kind of watered down the true essence of what Mayombe is brother. I dont claim to have all the answers and I respect your point of view. We are not at all arguing simply sharing different points of view. I am of the school that youtube and any other forms of tool of internet info should not be at all used to impose your own agenda or any other form of nonsense. It is quite petty to say the least but all of use are destined to walk on a path. My point in syncretic beliefs is this. If we keep allowing people to say egun and bakulu are all the same yet palo is the floor mat to orisha beliefs than what are we doing to clean that up? Think of this” we say words that empower the spirit and the identity of those entities” Bakulu versus egun, Palo or Orisha, all words empower the thoughts that are being acheived. Yet no one takes the time to truly learn palo they toss it up as we are a homogenized edition of Orisha worship(darkside of santeria). So in closing i am not critical of people’s views but I am critical of feeding misinformation to people. I am not saying you or anyone is doing this I am speaking from my experience and what I see out there. Malembe Tata Musitu

        • Tukuenda says:

          Tata, I whole heartedly agree with you concerning the importance of Palo NOT being considered a floor mat to the Orisha. This is a particularly nasty behavior.

          Some years ago I had a brother Palero, who was also a Babalao, tell me that for me to fulfill my destiny I needed to go to Ifa in Cuba. He also told me that Orisha was higher than both Palo and Taino and would “out rank them”. Of course I do NOT accept that propaganda. I told him to look around him and see what my Muertos had accomplished and then tell me that I was not on my destiny. It is this kind of arrogant behavior that creates these problems to begin with. I too have big issues with Palo being labeled as the “dark side of Santeria” (Montenegro’s corruption), and in general having too many people look down on Palo as “less than” Orisha. These are distinct Traditions, and there is no “higher or lower” the higher or lower is about the individual practitioners and their integrity and consciousness within the Traditions. My family and I, we stand on our feet and have our successes strictly through PALO and TAINO.

          Words do have power, and I appreciate that as a descendent of Taino who have had the language very much lost through culture genocide (one of the tentacles of colonialism). When we can RECLAIM words, such as BAKULU and use them instead EGUN this is good and powerful and is part of the work that we need to do to empower ourselves. I just do not feel that anyone should feel bad about having to utilize words or concepts that they have available until they can come to the consciousness of the “correct” term, because I know that the Misterios listen to the HEART before all else. Some of us have been given very bad examples.

          I can testify to your statement that Palo has been “watered down” in many Munansos, because I was born in a Munanso where the water ran in all directions and where the tradition was straight out abused to get “power over” and not “power within”. But Trato son trato and the Misterio and Ancestors have their reasons but the individual has to catch up to those reasons over time!

          Nsambia Kutare Hermano

          • Tukuenda says:

            Tata,

            I am still eagerly and humbly awaiting your response to my question that I copied and pasted below!!!

            I am trying to understand what you are saying in the part of your post labeled “Nfumbe”. Are you suggesting that once ceremonial incorporation is done to these bones from “strangers”, they become Bakulu (transcended) by your definition?
            If not, then are you suggesting that the Nkisi prior to 1900 is of higher caliber than the Fundamento today? In which case you are saying Palo has de-gressed in the last 100 years?

          • Tukuenda says:

            Tata Musitu
            I have been giving a lot of thought to what you have said in the original post here. I have also been waiting for you answer to my question:

            “I am trying to understand what you are saying in the part of your post labeled “Nfumbe”. Are you suggesting that once ceremonial incorporation is done to these bones from “strangers”, they become Bakulu (transcended) by your definition?
            If not, then are you suggesting that the Nkisi prior to 1900 is of higher caliber than the Fundamento today? In which case you are saying Palo has de-gressed in the last 100 years?”

            It is very clear that this is an important issue that we need to discus as Paleros. It is an ethical and spiritual issue. When we look at African traditions in general, we see a great emphasis put on certain community members who reached a profound status as members of the community. These were the members who became, what the Kongo refer to as “Bakulu” or deified ancestors. They, in death, become the mouthpiece for the community, representing community concerns and values. Not everyone obtained this status but everyone made efforts to obtain this status.

            Dr. Fu-Kiau says “A man that grows up in the process of making history, and he enters the rank of the ancestors, those well minded people who grew up before him. On the contrary, a man that does not grow up, the one who deviates and is not well minded, is not in the process of making history; he enters the rank of the [n'kuyu] bad ancestors, while living, the deviators, the regressive and “stunted” ancestors.” (Fu-Kiau, “African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo”, 29)

            Here we again see a distinction that the Kongo designated between those who rose to “Ancestor Status” and those who, through bad or mediocre conduct, became N’kuyu.

            Lets say for example you obtain a bone for your Fundamento which is not in your lineage, and is that of a n’kuyu. Are you suggesting that by a ceremony you can evolve this n’kuyu to the rank of Ancestor?

            This is a very serious matter and goes to the heart of what is important to us as Paleros.

            Rather than shoot down rival paleros and point out all their faults and deficiencies and lack of knowledge, their synchronicity, and idiocy, we need to be more focused on these questions and what are we really saying. What is it that we are saying in terms of what is correct??? I read your original post and was not clear about what you were saying, and I am still awaiting illumination from you. Which raises the question “Are you clear about what you are saying?”

            I would not press the issue here, except from your mission statement I see that you are looking to bring truth to the tradition that is Palo Mayombe, including education and clearing up misconceptions. You also clearly state that it is about spirituality, healing and helping oneself and those around one.

            Given this, I question deeply some of the posts I have seen you submit. For while the mission statement is beautiful and one that we can all feel good about because it is talking about progression, on the other hand, from the various posts I have seen from you, there is no clarity in what you are saying, and some are based on superficial research (such as your article on the Moors among others).

            I would appreciate you to clarify this very important point regarding the Ancestor in the Fundamento and the changes within this practice from the time frame you reference in the early 1900s.

            Tata, you are through your own words, presenting yourself as an authority on Palo. When we present ourselves as an authority then we must be ready to be able to clarify our statements. Otherwise there is a hypocrisy that can easily undermine our position of authority and which does a disservice to the community.

            For example how could you quote an elder such as Fu Kiau, and clearly revere him, yet, cherry pick what he is saying, and lose his primary messages. I do not get it…

            We need clarity.

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