The Mpungu(o)–dispelling the Myth
Writing about the Mpungo takes determination, with concise thoughts and accurate accounts of life based on things that we live and see on a daily basis. In order for the reader to understand what is we’re communicating in this article he must ask how the Mpungo pertains to him in life. This article is intended to open the reader’s eye on Diasporic practice, and is mostly directed around the practices and rites of Palo Mayombe worship. There is a question surrounding the old infamous word “Mpungo”, and general misunderstandings about it’s meaning and the entities that it alludes to.
This terminology comes from the Kikongo word “Mpungu”, meaning literally “elemental force that surrounds us.” This topic is controversial as the idea of Mpungo has become a bastardization of what Mayombe is; a sincretic flavor has been added to it due to the intermingling of Orisha practices that filtered into Mayombe and now have become mainstream. When you look at the reality entities like 7 rayos, Zarabanda, Chola Wengue, and so forth were nkisi’s made from plantations in cuba that eventually took on a life of their own. The Mpungo are not the same beings as the Orisha, and a Nkisi is not an Orisha.
Syncretism in Palo became mainstream as soon as the Lukumi practice started to seep into Mayombe practices, practices which were set in place 300 years before the first Lukumi were boarded onto slave ships. Do not take my word for it; look at the slave ship manifestos of those times and you decide if what I am writing has validity. In the 21st century we are in a movement to bring back the old so that Palo does not lose its richness and becomes what many say is the “evolution of palo”. Palo Mayombe is a complete practice, which does not need additions from Lukumi or Ocha. Our purpose isn’t to knock on people’s doors and say their practices are wrong. We are just offering the real Mayombe, the fundamental practice, when it was just you and your Nkisi and maybe a Lucero as this was a starting point for all in our faith.
We want to ask the reader, the practitioner, “Palo Mayombe has lost a lot of identity due to other cultures wanting to assimilate its practices to its own culture, Can we as priests and priestess alike take back what is rightfully ours?”
The true force behind the nganga is nkita, simbi, bakulu, ngolo(many forces that are from and of nature). There is not one specific force which rules over the nganga. Who is the orchestra leader? The nfumbe and the bakulu, as at the end of it all we are an ancestral religion rooted in the past, and if we do not start from the beginning we will not reach our end.