Friday, April 15, 2011

Mini-Book Review: The Brazilian Palo Primer

Title: The Brazilian Palo Primer: Kimbanda Recipes To Make You Win at Love, Money, Business, and Life!
Author: Robert Laremy
Publisher & Date: Original Publications, 2002.
Rating: 10/10
Price-tag: Between six and ten bones, depending on where you shop and if you find it.
Comments in Brief: “The chickens must die.”

(I'm writing shit, and getting shit translated – not by me, my Spanish sucks – and transcribed, and I almost want to call this “busy”? Is that what this is? No. That was more stressful. In the meantime, a mini-review for a tiny book. Am I totally intoxicated, with no hope of return? Oh, yeah. Will I regret this review in the morning? I regret nothing! Nothing!)

This book should be re-subtitled: “How to fuck up your enemies (p. 8), win court cases (p. 9-10), break your buddy out of jail (p. 11), bring misfortune to your enemies (p. 13), make a man your slave (p. 17), and attract men (p. 19), while axing some chickens like a pro.” But I suppose that would take up most of the cover, which has a lovely picture instead.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author's tone was enjoyable, and I felt that I learned a bit more about 'Brizilian' Palo (Kimbanda, actually, I believe). I was particularly interested – early on – in a few comments he makes in the second chapter, and I'll quote them here:
The sigils we will be using in many of these workings are called pontos riscados, which means 'scratched points.' In Kimbanda, the ponto riscados is thought to be a way of accessing the astral plane. The chalk-like instrument traditionally used to write these pontos riscados is called pemba, but regular chalk, cascarilla, or even ink can be used also...”
Some time ago I concluded that much of the debate about what spirit is such-and-such or what their names meant were essentially meaningless twaddle, and that the operational thing to pay attention in the end was the sigil, seal, or what-have-you of the entity. If you could descipher what it was telling you, then you had the path. The name was meaningless, as names change over time. The essential purpose of the sigils and seals and such, in that case, was to tap the right entity. Or the right doorway to the entity you wanted. Whatever.

I'm not sure if this is entirely true anymore. But the way that Laremy put it, and the idea behind it, made perfect sense to me. Reshaping the material to cause an opening or doorway in the astral, if I grokk it right.

I do not know if I will ever need some of the operations contained within, as I've yet to have an unlawfully jailed buddy (but you never know, right?), and I seem to find a distinct lack of enemies in my life. I also don't think I need many more sexy menfolk at my beck and call.

All of that aside, I was particularly fascinated by the authors descriptions of the caboclo, which are spirits believed to be indigenous dead folk in Brazil. He quotes Joaozinho, a practitioner who worked with the caboclo as such:
The word 'caboclo' comes from the Tupi word 'kari'boka,' which means 'coming from whites,' in other words, an Indian who has white blood, a mestizo. The word has come to signify any Brazilian Indian. There are two major classifications of caboclos, those who dress like cowboys, called boiadeiros, and those who dress like 'Indians', that is, sporting feather headdresses and bows and arrows and are called, aptly, 'Indios.' Every spiritual entity worshipped in Brazil is foreign, except for the caboclos! The orixas came from Africa, Allan Kardec from France, Catholicism from Europe, even Jesus was born in the Middle East! But not caboclo, caboclo comes from our jungles, from our rivers. No spirit can better understand the Brazilian ethos than caboclo!”
Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Seriously? You have no idea about how interested I just became and what I've started considering. What if some of the spiritualists were... right? Also, I'd like to better understand the influence on Allan Kardec on Brazilian magical and spiritual practices. The author discussed Brazil giving Kardec a stamp, but nothing beyond that. So, I suppose I'll have some more reading to do.

Oh, yeah. Also, some of the fetishes and operations require the blood sacrifice of a chicken. As someone with a distinct loathing for the creatures, I was not much bothered by this, but I'm sure someone will object about how such brave and noble creatures could ever be allowed to die rapidly. However, the author does tell you to: “Snap the chicken's head off and pour blood on the fetish. Always say 'Ago!' when killing an animal, whispering 'I'm sending you to a higher birth.'”

For whatever reason, reading that reassured me. I'm absolutely sure that was the author's intent, and that my middle class-created bias against blood sacrifice has nothing to do with my initial reaction. On the other hand, if any animal has to die for an operation, I suppose it might as well be a chicken. Loathsome creatures, they are. Fuckers chased me around when I was a kid, once. Making their obscene noises at me, as they tried to peck at the calves of my legs while I fled toward a fence that I thought represented safety... Only to hit the fence and get pecked by a vicious little creature. Very well, then. If some chickens have to die, so be it. (“Well then, what about cats, 'eh? You've already allowed for chickens, so why not a few cats?” Fuck you! That's different because I say so.)

Anyway, the book is great. I have no idea if it's reliable – but reading it was enjoyable enough that even if it was full of shit, I probably wouldn't care. One last quotation for you, which had me almost spit the drink I'd been drinking all over the book:
“Although Kimbanda, like its African counterpart, Nganga, is a 'modern' religion devoid of what it deems unnecessary rituals, there is a modicum of ritualistic forms observed at Kimbanda meetings. The one I will describe took place in the Brazilian state of Bahia, in the house of a well-known practitioner named Joaozinho, a gay black man in his seventies, straight as a pole and as energetic as a teenager. His assistant, also his lover, is a blond Adonis in his twenties who makes a comfortable living as a soap opera star. When I rather impudently asked Joaozinho if magick had been a factor in his acquisition of "Adonis," he looked straight into my eyes with a deadpan expression, then looked at his friend standing nearby, quickly looking back at me and saying, without missing a beat, 'What do YOU think?'”

EDIT: This entry has been edited to correct drunken mistakes.


the Valentines said...


I am familiar with term 'Caboclos' and another I recall off the top of my head. As far as I know they mean 'old Indian' and 'old black' respectively and are a new world reference to the natives and Africans that shaped the creoles. First time I have ever read that as a reference to white dudes.

Also, I'll probably need busting out of jail at some point.

According to Frisvold the whole spiritist movement of the late 1800's and 1900's had a big effect on all the creoles.

Palo - Congo
Kimbanda - Angola
Vodou - Yoruba

Traditionally, the Angolan's were the most sexually liberated so the emphasis and accomadation of sexual expression stands to reason. Among the Palo, women and homosexuals are not allowed into the priesthood.

Rufus Opus said...

Jack, when it seems like you've got no enemies around, it's time to double up on the mars and saturn rites. They've gotten WAY too close.

Jack Faust said...

@R.O.: the Day of Saturn / Hour of the Moon sigil is almost done.

Barry said...

Considering his background, I get why Robert Laremy called Umbanda, Quimbanda, and similar Congo-derived faiths "Brazilian Palo." There are quite a few parallels, both in cosomology, and in practice, to Cuban Palo. The title of the book bothers me a bit, though. It might resemble Palo, but it ain't Palo. Hell, a lot of the stuff he talks about is in Umbanda, in addition to being in the Kimbanda he focuses on.

If you're interested in the layout of the pontos riscados, it might be worth checking out Dr. Fu-Kiau's "African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo." He describes in depth the Congo Cross and the vision of the universe it expresses, which can help decode these different Congo-derived spirit signatures.

Valentines: Pretos Viejos are the old black slaves, seen in Umbanda. There's an Umbanda Bianca group in Santa Cruz County, California, that trances them and the Cabocolos in public rituals monthly, or at least they used to. Also, the ban on homosexuals is a Cuban thing and apparently wasn't ever practiced in the Congo. I know of several paleros in the US whose lines no longer have bans on the gay, including mine.