Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Divination with Chamalongos

One of my favorite divination tools when doing spell work for clients are my chamalongos. The chamalongos come from the Congo-Cuban religion of Palo and are used as the primary method of divination with the spirits and powers. They consist of round pieces of coconut husk (flesh removed), sanded, prepared and consecrated in a Palo ceremony. I use four pieces of coconut husk in my chamalongo readings. Only an initiated priest or priestess in Palo can use the chamalongos as they draw upon the spiritual pacts made with the spirits of the dead and the powers with which we work, in order to communicate properly.

How Chamalongos Work
Chamalongos answer yes/no questions very effectively, and as such can be used to check whether spells have been set up properly, to check whether something has been overlooked, or whether the spirits are in accordance with the work being done. I typically use them to make sure my spirits give me permission to proceed with the work, to find out if the timing is correct, to find out what spell needs to be done and to confirm the messages my spirits are giving me.

Channeled and intuitive messages are the cornerstone of any Palero’s spell work. The Nfumbes (spirits of the dead) and his Nikisis (powers of the religion) inspire the mind of the initiated priest, directing him to prepare his spells, symbols, ingredients and workings accordingly. It is for this reason that the Palero needs to confirm that he is interpreting the messages clearly. Additionally, the Palero can ask the pot in which his primary power resides whether the message is right or if it is an intruding message from a mischievous spirit. (Not all spirits are helpful!)

The chamalongos answer the Palero’s questions when they are tossed on the floor. The orientation of the pieces (concave-side up or concave-side down) gives a yes or no answer. There are 5 different orientations or “letters” that can come up in the 4-piece system I use.

The 5 Letters of a Chamalongo Reading
The chamalongos speak in 5 primary “letters” or answers. These letters are similar to the ones used in the Lukumí system of Obí, and with the recent common trend of many Paleros also being initiated in Lukumí practice, the names of the Lukumí letters have been adopted within Palo although this is not orthodox. Here is a listing of the 5 letters and how they are interpreted. In the diagrams below, the white circles (+) indicate concave-side up, while the dark circles (O) indicate concave-side down.

++++ (Alafia)
Answer: Yes. Peace and success in your efforts.

O+++ (Etawa)
Answer: Maybe/Tenuous. You need to throw the chamalongos a second time to determine if the answer is yes or no. If you get ++++, or ++OO on the second throw the answer is yes. If you get +OOO or OOOO on the second throw, the answer is no. If you get another O+++, the answer is yes, but a weak and tenuous yes. Try another option or question to see if you can get a firmer response.

OO++ (Eyeife)
Answer: Yes. A firm and hearty yes. Balance, success and complete affirmation.

OOO+ (Ocana)
Answer: No. This will result in failure. This is a clear no answer.

OOOO (Ocana Yekun)
Answer: No. This is a very dark omen and indicates not only complete failure but that death or the spirits of the dead are lurking in the area and demanding attention. It is usually a good idea to side-track your questions to see if there is a spirit of the dead that is demanding some kind of payment or offering, ascertain who the spirit is, what they want, then do it, before continuing back with your original line of questions.

How to Conduct a Chamalongo Reading
The most important parts of a chamalongo reading are the prayer before hand and the openness of mind to receive guidance from your spirits to take the right line of questioning. Anyone can toss coconut shells, but not everyone can take a yes/no line of questioning in the right direction to flesh out all of the details you need for a spell.

The praying begins with invoking the authority of God the Creator (Nsambimpungo) the supreme force of nature that created everything, then proceeds on to invoking the authority of your initiator, your initiatory mother, your initiator’s spirits, your initiatory mother’s spirits, your spirits, the power to which you are initiated, and then to the spirits or powers you are addressing. The prayer is finished with an identification of yourself by your initiatory name, and a simple explanation of what you are seeking to do magically.

The first question is always “Are you willing to assist me with this?” followed by an opening toss of the chamalongos. If the answer is affirmative then I proceed with presenting the idea I have for the spell and ask if it is “Ncheche bacheche?” (firm/solid/good) followed by a toss of the chamalongos. If I receive a positive response, I thank them, set up the spell and then ask “Is all of this ncheche bacheche?” (Is this all set up properly?) and if I get an affirmative, I pray over it, light up the candles and the magic begins. If I ever get a “no” answer then I usually begin a line of questioning where I listen to recommendation from my spirits and ask if I should alter my spell or working by adding something or removing something. Once everything is fine then I’ll do the spell.

Closing a Chamalongo Reading
One of the final steps I do with the chamalongos is to close out the reading/working by asking my spirits/powers “Is everything ncheche bacheche with me?” This is their opportunity to speak up and let me know if I need to cleanse myself or do something, or perhaps attend to a shrine that I’ve been neglecting, etc. Sometimes spirits will insist that you need to take a bath, or be cleaned with a special symbol, other times they’ll ask for you to do spiritual work or perhaps offer prayers to elevate your spirits. Once they give an affirmative answer, the reading is closed and the work is complete.


Carolina Dean said...

Thanks for sharing this Dr. E I feel like I have a better understanding of how this system works.

I really enjoyed the parts in which you describe how the spirits assist you in your work.

And chamalongos is just one of those cool words you like saying.....

geomante said...

Regarding the possibility of being deceived by some trickster spirit, I guess this can happen with any oracle, as long as you want to see a spirit, is that correct?
So the best thing for those who have no way to ascertain or to protect from the intervention of any spirit cheat, is not to involve any spirit during a reading. Am I right? or is that one spirit can sabotage a reading even if one does not involve them?

Dr. E. said...

Geomante: In regards to the Chamalongos, if you are an initiated priest in Palo then there is no risk of trickster spirits getting involved because the spirits to which you are speaking are directly in control of the oracle. This is not like tarot cards. It is a sacred oracle of a religion and it always speaks the truth.

geomante said...

I understand Dr. E. but I wanted to know is whether it is possible that a trickster spirit manipulate an oracle (such as tarot), although not requested assistance to any spirit for a reading. I mean a common oracle, not one consecrated.