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A nganga shrine for the mpungo Sarabanda under his Spanish-language name Rompe-Monte or "Breaker of the Wilderness"

Kimpungulu are the primary deities of the native Congo religion and its diaspora in the Americas. The singular form of kimpungulu is mpungo or mpungu, and in the Americas, where few devotees speak proper kikongo, and plurals are usually designated by the addition of a final letter "s", a novel back-formation of the plural has been coined, so these gods and goddesses are more familiarly known as the mpungos. The kimpungulus or mpungos are natural spirit entities who were brought into being by the creator god Nzambi (also called Nsambi, Sambi, or Nsambi Mpungo) in order to rule the forces of nature, tend to the spirits of the dead, and look after humanity’s needs.

The mpungos are worshipped in several religions, each of which can be traced back to its origins in the Kikongo-speaking tribes of modern day Congo and Angola. The first waves of slaves who were brought to the Americas came from these tribes. They brought their magical and religious ways to Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Thus were born diasporic traditions such as Las Reglas de Congo (also known as Palo Monte), Kumina, Umbanda, and Quimbanda. There is also a shared magical Congolese ancestry in Obeah and Hoodoo (rootwork), in both of which the magical practices of Congo tribes are employed without reference to the African liturgical religious aspects.

The descendants of the Congo slaves adapted their native practices to their new lands and, in nations where the majority religion was Catholicism, they often had to conceal the worship of African gods behind the façade of Catholic church saints. The identification of deities from one religion with those of another religion is called syncretism. While some syncretism took place in Africa before the slaves were taken, most of it took root in the Americas. It is for this reason that adherents to some African diasporic traditions refer to the mpungos as "saints" and draw parallels between the two. As waves of slaves were brought to the Americas, people from different tribes that once had no contact were forced to coexist and depend on each other for survival. Consequently, exchanges of magical techniques and liturgical parallels were drawn between the mpungos and other African diasporic pantheons including the orishas of La Regla Lukumí (also known as Santería).

In the Americas the worship of the mpungos is primarily found in Las Reglas de Congo, which is commonly called Palo Monte or simply Palo. The name Palo Monte means “stick of the wilderness” in Spanish, indicating the tradition’s tendency to use sticks from various trees and plants in religious and magical work. Palo Monte has several lineages or magical schools of practice, including Palo Mayombe, Kimbisa and Brillumba. Because of Palo’s long history in the early Spanish colonization of the Americas, most prayers and liturgy are conducted in a unique blend of Kikongo and Spanish.

Religious syncretism can be seen thought diasporic Palo. In some lineages, called "Palo Cristiano," adherents use the imagery of the cross of Jesus and figures of Catholic saints as representations of the mpungos. However, in other lineages, called "Palo Judio," there is no syncretization with Catholic imagery. The name Palo Judio literally means "Jewish Palo", but the term "Jewish" as used here does not refer to the Jewish religion; rather it is metaphorical shorthand for "refusing to convert to Christianity," that is, in the case of Palo, "purely Congo African." It is important to note that because of European economic pressure, the Kingdom of Kongo had officially converted to Catholicism while still an independent nation during the late 15th century and that the religious syncretism extended well into the era of slavery, reaching its height under the leadership of Kimpa Vita (1684 – 1706), who promoted Saint Anthony of Padua as "a second God." Thus it is obvious that much of Palo Cristiano's Christian syncretism, as well as Palo Judio's resistance to Christian syncretism, originated in colonial Africa, not Cuba, Puerto Rico, or elsewhere in the African diaspora.

Some adherents of Palo Cristiano associate the mpungos with the orishas of Santeria, a different religion. Thus Nsasi (also known as Nsambi Munalembe and Siete Rayos) is said by these devotees to be equivalent Saint Barbara of the Catholic church or Shango or Chango in Santeria. Furthermore, because of syncretism with Kardecian Spiritism in New World Palo, a spiritual mass (misa) may be held as a way to contact ancestors, the spirits of the dead, or other spirit guides. A misa may also be held before a Palo Monte initiation, in order to identify the main spirits who will look after and defend the initiate in life.

Petitioning the Kimpungulu

A palero's shrine for the mpungo Siete Rayos (Nsasi) and his spirit guides
A Palo Kimbisa curse using a coconut and several trazos (ritual symbols)
A Palo Mayombe nganga (shrine) for the mpungo Sarabanda

In traditional Congo worship, the energy of each mpungo or force of nature resides in a container (usually a cauldron or terra cotta pot) called an nkisi, nganga, or prenda (Spanish for jewel). (It is interesting to note that in Africa, nganga is the name for a priest, not the pot.) The pot typically contains sticks, different earths and items of power along with an nfumbe (spirit of the dead) who acts as an agent for that mpungo to accomplish deeds in the world. The nganga is essentially a microcosm of the universe. The consecrated priest (called a Tata or Yaya) who owns the nganga uses it to cast spells, or make agreements and pacts with the mpungo. Each mpungo has its own animal sacrifices, offerings, foods, colors, and sacred numbers. Communication with the mgungo is usually accomplished through chamalongo divination, nkobo divination (similar to diloggún divination) or through a form of scrying called "vititi mensu" using a special tool in the nganga called an mpaka (a small horn filled with magical items, sealed with a mirror). Palo has a very intense and powerful relationship between the mpungos, the spirits of the dead (nfumbes) and the priest in the religion. Because of the prominent role played by priests in African Traditional and Diasporic Religions, individual adherents do not create their own prendas, and because the dead are powerful forced in the Congo religions, it is common for the practices of Spiritism and African ancestral worship to be integrated into the Palo traditions in the Americas.

Worship of the mpungos outside of the traditional Congo religions is uncommon, and most devotees typically resort to leaving offerings before images of the Catholic Saints in their magical work, then depositing in nature afterward. For example, a devotee of Lucero Mundo might leave an offering out in the wilderness once he is done praying over it. In recent times, some rootworkers have added petitioning the mpungos to their hoodoo altar work and spell casting, dressing conjure candles with condition oils and placing them before images of the saints along with offerings of fruits or flowers and prayers to the mpungos.

The following mpungos are some of the most popularly petitioned for aid by conjure doctors and hoodoo practitioners with ties to the African diaspora religions, or who serve a Latin American client base. Each one has a story -- and a magical or spiritual specialty when it comes to helping people. Click on an mpungo's name to read about the mpungo, see a picture, and find out what kinds of prayers, petitions, and spell-craft are associated with the mpungos as well as which Catholic saints are typically identified with it.

Popular Kimpungulu

Chola Wengue (Mama Chola, Chola Nengue)

Chola Wengue is the mpungo of love, richness and pleasures. (Read More ...)

Kalunga (Madre de Agua, Mama Kalunga, Baluande)

Kalunga is the mpungo of water, motherhood and fertility. (Read More ...)

Kobayende (Pata Llaga, Cobayende, Tata Nfumbe)

Kobayende is the mpungo of diseases and healing. (Read More ...)

Ma Kengue (Tiembla Tierra, Pandilanga, Mama Kengue)

Ma Kengue is the mpungo of wisdom, peace and justice. (Read More ...)

Mariwanga (Centella Ndoki, Mama Wanga, Yaya Kengue)

Mariwanga is the mpungo of winds, tornados, fire and is the owner of the cemetery. (Read More ...)

Ngurunfinda (Gurufinda)

Ngurufinda is the mpungo of forest, herbs and magic. (Read More ...)

Nsasi (Siete Rayos, Mukiamamuilo)

Nsasi is the mpungo of thunder, fire, magic and war, and a king of the Palo religion. (Read More ...)

Nzambi (Nsambi, Sambi or Nsambi Mpungo)

Nzambi is the creator-god or originator of the universe. (Read More ...)

Nkuyu (Lucero Mundo, Nkuyo)

Nkuyu (Nkuyo, Lucero Mundo) is the mpungo of the crossroads, wilderness, guidance and balance. (Read More ...)

Sarabanda (Rompe Monte, Zarabanda)

Sarabanda is the mpungo of work, iron, war and strength, and is one of the two primary ngangas in Palo. (Read More ...)

Watariamba (Vence Batalla)

Watariamba is the mpungo of hunt, war and justice. (Read More ...}

Membership in the Palo Religion

Some Palo lineages hold public services in which the clergy interact both with deities and with the laity. Membership in Palo houses of worship requires initiatic rites of passage such as the rayamiento ceremony or oath-taking in their specific creed.


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See Also

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Pages in category "Kimpungulu"

The following 10 pages are in this category, out of 10 total.




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