Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Brief Review Of Palo Mayombe; The Garden Of Blood And Bones

As mentioned in an earlier post, this past weekend I received my copies of both Palo Mayombe and Pomba Gira by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold. I havent yet begun Pomba gira, simply because Palo Mayombe has had me engrossed and will require at least a couple more read throughs to begin to grasp, and so it is Palo Mayombe alone that I will speak of in this post.

Although I am usually skeptical about books touching on the subject of Palo, since it is a highly guarded tradition and one previously spoken on only in exalted circles of those lucky enough to be initiates, I has quite hopeful that this book would be something special simply because Nicholaj is an author with whom I am familiar and I know first hand that Scarlet Imprint releases only the best of the best. 

I am quite happy to say then that the faith I had put in both Nicholaj and Scarlet Imprint to produce a worthwhile tome on this most elusive of traditions has proven to be well justified, and Palo Mayombe; The Garden of Blood and Bones is most certainly going to be one I read over and over again as years go by. 

My introduction to Nicholaj's writings came via Kiumbanda, A Complete Grammar of the Art of Exu, which I picked up immediately after its release and which is also a volume I can highly recommend, and everything he has written that I've read since then has proven equally valuable.

Palo Mayombe has, although wholly alien to me, always been a fascination of mine simply because despite being in the company of Santeros since I was 15, I had never met anyone who would admit to any knowledge of Palo. In fact anytime it came up, it would inevitably bring with it a sense of fear among those present. While may field of study and practice has always been Grimoiric (with the exception of a couple short years in the tutelage of a GD initiate in the very beginning), I have always been in the company of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Mexicans, Domincans, Columbians, Venezuelans, and every other Spanish speaking peoples due to my affiliation in a certain, eh, fraternal organization which consists of 23,000 members across the US, 94% of whom are one of the above. So whether it was visiting one of my brother's homes and meeting their parent's who are Santeros, or consulting one who at the time owned the only botanica in the city, Santeria and related traditions have always been within arms reach to me - and yet I never found anyone willing to speak of Palo or who didnt shiver when hearing it mentioned. 

For that reason I am extremely grateful to Nicholaj for finally bringing it the widespread attention it deserves and allowing me to break down the long held assumptions instilled in me by the aforementioned shudders of terror among Santeros that it is a horrifying anomaly among traditions. 

Speaking from an author's perspective, I love the way that Nicholaj takes a very complex topic and explains it in a way that makes it easily understandable to even those with no prior knowledge of the subject. It is a testament to his teaching ability that someone can pick up this book, having never before heard of Palo, and upon finishing it have an excellent, lucid and clear understanding of all that was presented therein.

In summation, this is a work for which we can all be grateful. Not only is it an insider's perspective into the most secretive and elusive of Magickal traditions, but it is as masterfully written as if inspired by the spirits themselves.

OH and lest I forget, it is a truly fucking beautiful book externally as well!


  1. I love Nicholaj's books. I'm totally with you. His Palo Mayombe and Kiumbanda book are part of the books I keep close by my side and re-read frequently simply because I enjoy them so much. Your Crossed Keys has made it into that pile of favorites too ;-)

    I'm very excited for Pomba Gira--still waiting for my copy.

  2. I finally got my copy of Pomba Gira yesterday, and I've got to say Nicholaj has surpassed himself again. When I finally work through Pomba Gira's pages entirely I'll try to get a review up. Still waiting on my deluxe Crossed Keys, but I'm hopefully it will arrive later this week.