Black Spirituality Religion : Nsambi-Nkisi: BaKongo Cosmology

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Sekhemu, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    The Nkisi is the object which is ritually worshipped. It is the central to all ceremonies in Palo (Mayombe). Every Nkisi encapsulates an Mpungo. Mpungo is a Kongo Deity, much like a catholic saint, Nkita. The pantheon of mpungo, kimpungulu are classified as deityies that serve a purpose and are associated with an aspect of nature (thunder, land, wind etc.) Because of the development of Palo practices in Cuba and because of its antiquity it is difficult if not impossibel to find the exact names of these deities in Afrika although one can find mpungo of similar purpose and characteristics. While mpungos are numbered in the hundreds there are still many others that few know about because little or no published informatoin on rare nkisi from Cuba. Cuban kimpungulu are often associated with Yoruba Orisa.

    Beliefs surrounding Palo Mayombe extend beyond the worship of Mpungo. Palo is a henotheistic religion that believes in a Supreme Being called Nsambi.

    Nsambi, Sambia, Nsambiampungo, Pungun Sambia, Sambia Liri, Sambia Surukuru, Sambia Bilongo; the high God, made the heavens, the stars, the sun, the moon and the Earth. He/She created nature and their forces. After a time of watching storms, blizzards, and heat, Sambia decided to create animals. Then created man and woman. After creating man and woman, Sambia to them how to survive in the world. Sambia also taught man and woman how to work with the forces of nature and their spirits and taught us them of the Nkisi, the Makutos, Ngangas and how to build them.

    Although very transcendent and removed from the activities of human beings in comparison with the Nkisi, he is still venerated with prayers, songs, and chants before attempting to venerate any ministers or Nkisi.

    Lukankanse/Lucambe/Kadiampembe

    Considered by many to be equivalent to the Christian devil. Some say he is an aspect of Nsambe and does not oppose "him/her" or its work in the Judeo Christian sense of the word. These forces of nature are considered playful, trick and dangerous for those who cannot handle their energy. Many Paleros (Priests) describe anything that is associated with Lucambe as ndoki. In essence this is truly a misuse of the word ndoki. Ndoki is anything that has "power." A palero can be an Nganga Nsambi and be more ndoki than another.

    In contemporary Kongo society anyone that is extremely good at something may be referred to as Ndoki. A doctor or dancer may be ndoki. It is for this reason that there exist ndoki bueno and ndoki malo-good ndoki and bad ndoki. The main thing about ndokis that are built is that "nsalan con el viento" - they work with the wind. Names like whirlwind/tornado are also prevalent. Ndoki malo does not work with the Christian imagery, it does not like anything that strictly refers to any signs of benevolence or mercy. It is for this reason that you will find some prendas (consecrated cauldrons filled with earth, sticks, bones, herbs and various sacred objects) that contain no crucifix. Unlike Nsambi, Lugambe can be directly "worked" with since he has his own fetish. This prenda is reserved for very experienced Tatas (Priest). Lugambe has been described by one Tata who possesses him as, "an entity of extreme light but he is hard to control."

    Mpungo

    Lucero/Nkuyo/Manunga/Lubaniba


    He is a warrior. He is one that brings true balance. Guides all things through paths to accomplish the work that needs to be done and he is the stabilizer of our lives and our healh. Some people compare him to the Yoruba Esu.

    There are ramas (Branches) that prepare Lucero in a cement bust with cowries for eyes, ears, nose and mouth, similar to Esu. However there are several munansos of Palo that prepare him in a clay or iron cauldron. A palo elder, Tata Manuel Kongo, explains below that there are several different types of luceros. These include:

    Lucero Malongo-Serve to guide the individuals that have received it.

    Luceros de Guia- They are the luceros that guide and Nkisi. In some lines every Nkisi has a lucero guide.

    Luceros Ndoki/Kini Kini- Similar to the chicheriku of the Yoruba. These can live outside or inside an Nkisi. They are there to help the Nkisi and can be sent out to do malicious acts. They are made using wooden dolls.

    Fundamentos de Luceros- These are completely built Luceros Mundos.

    Luceros Guardieros- They functions as guardians, also known as "Guardieros Talanquera, Oficio Puerta."

    The name Lucero derives from the Spanish word "star." This is because the Kongos believed that the stars represented the spirits of the "Nkuyo", especially shooting stars.

    Zarabanda

    Zarabanda is the energy of working and strength. Zarabanda is a very populare and prominent prenda. Zaraband is the epitome of raw energy being focused into solidity.

    With is machete (Mbele), Zarabanda keeps man and spirits in line with threat of falling under the very weapons that he provided. He is the ultimate in Kongo warfare. He is the "tronco mayor," eldest, in the Brillumba rites. His role in Palo is indispendable, there are those that believe that a palero is not complete until he has received Zarabanda because Zarabanda is the owner of the Knife, the mbele, mbele kasuso and mbele mbobo which allow the tata to "work" by using the knife to sacrifice animals and initiate others.

    Siete Rayos/Mukiamamuilo/Nsasi/Sabranu Nsansi

    Seven lightning bolts in English, or Nsasi in Bantu. Nsasi is a multifaceted prenda. Hes the Tronco Mayor of Mayomber branches. In "pure" Mayombe he is the only mpungo that is "worked" with.

    He is the action of burning in all forms, from the candle to the lightning bolt. He is the Kongo god of Thunder. The royal palm found in the tropics and subtropics are sacred to him because they draw his energy to the Earth by enticing lightning to strike them.

    Siete Rayos is propitiated with stones from the forest. at the foot of a Royal palm tree, or anywhere that lightning has been known to strike.

    Watariamba/Nkuyo Lufo/Saca Empeno/Nguatariamba Enfumba Bata/Cabo Rondo/ Vence Betaya

    Watariamba, Vence Batalla, or Saca Empeno is the god of the hunt and war, he is usually accompanied by the tools of Zarabanda, with whom he has a pact. Due to the rarity of the contents of this Nkisi what is usually done is, Zarabanda is given with a "pact of Watariamba" allowing the Palero to have both mpungos in one Nkisi. He is swift justice.

    GuruNfinda/Sinduala Ndundu Yambaka Butan Seke

    GuruNfinda is the Nkisis of what the forest has to provide. He is the god of herbal medicine. Without GuruNfinda, no potion, remedy, medicine, or magic could exist. He is the proverbial owner of Palo. GuruNfinda is hung in a pouch called a makuto, or resguardo de seke in many homes. In rare form will you this mpungo inside a cauldron. He can also be put in a clay dish. GuruNfinda "completes" the Tata and given him "license" to work with the sticks and plants necessary. When and individual buys sticks to work with, he/she must have a pact with GuruNfinda done to sanctify the sticks. He is strikingly ls similar to the Yoruba Osain.

    All plants and sticks that grow in the forest are alive and inhabited with a strength that is derived from the earth, the sky, water that falls on it for it to grow GuruNfinda is the deified presentation of such pacts.

    Madre de Agua/Kalunga/Mama Kalunga/Pungo Kasimba/Mama Umba/Mbumba Mamba/Nkita Kiamasa/Nkita Kuna Mamba/Baluande

    Rules over Yimbi or Simbi Nkita-spirits of the water that are consecrated and put into Nkisi Masa.

    Water spirits are also called Nkisi Mamba as is the sacred mix of plants with water thta is often consecrated and used for a variety of purposes. Spirits from the woods - Nkisi Misenga, Nkita Minseke, Minseke.

    Mother of the water, or Kalunga and baluande in Bakongo, is the energy of protective motherhood. A Palero will call upon her to release the force of an enraged mother to visit her wrath on the childs abuser. She is the force that heals as a midwife, or harms as would an abusive parent. Wate is her attribute. Water which gives all life, and takes it at will. Its force is the life giving amniotic fluid or drowning flood. All water is her domain.

    Unlike Yoruba/Lukumi her power extends beyond that of motherhood and fishes to the land of the dead. Because water is seen as the dividing line between the living and the dead, she is one of the most feared Nkisi.

    End of Part 1.
     
  2. I-khan

    I-khan Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    :welldone: :welldone: :welldone: I may not always reply but I AM reading and sharin it.
     
  3. nibs

    nibs Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    (Sekhemu) - Unlike Yoruba/Lukumi her power extends beyond that of motherhood and fishes to the land of the dead. Because water is seen as the dividing line between the living and the dead, she is one of the most feared Nkisi.

    we tip toed around this principle in the music producer's nebuchanezzer thread.
    the lotus flower that emerges from the water during the day, and submerges in the evening.
    the day is symbolic of life, the evening, the path of the soul (and spirit) after death.
    water is the divider, and representative of the spiritual realm.

    life does not begin at birth, but in the realm of the spirits, which return to the physical realm. "emerge from water"

    we can see the human analogy in pregnancy, and the placental waters where human life begins, and where the spirit joins the developing fetus.

    when wsr was murdered by set and the 72 fiends, his coffin was thrown into water; thus again symbolizing that descent into the underworld.
     
  4. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Absolutely!

    Brotha Nibs,

    Tell me what you think of this thread

    http://destee.com/forums/showthread.php?t=39343&page=2
     
  5. OmowaleX

    OmowaleX Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Brother Sekhemu,

    I was wondering if you plan on continuing the thread you are referencing here.

    I found it most informative and was looking forward to more revelation.

    By the way, this is excellent information you are providing here. I am trying to digest and look more carefully to the links between the Congo to Missisippi River peoples, both of which had ties to Cuba, before columbus.

    Prior to the Assiento, a lot of our people were brought to Florida, Cuba and Santo Domingo from the Congo and Angola and I am sure that the Black Maroons and the South Carolina Gullah retained some practices which later were associated with the "Vodun" in Louisiana Territory.
     
  6. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Yes brotha Om, I certainly will.

    I've been so busy the lately and as you can see I don't come on the site as often as I used to.

    I'll add to the thread in question this afternoon and complete parts ll and lll to the thread I've started right here.

    Ase
     
  7. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Part ll-Bakongo In Georgia and Florida

    By Ann Morrow

    Cemeterues are a rich example of cultural and ethnic diversity. Burial practices tend to be vivid manifestations of cultural homeostasis. Since such customs are slow to change, one can witness today, in the remnants of the grave, factors of an ethnic group's ancient material culture. Remnants of an African belief in an afterlife can be deciphered through late 19th century and early 20th century African-American cemeteries. African customs and religions, introduced to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade, underwent a cultural synthesis, emerging in a contemporary African-American manifestation of a Christianized "cult" of the dead. This rich and diverse trend is readily apparent in the cemeteries of the north Florida panhandle.

    Of specific interest here is the religion and history of the Bakongo people. Traditional kongo geography includes parts of the contemporary countries of Bas-Zaire, Cabinda, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and northern Angola. Many groups in this region share key cultural and religious concepts with the Bakongo and also suffered, with them, the ordeals of the transatlantic slave trade. Large numbers of Bakongo people entered Georgia and north Florida in the 19th century.

    Anthropologist have long acknowledged the impact of the Kongo people on the African-American populaton of the southeast United States especially in the influence on Black English, visual traditions and burial customs. These funerary practices can be witnessed in the bordering of individual graves, the scraping of graves so that the soil above the deceased remains grassless; the application of cookware, glass and other domestic objects, particuliarly white ones. to the grave; placement of trees and vegetation. I propose that this influence can be further identified in the cemeteries of Black Americans in north Florida through "T" shaped headstones particular to Black cemeteries in the 1920's through the 1950's. I suggest that, while thoroughly regarded today as decorative and Christian motifs, these elements were directly inspired by the Kongo cosmogram of the Four Moments of the Sun, an extraodinary powerful and prevalent symbol in Bakongo cosmological theory and mortuary ritual.

    All of these customs, just briefly mentioned, have a particular purpose and reflect directly their African predecessors. If the deceased is displeased with the interment, or is disturbed, the spirit can return to the land of the living with the capacity to do good or evil. Thus the spirit must be pacified and directed into the world of the dead. African-American burial traditions reflect the acknowledgment that the ancestral spirit is present at the grave. This illusive presence has been coined the "Flash of the Spirit" by scholar Robert Farris Thompson, who along with John Michael Vlach, is thoroughly published on these subjects.

    The importance placed on delineating the boundary or border of a grave may be explained by Bakongo ritual beliefs surrounding sacred herbal medicines. Ngangas (Healers) employed ritual charms, divination, powerful spirits or herbal recipes to affect the world. One of the most powerful herbal ingredients used by the Banganga mbuki (Herbal Healers), was grave dirt konw as goofer or goofer-dust. The practices of the Nganga and their ingredients including goofer, were transferred to African American culture. The mortuary practices of the Bakongo people, even today, specifically suggest a general and unconcious idea of a sacred space as bounded and oriented. Hence the Bakong today, like African-Americans, face their deceased toward the east. They are literally oriented and bounded by the grave borders.

    The emphasis given to borders and grave soil is evidenced in the consistent use of cement slabs, fencin and vegetation. The Kongo and early African-Americans graves were often created as scrape graves; grass was not allowed to cover the area of earthy directly above the body. This practice created a delineation around the grave. Today the cement slab is a unique and consistent part of African-American cemeteries harkening back to the tradition of the grassless, scraped grave. Anthropologist have witnessed contemporary rituals in lower Kongo where children are required to go into a cemetery before the burial and clear the area of grass. Ms. Chester Hayes of Tallahassee Florida, remembers as a child having to clear grass from his grandmother's grave and keep the dirt mounded until his family could afford to have a cement slab placed there.

    Much like votive offerings, various household good were left for the deceased person's spirit at the grave. Thompson suggest that the grave, with its goofer-dust, and grave goods are a "charm for the persistence of the spirit." African-American funerary traditions are constant reminders of Thompson's concept of "The Flash of the Spirit." He explains that while the grave is the container, the spirit itself is a spark. The grave goods left on top of the burial were actually believed to contain a bit of the spark as is expressed in the point of view of a Bakongo woman: Plates and cups and drinking glasses are frequently selected for placement on the surface of a tomb. It is believed that the last strength of a dead person is still present within that sort of object.... My own mother died while I was away. When I return to my village, and visit her grave, I shall touch her plate and cup. After I touch them, later I will dream... according to the way my mother wanted. By touching these objects automatically I comprehend the Mambu (affairs, matters) my mother was wiling to transmit to me.

    The perception of the grave as a contact point with the spark of the spirit world is thus heightened.

    Leaving the last objects the dead ever touched in life was believed to complete the spirit in Africa and to pacify the spirit in Africa-America. A Black couple interviewed in Georgia noted "I don't guess you be bothered much by the spirits if you give 'em a good funeral and put the things what belong to 'em on top of the grave... You must puts all the things what they use like the dishes and the medicine bottle. The spirits need these same things as the man. The spirit rest and don't wander about."

    Containers of varying types are the most popular grave good placed on African-American plots. Usually these containers are purposefully broken so that they retain their shape but are no longer useable. A woman in Georgia suggested that this was done in order to break the chain of death. If the offerings are not broken then other family members will quickly follow the deceased into the spirit world. In north Florida today one can find a variety of cook ware, ceramic cups, mason jars, enameled-metal bowls, glasses, depression glass, and milk glass wares scattered about African-American cemeteries.

    The prevalence of glass ware, especially of white ware, is again indicative of the "Flash of the Spirit." Thompson explains that the realm of the spirits is believed by some Kongo to be "the white realm." In order to release or honor spirit powers a white chicken is often sacrificed on the grave. Small white or glass chickens are placed on Kongo inspired graves in both Africa and the Americas. The closest visual similarity I have found to this practice is the prevalence of statues of white swans of planters; of course, one must also take into consideration the commercial designs available. There may be no connection other than the coincidence of design in floral equiptment. Nevertheless, the gleaming whiteness of milk glass, the sparkle of broken edges of clear glass in the sun, the bleached presence of bright white shells, white washed markers, and very popular white landscaping gravel marking the scraped grave certainly remind the visitor of the spark of ever-present spirit. African-American cemeteries are also often marked by the use of foil that catches the sun creating the sharp glimmer of shining white light. Some communities in Kongo and Haiti have replaced the use of white shells with white tile that is highly reflective of light, also associated with water. In order to analyze the persistent placement of sea shells and the use of bathroom tile, both associated with water, the Bakongo perception of the world must be considered.

    Bakongo cosmological philosophy goes far in explaining their spiritual beliefs as they relate to these local cemeteries.
    The N'Kongo (i.e. an inhabitant of the capital of Kongo) thought of the earth as a mountain over a body of water which is the land of the dead, called Mpemba. In Mpemba the sun rises and sets just as it does in the land of the living...the water is both a passage and a great barrier. The world, in Kongo thought, is like two mountains opposed at their bases and seperated by the ocean.
    At the rising and setting of the sun the living and the dead exchange day and night. The setting of the sun signifies man's death and its rising, his rebirth, or the continuity of his life. Bakongo believe and hold it true thta man's life has no end, that it constitutes a cycle, and death is merely a transition in the process of change
     
  8. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    By Definition, Cosmology is the study of the cosmos and of creation, its essence lies in the hidden things of Nzambi A Mpungu (All poweful God), the cosmology of the soul (Nsala) is the structure given by man in attempts to understand what is God like and divine in nature under license of creation and of higher intelligence in the wisdom of Kimbangu which is the Ngolo or force of creation.

    The system of the Yowa cross is used to give some form of understanding as to the coming and goings of the soul from the four points of the sun. From the dawn to noon to dusk to midnight. Each point holding a rulership over the soul-mind or soul-spirit.

    The soul is understood as the collective memory of all past existences called minds. Luzcena in Kinkongo means head or mind and is the seat of the spirit for that life.

    The mind-spirit is apart from the soul while it is in matter or in a body, yet the Nsala is around the head of the Luzcena, always near by keeping note and watching the progress of the mind-spirit (Similar to the Yoruba Ori).

    When a body expires, the mind-spirit leaves matter, but since it is energy, it is immortal and vagabonds on earth until the "light appears", which is the soul-Nsala seeking to join with the mind-spirit and continue onto its next evolution (incarnation) in the plan set by Kimbangu for the government of creation by Nzambi A Mpungu.

    The mind-spirit many times rejects this union out of fear of reunion due to actions falling short of what was required of the mind-spirit to learn or to do while on earth as a body.

    The light disappears and returns to beckon back to the mind-spirit in the progression of nines, days-weeks-months-years and decades. After which if the union has not occurred, the mind-spirit is forced to re-incarnate in the body of a challenged person however the cosmos decides this will be. This is done to allow the mind to re-live in a body pass away so that it may rejoin the soul-nsala and continue its good voyage on the Yowa cross as a CONTRIBUTING FACTOR IN CREATION.

    There are branches within Bakongo cosmology that have "broadened" this equation, such as the existential approach Kimpasi and Lemba lines have of being more than techno aspects of operation all of whom have made substantial and significant contributions to Bakongo lineages such as Kimbisa and Xianmaloango and some of the Bryumba branches which seek to advance Bakongo cosmology to degrees once held in High Respects.

    The soul, far from being some fictional ideal, is a very real and vibrant being. Throughout the history of mankind, the existence of the soul has been the basis of all major religions and initiate teachings and its nature has been often perilously recorded and taught in the ancient wisdom. Esoteric cosmolog teaches that the soul is an entity that, like man himself, is evolving.

    Indeed, esoteric cosmology stands on the proposition that man is the outward representative of a twin evolution: The evolution of the personality of humanity on a physical planet in a planetary scheme, linked to the evolution of a human soul in schemes that exist in much rarer and subtler substances than that of the physical realm.

    This is not such a difficult concept to grasp if we realize that even the grossest living physical structures have subtle, visible parts to them. The hard wood of the hickory, ebony and walnut trees is comprised of living cells, and each piece of wood has living protoplasm, aminco acids and filaments of the most ethereal nature. We, as human personalities, are the outermost, dense structure of a complex being whose subtle part lies in the stream of evolution or higher Xian or higher spirits.

    In order for the soul to evolve, it has to incarnate in matter, because the basic law of evolution necessitates involution. The purpose of incarnation in matter is to learn to dominate the corporeal world and to add this quality to the spark within us. As the physical, emotional, and mental bodies of the human personality undergo the welter of experience in matter they simply become repolarized over many lives, and their higher counterparts in the soul of "Santo cristo/holy christ." Not as a christian but a being seeking Christism, one of the sons/daughters of the creator, superimposed on the progress of the soul which needs to be one with the oneness.

    This occurs when the personality begins to release itself from the bonds of the corporeal world.

    Ase
     
  9. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    The coiled shape of the conch shell, seen over and over again in north Florida cemeteries, sybolized to the Bakongo people the daily passage the sun makes from the world of the living into the world of the dead. But, similarly, the shell represent the circular passage the spirit makes as it it is reborn in the corporeal world crossing into the next via death, mysteriously passing through the primordial ocean, only to be reborn again. Placed on the grave the spiralled shell can be viewed as a cosmic map giving directions to the deceased. The shell was believed to enclose the soul's immortal presence. There are many examples of the spiraled conch shell resting on African-American graves in the Tallahassee area today. The basic association of the shell with water, the barrier between this world and the next, suggest a sacred association with many shells indigenous to north Florida. I have found examples of oyster, scallom, and muscle shells on graves in this area. There is archaelogical evidence that such plentiful shells were used to outline graves of African-Americans creating a very important boundary or barrier between the grave and the corporeal world.

    In addition to the shell and cement slabs one can witness in Black cemeteries today there were other ways of emphasizing the borders of the grave. Burials enclosed by bodern fences of the greave. Burials are enclosed by fences of pig wire, landscape fencing, cement block walls, ornamental stone and vegetation. Plants are often used to delineate the sacred grave with its powerful goofer-dust from the outside corporeal world. Howeve, plants not only seperate the sacred from the corporeal but also help to keep the ancestor at rest in the spirit world. Sweet smells entice the spirit to stay in the ground where it belongs. There are countless examples of daffodils, paper whites, gardenias, azaleas and a variety of evergreens planted around African-American graves. Trees at the grave site are also important indicators of the spirit. They join the corporeal world with the spirit world below with their roots. Kongo elders have explained in reference to planting trees on burial sites. This tree is a sign of spirit on its way to the other world. Like the spiral shell the tree in its entirety is a map for the spirit in attaining its final destination. Thus once can see that the grave in African-American culture is not merely the final resting place for the earthly remains but a place where the corporeal world meets and interacts with the spiritual world. Great harm or good can emerge from the interaction at this crossroads. The geographic location of the grave is akin more to an altar than a single hole in the ground.
    The Bakongo cosmological theory has a powerful and prevalent visual manifestation known as the Kongo cosmogram or the Four Moments of the Sun, as is explained by Robert T. Farris and Joseph Cornet in their book by this title. In Kongo-Africa the cosmogram, in its many forms, is directly associated with the mortuary rites and ritual. Depictions there of the cosmogram are often found on funerary sculpture, urns, pottery, tombs or other monuments associated with death. In its most basic form, the cosmogram is a greek cross. It represents the division of the earthly realm from the spirit realm at a sacred point on the ground of the dead and under all-seeing God. This cross is known as the Kongo Yowa. Not to be confused with cross of Jesus, the Kongo yowa is a map of a circular cosmology that suggest the motion of souls within the universe, much like the conch shell. The horizontal line marks the water boundary between ntoto (earth) and mpemba ( which translates as white clay or the mountain of the dead). Often the arms of this equal armed cross are capped with the circles symbolizing the sun and drawn with arrows indicating rotation of both and of souls circulating from the corporeal realm, into the underworld only to turn again. This Kongo poem explains:
    Man turns in the path
    He merely turns in the path
    The priest the same
     
  10. Amnat77

    Amnat77 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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