*This is based on notes from numerous expeditions I took into the Shadow Realm or La Sombra del Mundo circa 2014 to 2017. A “Palero” is the term for a Priest or Tata of Palo, usually Palo Mayombe.
**The process I used to enter the La Sombra del Mundo I will NOT divulge. It is similar to Astral Projection, but even that is not common information, at all. I am not talking about “imagination” or “guided imagery” or “visualizations”. I literally mean the conscious to nearly conscious transition of awareness to another body which resides in another realm.
I step into darkness…
I become aware that I am walking through a crowded sidewalk toward an open-air market. The foot traffic is thick, coming and going both ways, and I can feel the jostle of other bodies brushing past mine. I realize that my body feels more solid in comparison. They feel nearly weightless. As if hollow and buoyant, like a birthday balloon. When we accidentally collide, I seem to carry more force. The dream-like expression on the people’s face become disturbed by the impact. They must be dreaming, I think. I wonder if that knock might be enough to wake them on the material plane. I theorize my body’s solidity might be a result of my awareness. I cannot say if my density in this realm is in equal measure to my consciousness, but I feel confident there is a correlation.
Closer to the open-air market, it now better resembles a type of carnival or county fair. I am reminded of Knott’s Berry Farms theme park. Shops and vendors are now all around me. Far off in the distance, I can see what could be rides, roller coasters, and a Ferris Wheel. But also extremely tall and narrow towers. I have an ominous feeling looking at them. I have a sensation of familiarity with them, but I can’t clearly state how or why. The landscape of the La Sombra del Mundo, or The Shadow of the World, is intensely dark. The realm was born as the emanations of light and sound projected on the physical world, and its shadow was cast for the first time. It is a hostile realm that, along with most of its denizens, is oppositionally opposed to the living.
The La Sombra del Mundo is where the energy of de-materialization is released and collected from our decaying, crumbling, and disintegrating martial plane. Its inhabitants further break down the trace matter and refine it into a pure state of energy, devoid of what it used to be and capable of being re-manifested. The Realm of Shadow is the Sheol, the gaping pit, and the grave beyond the grave. Like cockroaches, ants, and maggots, its numbers skitter around in the dark, feeding off the dead, dying, and disposed of. They strip the remaining flesh off the bones and gnaw on them until they once again gleam white.
I don’t know how big the La Sombra del Mundo is. It is easy to hear “of the world” and think I mean just earth, this planet. However, by material plane, I mean all of the Universe. The La Sombra de Mundo is the shadow of that. Like space, the La Sombra del Mundo is primarily empty and dark, having specks of light with herculean mind drifts of space between them. I am at one such oasis of light, jam pack with non-physical entities, all attracted to the same dazzling display I was.
I now think to take a better look at myself. Using a mirror inside a small cafe constructed of cardboard and fishing nets, selling extraordinarily strange food, “tiger meat sushi with catfish milk,” and similar fare, I examine my astral body. I look like me for the most part. My initiation into the Solomonic Black Lodge’s vampire mysteries is reasonably apparent. The signs of pacts made with demons and devils show clearly, as do the marks of protection the Rada and Petro Loa gave me. The scratches I received during my initiation into Palo Mayombe glow with blue-green light. I wear the same clothes as the night of my scratching into Palo. With the “collaries” or beads of the priesthood. Around my neck is an amulet of the vampiric demon GULAND of the Grimorium Verum. My red cape from The Black Raven, or Book of Faust.
My machete is in my hand, the tribal magical marking of my Palo linage drawn down the blade. As I become aware of my reflection, my awareness increases even more. The whole La Sombra del Mundo feels as if it also knowledges a deeper reporte with me. I was born dead, strangled by the umbilical cord. My mother refused to give me up and shook me until I opened my eyes. I did not follow the same Heaven to Earth trajectory as others. Before my physical life, I took a quick detour to La Sombra del Mundo. I quickly stepped behind the curtain and back again, but part of me almost certainly stayed behind. I believe this established my affinity and inclination to this realm.
My presence was now causing ripples. What were cursory reactions from others, lackluster and automatic responses here on the La Sombra del Mundo, became more lively and animated. A disruption in routine agitated everything in my proximity. I was being noticed. Those people meandering around in their dream state began to recognize me but were also startled by that same realization. However, these people are not denizens or native to the Realm of Shadow. They are entranced by the lighted fortresses, places they are likely to be safe or at least safer. But know this, not everything in these strongholds is a visitor. Locals congregate here too.
I see humanoid creatures, people with insectoid and sea creature features, begin to glare at me and circle back around. With the tip of my machete, I point to the glowing marks on my body. Most of these would-be assailants go wide-eyed and then slip away or give me a much wider berth. A few, however, decide to test my limits and get closer. A pair of skeletal and yellowish-skinned twins with greasy and straggly hair bare their long, sharp teeth in multiple rows like a shark. They take a distinctive 45-degree angle at me. I am not having this, and I meet the closet one in the forehead with my machete. This entity was not hollow or buoyant like the sleepwalkers. It had actual weight. My machete loudly bit into and split open what now looked like an outer shell or exoskeleton.
I quickly swung my left elbow over the back of the machete to help pull it free and position myself, with cover, to pepper the other twin with either short, strong thrusts with the tip or my hammer fist reinforced with the butt of the handle. The following melee was fierce but brief. Feinting with the stab to the chest, I bought my hammer fist up under its chin with authority, spending its head up and back. I repositioned the machete and brought it down into its face. Identical to its twin, the machete cleaved into something resembling an outer shell. I had to stamp-kick it in the gut to pull the machete free.
The creatures violently shook and convulsed, screaming in a guttural pitch. Their blood was a brown and black ichor, similar to dirty motor oil. I felt the impulse to drink it. Something from my vampiric initiation, but I was not going to feed on the blood of lowly creatures. Only the blood of true monsters, fearsome dragons, demons, and devils shall pass these lips. I surmise the commotion scared everyone off; the immediate marketplace looked empty besides the three of us. I decided I should move deeper in.
In Palo Mayombe, Kimbanda and Ifa, the Shadow Realm, linked very closely with the Realm of the Dead, is called the “big” Kalunga. The “little” Kalunga is the cemetery. The Kalunga is the deepest and darkest part of the ocean. No light, frighteningly vast, and full of terrifying creatures. As scary as such a place is to modern man, imagine the fear such a place evoked in the hearts and minds of the old-world Africans. To know your mother and your father wander the Kalunga would be concerning. Ancestor veneration, setting lights for the dead, calling and singing to them, these practices sought to remedy their condition.
The practice of Sanse has the Lighthouse. The cup, the candle, and the prayer of the Castaway or Shipwrecked. Sanse acknowledges the dead are often confused and lost, adrift in dark and stormy “seas.” We seek to illuminate their darkness and give them a point of light to move toward. We pray to God for the intercession of high-level beings to aid them. We also recognize that just like angler fish, entities will use light to attract the dead. We pray for their ability to decern between real and false light.
I believe these illuminated fortresses were constructed with the aid and intercession of humans who revere their ancestors, pray for the dead, give mass to the dead, offer mantras for the deceased, etc. These places provide light and shelter. They harbor those who wander the dream-time, still tethered to the material plane but also act as housing and employment opportunities to those who have fled the mortal coil. The candles that burn for the deceased are the streetlights and overhead lamps in the La Sombra del Mundo. The food offering for the dead is what stocks their cupboard and store shelves. The task we petition them for is their gig-based economy.
-To be continued-