The Ba'kongo Nation from the Crystal Mountains of Congo, West-Central Africa: Little-Known Ancestral Source of Crystal High Science among Africans-in-America
The Ba'ntu and Watu Wakele (The Old Lands)
When one thinks of a civilization in Africa that used crystals and sacred stones extensively, Kemet immediately comes to mind. (See 'Rocks of Ages: Chapter 2 - Sankofa). However, there is another high culture on the continent that dealt with crystals extensively - the Ba'kongo Kingdom of Central-West Africa.
Black people in Africa call themselves, among other things, Ba'ntu - the African word for hue-manity. Ba'ntu is the plural of Mu'ntu, which means 'man'. Several nations and clans in Africa speak what is considered a Ba'ntu language - the Ba'Mileke, the Ba'mbara, the Ba'kongo, the Ba'ganda, the Ba'tswana, the Ba'sutu, the Ba'Tongo, etc. etc. According to tradition, the Ba'ntu originate in the Watu Wakele - the Old Lands. Watu Wakele consists of the territory inhabited by the Ba'kongo going north into the lands of the Ba'Mbara - modern day Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger.
The Crystal Mountains
In Watu Wakele, there is a special place - the Crystal Mountains. This is a range of mountains that the mighty Congo River has coursed its way through, located approximately 200 miles east of the Atlantic coast where the Congo River empties into the Ocean. They are situated in modern-day Congo, not far from Kinshasa. These mountains are called the Crystal Mountains because on their surface is exposed quartz clusters in matrixes of schist and mica.
It is a rugged terrain that is not friendly to outsiders. The first European to trod upon the Crystal Mountains was an explorer named James Tuckey. He was commissioned by the British to conduct an expedition up the entire Congo River to see if it connected with the Nile or cut a trans-continental path to the Pacific. In August of 1816, Tuckey attempted an overland passage of these sacred regions. It exhausted the expedition both physically and emotionally - not because of the climate, which ranged from 80 to 65 degrees - but because they constantly found themselves "scrambling up the sides of almost perpendicular hills, and over great masses of quartz and schistus". Tuckey's caravan fell into ravines often, several Europeans incurred foot injuries, incapacitating and killing many of them. They had to battle Ba'ntu in the region as well. All of these forces led to them having to turn back to the Atlantic coast and prematurely end the expedition in September of 1816 - having made it only about 250 miles into the interior of Africa.
Although the Crystal Mountains are unfriendly to outsiders, they are sacred to the Ba'ntu throughout the Africa. Credo Mutwa, the Great Zulu Sangoma (Shaman and Keeper of the Cultural Traditions), considers both the region and the people who inhabit it as sacred. He sees the Ba'Kongo as a cultural 'elder' who transmitted their knowledge and culture to the Zulu.
"Now, the common stock, the ancestral tribe from which all the Negroid tribes of Africa sprang, was known as the Batu, or the Bantu. Legends say that this stock lived in 'the Old Land'. According to all African folklore all our culture and religions were born in this 'Old Land'. This was far back in the bone and stone ages.
Where was this 'Old Land'? It is there where the 'Old Tribes' are still found today - the Watu Wakele. These incorporate all the tribes of the land of the Ba'Kongo right up to the southern parts of the land of the Ibo and Oyo (Nigeria).... The Ba'Malike of the Camerouns is so old that these tribesmen still speak the language their witchdoctors call 'spirit-talk', which came down to us through the Ba'Kongo and the Ba'Mbara. We use this language when communicating with the very old spirits of 'the Ancient Ones'."
So, the cultural progenitors of the Ba'ntu are as follows:
The Ba'Kongo and Ba'mbara
These are the inhabitants of Watu Wakele, and these 'Old Tribes' are responsible for transmitting to the Zulu and other Ba'ntu nations in Southern Africa 'spirit-talk'.
Concerning the Crystal Mountains in Zulu oral tradition, these sacred mountains are the source of all knowledge on planet Earth. To the Zulu, knowledge is a living force. The Zulu say that when you learn something, your knowledge does not just stay in your mind. It flows like smoke to a place called the Land of the Mysteries. In the land of the Mysteries, there are huge, gigantic mountains of crystal called 'The Mountains of Light'. Smoky-like knowledge flows into the land of the mysteries, and crystallizes, attaching itself to the Mountains of Light. Thus, new knowledge adds on the shining brilliance of the Crystal Mountains.
At the foot of the Mountains of Light is a beautiful lake called the 'Lake of Knowledge'. (Malebo Pool, a 15-mile wide swelling of the Congo at the eastern frontier of the Crystal Mountins - modern-day lake Stanley). Light from the Crystal Mountains causes water from the lake to evaporate. The dew from the evaporating lake falls into the mind of humanity, sustaining men and women with knowledge. This tradition reflects the esteem these sacred mountains of crystal are given by the Ba'ntu throughout the continent.
The Kingdom of the Ba'Kongo
Around 1200 AD, the various clans of the Ba'ntu living in the regions of the Crystal Mountains federated into a sophisticated nation known historically as the Kingdom of Ba'Kongo. The King of this nation carried the title ManiKongo, and was the Paramount Chief of six subjugated regions: Soyo, Mpemba (where the capital of Mbanza was located), Mbamba, Mpangu, Mbata, and Nsundi. The first ManiKongo is named Nimi a Lukemi, who came from the Bongo nation situated down-river deeper in the heart of modern Zaire. The Bongo followed the Congo eastward and federated the regions from the Atlantic to the East; North to the Ogowe River in Gabon, West to Beteke Plateau in Zaire (near where the Kwango river meets the Congo), and South to the Kwanza River in modern Angola. The ManiKongo used a strategic blend of military conquest and marriage of the daughters of nobility to unite his nation. At its height, the Kingdom of Ba'Kongo extended 200,000 miles and had about 4-5 million citizens. The capital Mbanza is located on a plateau 1700 feet above sea level in the heart of the Crystal Mountains.
The Ba'Kongo were metallurgist - they smelted iron to make a wide variety of weapons, tools, musical instruments, and farming implements. They also smelted copper, and used the lost-wax process of creating statue fetishes that the Oyo and Yoruba of Nigeria and Benin are famous for. Their pottery was both functional and beautiful. The first Portuguese merchants to encounter the nation described the fabrics they weaved from various plant fibers as "velvet, damask, brocade, satin, and taffeta". They made awesome carvings of ivory and wood, and adorned themselves with beautiful African-motif jewelry. They also adorned themselves with various furs of leopard and other sacred animals.
They cultivated yam and banana, harvested a wide variety of wild beans and fruits. They made palm oil, wine and vinegar, and had patty-style bread. They domesticated goats and cattle, and fished the Congo with nets, harpoons, and baskets. The livity and lifestyle of the Congo was highly sophisticated, yet in balance with the nature of the region. They did not farm for commodity, and only grew what they themselves consumed. The transportation network of the nation was a series of trails with strong vine bridges across valleys and rivers. Their homes were made of straw and earth, with sturdy mats on the interior as flooring.
The Coming of the Portuguese
When the Portuguese first encountered the Kingdom of Ba'Kongo in 1482, they imagined that the Kingdom was grander than it was - they thought it extended North all the way to the borders of Ancient Mali, and East all the way to the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia, and South to the Cape Coast.
King John II commissioned Diogo Cao to travel down the West Coast of Africa to see if he could find another route to India and Ethiopia, land of the fabled "Prester John". He noticed the different shoreline caused by the fresh water discharge into the ocean, and sailed up into the mouth of the Congo. He anchored and was greeted by the citizens and local officials. They communicated as best as they could, and he sent a team of 4 with the Ba'Kongo officials to take the men to meet the ManiKongo. When they did not return for a long time, Cao assumed they had been murdered, kidnapped 4 Ba'Kongo, and sailed back to Portugal.
They took the four captives to Portugal and totally polluted their mind with a Roman imperialist version of Christianity and the superior notion of European civilization. In December 1490, King John II then organized another expedition and returned the four Ba'Kongo to their native land. The King appointed a Portuguese explorer named Goncola de Sousa in charge of the mission. He sent de Sousa with a dozen priests, a contingent of soldiers, masons, carpenters, artisans, female cooks & bakers, and tailors.
His mission was to charm the ManiKongo and convince him to convert to Roman Catholicism and enter into alliance with Portugal. Goncola de Sousa took ill on voyage and passed away before reaching the Congo. His nephew, Rui de Sousa took command of the expedition and succeeded in the mission. He, along with the returning Ba'Kongo convinced the ManiKongo to become a Christian and form an alliance with Portugal. For the next decade - to about 1500 - the Portuguese priests converted the citizens of the Ba'Kongo.
It would be unfair to say the ManiKongo and Ba'Kongo people became blind Christian converts. Instead, they adapted and incorporated Christian symbolism into their cultural milieu and spiritual cosmology. They recognized the Most High by their name: Nzambi Mpunguin KiKongo, who was the creator of all things. However, consistent with other African cultures, Nzambi was viewed as a remote Force uninvolved with day-to-day human activity. They made supplication and communed with a hierarchy of celestial, terrestrial, and ancestral spirits, and crafted Nkisi - talismans - to reinforce the connection with these creative spirits. They viewed the cross as being a version of the Ba'Kongo cosmogram, a "signature" of Nzambi that delineated the Upper world (human world) from the lower world (ancestral world); as well as the female principle (left side) from the male principle (right side). The Ba'Kongo gravitated to the Christian act of baptism and using water in a ritual act of purification and libation, a practice deeply ingrained in their spiritual expression. Moreover, they renounced monogamy and celibacy and maintained a matrilineal, polygamous family structure. The fact that the Congo saw no contradiction in maintaining their traditional spiritual perspective and yet accept Christian doctrine frustrated and baffled the missionaries and caused them to view the Ba'Kongo as 'hopeless savages'.
However, History makes one wonder who was being more Christ-like - the Kongo or the Portuguese - for King John II had nefarious, devious plans. He was truly coming with the Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. In the same year he sent the expedition to the ManiKongo, he created a penal colony on a small island off the coast Africa called Sao Tome. For the next decade, he offered the imprisoned criminals of his kingdom freedom on Sao Tome. The criminals would settle in Sao Tome, organize raids on the coast, and enslave the inhabitants. They were stealing women and creating a nation of half-castes. These half-castes were aculturated to a lifestyle of piracy, prostitution, and enslavement of the Ba'Kongo.
By 1511, the ManiKongo - King Affonso - was sending letters to King John pleading with him to control his ex-convicts. However, something happened that sealed the fate of the Kongo. Another Portuguese expedition found Brazil and there was a great need for labor in this 'new world'. So, instead of curtailing the exiles of Sao Tome, the King organized them and set up a system of destabilization in the Kongo. An environment of lawlessness, drunkenness, and terror was created in the nation. Slave merchants incited rebellions of local chiefs, and caused them to raid neighboring clans. Sad to say, the ManiKongo was so naive, he could not see that the Portuguese King was responsible for the behavior of the slave merchants. He wrote the Portuguese King - by this time King John III, and said:
"The excessive freedom given by your factors and officials to the men and merchants who are allowed to come to this Kingdom...is such...that many of our vassals, whom we had in obedience, do not comply. We cannot reckon how great the damage is, since the above-mentioned merchants daily seize our subjects, sons of the land and sons of our noblemen and vassals and relatives... Thieves and men of evil conscience take them because they wish to possess the things and wares of this Kingdom...They grab them and cause them to be sold; and so great, Sir, is their corruption and licentiousness that our country is being utterly depopulated...it is our will that in these kingdoms there should not be any trade in slaves nor market for slaves....
King Affonso's wishes were ignored. In fact, the situation spiraled out of control for the next two hundred years. In that time, the Dutch and the British became involved in the Trans-Atlantic Enslavement, and along with Portugal, continued to destabilize and depopulate the Congo. In 1701, a missionary in the region wrote:
The news coming from the Kongo is always worse and the enmities between the royal houses are tearing the kingdom further and further apart. At present there are four kings of the Kongo. There are also great Dukes of Mamba; three great dukes in Ovando; two great dukes in Batta, and four marquises of Enchus. The authority of each is declining and they are destroying each other by making war among themselves. Each claims to be chief. They make raids on one another in order to steal and to sell their prisoners like animals.
By the 18th century, it is estimated that the Portuguese took 4 million Ba'Kongo into bondage in the New World, mainly to Brazil. The British and Dutch each took about 3-4 million Ba'Kongo, spreading them throughout the Caribbean and North America. With them went their cosmology and spiritual practices.
The Ba'Kongo in the Maafa.
The Maafa, the "Great Tribulation" of the Trans-Atlantic Enslavement, severely depopulated the Ba'Kongo, selling millions of its citizens to the 'New World'. As stated, those captured by the Portuguese ended up in Brazil. The Dutch and British scattered the Ba'Kongo throughout the Caribbean, with significant concentrations ending up in Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba. Also, a significant number of Ba'Kongo landed in the U.S.A.
There are two cultural legacies of the Ba'Kongo that can be used to identify their presence:
1: The use of crystals for divination and the making of Nkisi (talismans)
2: Syncretizing of various African cosmologies and sometimes Christian doctrine.
Ba'Kongo use of Crystals for Divination and Making Nkisi (Talismans)
African-American Archaeological Sites reveals that the Ba'Kongo in the New World worked with crystals as they did before they were captured. The following is an excerpt from a research document entitled: "Crystals and Conjuring at the Charles Carroll House, Annapolis, Maryland".
During excavation of the ground floor of the Charles Carroll House, a number of
quartz crystals and associated artifacts were recovered. Having received a great
deal of publicity, this discovery created a lot of excitement and interest among
the general public and among scholars of African and African-American history.
On the verbal authority of several of these scholars, the crystals were thought
to have been used by slaves and to be related to African divination and
Among the many artifacts recovered were several caches of quartz crystals and other objects. The largest group of crystals, 12 in all, were found grouped together in an area about 6 inches in diameter. Found with them was a tiny faceted glass bead and a smooth black stone. This group of items was covered with a pearlware bowl of English manufacture turned upside down over them. The bowl is hand-painted pearlware, blue on white design; the design looks like a large asterisk or sunburst. This group of items was located in the
extreme northeast corner of the room, between the brick floor-joist sup-port and
the wall. Several more crystals were found in the same room of the house (Logan
et al. 1992).
Two more crystals, both approximately 1/2 inch by 1 inch in size, a piece of an
ivory ring, and a bubble shell, native to Florida or the West Indies, were found
just to the south of the one in which the large cache of crystals was found.
These two crystals and the bubble shell were also found between the brick
floor-joist support and the east wall of the room. The largest crystal found was
a smoky-gray chunk which measured 4 by 3 1/2 by 6 inches and weighed
approximately four pounds. This was found near a doorway on the opposite side of
the room from the others (Logan et al. 1992). Ceramics, coins, and other
artifacts found in the same layers as the crystals help date these layers.
Pearlware, white salt-glazed stoneware, and several coins found in the same
layer as the cache of 12 crystals established a date range of 1790-1820 for that
layer, which was toward the end of the time period when the house was occupied
by Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
We know that quartz crystals and associated artifacts such as the ones found at
Carroll House have been found on other archaeological sites in Maryland,
Virginia, and elsewhere. Such artifacts have been found on sites associated with
African Americans (both slave and free), but not on sites associated exclusively
with European Americans. [EMPHASIS ADDED].
For example, Laura Galke reported a cache of six quartz
crystals, a piece of galena, and a quartz projectile point found near the
footing of a chimney at the Nash Site in Manassas National Battlefield Park
At the Brownsville Site, also in Manassas National Battlefield Park, another
small cache of quartz crystals was found near the remains of the chimney footing
of a now-demolished house. The house is believed to have been built in the late
eighteenth century and to have been used as a slave quarter for the plantation
during the nineteenth century (Galke 1992b).
Excavations at the Mulberry Row slave quarters of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
revealed crystals, a cowrie shell, a horn ring, pierced coins, and a game
counter with a star-like design on it (Patten 1992).
Leland Ferguson has found colonoware bowls with designs on the interior bottom
similar to the design on the bowl found at the Carroll House. The design on the
colonoware bowls is across with a square or a circle around it and is similar to
a Bakongo cosmogram. In these cosmograms, the horizontal line represents the
boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and the
vertical line represents the path of power from below to above (Ferguson 1992;
In all these cases mentioned above, crystals, specially marked pottery, coins,
reworked glass or stone, beads, and other items of material culture have been
found in contexts associated with the working and living spaces used by slaves;
spaces that were also used later by free African Americans.
The researchers are then able to make the link between the uses of these crystals in the Americas by enslaved Africans directly to the Ba'Kongo through comparing them to Nkisi from Africa.
[In the kingdom of Ba'Kongo]...each Nkisi has a name, an individual composition, and is used for a particular purpose. Each one is slightly different than the others; each healer or diviner composes his own Nkisi as a personalized force. Some are used for healing, some
for divination, or to obtain wealth, or for success in warfare (MacGaffey 1991).
Nkisi Mbenza is "for blessing a man who has engendered a child by his own wife.
This Nkisi contains stones, quartz crystals, pieces of iron, and crab claws.
When a man's first child is born, he is subject to certain taboos. Violators are
afflicted with chest pains and coughing which the Nkisi Mbenza is used to cure
Another Nkisi containing quartz crystals is the Nkita Nsumbu which is also used
for healing. It contains, among other things, quartz crystals, smooth stones,
claws, pieces of iron, and brass or iron rings wrapped up in a cloth bundle.
This Nkisi has the spirit of land and the spirit of water; it is used to heal
swelling of the body or boils (MacGaffey 1991).
By comparing these examples to the material found at the Carroll House, we can
see definite similarities. Several of the Nkisi from the Laman collection
include many of the same materials as found at Carroll House, such as quartz
crystals, crab claws, metal or ivory rings, smooth stones, bones and teeth. The
large cache of object found at the Carroll House included crystals, a clear
bead, a smooth black stone, and a bowl with a design resembling a Bakongo
cosmogram. The bowl may have been used as a container for the crystals and other
objects. Another group of artifacts from the Carroll House included crystals, an
ivory ring, and a bubble shell. All of these items from the caches at the
Carroll House are similar to the items included in the minkisi described by
Bakongo healers (MacGaffey 1991).
These archaeological finds do prove that the Ba'Kongo brought their spiritual sciences with them, and used crystals extensively; but what did they themselves say about the crystals? How did they view them, and what was the significance of quartz crystals to them? The other significant cultural legacy of the Ba'Kongo - the phenomena of syncretizing the various African cosmologies of the enslaved Africans - gives some insight.
Syncretizing of various African cosmologies and sometimes Christian doctrine.
A multitude of different African Ethnic groups fell victim to the Maafa. The Yoruba, Fanti, Ashanti, Hausa, Akan, Mande, Wolof, Fon, Ewe, Oyo, Ibo, Dogon, Bambara, Senefu, Luo, Mandingo, Fula, Baga, Susu, Serer, Efik, Shona, Ndebele, Xhosa, Kikuyu, Tutsi, Nandi, Oromo, Amhara, Hima, Dinka, and Zannde name a few. Several of these various groups have commonalities of language and culture, but not all were able to communicate and relate to one another. They were all thrust together in a hostile, demanding and violent plantation environment where survival was a day-today struggle. Divide and conquer was an often-used technique, and animosity and division were fomented amongst the enslaved on the plantation.
On the plantation, enslaved Africans were forbidden to live by their traditional cultures and practice their own spirituality. Every possible strategy that would strip the African of his/her culture and religion was implemented - especially when it came to stripping the African of their spirituality. An Anti-Christian form of Christianity was imposed on the enslaved, giving them a false doctrine that justified their condition with teachings like the Curse of "Ham myth and Bible references such as 'Slaves, obey your masters".
Within this challenging scenario, it appears that the Ba'Kongo did an amazing thing. Wherever a large percentage of the enslaved were Ba'Kongo, a syncretized spiritual expression composed of various African cosmologies can be found.
Syncretism involves identifying how various ethnic groups name and communicate with spiritual forces; and through reciprocal recognition, collectively name and communicate with that spiritual force. For example, the force of lighting, thunder, and rain in Yoruba cosmology is Shango. These same forces of nature are called Kanbarnquanje in Ba'Kongo.
The purpose of these syncretized blendings of the various African religions appears to be:
· To act as a unifying force amongst the Africans. These syncretized blendings allowed the various Africans, regardless of their ethnic background, to pray and practice their spirituality together.
· To retain the cosmological, historical, and spiritual sciences the various enslaved Africans brought with them into captivity, in spite of an imposition of euro centric, imperialistic Christianity.
How is it known that the Ba'Kongo are responsible for syncretizing the various cosmologies? Because wherever this phenomena if found - particularly Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, the syncretized traditions carried Kongo names.
LOCATION SYNCRETIC TRADITION MAJOR AFRICAN ETHNIC GROUPS WHOSE TRADITIONS WERE PRESERVED BY SYNCRETIC VISION
LOCATION TRADITION ETHNIC GROUPS
Brazil Macumba Ba'Kongo, Yoruba, Ewe, Ketu, Ijesha
Haiti Lucumi Ba'Kongo, Yoruba, Fon, Ewe, Dogon
Jamaica Kumina Ba'Kongo, Akan, Ashanti, Koromante, Mandingo
Cuba Cumina Ba'Kongo, Yoruba, Ewe
Abdias Do Nascimento, author of "Brazil: Mixture or Massacre" expounds on the Ba'Kongo foundation of Macumba:
The Afro-Brazilian worship prevalent in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is called macumba. Although it is progressively assimilating indigenous Brazilian, Yoruba, spiritist and Catholic elements, the Bantu influence in this cult is dominant. This is evident from the deities it emphasizes, including Ganga Zumba, Zambiapongo, Calunga, Zumbi, Calandu....And often, the Yoruba orisha are identified with Bantu, Angola or Congo gods in a system of reciprocal transfer in which Xango for example, becomes for Angolan worshippers Kibuko or Kibuko Kiassubanga: and for Congolese, Kanbarnquanje. Oxunmare is the Angolan Angoro and Exu the Congolese Bombonjira...
Just as the Ba'Kongo syncretized the Christos tradition when the Portuguese came with the Bible yet had not pulled out their gun, so to did they syncretize with other Africans they found themselves enslaved with in the Maafa. The syncretic vision of the Ba'Kongo allowed for institutions of African spirituality to survive the Great Tribulation.
In order for these institutions to survive and thrive, sometimes a Catholic face had to be put on the African spirits. That is how 'Cumina' became 'Santeria' (The Saints) in Cuba; Kumina became 'Paukumina' (a little bit of kumina') in Jamaica; and Macumba became 'Candomble'(House of Saints) in Brazil. Nasciemento explains it clearly:
It is misleading to suggest that syncretism occurred between Catholicism and African religions, because the implication is that the exchange would have occurred on a level of equality and spontaneity...In reality, African religion was subjected in Brazil to a violent imposition of forced 'syncretism' with Catholicism...What scholars have called "syncretism between Catholicism and African religion was really a cover under which Africans continued clandestinely to practice their own religious worship. It is a tribute to the ingenuity of Black people in preserving their own cultural heritage....
The Priests of Macumba and Cumina have preserved the tradition of how crystals were used in a fullness on the continent. They remember that their nation was situated on a great Crystal Mountain. They say that they would go into giant crystal caves deep in the mountain - huge caverns that were walls of shiny quartz points. These caves were illuminated naturally. In these sacred vaults of the Earth, Ba'Kongo priests would create elaborate ancestral shrines and alters to various deities. They would perform rituals that kept the planet in balance with the space-time continuum, as well as combat the forces of wickedness and corruption on the planet.
So, Africans in America who feel they are called to be Crystal Custodians and Sacred Stone Earth-Keepers, the Ba'kongo Nation from the Crystal Mountains of Congo, West-Central Africa may be an ancestral source guiding you to continue your spiritual mission.