When we refer to a “change of life,” everyone understands that generally one is talking about a change in the quality of life, a trip, moving, a new partner or something of that nature. However, in the vocabulary of the Paleros, this phrase indicates a much more serious and more complicated action.
A palero is a practitioner of Regla de Palo Monte, a religion brought to Cuba by Africans when they were enslaved here. Along with the Regla de Ocha, they are the two main religious practices that is integrated with Catholicism in a process specialists call sincretismo (syncretism).
This is to say, elements of several traditions now appear joined in the wide spectrum of Cuban religious beliefs.
Regla de Palo Monte is also known as witchcraft. According to references by friends and people I know, it’s very effective – not so much for its benefits to believers as for the harm it can do to their enemies. Of their ceremonies, I’ve been exceedingly impressed by the one called “change of life.”
A former girlfriend told me about one of these conducted by her family, which has a long tradition of using these tools.
It turned out that her grandfather was dying in the hospital. He had a strange illness that was eating away the skin on his stomach; no one expected him to survive. The only remedy they found was to place slices of steak on his abdomen. It seems that the “bug” —instead of eating the old man— began to eat the beefsteak (though it wasn’t easy with how difficult it is to find beef).
After performing this change of life on him, his ulcer began to heal and in a few days he was well. The saddest part of the case was that the person in the bed beside him died unaccountably.
As my girlfriend told me —her eyes full of fear— this other person didn’t have family members. That’s why they chose him, though his illness was not serious; it was either him or her grandfather. The change of life consists of exchanging body spirits so that another person is left with the ailment.
They say this can also be done with animals, but I have no confirmation of that. The only thing I know is that if all of this is possible, then I’m in constant risk of having my spirit stolen and given to someone else, and in that case in jeopardy of getting sick or dying.