Sacred Tobacco

Pipe discovered in Taino territory. The Tabako cemi appears on the pipe bowl.
Pipe discovered in Taino territory. The Tabako cemi appears on the pipe bowl.

One of the first things reported by the Spanish conquistadores when they made contact with the Taino Indians of the Caribbean in 1492 was the tradition of smoking tobacco, then unknown in Europe, Asia or Africa.
Today we the leaders of the Caney, teach reverence and respect for the powerful and dangerous spirit of this sacred herb which still carries the name given it by the Taino thousands of years ago, “TABAKO”.

We teach that tobacco is to be respected. Like all sacred natural substances, this plant is imbued with a powerful spirit who has the capacity to endow the smoker with magical and even healing properties. However, tobacco is not to be trifled with. Tobacco does not tolerate disrespect. The sacred tobacco spirit has suffered centuries of insult at the hands of commercial cigarette manufacturers and the smokers who support this sacrilegious industry. The tobacco spirit does not tolerate this indignity and has reacted in a terrible manner. Today millions of people on the Earth are hopelessly addicted to inappropriately used tobacco products. Hundreds die every day of smoking-related illnesses. Cigarette smoking is by far one of the most health-destroying habits on this planet and in the meantime, cigarette manufacturers enrich themselves with a wanton disregard to all sense of ethics and moral consciousness.

An appropriate reconciliation with the spirit of tobacco by a modern-day Taino begins with the giving up of habitual use of all commercial cigarette products, and regular performance of the tobacco ceremony. The tobacco ceremony should be performed by all Tainos during the celebration of the monthly Full Moon rituals, during the quarterly celebrations of Sostices and Equinoxes and during the ceremony honoring the ancestors in the late Autumn (November 1). Tobacco ceremonies can also be performed at any other significant ceremony or ritual during which the celebrant feels a need to communicate with the spirits through the sacred smoke of tobacco.

The ceremony begins with the burning of tabonuko (copal). A cigar or a tobacco-filled pipe is passed over the smoke of the tabonuko four times to honor the four sacred directions. Then the celebrant takes a puff of the smoke in his or her mouth and blows it in the direction of the South saying “I offer this smoke to Achiano the Spirit of the South, the spirit of OPEN MINDEDNESS.” Raise the cigar or pipe toward the South.

Next the celebrant takes another puff of smoke and blows it in the direction of the West saying, “I offer this smoke to Koromo the Spirit of the West, the spirit of INNER SIGHT.” Raise the cigar or pipe toward the West.

Next the celebrant takes another puff of smoke and blows it in the direction of the North saying, “I offer this smoke to Rakuno the Spirit of the North, the spirit of WISDOM.” Raise the cigar or pipe toward the North.

Next the celebrant takes another puff of smoke and blows it in the direction of the East saying, “I offer this smoke to Sobaiko the Spirit of the East, the spirit of
ENLIGHTENMENT.” Raise the cigar or pipe toward the East

Next the celebrant takes another puff of smoke and blows it down in the direction of the Earth beneath saying, “I offer this smoke to Ata Bey our mother and grandmother.” Lower the cigar or pipe toward the ground.

Next the celebrant takes another puff of smoke and blows it in the direction of the sky saying, “I offer this smoke to Yoka Hu our father and brother.” Raise the cigar or pipe toward the sky.

After all this has been done the celebrant smokes as much of the cigar or pipe as he or she feels necessary and uses the puffs of smoke to send prayers to the spirits in the puffs. It is advisable not to inhale the smoke, but simply to take each puff into the mouth and then blow it right out with the prayer. Tobacco is a conduit for prayer, a vehicle through which prayer can more effectively travel to the realm of the spirits.

When the celebrant is finished the cigar is placed in front of an image of a spirit or ancestor. Alternately it can be taken out and buried in the ground. Pipes should be emptied outside and the tobacco should be scattered on the soil.

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