Our ancestors were capable agriculturalists, who had a very close relationship with the land and the ways of the Earth Mother.
We in the Caney Circle honor that tradition with a ceremony that comes to us partly from the ancient ritual of the Tainos and partly from the shamanic inspiration of our boitius when they have dreamed and visioned.
This ceremony is led by a beike and it includes a man that is chosen from the participants to represent “First Man” and a woman that is chosen from the participants to represent “First Woman”. Four women are chosen from the participants to represent the four “Food Mothers” (the Mother of the Green Squash who stands for the SOUTH, the Mother of the Black Beans who stands for the WEST, the Mother of the White Cassava Bread who stands for the NORTH, and the Mother of the Yellow Maize-corn who stands for the EAST). Each one of these women is handed a basket or bowl full of the food that she represents. She is also asked to wear a special mask that represents the spirit that she is incorporating into the ceremony.
At the beginning, before the ceremony starts, the beike lays a blanket flat on the ground and folds it in such a way that it is divided in half by a flap. On one side of the flap a specially designed, fully finished digging stick or coa with a foot-rest is laid on the blanket. The other side of the flap is left empty but that is eventually going to be the location of a long tree branch. The blanket should be laid out in such a way that when the flap is folded to one side it covers the branch, and if it is folded to the other side it covers the coa. When the ceremony begins the flap should be covering the coa from view.
If the ceremony is held indoors, there is also to be a wide container (a wooden bowl or box) filled with soil and next to it a low platform capable of supporting a human being standing on it. The tree limb is stuck in the soil as if it was growing there.
This ceremony in part, mirrors the process by which ancient straight coa digging sticks (whose shape our ancestors associated to long serpents) were eventually converted into the oval shaped hoops which are now often referred to as “stone yokes” or “stone collars”.
The coa that is used for this ceremony is constructed from a long straight pole with one end sharpened to a point. About a foot up from the point a nail or screw is driven half-way into the pole or a short sturdy peg is attached by means of a hole drilled into the side of the pole and the peg glued into it.
A structure is created out of wood which will take the form of the thickened portion of the coa as well as the projecting foot-rest. This structure is to be carved out of wood and a hole is drilled through it large enough for the pole to slide easily into it.
The foot-rest structure is then covered with a layer of tightly fitted cotton cloth fabric upon which is embroidered a design mimicking the shape of a snake head. To this structure is attached a padded (quilted) cotton cloth cylindrical sleeve long enough for the whole length of the sharpened pole to fit into it and sown shut at the end opposite the foot-rest. At that closed-off end of this sleeve a short rectangular piece of cloth will be attached and cords will be sown to the edges of that flap. The pole is to be slid up into this sleeve through the foot-rest end opening and pushed up into it until the whole pole is covered by the sleeve except for the foot-long sharpened end. The pole will give the sleeve a firm, straight rigidity which can be taken away if the pole is slid out of it. The pole can only be slid in as far as the nail or peg which keeps it from being pushed in any further.
When the coa is fully assembled it is a long straight pole with a sharpened end and a foot-rest used to drive it into the soil. The upper end cloth flap is wrapped around the pole and tied securely by the cords sown on to its edges.