Shamanism in Caney Tradition – 4

Another one of the many responsibilities of the Caney shaman is to help a person go on his or her vision quest to find and meet his or her own guardian spirit.

The shaman also has the responsibility of protecting individuals from negative forces that operate freely among us and can cause all kinds of evil things to happen. Negativity is a reality that exists on all levels of the human experience. They can be caused spontaneously or arise from destructive tendencies in the human soul. Whatever the source, negativity is a palpable and corrosive element of the human experience and it is the eternal enemy of the good shaman. The shaman must dedicate all of his or her best efforts to combating negativity wherever and whenever it is found, and to sowing the seeds of positivity and optimism in its place.

Some individuals choose to make negativity the rule in their lives. These individuals become possessed by the spirits of negativity. The shaman must use all of his or her resources to battle the effect of these individuals on the welfare of the community. When a person that has made negativity the rule in his or her life dies the soul of that person can endure and become a maleficent influence on the life of the living. In that case the soul of that person is not called “hupia”. Instead it is called a “maboya”. “Maboya” is the Taino word used to describe a soul or spirit that has a negative influence on the life of living people.

Caney tradition teaches that one of the important duties of a Caney shaman is to perform the proper ceremonies that allow for the soul of a departed person to cross over to the Spirit Realm. This process is aided by the presence of a kindly canine spirit called “Opiel Guaobiran”, The Dog of the Dead.

Caney tradition teaches that the source place of all humankind is a sacred place called “Coa-Bay” or “Koa-Bay”. It is said to be the womb of the Mother spirit Ata-Bey. Coa-bay is a condition more than an actual place. It is the condition of existance as totally and intricatly immersed in the Cosmic All. When a thing exists in Coa-Bay it is completely integrated in the essence or fabric of the Cosmos. It is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It exists in the very center of all reality. That is where we believe we exist before we are born. It is the place from whence we all come.

Coa-Bay is also considered to be the place where we all go when we die. and so it is believed that the soul of a person, his or her hupia, travels back to Coa-Bay when he or she dies.

Taino representation of Coa Bay as a condition of existance that mirrors all four directions (represented by the four discs facing the four cardinal points), and the Earth (represented by a flat base that rests on the surface of the Earth) and the sky (represented by a conical point thae points up at the sky). To be in Coa Bay is to be everywhere at once and nowhere in particular, the very center of all existence.

Guava fruit

It is the duty of the shaman to perform the necessary rituals so that the journey of the soul to Coa-Bay is a productive one. It is believed that Coa-Bay is presided over by the Cemi of the dead, Makatarie Guayaba. This spirit controls the amount of communication and influence between the living and the dead. The journey of the soul from this world to the next is made easier with the aid and guidance of a gentle and kind animal spirit called Opiel Guobiran, The Dog guide of the Dead. This tame and loving canine helper cooperates with the shaman and acts almost like a seeing-eye dog to guide the soul of the departed into the gentle conforting arms of Guayaba the gate keeper of the Taino Paradise. Makatarie Guayaba carries the name of a sacred tropical fruit, the guava. This fruit was considered by the Tainos to be the food of the dead and in Caney tradition we eat this food when performing ceremonies for loved ones who have departed. Guava is readily available in a variety of forms today, in the form of fresh fruit, and in the form of juices, sweet guava paste and jellies.

The Caney Indian Spiritual Circle maintains a shamanic Teaching Center in Verona Pennsylvania at the site of the home of Beike Bo Miguel Sobaoko Koromo (Black Ribs). The center is the main workplace for Black Ribs’ shamanic work. It features a traditional Taino healing lodge (guanara) in which regular healing ceremonies, readings using the shell oracle, herb dispensations and teachings are caried out. This guanara also serves as a sweat lodge (kansi) in which the “oniabo gua” ceremony of the Caney Circle tradition is carried out, a procedure that intails pouring water over very hot stones and filling the small enclosure with purifying steam. The teaching center also features a small outdoor shrine to the two main spirits of the Taino pantheon, Ioka Hu and Ata Bei, where offerings of cassava, maize, beans and squash are made regularly, and an indoor meditation room set aside inside the home of the beike for instruction and contemplation. The center also features a modest group ceremony area encircled by a hoop of stones laid on the ground and including a huge sacred boulder at the South of the stone hoop called the SIBA OF THE SOUTH which possesse secret and ancient healing energies.

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