Water is the Spirit that allows Life to flow in the forms and rhythms that we know it in this Physical-Spiritual Reality! This is a reality that Indigenous Peoples throughout the globe have always understood, and known, without a shadow of a doubt. Of course our lives are lived in the incredible and beautiful balance of Water, Fire, Earth and Air, to simplify the elements of life. We experience relative heat, cold, dry and wet in our lives. All life upon the Earth requires the balance of these elements, some adapting to more cold, more heat, more moist or more dry conditions. A wondrous array of spirits manifest in the desert adapting to its harsh heat and arid conditions, a similarly wondrous array of spirits manifest in the jungles, and in the temperate forests, and in the arctic tundras! However all this exists within a delicate balance inside of a small window of temperature and within the amazing and spiritual water cycle that blesses the Earth.
Life evolved from the water environments upon the Earth and our personal journey to come into this experience is through the waters of our Mother's Womb! Our Taino Ancestors (along with the multitude of Indigenous Ancestors of the Earth) understood the Sacredness of the Waters. The World of the Dead's entry is understood to be through bodies of water such as Lakes and Lagoons. Our practices involve many ceremonies with the waters. Our Ancestors of the Caribbean, in particular had intense relationships with the Sea around them (Caribbean Sea) as the Sea was as vital as the land, and they were able to find great sustenance in the Ocean. In particular the Taino fishing practices continued very much intact into modern times, as I have memories of fishing with relatives using Taino methods, including using lanterns at night to attract the fish, nets, and harpoons. At that time the Ocean was still full of abundance. This changed due to the industrialization of the islands, which has devastated the fish.
Indigenous understanding does NOT reduce Spirits, Cemis or Mpungos to "things". We understand that all natural elements and forms have Spirit! Not only do all the plants, animals and stones have Spirit, but there are even greater spiritual entities upon whom these spirits (including ourselves) rely. These are spirits of the Waters, of the Sun, of the Storm, of the Fire, of the Air and so on. Our Ancestors (and we continue today) had names for all these Spirits and did not feel the need to rank them, belittle them or dilute them. Of course based on the immediate environment of the People one Spirit might take precedence. For example in the Caribbean the Spirit of the Hurricane is very powerful, whereas in a place that does not get hurricanes this would not be so. Again for people dwelling right next to the Ocean, the Ocean becomes principle, whereas mountain Tainos would have more intense relationships with the Mountains, Rivers and Waterfalls. All this is common sense.
It is hard for those whose mind has become calcified within the modern rigidity and arrogance of classifying and ranking, dissecting and reducing everything to a periodic table of elements and the number of electrons, neutrons and protons everything has. Unfortunately this stunted way of thinking has impacted our communities, with ongoing devastating results. Sadly those who are awakening inside of their Indigenous Identity today have to turn to the internet because of lack of connection to the Earth and Elders. Here they have a great deal of ignorance and misinformation to overcome in their search for the tools to embrace that Identity.
Our Taino people in particular have a lot of obstacles to overcome with regards our Indigenous Identity, but more particularly, our Indigenous Practices. There are those misguided folks out there who are so insecure in their identity that they attempt to build an identity by shear might. Professing to authorities on everything Taino, in truth the know little about anything. Meaning, rather than truly following and seeking out the Spirits, they invent so called ceremonies that are a mishmash of other Indigenous People's traditions and christianity with a large dose of pop psychology mixed in. To truly embrace our identity we must strive to reconnect with our Ancestor's mindset regarding the Earth, the World! Modern psychological ideas are not necessarily relevant in a traditional Indigenous world view.
In our current moment in time, suffering as we are the culmination of 500 and more years of colonization, oppression and the utter devastation of our Natural Environment, we must look honestly and with courage at the path ahead of us. The cry around the Earth at this time is to protect our waters, which in turn protects our water cycle, our health, our existence! The poisoning of the soils leaches into our waters, the poisoning of our air leaches into our waters. This poisoning is being fueled by a thirst for energy via the thirst for fossil fuels that enables men to become "supermen" via the machinery that allows the illusion of domination of the earth by "supermen" to occur. This poisoning is being manifested through FIRE, out of control FIRE, that consumes and consumes and is never satiated. This manifests in our bodies in the form of disease, stress, anxiety, skin disorders, and more. The fire element is out of control because of the attempt to use it to dominate the Earth, Air, and Waters.
This out of control fire element gives rise to the highly aggressive and competitive behavior that marks every aspect of western society, and we Tainos are not just the victims of it but have in some cases become the victimizers. This competitiveness is easily seen on the internet as one individual attempts to surpass the next in what they frame as "Taino wisdom and knowledge" but what is in actuality made up fantasies, nothing more!
It is essential at this point to give some examples as a way to illustrate the distance between modern self ascribed "ceremonies and traditions" and our Ancestral Traditions. The first example is regarding ceremonies connected to Astronomical Occurrences. We know that our Taino Bateys were oriented in particular with regards Summer and Winter Solstices. For the gardener and horticulturalists it is very obvious as to why these moments are important within the cycle of the year as many plant's growth is dominated by day length as well as moisture and heat. Our Ancestors (who did not have smartphones and computers) needed to know when the days would increase and decrease in length. These moments also mark the cycle of the Sunrise- Sunset and the journey of the Sun along the horizon. There were practical reasons this knowledge was important, and our Ancestors understood and honored the Spiritual intelligence behind and within these rhythms. A solstice ceremony was not about pop psychology because you must understand that our Ancestors were living in a cleaner, healthier environment and were interrelating with that environment as a living entity. They were mentally and psychologically balanced in ways that we cannot fathom today.
Similarly ceremonies done with various animals were connected to the relationship of those animals to the people. Those ceremonies could be hunting ceremonies, or migration ceremonies which were timed and in tune with the natural migrations of birds and fish, or timed with the best season for hunting any given animal. These would be done in the appropriate environment and with the appropriate legitimate materials not caricatures. These were also fueled by the practical needs of the people. They were doing these ceremonies because they needed to eat! The Ceremony had a direct connection to its result which would be the abundance of "harvest"! These were not theatrical events, or psychological encounters, they were practical, realistic and grounded ceremonies that had visible results!
Today the reality of Earth Changes (Climate Change) is upon us. The Earth is overheated due to the out of control fires upon her. This is manifesting as increased forest fires, increased drought, more highly energized storms, tornados, hurricanes and cyclones who dump more water in shorter amounts of time leading to flooding and the erosion of soil, damaging of crops, destruction of homes and so on. As the Fire element continues to be abused, the Earth responds with greater extremes in the water cycle. All present data and future predictions as to the changes that climate change is bringing point to dramatic and devastating changes in our water cycle.
It is our heartfelt recommendation to our Taino people that we focus on what is real and inevitable rather than on fantasies, ego trips, and psychological insecurities. The greatest insecurity we face is our food, water and air, because too much fire has been burning. Some of the most important ceremonies we must be doing are the water ceremonies and those ceremonies cannot exclude the personal relationship we have with water in our lives! I encourage my Sisters and Brothers and all Relatives to seek out the Waters, give them offerings, cleanse yourself in the waters and ask the Spirit of the Waters to bring you to your senses and to bring true solutions to the critical challenges that lie ahead and that are already upon us all!