Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Dia de los Muertos 2018

 Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) accompanies a radical transformation, here in the temperate regions, when summer transforms to winter.  The leaves which have absorbed so much sunlight during the summer, now turn every shade of yellow, orange, red, and brown and fall to the earth to nourish the soil.  The tree trunks left reflect the palos within the fundamento, showing us how the Earth is one great big Fundamento with every palo imaginable within her.  This year we chose to make our Day of the Dead offerings in a new Batey that we are building for our son, Hatuey.  The tree in the center is his tree, planted when he was one years old, over his placenta.  The stones of the Batey itself are from an older Batey that was in the forest.  Everything changes and shifts, and shape shifts in life.
The cemis, Opiel Guabiran and Guatauba Maquetaurie, are present, representing the Taino ancestors. Various batons and palos are present representing ancestors, as well as various other elements of the ancestors.  The petroglyphs visible are all Taino petroglyphs.  While we are honoring "Day" of the Dead, in reality everyday for us is the "day of the dead".  As Nganguleros, Taino, we see the Dead as being instrumental, essential and present in every day movements.
Our offering consists of all the vital elements, cooked and raw, that can be absorbed by the ancestors.  The aromas are of particular importance in this process.  Cooking the food allows the aromas to be carried upon the winds in all directions, calling the ancestors to approach.  Essential elements such as the sweet guayaba for the muertos is present year to year.  The sacred root of the Taino, Yuca, is always present, here cooked with name, jautia.  Bacalao and smoked fish from the oceans are present.  Maiz tostada, grown from our conucos here, and a cacao cake with chili peppers are also part of the offerings.  
The offering is varied, as we are making offerings to ancestors from many traditions.  We acknowledge the Indigenous ancestors of this region, the various ancestors whose bones are buried here.  We honor our Taino ancestors, our African ancestors, all our ancestors, known and unknown.  We honor those ancestors we knew in life, and those we never met.

From day to night, the energies shift, revealing faces that were not visible earlier during the day.  It is important to us that the ceremony continue throughout the two faces of life (light and dark), the whole circle of life.  The night blessed us with a clear sky of stars.

 In this time of extreme Earth Changes, we continue to affirm the continuance of our spiritual traditions, teaching our children that their ancestors and cultural/ spiritual traditions are the most precious, sacred aspect of life.  We bring out our Taino cemis, Opiel and Guatauba, to affirm the ancestors, to acknowledge the dead, to make the statement that we are the living, walking extension of our ancestors. We remind these semis of the stories of the Taino Casike Hatuey, the freedom fighter!

Upcoming Book.....Unlocking the Spiritual Power of the Plants

Unlocking the Spiritual Power of the Plants

      Plants sacred to our Afro-Caribbean Traditions from a Palero’s Perspective

Over several years, we have been working on a in-depth book on using plants in Palo.  The book looks not only at certain key plants that we use every day in the munanso, but also at plants that grow outside of the Caribbean which are powerful spiritual plants.  In our munanso, we do not want to be reliant on botanicas for our plants, and have turned to the natural environment that we live in here in the diaspora for local options.  The book includes history, cultural notes, plant energies, and uses in palo.  We expect to be completing it in the new year (2019).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Growth of the Central Batey

After years of depletion and non-Indigenous farming practices, the land that we first stepped onto was in great need of the vitality that our traditional practices bring to the Earth herself.  These traditional practices not only involve the many ceremonial offerings given throughout the cycle of the year over many years, but they also include a transformation of the landscape.  What was once a tired hayfield, is now becoming a biologically diverse healing space.  
 The photo above and below shows the batey during the early days. The single maple tree in the foreground as well as the large boulder next to it and a number of the stones around the circumference of the batey were all brought from our prior ceremonial grounds.  Many of these stones already had petroglyphs on them.  
As Tainos, as Paleros, we are always seeking spaces where sacred ceremony can take place and healing can occur.  We look for where the Nsimbi call out from, where the spiritual energy is palpable, where trees embody the expressions of the Nsimbi, Cemis, and Muertos.  While it is good to seek out healing from the Nsimbis, from Mother Earth, from the ancestors, it is also vital, especially at this point in time, that we also extend our hand in healing these spaces.  

When creating a ceremonial space, we do not always start with a pristine space.  Very often we begin in a space that has been abused, has been depleted, or literally used as a dump.  Our previous ceremonial space first began to be created by removing tons and tons of trash.  This ceremonial space began as a tired hay field.  

The photo above shows the same batey today.  The large tree to the right next to the stone is the same ceremonial tree pictured in the first photo.  The batey itself is now surrounded with trees who are growing at a tremendous rate. Trees are powerful healers of Mother Earth as they renew the soil, embrace a wide variety of life, and empower the water cycle through their shade.  Many of these trees were planted by us, others simply sprung up in the soil around the batey, to which we had added compost.  

Many of the Nfindas in which Paleros play are becoming overburdened with spiritual debris.  As those who are seeking healing from healing spaces, it is a powerful step forward to also create those healing spaces by renewing the fertility and abundance of Mother Earth.  As long as Mother Earth is being poisoned and abused, healing and health will be the exception rather than the norm that it should be.