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Myth / Taíno Mythology

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The Taíno were an indigenous people of the Caribbean. Until Spanish colonizers began traveling to the islands in the 15th century, they were the main inhabitants of The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the northern Lesser Antilles, and Puerto Rico.

The Taino worshipped deities and ancestral spirits called zemi (also written as "cemi"). Zemi were housed in sculptures sculpted from a wide variety of materials, including wood, clay, sandstone, bone, shells, and stone. Medicine people could consult zemis for healing and advice. During these consultation ceremonies, images of the zemi were sometimes painted or tattooed on the body of a priest (who was known as a "Bohuti" or "Buhuithu"). While Zemi are most associated with the Taino, they were also created by indigenous South American cultures.

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Notable Deities

  • Atabey is often cited as the Taino's supreme god. She's a fertility and water goddess (as well as an Earth Spirit), alongside the masculine Yúcahu. Pregnant women prayed to Atabey to ensure a safe childbirth.
  • Yúcahu is known as the creator of the Taino. He is a fertility god, alongside the feminine Atabey. He created the sun, moon, stars, animals, and humans. Yúcahu lives on a throne on the peak of the largest mountain in the El Yunque National Forest.
  • Maboyas is the ruler of the Underworld and Lord of the Dead. He is only active during the nighttime. He destroys crops, seduces women, and terrorizes people. Maboyas has a half-human/half-dog helper named Opiyelguabirán who only allows worthy souls into the Land of the Dead.
  • Guabancex, also known by her Spanish name "Juracán" (which actually refers to the storms themselves), controls the weather, particularly storms and hurricanes (which is where the word comes from). She was an important goddess, as good weather was needed for crops and wind was vital for travel between islands. Guabancex has a temper and often becomes enraged and bent on destroying all in her path with hurricanes. She is always associated with Guataubá, who heralds her eventual arrival with clouds and lightning. Guabancex threatens the other deities in an attempt to have them join her. The goddess often clashes with their supreme deity, Yúcahu, when she reaches the rainforest peak of El Yunque.
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Taino mythology provides examples of:

  • Creation Myth: The goddess Atabey originally created the heavens and nothing else. The world was void and empty. To fix this, she created her two sons Yucáhu and Guacar. Yucáhu took over his mother's role as a creation deity in an attempt at gaining her favour. He awoke the Earth from its slumber and created two new deities: the controllers of the sun and moon, Boinael and Maroya. Yucáhu noticed four gemstones that lied in the ground and converted them into the celestial star beings Achinao, Coromo, Racuno, Sobaco. He then created the animals. Finally Yucáhu created a new entity that wasn't either an animal nor a deity. He opened a rift in the heaven, from which emerged the first man, Locuo.
  • Dark Is Evil: Maboyas is the god of death and the afterlife who worked during the night. He caused plenty of troubles to mortals and is attributed for anything bad that happened in the world.
  • Food God: Yucáhu is a god of cassava, a staple crop of the Taino (and even their modern descendents)
  • Mother Nature: Atabey represents the Earth's spirit. She is the creator goddess who created the heavens and gave birth to Yúcahu, another important creator deity.
  • Water Is Womanly: Atabey is the Taino's supreme god — the goddess of water and fertility, contrasted with the masculine Yúcahu.
  • Weather Manipulation: Guabancex is a storm goddess who has control over the weather.


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