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CANEY CIRCLE Taino wedding ceremony

Wedding Ceremony

As can be seen in some of the images above, it is customary in many cases, to incorporate four bowls or plates bearing the four sacred foods 1. green squash in the South 2. black beans in the west 3. white casabe wafer in the North and 4. yellow corn in the East representing the four points of the compass and their respective colors. This addition of the four foods is done at the discretion of the behike.

Blowing the conch shell horn GUAMO


Diana smudging




When two people decide that they are prepared to join in marriage and spend their lives together the Caney Circle is prepared to provide a beautiful and meaningful ceremony to establish that union. The Caney wedding ceremony is usually guided by a Caney beike who has legal ministerial capacity to sanctify a marriage. The details of the ceremony can vary and they can include a wide variety of particulars that may be added by the bride and groom at their pleasure. However there are certain constants in the Caney wedding that must always be included. These five constants are:

* The conjugal blanket

* The sharing of the foods

* The story of the first couple

* The conjugal ribbon

* The sharing of water poured from the wedding vase (unity vase) 

* The behike directs the bride and the groom to supply the following items for the ceremony:

 1.) one large blanket, shawl or robe that can be used to cover both their shoulders. This should be a blanket that is meaningful to the two of them in some special personal way  

2.) three sacred foods that will form part of the altar set-up...... (a.)a small green zucchini squash (b.) a small flip-top can of cooked black beans (c.) a small flip-top can of yellow kernel corn (behike will provide a fourth sacred food, casabe)  
3.) two foods  that will be used in the actual ritual, and eaten as a token symbol of their willingness to nourish each other with their love  (a.) a tiny quantity of some corn food such as corn chips or corn bread...and maybe (b.) a small quantity of some meat that they commonly eat preferably fowl (turkey or wild fowl) or fish.  
4.) four matching plates or bowls to hold the four sacred foods at the altar and two extra plates to hold the corn and the meat which will be ritually consumed during the ceremony by them   
5.) two glasses, cups or goblets from which they will ritually drink water  
6.) a pouch of Captn Black pipe tobacco or a cigar
The ceremony begins with the traditional Caney Circle initial introductory procedure that includes the tobacco ritual.


purification of tabonuko smudge


singing the sacred songs of Ata Bey and YokaHu and of the Four Directions


In the context of a wedding ceremony only the bride and the groom are offered the tobacco to smoke.

Once the tobacco ceremony is completed the behike tells the story of the two legendary couples; Heketi Guaribo with Heketi Guariche and Deminan with TurtleWoman.

Janie and Ramon's wedding 8




Deminan and Turtle Woman


After the story-telling session the helper(s) assist the bride and the groom to tie the two ends of a ribbon or cord, one end around the groom's waist, the other end around the bride's waist, thereby joining them together. 

After attaching the bride and the groom together with a ribbon or cord the helper(s) assist them in draping a shawl, blanket or cape over both their shoulders.

Janie and Ramon's wedding 7

under the wedding blanket 3

The helpers are then directed by the behike to bring the two plates bearing the two foods that are tokens of their devotion to each other. By hand-feeding a tiny bit of food into the mouth of his or her life-partner each one of these people commits to feed him or her for the remainder of their time together with the spiritual food of their love.


The woman goes first. She is presented with the plate bearing the plant food representing the fact that in ancient traditional Taino society the women were the primary cultivators, caring for and ultimately preparing all plant foods such as the casabe that is made from the yuca tuber roots and the corn meal that is made from maize. She picks up a very small token piece of this food and feeds it to the groom. The behike explains all of this to those assembled.


The bride is guided by the behike in reciting the words of commitment as she feeds her mate:

"By giving you this token of my love I vow to feed you with my devotion. I vow to nourish you with the food of my soul from this day on." 

sharing foods

Then it's the man's turn. The meat he deals with in this ceremony is representative of the fact that ancient Taino men were the hunters and fishermen. They dealt with the catching of the wild prey animals. He is brought the plate bearing the meat and he picks up a tiny portion of it and feeds it to the bride. The behike explains all of this to those assembled.


The groom is guided by the behike in reciting the words of commitment as he feeds his mate:

"By giving you this token of my love I vow to feed you with my devotion. I vow to nourish you with the food of my soul from this day on." 

Then, to symbolize that the bride and groom will both be drinking of the same Life waters, sharing the same Life experiences, the behike pours water out of the wedding vase into two cups or glasses. He gives one to the bride and the other to the groom and they both drink it together. As they drink  the water the behike proclaims the following statement:

"By drinking the water from the same Unity Vase you commit to sharing the same waters of Life, drinking of its experiences together as one". 

pouring water from wedding vase 2

 when the bride and the groom are finished drinking the water they are given the opportunity to recite or read any prepared statement or declaration that they have put together, if that is their wish. The bride goes first. 

If there is to be an exchange of rings the behike signals for that to happen after the readings or recitations. The bride puts the ring on the groom's finger first then the groom puts the ring on the bride's finger. If they wish to say something meaningful during the exchange of rings they are given the opportunity to do that. However if they have not prepared any statements for this portion of the ceremony then the ring exchange is carried out in silence.



At this point the behike asks the questions that allow the couple to legally declare their formal willingness to wed each other:

(To the bride) "Do you (name of the bride) accept this man as your lawfully wedded husband?"


The bride answers: "I do"


(to the groom) "Do you (name of the groom) accept this woman as your lawfully wedded wife?"


The groom answers: "I do"


At that point the behike proclaims:

"By the power vested in me by the state of (name of state or territory), and by Yaya the Great Spirit, and in the sight of AtaBey and YokaHu and of all of our ancestors, I now pronounce you HUSBAND and WIFE. A new guardian spirit has been born this day and it guides your union. SENEKO KAKONA".


These words conclude the wedding ceremony.


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