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GUA BAN CEX as a volcano / GUA BAN CEX como volcan

Gua Ban Cesh as a volcano
Gua Ban Cex como volcan
 
Takaji My Relatives In his RELACION ACERCA DE LAS ANTIGUEDADES DE LOS INDIOS, according to the Italian translation By Ulloa edited by Jose Juan Arrom, the monk Ramon Pane stated that the ancient Tainos believed in a female spirit called Gua Ban Cex (Ramon Pane 1494, Arrom 1974). Because his description of Gua Ban Cex painted a picture of a rather violent entity with the power and inclination to cause all sorts of weather-related chaos for the Tainos she has often been associated by scholars with the hurricane and other torrential and destructive meteriological manifestations. I believe that this association is very accurate. In his 1992 work "Encuentro con la mitologia taina" Sebastian Robiou Lamarche comments:
"Podia manifestarse una divinidad destructora: Guabancex...Guabancex, era en otras palabras, la deidad que producia las grandes lluvias destructoras, los fuertes vientos y los temibles huracanes." (Robiou Lamarche 1992).
 
Takaji Mis Parientes. En su RELACION ACERCA DE LAS ANTIGUEDADES DE LOS INDIOS de acuerdo a la version quel italiano Ulloa redacto en su lengua, y que es la version que despues fue editada por Jose Juan Arrom, el monje Ramon Pane afirmo que los antiguos tainos creian en un espiritu femenino llamada Gua Ban Cex (Ramon Pane 1494, Arrom 1974). Como la descripcion que Pane expuso de Gua Ban Cex la caracterizo como una entidad bastante violenta con el poder y la inclinacion para causar toda clase de destruccion y cao relacionado con el estado del tiempo para los pobres tainos ese espiritu se a asociado popularmente y en las publicaciones de los antropologos y otros estudiosos con los huracanes y otras manifestaciones meterologicas destructoras. Yo estoy convencido que esa asociacion es valida. En su publicacion  "Encuentro con la mitologia taina" Sebastian Robiou Lamarche comenta:
"Podia manifestarse una divinidad destructora: Guabancex...Guabancex, era en otras palabras, la deidad que producia las grandes lluvias destructoras, los fuertes vientos y los temibles huracanes." (Robiou Lamarche 1992).
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And yet there is some evidence that indicates that the ancient Tainos may have perceived the spiritual concepts associated with violent natural manifestations from a more wholistic perspective. We in the Caney Circle suggest that Gua Ban Cex, rather than just representing rough weather, can represent almost any of a wide variety of destructive natural phenomena. She also represents earthquakes, of which there can be quite a lot in the extremely seismic region of the Caribbean. She also represents tidal waves and tsunamis, hail and from our point of view another extraordinarily powerful and prevalent natural phenomenon that prevails mostly in the eastern Caribbean, volcanoes.
 
Sin embargo existe evidencia que indica que los antiguos tainos quisa percibieron los conceptos espirituales asociados a manifestaciones naturales de mucha violencia de un punto de vista mas holistico. Nosotros en el Circulo Espiritual Caney sugerimos que Gua Ban Cex, mas que simplemente una representante del mal tiempo lluvioso, tambien puede representar casi cualquiera de una gran variedad de fenomenos naturales destructores. Sugerimos que ella tambien hubo de simbolizar los terremotos, los cuales abundan en la region del Caribe, siendo esta un area sumamente sismica. Ella tambien representa las marejadas, tsunamis y maremotos, el granizo violento, y en nuestro criterio, otra manifestacion natural muy poderosa y con un potencial de destruccion muy grande que tambien abunda en el Caribe oriental, los volcanes. 
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     It is now generally accepted that that the principal Indigenous people who eventually evolved into the Caribbean Tainos were a group of Arawakan language-speaking immigrants from the north eastern region of South America where the Orinoco River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. These Arawakan people are now identified by scholars with the name "Saladoids". They are credited with bringing not only the Arawakan language to the Caribbean but also the tradition of yuca (manioc) cultivation and processing of casabe bread, as well as advanced clay sculpture and pottery. According to what we know, those ancient people migrated from South America out into the Caribbean Sea about two thousand years ago and inhabited practically all of the islands there.
  Es generalmente acceptado que la nacion indigena principal que eventualmente evoluciono para convertirse en la etnia taina fue un grupo indigena de habla arahuaca, que immigro hacia las Antillas desde la region de Sud America donde el rio Orinoco desemboca  al Atlantico. Esta gente arahuaca son denominadas "Saladoides" por los arqueologos. A ellos se les da el credito por traer no solamente la lengua arahuaca al Caribe, sino tambien la tradicion del cultivo de la yuca, la elaboracion del casabe, y la alfareria. Por lo que se sabe, esa gente antigua emigro desde Sud America hacia el Mar Caribe hace aproximadamente dos mil a~os atras y poblo practicamente todas las islas.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
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 The anthropologist Lennox Edward Honychurch, as part of an article "Island Cosmology" written based on years of study of Kalinago culture on the island of Dominica makes this assertion:
                                             
  "The most definitive element of the landscape that represented Grenada and the islands to the north for the indigenous groups was the volcanic peak. So unusual were these high summits to the people of the delta region(meaning the Orinoco delta), that in the mythology of the Warao, Naparima Hill in southern Trinidad was considered to be a pillar holding up the sky on the edge of the Warao world (Wilbert 1993).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                        
El antropologo Lennox Edward Honychurch publico un articulo llamado "Island Cosmology" que se basa en a~os de estudio de la cultura kalinago en la isla de Dominica. En ese articulo Honychurch afirma lo siguiente:

 
 
"El elemento mas definitivo del paisaje insular que para los indigenas represento a la isla de Grenada y las otras mas alla al norte en el arco antillano fue el volcan. Estas manifestaciones topograficas de tanta elevacion  les parecieron tan extra~as y sorprendentes a los antiguos moradores de la delta (del Orinoco), que en la mitologia de los Waraus, el monte "Naparima" en el sur de Trinidad, represento un pilar alla en el borde del mundo Warau que sostenia el cielo (Wilbert 1993).
 
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Coming from the flat river banks and delta region it was the volcanic peaks, rising out of the sea in a gently curving arc along their route northwards which became the main symbol in their mythic geography once they reached the islands. These peaks gave the islands life and they were the source of all the natural resources that the islands contained. The image of the volcano became the centerpiece for the cosmology of the successive waves of island-based tribes that followed the first agricultural and pottery making people now known as the Saladoid. From their arrival in the islands at the beginning of the Christian era, the volcano was represented in shell, stone and clay in the form of a religious object called a zemi. Because these particular zemies are cut, carved or moulded into the shape of the triangle of a volcanic peak, they are called 'three-pointers'. 
 
 
Esta gente se origino en los llanos a las orillas de los rios (tributarios del Orinoco) y la region plana de la delta. Para ellos esos picos volcanicos, que surgian del mar, uno por uno, en fila, el uno detras del otro, extendiendose en forma de un arco a todo largo de su recorrido migratorio hacia el norte, llegaron a convertirse en el simbolo principal de la geografia mitica cuando ellos se encontraron ubicados ya en las islas. La verdad es que esos picos eran los que le proporcionaban vida a esas islas y  la fuente de todos los recursos naturales que ellas contenian. La imagen del volcan llego a ser el enfoque principal de la cosmologia de ola tras ola de tribus insulares que sigueron a los primeros colonos agroalfareros ahora  identificados con el nombre de "Saladoide". Desde su arribo en las islas al principio de lo que en el viejo mundo se conocio como la epoca cristiana, esa gente represento la imagen del volcan artisticamente en los medios del  caracol labrado, piedra pulida y barro cosido, creando de estas substancias  una clase de objetos religiosos llamados "zemi". Por haber sido elaborados en forma de triangulo con tres puntas que demuestran gran semejanza a picos volcanicos, a estos zemies se le conoce con el nombre de 'trigonolitos'.
 
 
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The Saladoid had found a natural object with which to make these first "three-pointer" zemis of the volcano. In the waters around these islands lives the distinctive Strombus gigas or conch and its shell provided an image not just of single volcanic peaks as determined by Olsen (1974) but if studied carefully, the entire shell provides a rough three-dimentional map of the volcanic island cones of the Lesser Antilles. Not only have individual pieces of the points on the conch shell been found to have been cut off from the main shell and carved, but even when these are reproduced in stone or clay they are given a concave base which replicates the concave indentation underneath every conical peak on the conch shell. With the peaks on the conch representing the peaks of the islands then the giant opening of the mouth of the conch may have been interpreted as the bocas of the Orinoco River from which successive groups of indigenous islanders had come.
 
 
 
Los indigenas de los pueblos Saladoides llegaron a descubrir algo en el ambiente natural con el cual comenzaron a elaborar los primeros zemies 'trigonolitos' en forma de volcan. En las aguas que rodeaban su nuevo hogar isle~o vivian y todavia viven los grandes moluscos distintivos llamados "Strombus Gigas". El caracol o concha que estos animales producen con sus muchas proyecciones o puntas conicas le proveyeron a esa gente una imagen no solamente de picos volcanicos como lo determino Olsen (1974) sino de un mapa entero en tres dimensiones de  la hilera completa de las islas volcanicas conicas que forman el archipielgo de las Antillas Menores. Tal imagen se puede dicernir si se estudia ese objeto cuidadosamente. Se han hallado en yacimientos arqueologicos atravez de esa area no solamente ejemplares individuales, elaborados de las puntas o proyecciones con las cuales estan cubiertos esos caracoles, sino que tambien cuando luego esas puntas fueron reproducidas por esa gente en otros medios como el barro y la piedra, aquellos artesanos le proporcionaron a sus obras la base concava que tipicamente se encuentra en forma natural por la parte inferior o ventral de cada punta conica del caracol. Si las puntas o proyecciones del caracol representan los picos volcanicos de las islas individuales entonces pues la gran apertura o boquete del caracol pudo representar la desembocadura del gran rio Orinoco desde el cual esos grupos de indigenas habian originado.
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Once on the islands, these people were well aware of the power of the volcano."
Encontrandose ellos ya en las islas, esta gente rapidamente se apercibieron del poder del volcan."
 (quoted from Honychurch/de Honychurch )  
Here I end my quote from Lennox Honychurch
Aqui termino de citar a Lennox Honychurch
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The irony of a dominant geographic feature such as a volcano, whose surrounding landscape can be the most fertile in all the island, yet which can explode in a nightmare of all-consuming fury, was not lost on the early Arawakan ancestors. Certainly the fertility of the areas affected by ancient volcanic deposits must have made these ancestors create a connection in their minds between the volcano and the ever-fertile female Mother spirit. But at the same time a healthy respect must have developed for an entity that could only be described as the "mother nature" that you're not supposed to mess with.
 
Es ironico que tal elemento tan dominante de la topografia caribe~a como lo es el volcan, cuyas vecindades suelen ser las zonas mas fertiles de toda la isla debido a la riquesa de los depositos volcanicos, es al mismo tiempo un monstruo que tiene la capacidad de explotar a forma de terrible pesadilla, con una furia devastadora. Esa ironia no tardo en hacerse obvia en el pensamiento de los ancestros arahuacos. Naturalmente la fertilidad de las areas afectadas por los depositos volcanicos hubo de crear en las mentes de esos ancestros una coneccion o enlace mistico entre el volcan (por violento que sea) y la deidad materna que ellos identificaban con la fertilidad. Pero al mismo tiempo mantenian un respeto casi temeroso ante esa entidad que se le puede identificar como la llamada "madre naturaleza" que ellos nunca deben de enfadar.
 
I feel that using the projecting points of the conch shell to create these volcano images, as Honychurch has pointed out, allowed the early pre-Taino immigrants in the islands to make the important psychic connection between the mother spirit, Ata Bey, who is identified with bodies of water (at times associated with sea water because sea water is the blood of Mother Earth, also, by extension, with the marine creature, the conch shell), and the destructive, conical fire-breathing beings that dotted many of the major islands in the Lesser Antilles. This connection between the Water Mother/Earth Mother and the volcano would prove logical only if these people saw the Earth Mother as possessing a dual face, one beneficient and the other one destructive. I trully believe that this was the case, recognizing in their mother spirit, as with any other important spiritual concept, the important element of complimentary duality which rules the whole universe; up/down, Life/Death, dark/light, creative/destructive.
En mi opinion el hecho que esa gente usaban las puntas o proyecciones de los caracoles marinos para elaborar imagenes de volcanes, como afirmo Honychurch, le dio a esos emigrantes pre-tainos la oportunidad de crear en su conciencia siquica un complejo mitico que incluia enlaces misticos entre su percepcion del espiritu materno Ata-Bey (Gua-Ban-Cex) quien se identifica en algunas ocaciones con cuerpos aquaticos como el mar (la sangre de la madre tierra con sus seres marinos como el caracol) y las enormes y terribles entidades topograficas conicas de aliento incandente que se alzan en muchas de las islas de las antillas menores. Esa coneccion entre la Madre Tierra o Madre Aquatica y el volcan solamente tiene logica si se comprende que esa gente percibian en esa deidad un ser divino con facultad dualista, con un caracter beneficioso por un lado y por el otro un caracter destructivo. Yo estoy convencido que este efectivamente fue el caso, que ellos reconocieron en su madre espiritual, como lo es en el caso de cualquier otro concepto mistico del sistema chamanico, el elemento importantisimo de la dualidad complementaria que regia en el universo entero, arriba y abajo, la luz y la oscuridad, lo creativo y lo destructivo.
 
I have remarked elsewhere that most of the three-pointer sculptures of the fully evolved Tainos that Columbus met in 1492 represent Yoka Hu, the male spirit of the yuca plant and of Life itself. I stand by that assertion. And yet there are a number of exceptions to that general rule which seem to adapt themselves to the three-pointer morphology and yet don't seem to represent Yoka Hu at all. Among these are the many zoomorphic (animal-shaped) three-pointers that also abound in the larger islands. Others are something else totally different.
En otras ocaciones yo e comentado que la mayoria de las esculturas tipo trigonoloito que se crearon en la cultura taina antigua en su epoca de mas madurez eran representaciones de Yoka Hu, el espiritu masculino de la yuca y de la vida en si. Yo estoy convencido de esa realidad, que muchos de esos objetos efectivamente si representan a Yoka Hu. Sin embargo, es obvio que existen muchas excepciones, ejemplares que se ajustan a la morfologia del trigonolito pero no representan ni a Yoka Hu ni a ninguna entidad masculina. Muchos son simplemente representaciones de animales sagrados, que abundan en las Antillas Mayores. Otros son otra cosa completamente diferente.
   
It is entirely possible that the conical shape of the original plain, undecorated three-pointers found in the smaller volcanic islands, fashioned from conch-shell projections, which certaily can be reminicent of the cut-off pointed end of the (male) yuca tuber, could also, at other times, bring to mind the conical shape of a female human breast. If that was the case then some of these objects would represent female Gua Ban Cex instead of male Yoka Hu. That the three-pointers can represent Gua Ban Cex in the form of a volcano would then expand the understanding of this important deity from the purely weather-related entity recognized by most scholars to a more generalized nature spirit that represents ALL catastrophic natural phenomena, not just storms. In other words, she is ALL MOTHER NATURE.
Es absolutamente posible que la forma conica no decorada de los trigonolitos originales mas antiguos hallados en yacimientos arqueologicos de las islas volcanicas, y elaborados de las puntas del caracol strombus gigas, que por cierto sugieren en su forma la punta (masculina) del tuberio de la yuca cortada, tambien en otras ocaciones pudieron representar la forma conica del pecho de una mujer. Si ese fue el caso, entoses algunos de esos objetos hubieron de representar a la Gua-Ban-Cex femenina en vez del Yoka Hu masculino. El hecho que los trigonolitos pudieron representar a Gua-Ban-Cex en forma de volcan entonces expande el concepto etnologico de esa deidad, de una imagen que personifica solamente una manifestacion meterologica a una imagen mas inclusiva que abarca todos los fenomenos naturales catastroficos, incluyendo la erupcion del volcan, y no solamente las tormentas. En otras palabras, ella es LA MADRE NATURALEZA en su completa totalidad.
 
 A famous three-pointer discovered in the Dominican Republic and now housed at the Museo Arqueologico Regional, Altos De Chavon in D.R. is probably the epitomal example of this concept. The imagery on this cemi depicts a bulbous, gently swelling cone, tipped by what can only be interpreted as a human female nipple. From the top part of the cone there seems to descend the long winding body of a ferocious snake. The body of the reptile is depicted artistically curved in ondulating waves around the whole globular mass of the mammiform cone, its pointed tail wrapped around the areola of the upward-pointing nipple, its all-consuming, many-toothed maw, grimacing at the base.
Un trigonolito famoso descubierto originalmente en la Republica Dominicana y mantenido presentemente en el Museo Arqueologico Regional, Altos De Chavon de esa nacion, nos presenta probablemente con el ejemplar por eccelencia de este concepto. La imagen que se ilustra en esta obra de arte es sin duda la de un pecho femenino humano en forma muy estetica y adornado en su parte superior con lo que solamente se puede describir como un pezon. Desde la cima superior de ese objeto de forma conica parece descender el cuerpo sinuoso de una serpiente de caracter feroz. Ese cuerpo largo y undulado de serpiente a sido esculpido en la superficie del pecho de mujer de una manera artistica que lo define enrozcandose a todo alrededor de la forma globular, mamiforme. El extremo punteagudo de su cola se encuentra como abrazando la aureola del pezon que apunta hacia arriba en la parte superior, en la cima de la escultura. De ahi la serpiente parece descender enrozcandose a todo alrededor de la obra hasta terminar abajo en la base con la cabeza que ostenta una cara feroz de boca abierta, los dientes expuestos como algo que lo consume todo lo que se encuentra a su paso.
This animated gif illustrates what we believe is the imagery suggested by the Altos De Chavon Museum three-point serpent cemi sculpture.
 
The image is clearly that of a volcanic eruption, the flow of the serpentine body is the stream of fiery lava or pyroclastic material descending down its sloped sides, eating everything in its path. It certainly presents us with a striking example of the awe-filled respect with which these ancient ancestors contemplated that female matriarch. It is to be remembered that the serpent has been identified by Eugenio Fernandez Mendez as one of the most iconic animal-totems of the Taino female mother spirit (Eugenio Fernandez Mendez, Art and Mythology of the Taino Indians of the Greater West Indies (San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ediciones El Cemi 1993), pp.18, 26).
Esta imagen es obviamente la de un volcan en el acto de erupcion. El flujo de la lava o flujo piroclástico que emite el volcan  lo representa la imagen serpentina que desciende y se enrrozca alrededor del su forma conica, consumiendo todo lo que se encuentra a su paso. Representa para nosotros un excelente ejemplo del respeto con el cual esos antiguos ancestros contemplaban a la deidad matriarcal. A de recordarse que la serpiente fue identificada por Eugenio Fernandez Mendez como uno de los totems mas iconicos de el espiritu Madre-Tierra de los tainos antiguos (Eugenio Fernandez Mendez ARTE Y MITOLOGIA DE LOS INDIOS TAINOS DE LAS ANTILLAS OCCIDENTALES, San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ediciones El Cemi 1993, paginas 18, 26)
Image of the erupting volcano Soufrière Hills on the Caribbean island of Monserrat, 1995
Imagen de la erupcion del volcan Soufrière Hills en la isla antillana de Monserrat, 1995
 
Taino Ti
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague

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Comment by AkuTurey on August 13, 2014 at 1:14am

Very good look at the duality of all Life as it is represented in South America,Central America and our Islands...This explains a lot of what I've thought about,and it is good to see here the understanding that"male"/f"female",can be interchangeable.We this this in many examples in the animal/biological world-seahorses,clown fish,which change gender according to need.Naturally,indigenous traditions might have a preference for ascribing one or another gender to say,mountains,or the waters,and,as said here,an ambiguous assigning,or assigning both.

Comment by Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague on June 21, 2012 at 7:19am

Takaji Nanu

Aside from I think is an obvious allusion to the human female breast in the artistic iconography of the three-pointer cemi cited above and its apparent similarity to an erupting volcano I want to point out the prevalent ambiguity in Indigenous mythic ascription. I agree completely that in most ancient tradition the volcano (talking mountain) is associated with a male divinity, and it is certainly plausible that the ancient Arawak ancestors may have made that association. However may I point out the tradition in Maya culture of  the so-called "Cleft Head" Earth Monster who was associated to the Witz mountain and the Origin Volcano from whose summit the ancients acquired the sacred foods. This iconography creates in ancient maya culture a kind of ambiguity between the male characterization of mountains and volcanoes and their "female" creative, life-giving characteristics. This ambiguity survives to this day in the tradition of the underworld Earth deity "El Mundo" which is male although it is associated with the female Earth Mother.

In ancient Arawak tradition we see a similar ambiguity in the veneration of the moon spirit whose female characterization sometimes becomes confusingly replaced by the "Moon Brother" of the "Dirty Face" legend.

The point that I am trying to make is that gender ascription is never a hard and fast business in any Indigenous tradition and we have evidence that the Arawakan people are no ecception.

One mus keep an open mind when it comes to understanding the role that gender plays in primordial culture.

Taino Ti

Miguel 

Comment by Nanu on June 20, 2012 at 11:47pm

This is very interesting, Don Miguel.  I have questions though:

Being that our ancestors came from South America, there are incredible similarities between the islanders and the southern continent.  The Anaconda, Sachamama, is the symbol of the Medicine of the South direction.  She is female.  Pachamama is Mother Earth and is female as well, however the mountains or Apus, are male.  If our ancestors came from SA and kept the serpent and earth imagery as female, why would they change the gender of the mountains?  The balance of opposites and the natural understanding of duality would still be present without changing the gender.

And at the risk of sounding rude, I would add that the nature of a volcanic eruption would seem more masculine as well, although I do like how you related this to breast milk...

Notes

La Bruja

Created by Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague Apr 4, 2016 at 12:07am. Last updated by Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague Apr 4, 2016.

Angel Rodriguez Caguana archeoastronomy

Created by Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague Mar 29, 2016 at 3:10pm. Last updated by Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague Mar 29, 2016.

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