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Tau My Relatives
This past Saturday, June 27 I had the honor of leading the first Taino kansi sweat ceremony in the state of Georgia. I was invited to build the traditional thatched roofed guanara lodge in the manner of the Caney Indigenous Spiritual Circle at the home of Boriken Taino couple Johnny and Lupe Negron near Canton, Georgia.

Lupe is a remarkable healer in her own right. Practicing professionally in the Canton area, I found her and Johnny, her husband to be profoundly comitted Tainos who walk the sacred Indigenous path of our ancestors in the company of their friends, hosting regular gatherings at their beautiful four-acre log cabin homestead in the outskirts of Canton.

Lupe, Johnny, I, and a number of other participants spent the whole day Friday and much of Saturday building the large guanara lodge which would shelter the group that evening during our healing ceremony.






After our sacred circle ceremony with burning tabonuko, Taino clay pipe tobacco ritual, and cemi sculpture images of the Taino ancestral spirits we entered the beautiful brand new guanara and experience a profound encounter with the sacred hupias of our Taino forebears. We were blessed with what I considered to be four rounds of the most intense steam-purification that i have had the honor of leading in a long time.






Taino Ti
Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Sague

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Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on July 1, 2009 at 11:18am
Tau again sister
Here are the answers to your further queries:

1. Did you include a floor in your plans for the comfort of the people? Do you have a personal preference?
Because our guanara is left covered for long periods of time (with ocasional airings of the canvas and blankets to prevent molding), the grass inside quickly dies for lack of sun. This leaves a bare layer of dirt which durig a typical kansi ceremony, with all of the thick humidity that is produced by the steam can turn into a real bud-bath. Blankets do help and we used to have people bring their own blankets but that meant each person had to cope with the idea that a blanket was being sacrificed to the mud everytime they attended the ceremony. A layer of straw sread eavenly on the ground helped also but it was a resource that we had to keep renewing. I researched the culture of our Central American relatives in Mexico and Guatemala with their temazcal sweatlodge tradition.

In studying this culture i realized we Tainos do not owe any alligance to the bare earth, sage-covering tradition of the North American Lakota inipi when our own closer relatives in Central America have routinely paved their sweatlodges for centuries creating a perfectly mud-free floor in a permanent structure. I do not pave our guanara floor but instead I refer to the wooden floor tradition of the raised floor structures on stilts discovered by archeologists at the Taino site of Buchillones, Cuba. These structures had wooden boards for flooring lifted above the ground on stout wooden stilts. I see wooden board flooring as a perfectly legitimate form of flooring for our Taino kansi and in faithful keeping with the tradition of our ancestors.

2. What do you mean about "the mud"? I assume you are speaking of when the water is brought in... We have resolved this by laying the blankets in such a way that the path between the outside fire pit, where the grandfathers are heating, and the Mother's womb is clear. This way the mud that can be created by the pouring is covered with the blankets once we are done.

This questions is answered above :-)


3. Do you have a fire keeper for the grandfathers? Is the entrance to the guanara facing a particular direction? I notice in your last pic the guanara and the small spirit house are facing the same way. Do you leave your cemis out there all the time or only during ceremony?

Sometimes we assign the responsibility of fire-tending to a particular individual who might or might not participate in that particular sweat inside the lodge depending on personal preference. When there is no one available to perform that task the beike himself or herself must assume that responsibility.
The Caney Circle guanara always opens to the east because that is the direction of the rising sun and the door to the lodge, with its light-emitting quality is associated with the dawn or morning sun.
The otdoor cemi shrine is kept outside permanently. It incorporates two elements, a tall pole with a carved image of YokaHu placed at the top to represent his association with the sky and a low-to-the-ground thatched shelter that houses Ata Bey images and also a threepointer image of Yoka Hu to represent the association of both of these images with the soil, the earth, and the Cosmic Mother's womb.

Taino Ti
Miguel
Comment by Anita Pagan on July 1, 2009 at 10:20am
Dude, you are so thorough, you scare me :) (j/k)

Bo'matum for your sharing... I love it! And, as usual, I have a couple of more questions...

Did you include a floor in your plans for the comfort of the people? Do you have a personal preference?

What do you mean about "the mud"? I assume you are speaking of when the water is brought in... We have resolved this by laying the blankets in such a way that the path between the outside fire pit, where the grandfathers are heating, and the Mother's womb is clear. This way the mud that can be created by the pouring is covered with the blankets once we are done.

Do you have a fire keeper for the grandfathers? Is the entrance to the guanara facing a particular direction? I notice in your last pic the guanara and the small spirit house are facing the same way. Do you leave your cemis out there all the time or only during ceremony?

Ok, this is enough for now...

Have a wonderful day!

N
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on July 1, 2009 at 9:53am
Tau Nanu

Thanks for the tip on blankets and quilts. of course, as I mentioned in my post, Johnny and Lupe had a huge stockpile of blankets and quilts which they used on their other sweatlodge so we really had no shortage.

Now, as for your queries, you know I don't mind sncerely asked questions! LOL!
Let me address each question one at a time:

1. The instructions on the yahoo site mentions the creation of a floor as well but this doesn't appear in your photos... I assume you had a dirt floor? The site we use for lodge has uncomfortable dirt and fire ants and although this is a space for cleansing and healing, which carries a lot of suffering to begin with, we use blankets to cover the floor, too.

You are correct, when I build a Caney guanara I usually provide a wooden floor for it that is raised off the ground but we were not able to accomplish this in Georgia and so the issue of the mud on the bare dirt floor was resolved with a layer of straw and/or sage on the ground covered with blankets.

2. I saw the photos on the ICN group, too. I noticed that the top has a canvas cover and the thatched roof goes above it- is this thatched covering aesthetic? How is it attached? I have seen the seminole chekees and they use thatched roofs, too, but they seem to be long as opposed to bushy...

The issue of the thatch is for the sake of tradition. All our ancient dwellings and structures have always been thatched. The modern day rural peasants of Cuba still insist on building their palm-thatched bohio homes in spite of efforts by the Castro government to erradicate the practice by building them pre-fab dwellings.

When I have access to palm-fronds such as in Florida, I use them to build the temporary shrine that houses the cemies during the Winter Solstice Ceremony.


Here in Pittsburgh we have no palms so I have turned to the tradition of other cultures who have been using thatch for millenia without the use of palm because they live in a temperate climate. There are ancien traditional cultures in Europe who use straw and certain types of wild canes or reeds for thatch. This art has survived to the present time. Check out these websites that deal with European thatching techniques:
http://thatch.org/
http://www.thatching.com/faq.html


Here in Pittsburgh I was very fortunate to have stumbled unpon an inexhaustable supply of a kind of wild reed which is extremely invasive and grows in many areas that have running water. This weed grows in 8 and 9 foot tall stands that are extremely easy to cut with a machete. I have a small creek that runs right through my property and this stuff is all over it on both banks. All I have to do is go down there with my machete and harvest it. It provides me with all the roofing material I will ever need for my guanara here at my house. This stuff provides me with nice long straight stiff straw-like fibers that are perfect for the layering of my thatch.


Unfortunately we were not able to locate that kind of weed anywhere near Lupe and Johnny's home in Georgia so we had to make do with regular straw. The thatching on traditional European thatched-roofed structures is straw also but the straw is used in long straight even stalks bundled neatly. All we were able to get were bales of straw bought at the near-by Home Depot. This straw is chpped into short lengths that make for a very frizzy thatch. But one makes do with what one can get his hands on, so we worked with that. As you may have seen in the instructions published in the yahoo group the bundles of thatch are made individually by hand and tied together with sisal twine. These are then attached to long triangular-shaped structures made of thin sticks that I call "roofthatch-wedges". The roofthatch wedges are completely covered with the thatch row by row starting at the wide end of the wedge and ending at the upper point. Then the wedges are placed on the conical-shaped roof of the lodge, right on top of the canvas covering, all the way around like the wedges of a pie.

And I understanding the central pole as an inseminating beam and the pit as the Mother's womb, have you ever thought of interring the pole into the hole and maybe covering it with a metal sheath or something- so it won't go up in flames?

Actually I have built guanaras in which the "soko del medio" pole went right into the siba pit and used the lodge for over a decade. The hot sibas scorched the base of the pole a bit but never really compromised the integrity of this all-important support member. I have also built guanaras in which the pole's base inside the pit was protected from the hot stones by a flat stone placed against it . In the case of the Georgia guanara I simply decided to place the base of the soko del medio in close proximity to the pit without actually putting it inside. I feel the symbolism is addressed adequately without the need for scorching wood.
Taino Ti
Miguel
Comment by Anita Pagan on June 30, 2009 at 8:46pm
Ja, ja!!!

One could say you were had by the spirits, what with all the cleaning and fussing you did to get the perfect photo...all for naught! Don't you just love it when they do that? LOL! That is awesome!

Cotton canvas, huh? Interesting. As for the blankets and quilts... little indian secret here- salvation army, goodwill and thirft stores are great places to get those. ;)

The instructions on the yahoo site mentions the creation of a floor as well but this doesn't appear in your photos... I assume you had a dirt floor? The site we use for lodge has uncomfortable dirt and fire ants and although this is a space for cleansing and healing, which carries a lot of suffering to begin with, we use blankets to cover the floor, too.

I saw the photos on the ICN group, too. I noticed that the top has a canvas cover and the thatched roof goes above it- is this thatched covering aesthetic? How is it attached? I have seen the seminole chekees and they use thatched roofs, too, but they seem to be long as opposed to bushy...

And understanding the central pole as an inseminating beam and the pit as the Mother's womb, have you ever thought of interring the pole into the hole and maybe covering it with a metal sheath or something- so it won't go up in flames?

I hope you don't mind my questions, Miguel. Bo'matum for your patience with me and for sharing as much as you do.

Oma'bahari,
Nanu
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on June 30, 2009 at 2:05pm
You can see the detail step by step process of the building of this Georgia kansi in the Caney Circle group right here in ICN
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on June 30, 2009 at 2:01pm
Much of the information needed to build such a lodge was posted by me several years ago in the photo album section of the Caney Circle Yahoo group SOBAOKOKOROMO2
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on June 30, 2009 at 1:53pm
Lupe and her friend Jerrylynn acqured heavy-guage black-colored cotton canvas and created curtains which we strung up all along the whole circumference of the wall. Some of the canvas was cut into long triangular wedges that were then laid all around the conical roof. These were backed up by a large number of thick felt and cotton quilted blankets that were laid on top of the black canvas wedges on the roof and all along the long wide strip around the walls. We were fortunate that Lupe and Johnny had a huge number of these thick blankets and pads that could back up the black canvas.
Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on June 30, 2009 at 1:45pm

Comment by Miguel Sague Jr on June 30, 2009 at 1:29pm
To be frank with you at first when I took the digital photo and then looked at it I was annoyed by the fact that it had those splotches all over it. I turned my camera away and took a photo of the nearby trees to see if the light blobs would appear in those pictures. They were not there. So I again turned the camera inward to re-photograph the interior of the guanara. Again I was frustrated by the presence of the circular splotches on the photo. I looked at the lens and rubbed it impatiently with a handkerchief. I took a third photo and the splotches persisted. Then I finally realized that the splotches belonged in the photo and suddenly i was alerted by my cemies that there were presences in the lodge that I had not foreseen.

That fact became increasingly evident as we continued to finish the lodge. It was the resaon why as I finally sat in the circle inside the lodge late that afternoon ready to begin the kansi ceremony I exclaimed to the participants gathered around me: "This lodge is very crowded and when I say this I am not just referring to the human occupants of the lodge".
Comment by Anita Pagan on June 30, 2009 at 10:31am
Great photos, Miguel!

Wow!

I love the one with you in the middle, digging the hole -lol! I KNOW it was a hot one... GA weather is not always so different from Central FL, and it's been HOT!

My heart goes out to the ones laying outside, exhausted...

It was interesting to see they have a lodge of the North American style set up also.

Regarding the 7th picture down, the one taken of the inside of the guanara, I have a question and would like to share an observation:

What material do you use as a lining? I have helped built and participated in lodges (all mainland indigenous style) and what we have used are layers of blankets with a tarp over the whole thing to keep the heat in. Recognizing that there is more than one way to do things, I am always open to learning.

In observing your photos one can see several dots or balls of light. These are called orbs by those who study paranormal phenomena and although no one can say exactly what these orbs are, they are thought to be ghosts, spirits or energy being transferred to the spirit so they can manifest... (A quick google will give you pictures and more info.)

I just thought that if the dots weren't water or some other damage, the presence of such quantity of orbs in that particular picture while there were none evident in the others was interesting. Also, at the bottom left of the center pole there is a streak of light, also considered manifestation of spiritual energy.

Thought that was interesting...

Notes

Dog trade in the ancient Caribbean

Created by Miguel Sague Jr Dec 27, 2020 at 6:11pm. Last updated by Miguel Sague Jr Dec 27, 2020.

Cotton Weaving on Taino Belt

Created by Miguel Sague Jr Dec 3, 2020 at 2:36pm. Last updated by Miguel Sague Jr Dec 3, 2020.

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