ANIMALS

Gods, Goddesses and Other Beings that Govern the Natural World of the Taino

Taino divinity differs from European beliefs in that they are one with nature and lack human tendencies of jealousy, lust, and anger. Rather than living on a mountain high above humanity and looking down upon us with somewhatroyal disdain, Taino divinity are the rivers, stones, grass, and animals of the environment. They are not supernatural, as they are not beyond nature like Zeus and Odin, but one and the same with it. As in, cassava itself is a part of the God Yucahu, not governed or created by him as a separate product.

As being incorporated into nature, the Taino deities were believed to be connected to all things like plants, animals, as well as the dead, and even stones you walk past or step on to cross a small stream, not just special occasions. There is no particular stone or special occurrence of plant life that a Taino Deity would inhabit, all life constitutes their existence. It is this belief that led the Taino to respect, honor, and revere nature always as manifestations of the divine in the Taino imagination.

(Ah-Tahh-Beh) Goddess of Creation, Eternity, The Invisible World, Reality, Ocean, Fertility, Streams and Rivers, the Universe, Life, The Four Winds.
Associated with childbirth, nurturing, motherhood, the ocean/lakes/streams, and Mother Earth

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. GAIA/Gaea
    Greek

  2. YEMOJA/Yemonja/Yemaya
    Cuban/Creole/West Africa/Yoruba/Orisha

  3. NAMAKA
    Polynesian

  4. PACHAMAMA
    Andes

  5. PRITHVI
    Hindu


DEITY PROFILE

Atabey is a primordial being, one who existed at the beginning of all things. Her story can be found in many variations across the Caribbean, South America, the Antilles, and in our very own Puerto Rico. She was the mother of all things, and gave birth to the twin gods Yúcahu and Guacar. Some variations of her story describe caves as the openings of her womb, by which all things were born in the Taino imagination. There are other creation stories to corroborate this belief as well, such as the popular story of how the sun (Mauatiatibuel or Cuban Guey) and Moon (Cuban Karaya) were both born from caves. As well as the existence of Coaibai/Coaybay in caves, the home of the dead both who were worthy of paradise (mostly women), and those unworthy that remain sad and apparently bored in the darkness of the caves.

You may find her name spelled in forms like Ata Bey, Atabei, Atabera, Bibi Atabey Atte Itabo Era, Itiba Tahuvava, and Ataveyra. Her story, as found in “Stories from Puerto Rico”—Robert L. Muckley & Adela Martinez-Santiago, is very brief even in non-Puerto Rican versions. Despite this, she is honored by Tainos across all cultures, but if any other myths of her existed, those stories are lost to time. I have uncovered variations of this same short mention of her in the creation myth but nothing else.

The goal of this project is to reinvigorate figures like Atabey. Polishing their existing stories and appearance to reveal the rich heritage that has been hidden for decades. My version of her story is not meant to replace, or reinterpret. It is simply a creative retelling from a narrative of my own making that I hope modern audiences would enjoy hearing, with touches of my personality thrown in for fun. I hope you will leave with both an understanding and deeper appreciation for the Boricua culture of Puerto Rico.

(Kah-Hwah-Nah) Goddess of Love and an avatar of Atabey. Associated with the ocean, frogs, and human affection

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. APHRODITE
    Greek

  2. OSHUN
    Cuban/Creole/West Africa/Yoruba/Orisha

  3. LAKA
    Polynesian

  4. VENUS
    Roman

  5. PARVATI
    Hindu


DEITY PROFILE

Caguana is an interesting figure in that she represents feminen beauty and is depicted with frog-like hands, feet and even legs. I can only surmise that this is due to the Boricua’s fondness of the COQUI, and the beauty of its song.

The Boricuas lived in a fairly calm society, without war other than the occasional attack from Carib Indians who were natural enemies of the Taino. This gave them much time to focus on the land, religion, and imagination. Given that women were held in high-regard due to the matrifocal and matrilineal society of the Taino, it is logical that goddesses like Caguana were held in high-esteem. She is one of the manifestations of Atabey, though there is very little about her in specificity that I could find other than mentions of her name.

(Gwah-ban-seh) Goddess of Destruction, Hurricanes, and Storms. Associated with volcanoes, lava, thunder and lightning, and the wild untamed fury of mother nature

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. ENYO/ERIS
    Greek

  2. OYA
    Cuban/Creole/West Africa/Yoruba/Orisha

  3. PELE
    Polynesian

  4. BELLONA
    Roman

  5. KALI
    Hindu


DEITY PROFILE

There cannot be creation without destruction, one must oppose the other in order for balance to be maintained. Guabancex is the goddess of destruction and the antithesis of Caguana, but she is not evil.

Goddess of the Moon, Tides, Night, Stars, Menstruation. Associated with hidden love, mercy, inspiration, tears, transformation, and the menstrual cycle

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. SELENE/ARTEMIS
    Greek

  2. YEMANJÁ
    Cuban/Creole/West Africa/Yoruba/Orisha

  3. HINA
    Polynesian

  4. IX CHEL
    Mayan

  5. CHANG’È/HENG’È
    Chinese


DEITY PROFILE

La Diosa Luna is a hard one to pin down, as she is associated with many things, and I have found very little information about the Boricua variation of her. Even her Boricua name I have yet to find. The only myth I have found based on her from the Boricua is of her birth from a cave alongside the sun god.

In Cuba, La Diosa Luna’s name is Karaya and Itza (similar to the Mayan name Itzamná and city Chichen Itza) in the Dominican Republic. She was believed to be born in the Iguanaboina cave on the eastern side of Quisqueya (the Taino name of Hispaniola that means “mother of all lands” that Haiti and the Dominican Republic share).

God of the Taino, Life, Ocean, Yuca/Cassava, Skies. Associated with twin brother Guacar, warriors, fishing, El Yunque, sometimes the sun, and opposite of Juracan

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. PROMETHEUS
    Greek

  2. OLODUMARE/OLORUN
    Cuban/Creole/West Africa/Yoruba/Orisha

  3. LONO
    Polynesian

  4. NÜ WA/NÜGUA
    Chinese


DEITY PROFILE

According to my findings, Atabey is the primordial creator, but her story ends there and her son Yúcahu takes over in Taino society. His name is Yoka Hu in Cuba, and Yucahú Bagua Maorocotí (which means “White Yuca, great and powerful as the sea and the mountains”) in the Dominican Republic.

Combination of Yucahu and Atabey, Creator of the Taino, Ocean, Yuca/Cassava, Skies

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. PHANES
    Greek

  2. OLODUMARE
    Cuban/Creole/West Africa/Yoruba/Orisha

  3. KÃNE
    Polynesian

  4. PANGU
    Chinese

DEITY PROFILE

In some regions, the deity Yucahu and his mother, Atabey are both one in the same. Such is the case with Yaya Guaturey.

God of Reason, Teachings, Trials, Wisdom. Associated with twin brother Yucahu, cruelty, and destruction

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. PERSES
    Greek

  2. SHIVA
    Indian/Hindu

  3. QUETZALCOATL
    Mesoamerican/Aztec/Nahuátl

  4. FUKUROKUJU
    Chinese

  5. THOTH
    Egyptian

DEITY PROFILE

The twin brother of Yúcahu, and eventual god of evil and hurricanes. Guacar was jealous of his brother’s creations, especially the Taino. His envy eventually became rage and Guacar changed his name and appearance, returning to his brother as Juracan enemy to Yúcahu and terro of the Taino.

Before Guacar’s transformation not much is known. In his Cuban appearance, he has more development and is considered wise and a teacher.

God of the Sun, name means “Sun of dawn”, “Lord of the dawn”, or “God of daybreak.” Associated with the energy that grows plants, sometimes considered an avatar of Yùcahu

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. APOLLO
    Greek

  2. SURYA
    Indian/Hindu

  3. LUGH
    Ireland/Celtic

  4. AMATERASU
    Japanese

  5. RA
    Egyptian

DEITY PROFILE

As god of the sun, Mauatiatibuel plays a crucial part in Taino life, as he provides energy needed for cassava to grow. The staple food in the Taino diet, and presided over by Yùcahu, it is natural that the Taino also believed that Mauatiatibuel was also an avatar of their creator and protector Yùcahu.

God of Coaybay/Coaibai/Underworld, not of evil, but the land of the spirits of the dead. Associated with caves where Coaibai is said to be, bats, guava fruit, Hupias (dead spirits or ghosts)

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. HADES
    Greek

  2. YAMA
    Indian/Hindu

  3. CAMAZOTZ
    Mesoamerican/Mayan

  4. VELES/VOLOS
    Russian/Slavic
    Osiris | Egyptian

DEITY PROFILE

Maquetaurie Guayaba, also known as Maboyas (word meaning evil spirit) was only active during the nighttime, as the Tainos believed the night brought forth another world, namely that of the dead. Therefore, he, like the hupia/opia, could roam and cause havoc among the living. He would be blamed for destroyed crops, and believed to be able to seduce women, like the hupia but worse. Since such things would not be discovered until the next day, the Taino understood that generally bad things took place at night which would create this notion of night being the realm of evil. But these activities are not considered malicious on the part of  Maboyas and the hupia. Since during the day the dead are confined; it is only at night that they are free and by eating guabaza (guava), and terrorizing people they are actually just having a good time.

Dog spirit guide, guardian, and warden of the dead. Associated with mischief, sadness, herding, and transportation to the afterlife of both the good and the bad spirits

SIMILAR DEITIES

  1. CERBERUS/KERBEROS
    Greek

  2. TARAKESHWARA
    Indian/Hindu

  3. HEIBAI WUCHANG/HAK BAK MO SEONG
    Chinese

  4. AZRAEL
    Saudi Arabia/Islam

  5. AMMIT
    Egyptian

DEITY PROFILE

Opiyelguabirán
means “our mocking weeping spirit.” He was the dog companion of Maboyas and described with a wooden body, and like the beast Ammit from Egyptian mythology or Cerberus from Greek mythology, he prevented those who were not worthy from entering the Taino paradise.

This dog spirit would ceaselessly search the forest, in order to bring back the hupia once their time of revelry ended. Opiyelguabirán was considered the mediator between the world of the living and the world of the dead, in that it was obligated to maintain living and non-living beings in the world that corresponds to them by controlling entry between domains.

The dog was also represented with a sense of duality in that it was revered as a mocking spirit at times, but then would shed tears for it felt the anguish caused by the loss of life and having to escort them to Coaybay. However, their obligation was to escort the deceased in absolute silence, as a symbol of deep respect for their ancestors whom they were about to reunite with.

When the conquistadors arrived on the island of Hispaniola, Opiyelguabirán was seen apparently, or at least a real indigenous dog of the Tainos known as the Josibi, later renamed Ateo by the Spaniards. The dog fled to a lagoon as they followed him by his footprints. But the conquistadores never found him, which is also true of the real Josibi dogs of the Tainos that went extinct shortly after the arrival of the conquistadors.

GUATAUBÁ
Bringer or spirit of hurricane winds, Associated with hurricanes, and servant of Guacanbex

COATRISQUIE
Bringer or spirit of floodwaters, Associated with hurricanes, and servant of Guacanbex

BAIBRAMA
God of Antidotes, Associated with growing cassava, and curing the naturally occurringocurring cyanide from its raw juice by soaking and cooking it.

BOINAYEL
God of rain, Associated with calm and normal rain, and his twin brother Márohu, he was described to shed tears that would water crops and help Yuca grow.

MÁROHU
God of fair skies/weather, Associated with calm weather, and his twin brother Boinayel

Please do not copy my work. I spent an unholy amount of hours of difficult researching, writing, editing, designing, and illustrating everything on this website by myself!