Before I was born, before my parents, or my grandparents- before even the African slaves that the modern Bahamian people are descended from- the original inhabitants of the Bahamas were the Lucayans- a subset of the Taino/Arawak people that would've been living in the Caribbean at large since 600 CE.
October 12th: This year that falls in the middle of the week so most people will 'celebrate' today instead- hence this post]. Most people in the States will know that day as Discovery Day or Columbus Day- marking the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landfall in America [which of course, was NOT correct- he actually landed in The Bahamas first].
Here, we will celebrate National Heroes Day instead- a more recently-established renaming, choosing to concentrate instead on our local heroes instead of the actions of an enslaver and murderer. Which I guess is a step up- but it does a huge disservice to the memory of the indigenous people who once called these islands home. Whose lives here have been eliminated by colonialism and disease.
Whose existence, we just don't care about.
This past summer I took a wonderful online class offered by Carolyn Elliot called INFLUENCE- concentrating on the mastery of practical magic [and yes, this is a shameless, not-paid-for plug: if you have the opportunity to take this course, do it!]. The most valuable thing I learned to cultivate however was taught at the very beginning of the classes- which was the practice of leaving offerings to the local spirits around us.
At first I found the idea a bit difficult, but I soon found a way that worked. When I was in Canada, something that struck me was the emphasis on recognizing the various Native tribes that existed in the metro spaces of Vancouver, and how the land in some areas remain unceded territories- an amazing admission for a 1st world nation. I'm obviously skipping on the details of that relationship between First Nation tribes and the Canadian government- with by no means is all smooth sailing- but like I said, it gave me an idea.
What if instead of local spirits, I began my time in INFLUENCE honouring and recognizing the spirits of those who were there before- the Lucayan people?
And so I began researching in earnest anything I could about the Lucayan people, and the spirituality that the people practiced. That led me to a dead-end pretty quickly since most information I read conflated Taino and Lucayan, and while the Lucayans were wiped out, there are still Taino communities surviving in the Caribbean- so I switched gears a bit to include that Taino/Arawakian cousins And some information I already knew, but seeing the glyphs, watching the videos and fully immersing myself was well beyond anything I did in High School Social Studies.
The most valuable thing I found was this video below of Luis Sanakori Ramos performing a Taino Calling Song to the Creator Deities [or Zemis]:
Not only did I chose to incorporate this song in my practice for INFLUENCE, but it led me to discovering the name of a Goddess who certainly made her presence known this past week- Guabancex, the Goddess of the Storms.
From Guabancex [and Her two male Zemi cohorts] we get the concept of the the storms known to the Spanish colonists as juracan- the phonetic root of the English word 'hurricane'. A Zemi easily irked by improper tribute paid, or what She would perceive as neglect, She would unleash the storms to tear a path of chaos and destruction throughout the Caribbean, whipping her arms in a spiral just like the movements of the actual storm.
The One Who Destroys Everything, indeed.
Needless to say, I liked Guabancex a lot. I still do. The idea of a fearsome Goddess who is unapologetic with Her rages and tempers. A badass Woman who took no shit and was pleased to bare her teeth at the slightest indiscretion. An affinity with the storms- combining the elements to make a force to be reckoned with. I didn't think I would walk away from my research with a natural draw to a Taino Zemi, but here we are.
Which brings me to the recent events of Hurricane MATTHEW- the major hurricane that recently ripped through the Caribbean and the southeast coast of the States. After seeing this monster of a storm develop into a Cat 5 storm, deftly avoid landfall in Jamaica, crush Haiti's peninsula as if it was nothing [and now responsible for nearly a thousand dead] and how it was planning on weaving through my archipelago and sparing no rock, island or cay in its wake- I stood on my balcony Wednesday afternoon, absolutely frightened.
I had been through hurricanes before, as a child. But through Grace or Providence or just Really Fortunate Geographic Positioning, oftentimes The Bahamas was spared the brunt of most storm systems. If we were ever hit, it was always a portion of the island chain, never the whole thing- and very rarely was New Providence or Paradise Island [the island that has been my home virtually all of my life].
And after 6 years of calling Canada home - where hurricanes are soooo not an issue- I was so completely shaken to my core at the thought of facing a hurricane again. Much less one that people were predicting was going to become a Cat 5 again. Or one that would have the eyewall pass directly overhead- the first major hurricane landfall since 1929.
And so that Wednesday- when the breeze was just a little bit faster than normal, when all the birds had hushed their song and sought shelter elsewhere, when the skies got darker with each passing minute and I was preparing to draw my shutters- I found myself face-to-face with The One Who Destroys Everything.
How does one talk to a being that inspires awe and fear in one breath? Perhaps this is how Christians feel when conversing with God. Nonetheless the words that poured out as I stared at the clouds were not for Him, but for Her- the one who a nation [and quite possibly a region] has ignored for so long.
That night, I met Guabancex for the first time, in the wake of all Her terrible glory.
And I pleaded with Her.
Okama [Listen], Guabancex.
Do what You Must, but spare these lives. We know no better, we have been foolish for so long. I have only learned of You recently, and I remain in awe of you.
Send your wind, your rain, your thunder. Rage and scream. Release your power. Claim your dominion as you rightly should- but claim not one life here.
Don't claim those I love, or those who call this place home- as imperfect as we are.
I beg of you, Guabancex. Okama.
And then I laboriously dragged my shutters across my window- shutting my room in darkness.
I'll be blunt- as a nation we were knocked around like a rag doll. Trees that were over a century old were plucked out of the ground like daisies. The wind howled like freight trains without a track, and blew gusts that ripped away anything that wasn't nailed down- as if it was removing a bandaid that had long worn out its adhesives.
Houses were squashed and some islands even had to deal with flooding and storm surges on top of everything else. Many families have lost everything and have to sleep outside on the wreckage of what was once their homes.
Many of those who are lucky enough to have their houses though, to this day are STILL without water, electricity, gas. Obtaining those amenities is an exercise in either futility, patience, or something existing in the space between.
Paradise Island, where I braved the storm with my family, was one of the luckier islands, with many properties only experiencing minor damage. We've had our power returned steadily since Friday afternoon. A good deal of the residential homes are made out of sturdy concrete, and are on top of hills in the center of the island- elevated enough from the beach where storm surges wouldn't be an issue, especially with New Providence below us acting as a buffer. In this, I remain grateful for the environment of my upbringing that continues to provide excellent shelter to my immediate family. it could have been so much worse.
Even with all the devastation and the long recovery ahead- the most amazing thing about Matthew's path through the Bahamas is that not a single life was taken. Even the US has reported deaths due to the storm, but somehow we have come out of this without a single person dead.
I'm not arrogant enough to think this was all because I asked Guabancex nicely. And after all, there are now over a thousand dead in Haiti alone- are they dead because I asked too late to save them? Are the people in the States dead because I was too specific? I cannot discount the fact that by and large, The Bahamas is used to hurricanes and that there are a lot of natural factors that helped in our contiued survival.
At the same time, perhaps I do need to consider that perhaps this has been a prayer earnestly asked and explicitly delivered, in a fashion. She did rage on, She did stake Her claim, and She didn't claim any Bahamian life.
Either way, I think the best way to find out for certain, is to meet with Guabancex again.
And this time I hope to do so without fear.
LINDSAY - Black Woman, Wife, Witch and Resident Blogger of DarkLake Tarot~
What I'm Listening To