The Development Of Haitian Vodou Essay

2361 words - 9 pages

The Taino People
The country of Haiti makes up one third of the island of Hispaniola, which is located in the western hemisphere. The first inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola were the Arawarks, or Tainos. They named the island Ayiti, which means mountainous land. The native West Indians were nomadic in nature and settled in Haiti around 250 C.E. Initially described as primitive by early European colonists, the Tainos had well established societies and religious systems. Their patriarchical society was arranged into a hierarchy. There were multiple kings called caciques over their individual kingdoms. Similarity with other indigenous groups, men did the hard labor. They would work the lands, cultivating fields and hunting for food. Men would also do woodwork including, but not limited to basket weaving. Women on the other hand would contribute to the house work by prepping and cooking food as well as assisting in basket weaving. Tainos were polygamist; the average man would have three wives, the king was able to have ten times more than that.
Tainos had an established religious system with belief in gods and goddesses (Zemis), myths, worship and devotion to lesser deities, and various rituals. The polytheistic religion of the Tanios was headed by Yocaju, the creator god. Yocaju shared powers of creation with his mother, Atabex. She is the goddess of fertility, fresh waters, and the moon where as he is the god of the sea and cassava, a staple crop on the island. Lesser deities are associated with other natural occurrences such as Guabancex who is the goddess over storms. Of the numerous myths the Tanios had, one in particular is about the creation of the ocean. Tanios believed that a god killed his son and stored his bones in a piece of fruit that was reverted to a container. The bones turned into a fish and the container exploded, letting out all the waters of the earth. Concerning the afterlife, the Taino people believed in Coyab, a heaven-like place where one goes to rest for eternity. They believed that Coyab was absent of all illness and natural disasters; it is a place full of dancing and worship. Tainos held worship services to connect to the deities. The preists, or bojique, would serve as mediums during worship ceremonies. People would consult with the bojiques for knowledge on healing and other rituals as the gods would allow. Tainos would have religious feasts where they would play drums and dance to carved images of the deities. In addition to dancing and drumming, they would pass along cassava to tribe members. First they would offer it to the zemis, then the Bojiques, and then eat it themselves. This is another demonstration of the hierarchy of the Tanio people.
The fifteenth century brought about the idea of expansionism. In late 1492, the Spanish accidentally landed on the island of Ayiti under the direction of Christopher Columbus in search of India. Columbus initially landed in Mole Saint Nicholas, in...

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