One day in the early summer of June 2006, I was walking through the quaint picturesque New England seaport town of Newburyport. It had been a year into me being baptized and receiving my first puntos within Sanse and I was returning shortly to receive other ceremonies. Although I had no spiritual encounters in my mind, just some whale watching and some New England souvenirs shopping for my God Parents, Mother and family members in Puerto Rico. I had no idea that the spirits, in the form of a photo, would find me.
I had just come off of the whale watching tour, "an experience that I highly recommend every person do once in their lifetime", the adrenaline rush of the experience still had not settled. Just to be in the presence of these huge magnificent creatures of God and the feeling of how small one is in the scheme of things; next to these enormous docile and beautiful creatures, was one of the most euphoric experiences of my life. After whale watching, me and the group of friends who accompanied me on this day trip, sat down to grab some lunch. I remember sitting with them and talking about which whale was the Humpbacks, Minkes or Finbacks, because in all reality we did not have the slightest idea on which was which, or for that matter which species we had seen. We also spoke of what stores and sights we were to visit in this tourist filled Massachusetts coastal town, when the conversation as it usually does amongst Hispanics took a turn into the world of spirituality, spirits and our spiritual journeys in life.
On my part of the conversation, I talked of my abuelitos "grandparents" and of my summer visits with them in Puerto Rico and my Espiritismo upbringing. I spoke of the teachings they instilled within me and how I carried them deep within my heart. I talked about my Tia and her being the first Sancista in my family. I talked about how in my mid teens, I was invited by a school mate to his Godmother's Bembe for Ochun and how a Priestess Santera had become possessed by the Orisha Ochun and how under the influence of Ochun, claimed me as her child and prophesied that she would always be with me and that she would prove it with pruebas that all came true. I talked about my recieving my collares and Guerrilleros in Cuban Lukumi, my dabbling in American Pagan Witchcraft, my spiritual consultation with a Cuban Palero. I talked about my "pruebas" as prophesied by Ochun. My spyral down fall into depression and alcohol, and how the Orisha Ochun, my guia Cachita Tumbo and my Muertos led me back into Sanse and Espiritismo. It was a circle, a cycle I had to undertake to prove my spiritual strength and faculties in overcoming my trials and tribulations of life and coming out confident, wiser and stronger.
After our lunch we decided to do some shopping and visit as many shops and botiques as possible. As we walked around the many red bricked sidewalks I decided to sit for a moment on a bench and light a cigarette and take a break from the hot June sun under a red maple, tree and I remenber thinking how amazingly beautiful Newburyport must be in October when the leaves of the Red Maple would turn its infamous fiery red and match the red brick buildings and red cobblestone streets of the seaport city.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a thrift store that sold carved wooden canes, that reassembled those used in Cuban Espiritismo Cruzado, and an array of Pagan glass witches balls and wind chimes that could be seen hanging from the window pane. I immediately got up and went in and looked around; not really looking for anything in particular, when I suddenly came upon this exquisite and unique image of the Virgen Mary and Christ Child. The Madonna was clearly a mulatta or meztisa, not the traditional blue eyed, blond haired, fair skinned Caucasian Virgin of Catholic paintings. She was dressed in a blue dress that looked as if it were made of blue water with a pink shawl tied to her side, her veil was white with golden embroidery, and around her and the holy child were orange daisies and yellow roses that encircled the crowns she and the child wore upon their heads. On further inspection of the photo I noticed that the Holy Child within the Virgin's arms and half covered by her vale was dressed in Pink and blue and resembled more a female child then the traditional male child. I remember thinking. "Ochun and Cachita Tumbo, and how this may have been how the Africans slaves and the Indigenous people of times long passed must have felt on looking upon Catholic Saints, Angels and Holy Mothers, and envisioning within them their ancient spirits. I asked the lady how much was the framed photo, as it had to be mine. She smiled and politely said, that it had belonged to her mother who in life was devoted to this particular Madonna and had brought the image from Italy and that it was not for sale. I thanked her and asked her, who was this beautiful Virgin on the picture, and how the profile reminded me of Puerto Rico's patroness Our Lady of Providence and Cuba's Our Lady of Charity. Her reply to me was that it was la Madonna della Neve, her feast day was August 5th and that she was the patron of the village in Italy where her mother was born.
Many people confuse Cachita Tumbo with the Metresa Anaisa Pye, and although they are very similar Misterios that embody the essence of love, they are not the same. While it is true that both are Native Spirits, Anaisa Pye, or Anaisa la Chiquita as she is known in Puerto Rico, symbolizes raw sexual energy, and desire. In the Taino language Anaisa can be broken down to "Ana" meaning Yellow Flower, "I" being that of Spirit, Nana being a female girl child, Ni being that of water, and Xa pronounced Shah, loving nickname given to daughters. Many Taino women had the name Ana within their name or Iza as in Yuiza.
Cachita Tumbo is seen as a Petro Loa of fertility, and has also been associated with the Orisha Ochun. Again they are very similar in that both spirits are of rivers and fresh waters. But while Ochun is an African Spirit known as an Orisha, brought to the Americas with the slaves, Cachita Tumbo is a Cemi / Zemis Spirit and has her origins in Taino spirituality that was believed to have been extinct and eradicated. Which in all reality it transformed for the perpouse of survival. As many Misterios often do, she can belong to various Division of Spirits. She is a Metresa as well as a Petro Spirit, and one that falls under the "Indio" Agua Dulce Division. In her being synchronized with Ochun she falls under the Lokomis Division of Spirits. (Lukumi)
Cachita Tumbo has her origins in two Taino Zemis, the first being Atabeira the Mother of Fresh Waters and the other being Coatrisquie the Zemi who gathered the fresh waters and made them swell within her womb and created the floods.
In the Lukumi tradition popularly known as Santeria, there is a legend that tells how Ochun and Oya are in constant competition and battle over the love of their husband Chango. This Santeria legend, which is known as an apataki is surprisingly similar to the Taino legend that tells the tale of when the female Zemi of fierce winds Guabancex quarrelled with her messenger Guatauba / Guatava the Zemi of thunder, lightning and rainstorms they would create the Spirit Jurakan. This would unsettle the docile Coatrisquie / Coatrischi , who would fill her rivers with waters and eventually caused havoc on the Natives that built their Bohio "huts" along the riverbank. In a way this was as if the natural forces of Guatava, Jurakan Guabancex and Coatrisquie where having a cosmic battle. Guatava in his rainstorms would be equivalent to the male sperm while the rivers represent Coatrisquie's womb overflowing with water creating both death and from it rebirth and new life. Coatrisquie's overflowing would be as that of a woman's amniotic fluid inside her womb.
Atabeira / Atabeyra / Attabeira /Atabey was translated in Spanish to mean "Madre de las Aguas" or Mother of Waters, and was known by many names. Some being Apito, Siella, Suimado, Mamona, Guacarapita, Liella, Guimazoa, Iella, and Ieamaye. The latter Ieamaye sounding similar to the Orisha Yemaya and the Yoruba Yemonja, who was originally viewed as a River Deity that resided within the Ogun River and was not associated with the Ocean until the Middle passages of the Slave Trade. Until then Olokun was viewed as the deity of the depths of the Ocean. (The Yamaye Taino tribe of Xaymaca "Jamaica" where named after her which they called Atabeira Ieamaye or Atabex .)
Atabeira is the Supreme feminine deity of the Taino people and was worshipped as the progenitor of the life-giving earth God Yúcahu Bagua which was the Lord of Land and Sea. She was his equal and his feminine counterpart. She was the Goddess of fertility, motherhood and sexual desires. Her messengers in Borinquen where the tree frogs Coqui, whose matting call is increased during rainy season. In the time of the Taino this was an indication and a message from the Zemi to plant their crops, especially that of the cassava/yuca. It was a time when the earth was fertile, and sexual activities increased because of their confinement to their Bohio in part due because of the heavier rains. Atabeira and Yucahu are Earth Spirit Gods, and not to be confused with the Cosmic Creator of the universe Yaya, who was never directly worshipped by the Taino.
In Taino Zemi petroglyph "carvings and drawings of the Zemis" Atabeira is often depicted in a squatting position. This position is symbolic of a women in preparation for sexual intercourse, the position held during childbirth, the position held by women during the release of urine and feces and the position of her messengers the Coqui tree frogs. The first three are symbolic of Atabeira as the creator, of the earth God Yucahu, humans on earth and the sea, which is her urine, and as a sexual deity.
Bibi Atabey. Attabeira Yermao Guacar Apito Zuimaco, Atte aya Yocahu Bagua Maorokoti, Coaiba Mamona, Atte itabo era, Aturo aya wakia Itiba Cahubaba, Ocama Yucayeke Taino Wakia Arawaka, Yermao waka waili, Wakia Yari, Busica Ketauri, Inaru Matum. Busica wakia Ahia Hu De Tai Ku Buya Jan Jan Nabori Daca, Jan Jan Katu.
Mother Atabey oh Great Attabeira Yermao Guacar Apito Zuimaco. Mother of God, Heavenly Mother of the Moon, Mother of Waters, Sister of our Ancient Bleeding Mother. Hear our Taino People and Protect our Children, Our Precious Jewels. Give us Life oh Generous Woman. Give us your Blessing, Good Spirit Yes. I am your servant. So Be It
Cachita Tumbo embodies both Atabeira and Coatrisque, and as thus is an enormously powerful Misterio. She is a lover, a mother, a teacher and the provider of the sweet waters that sustains life on earth. But as she is a giver of life she is also a destroyer and rebuilder, she is the energy that can destroy in order to make way for new life.
Her first name Cachita comes from a few words with Taino origin. The word Cacica which means female supreme chief and ruler, the Taino word Calichi which means the Fountain from the highest Mountain, and Kachi which means golden ray of light from the Sun. In Caribbean Creole Spanish Cachita is a broken down word for little one, Chiquita. (One must understand that the Indigenous people where shorter in stature than the European.) Also as I stated before Caxi which was a shortened version of the name for Coatrisque.
Tumbo is Spanish for a violent motion of the body, first going in one direction and then to another direction, which is generally caused by a lack of balance. It can also come from the word, Tumbar which means to tumble, topple or overthrow. This emphasizes Cachita Tumbo's abilities to cause floods within villages, an occurrence that happens today with rural pueblos near rivers.
Cachita Tumbo can also be felt through her abilities to be a conductor of electric currents. She is the Misterio that converts fluid flow energy to electric energy.
Cachita Tumbo also works with other Spirits of the Agua Dulce Division such as Padre de Agua or El Rey del Agua, who is also called Agua Dulce, or Baba Yague and is synchronized with Saint John the Baptist. Without the watchful eye of Padre de Agua, baptisms into Sanse would be almost impossible. Rio Tempestoso which is synchronized with Saint Christopher and Tindjo Alague which is synchronized with Saint Rafael.
Unlike Santeria in which all the Orisha have their own numbers, in Puerto Rican Sanse the Misterios share the number, 3, 7 and 21. But each has their own offerings, and like Ochun, Cachita Tumbo enjoys pumpkins, honey, eggs, citrus fruits, Brown sugar, cinnamon, star anise as well as Mangoes, guavas, guanabana sour sop and quenepas. She enjoys sweets, perfumes, mirrors, jewelry and fans. Her colors are amber, yellow, gold, orange, blue and green. Unlike Anaisa she does not enjoy tobacco, but does like Spiced Rums, champagne, beer, and Anisette liquor.
Traditionally her image is that of Our Lady of Charity, while others use Our Lady of Divine Providence, and her feast day is celebrated with that of la Caridad del Cobre, which is September 8th.
I can not tell you how many followers of African Traditional Religions in the Americas, discredit and have the false concept that the Orisha Ochun, the Misterio Cachita Tumbo is a lady of the night or that the Loa, Anaisa Pye is a Prostitute. This way of viewing these spirits stems from the repressed mind set of the dominant Christian views that were placed upon us in the Americas.
Let me explain this by talking about the biblical Mary Magdeline, who was believed to have been a Prostitute. In all reality there is no mention of her ever being such in any of the biblical versus, she was a woman plagued by seven demons. Jesus felt pity apon her and casted out these demons from her body. She was so grateful that she became one of his most beloved disciples and followers. When the 12 male disciplines, with the exception of John the Beloved abandoned Jesus during his arrest, persecution and crusification, it was she who never left his side. She was present in the crowd when he was persecuted, was present during his crusification, was one of the women pressent during the burial of Christ, along side Jesus mother Mary, was one of the few that anointed his corpse with perfumed oils, and was one of the first to witness his resurrection.
Mary Magdeline was incorrectly and falsly believed to have been the same woman, who was to be stoned to death for practicing prostitution on the Holy Sabath day, and her life was saved and spared by Jesus. She latter anointed Jesus feet with oil and washed them with her tears, kisses and hair. In all reality this woman by name was never mentioned in the Bible. The view of anything feminine holding power or great importance was not only discredited within Christian religions but Christianity also placed this belief within African and Native American spirituality.
While both African and Indigenous female spirits are known for being highly sexual entities. This view has to do with them fertilizing the earth and making it sustainable, and livable for human life on earth. To view them as whores or prostitues, one is literary subjecting oneself to the Spanish Conquistadors mind set of African Woman and Taino woman being less than Perras,"bitches."
Women within indigenous cultures were not oppressed or seen as less than their male counterparts, in fact they were viewed as equals. Women were the mothers, they could hold titles of Chiefs, could bring forth life, were the medicine woman who understood the wisdom of the healing of herbs. They were intellegent. had minds of their own, and while men seeked war, the women seeked peace and communal understanding with apposing tribes and the Spanish. They were also fierce warriors and fighters, and the Amazon Rainforest was named after a tribe of warrior native women that resembled that of the Amazons of Greek and Roman mythology.
Every country in the Americas has their version of Pocahontas, Anacaona, Yuiza, Kateri Tekakwitha and Sacagawea who through wit and wisdom played their important roles of both saviors and betrayers of their people's ways which is similar to that of the Egyptian Cleopatra or France's Marie Antoinette.
While the female Orisha and Loases do embody the pleasures of life and sexuality, they are also represented as destructive forces that equal that and are sometimes greater than their male counterparts. They represent the need for freedom, and self expression, and also the dangers that follow when abusing anything in nature.
The Loases and Orisha do enjoy sexual activities, dancing, laughter, music and those material things that are viewed by the living, as the finer things in life, they must also be viewed as Spirits of empowerment. But many initiates wrongly self project their desires and needs for the inappropriate behavior of touching or fondling others or the excuse for excessive drinking of alcohol and attribute it with that of being under possession of a Loa or Muerto. I honestly believe that these are not the ways of the Orisha or Loa, but the ways of one's own personal demons which are placed in our presence and paths to overcome and conquer.
As my Abuelita would say. "Por cada un Angel que tenemos hay diez Diablos a su rededor". For each Angel that we have, Ten Devils surround it.