Yoca"Who?": Yuca, You and Yocahu
Mi Gente. My people of the SUN. If you have ever been to a ‘bodega’ you might have seen one. It you have ever been through the “international” vegetable section at your local supermarket you may have caught a glimpse of some. If you’ve been amongst those of so-called Latin-American or Caribbean descent, you may have even tasted it. It’s called “yuca” (pronounced- “yoo-kah”).
Yuca is a popular dish in Boriken (colonially named “Puerto Rico”) and throughout the West Indies. As a matter of fact, yuca, also referred to as “cassava”, is a very common dish throughout most of Latin American, Africa and some places in Asia. It is considered a staple in some parts and it is a sacred food amongst Taino peoples. Nutritionally, yuca is very high in calcium (50 mg/100g), phosphorus (40 mg/100g) and vitamin C (25 mg/100g) but it very starchy. Yuca can be served a myriad of ways especially since it is a root, like a potatoe. It can be boiled and eaten, mashed, dried and powdered, and used as flour. It’s root and it’s leaves also have some medicinal properties which have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine. We cultivated many other crops such as sweet potatoes, beans, squash, guava, and pineapples, however yuca was our principle one. As many of the Indigenous tribes of North and Central Amekikia (America) hold ‘corn’ in especially high reverence, because of the sustenance it provided for the people, Taino’s held the same reverence for yuca.
The following is a great article, written by a Caney-Taino (Cuba) shaman, a ‘bohike’, here in Pittsburgh, regarding the ‘spiritual’ symbolism behind ‘yuca’ and it’s relationship to the ‘divine’.
Yoka Hu Bagua Ma-Orokoti
By Miguel “Sobaoko Koromo” Sague
Yoka Hu is the Lord of Life and energy. He is the spiritual manifestation of all that lives and the essence of Life itself. Yoka Hu is also Energy. He is the spiritual manifestation of all energy but especially the energy of combustion, Fire, Explosion, The sun itself.
The magic of Yoka Hu is found in the warmth of a baby's breath as well as the intense heat of a raging bonfire. It can be encountered in the searing sun-blasted force of a cloudless tropical noontime sky.
Because the heat that brings life to the surface of the Earth comes from the sun (who is called ‘Boinael’ in Caney tradition) the Caney culture sees the sun as the primary manifestation of Yokahu's presence. But the sun's energy can not really be used directly by humans and animals to live. It must be transformed from radiant energy of sunlight to food energy that can then be utilized by animals and people to stay alive. The task of converting the sun's rays into food falls to the plant people. Green plants capture he rays of the sun and through the process of photosynthesis they convert that energy into starch food. Then they store the food in their tissues. Plants thereby become repositories of solar energy. Animals and people come along and eat the plants. By doing this they release the solar energy into their bodies in the form of nutritional calories and burn it to support the business of living.
All green plants store caloric starches in their tissues but there are certain plants that excel at this task. Most of these high-starch plants have been adopted and revered by the various cultures of he world and recognized as the life-supporters that they are. They include WHEAT (the "daily bread" of Christian tradition), RICE (the staple of most of Asia), and MAIZE CORN (the staple of Central American Indians). In South America and the Caribbean root crops were adopted as the main providers. In the high Andes mountain homes of the Inca Indians the potato sustained a vast empire, and in the Amazon and Orinoco river rain forests the high-yield yuca (manioc) is the sacred provider. These two plants bear high-yield nutritious roots that sustained large populations.
The yuca of the Amazon/Orinoco basins and the Caribbean, is in fact, the namesake of Lord Yoka Hu. For his name literally means SOUL OF THE YUCA PLANT. In him is contained all the reverence and awe that we humans hold for the mighty solar life-giver and the green plants that turn his hot rays into living breath.
The yearly round of the sun or an annual crop plant provides the imagery that illustrates Yoka Hu as a living entity with an actual life cycle.
In this drawing Yoka Hu appears at the extreme bottom as an embryo within the nurturing warmth of Ata Bey's Cosmic womb, gestating during the Winter Solstice when the sun is furthest away toward the South. As the cycle moves clockwise towards the left side of the drawing, Yoka hu is born in the Spring Equinox emerging from Ata Bey's womb when the sun begins to return from his southern sojourn. The cycle keeps moving clockwise up to the top position at the Summer Solstice when the sun is at his highest strength and Yoka Hu reaches full maturity and vitality. As the deadly hurricane storms of late Summer and Fall raise the specter of death and destruction Yoka Hu wanes and finally dies at the Autumnal Equinox on the extreme right of the cycle image. The harvested plant similarly must die to rise to its ultimate destiny. Death brings on new Life as the tissues of the harvested plant are sacrificed to feed the people.
Much love to Brother Sague! I seek not to perpetuate any corruption in the understanding of Taino spirituality, but only to interpret it through the paradigm of the Nation of Gods and Earths and the mental framework of Allah's mathematics. As I see Native perpsectives on religion and spirituality not as literal but as metaphoric interpretations of natural forces and phenomena, products of human reasoning and therefore subject to critique, as is anything born out of human being.
Essentially, you ‘are’ what you ‘eat’. If you eat life giving foods, then you become ‘life’, ‘living’. “Yoka Hu is the Lord of Life and energy. He is the spiritual manifestation of all that lives and the essence of Life itself. Yoka Hu is also Energy. He is the spiritual manifestation of all energy but especially the energy of combustion, Fire, Explosion, The sun itself. “ With all things in life, I draw them in the 'heavens'. As I understand that it is the Original man's nature to renew history and not repeat it. This, to me, shows the ancient perspective of the relationship between the Original man and the “sun”. As within the Nation of Gods and Earths, the Blackman is symbolic to the “sun”, as the foundation of his family, his solar system. He is the life-giving force, mentally and physically, within that cipher. The provider. As ‘man’, he is a manifestation of ‘energy‘, as all things exist in degrees of energy, the Original man is the embodiment of the life-giving/taking force within the universe, in this degree of reality, here on Earth. For he is the Original man and the 'Father of Civilization'. Etymologically one could say that ‘man’ means ‘mind’ and therefore reasonably conclude that ‘man’ is a manifestation of his ‘mind’, the universal spring of divine intelligence. Man is ‘Yokahu‘. Whereas as the Original woman, being symbolic to the Earth, is paralleled with 'Atabey', or "Mother Earth".
The transitioning of the sun’s energy into the food we eat is a further example of why the phrase ‘ you are what you eat’ holds so much weight. As many of us already know. As bohike Sague further states…“But the sun's energy can not really be used directly by humans and animals to live. It must be transformed from radiant energy of sunlight to food energy that can then be utilized by animals and people to stay alive. The task of converting the sun's rays into food falls to the plant people. Green plants capture he rays of the sun and through the process of photosynthesis they convert that energy into starch food. Then they store the food in their tissues. Plants thereby become repositories of solar energy. Animals and people come along and eat the plants. By doing this they release the solar energy into their bodies in the form of nutritional calories and burn it to support the business of living. “ As a science, it was understood by our people and was appreciated and celebrated symbolically through tradition, storytelling and dance- methods for the cultural transmission of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. It was the ‘sun’ whom we held as responsible for our dietary sustenance. Thus, the ‘sun’ was viewed as the source of the force behind creation and of course, food. And the Taino name for the “supreme being” is ‘Yokahu’ or ‘Yucahu‘, which as stated above, means “Soul of the Yuca”. As the Original man is symbolic to the 'sun', so is he symbolic to the number one (as sun or 'sol' in spanish, i.e 'solo'), which in our Supreme Mathematics is 'knowledge' (conocimiento). It is the sun's light that stimulates the natural elements in the Earth and brings forth life, just as knowledge stimulates wisdom to brings forth understanding- 'growth and development'. The cosmic information that is carried in sun-light and is deposited into the soil to bond with the elements in order to bring for the vital foods, packed with the 'foundation' of a healthful life- vitamins and minerals, needed for life. These vitamins and minerals are necessary factors for healthful living and healthy DNA (your biological 'information'). All putting you in tune with your 'foundation'. Your 'self'.
It is this manifestation of the ‘sun’, 'man', that continues to cultivate the yuca and thus, keeps transforming the power of the sun, via the power of the plant (the 'Earth), into the power of creation and of divine intelligence (brain power!). It is 'we', who continue to bring forth this creative intelligence, shaping and molding the universe as we know and understand it. Allowing the mathematics of 'change' to continue to take place.
From 'knowledge to born', only 'self' is the savior. Whether it be with traditional or western religion, we need to stop looking outside ourselves for what exists inside.