The Caney Indian Spiritual Circle shaman is, like most other shamans in other traditions, an explorer, a discoverer, a retriever of valuable things and a healer. The job of the Caney shaman is to inform himself or herself in the techniques of exploration in the realm of non-ordinary-reality, and to visit that realm frequently so that he or she may discover and bring back essential spiritual elements that are needed by members of the community that this person serves.
The techniques used by the Caney shaman are derived from the same three sources that have provided our spiritual community with all the other wisdom which we utilize. These sources are:
This is the TIE of wisdom that binds us together as a culture and holds us in place.
The most important of these three is TRADITION. Tradition is the wisdom and knowledge that has been handed down from generation to generation in the form of practical customs and habits. These are usually cultural usages that have survived in the rural areas of our tropical islands since the times before the Taino Indians were conquered by the Spanish. Some of these living traditions include the age-old method of constructing a “bohio”, the palm-wood thatched roof house that peasants still build in the remote areas of Cuba. Also the use of native plants and mineral substances in the treatment of injury and sickness.
The only source of this kind of living wisdom is the people themselves. We look to our surviving elders and experienced ones to teach us the ancient ways and to pass on the living culture.
The second source of information and knowledge from which we learn in the Caney Circle is INSPIRATION. Inspiration is the information that our shamans and visionaries receive from the spirit realm. They are messages which teach us the will of the Great Spirit GUA TUREY/Yaya. They are received in dreams and visions and in the trance-state of the Co-Oba ritual in which the shaman journeys to the spirit world. The visionary gets these enlightenment and shares them with the rest of the community. They become part of the tradition of the Caney Circle.
The third source of wisdom is EDUCATION. In this context we interpret this word to mean the wisdom and knowledge that has been recorded in some manner and can be gleaned without the benefit of the physical presence or immediate assistance of the wise one who made the record. It means that someone has written down or in some way made a picture-writing record that states some ancient tradition or wisdom. Whether that person is alive or dead, his or her record is there to teach others even when that person is not present to do the teaching. This kind of wisdom is found in the ancient Taino pictographs which can be found on ancient rock art and cave drawings. It can also be found in the hieroglyphic writings of the neighboring Maya Indians whose civilization influenced the culture of the Tainos. Modern and contemporary men and women of great wisdom and insight have also written much that informs us and enlightens us, and provides our community with information that is very valuable in attaining a complete image of spiritual and shamanic reality.
Further wisdom can be gleaned with some difficulty from the faulty and distorted writings of the Spanish themselves, who took great pains to record as much of Taino culture as they could observe. Of course this is the most tainted record because the Spanish wrote from a biased and prejudiced point of view, but their writings can be interpreted accurately by those who have a good understanding of the Spanish temperament and prejudices and who can cut through their Medieval myopia to discover precious kernels of lost culture and tradition.
The Caney Circle shaman, the boitiu, uses the power of his or her individual spirit guide to access the realm of non-ordinary reality. The spirit guide or guardian spirit is the focal point of a shaman’s work. it is important to understand exactly what a spirit guide is.
Known also as the “power animal”, the guardian spirit is a psychic entity which begins its existence at the moment of a person’s birth. It exists in close proximity to the individual from birth to death. It is the most important spiritual reality in a person’s life. The guardian spirit (known as “semisaki” in the Caney tradition) plays two associated roles in the life of an individual. It is the most important protective spirit of that person. It is also a guide and teacher which can be the source of wisdom and spiritual power. Human beings establish a relationship with their guardian spirit through a ceremony called “Vision Quest”.
When a Caney Circle shaman seeks to perform the shamanic journey process called Co-Oba, he or she first appeals to the sacred personal protective guide known as “semisaki”, the guardian spirit. The semisaki provides the shaman with the necessary protection and guidance that is vital when performing this dangerous journey.