This is the story of the grandmother of the Tainos. That is not what they called themselves, that is the label put on them by the Spaniards later. Grandmother of the Tainos showed her life.
In the meeting place where all gathered to trade what they had made and give gifts and eat together, Grandmother Taino as she was known then, she was not a woman of noble birth but just a woman who was different. They recognized this, when, at the meeting place she climbed the Tree whose branches were so high, no one, not even the tallest among them standing on the shoulders of the next tallest, could reach even the lowest branch.
I, mother of the Tainos, I saw her branches in golden light like steps before me and I did not need to reach the highest branch as the others tried but instead accepted the Tree’s offer of branches, like the steps I climbed. I climbed very high with no fear. Why would I fear? She was taking care of me. I would not fall nor be hurt in any way. I climbed and climbed into her highest branches and when I reach the top I could see all around the whole of the land, the ocean around us, and the clouds on the mountain and I heard whispers of what to tell the Tainos, the people on the ground waiting to hear.
To see clouds meant water for the plants which meant a good harvest which meant joyous dancing in the square all around the meeting place. It meant much sharing of food and gifts. And while in the tree I heard the voices of my ancestors, are the ancestors of all the people. I would not carry a baby, no child for my body except Spirit babies. It it was so, no matter how many I lay with those as women do to be pregnant. I would not be with a baby in me but when I feel a spirit baby is ready for her mother, I would be pregnant, my belly would swell. It would stick out like the other women’s bellies and when the spirit baby was ready to go to a woman, I would have birth pain. Not as strong as birth of a born baby, a child, but still pain and blood. When my bloods ran I knew it was time.
Sometimes that happened when we were all at the meeting place, where the women gathered and waited for me to become with the child that they would carry to birth. We were at the meeting place for a long time before going back to elsewhere, so I could have many spirit babies and give them to the women waiting to be pregnant, to be mothers.
I would deliver my own spirit babies and take the spirit baby, full of light, to the woman who laid back on the ground so her womb was open and I put down the baby of light, the spirit baby, and she would move into the mother’s womb and she the mother would later give birth to a tiny baby, a boy, or a girl, according to the spirit who was birthed by me and given to the woman.
The playing of a game was not with sticks but only bodies. Women and men were of similar size so they all played together in the place. Except the women who are pregnant. They stayed behind the stones that circled the play ground. This to protect the babies they carried, for sometimes the games got rough and people were pushed out of the square and into the crowd who watched around the edges. We did not want to hurt the spirit babies nor the Taino babies making their way to us from the mothers, from the other side, the other place where they came to to this place, the fire in Cave of the Grandmothers. But not this cave for this is for grandmothers and not babies.
We decorated the stones around the play ground with all things of life – mothers and birds and monkeys and cats and dogs and all sorts of other animals. Not all stones are left now in your time but we had all these, and where the edge of the play ground was, the women and some men left flowers and grasses to mark the edge of play but also offer Mother Earth a sweet and fragrant blessing as thanks for her ground so flat and nice for games.
We lived away from the meeting place in the mountains and their steep slopes were not good for games. Shall I explain games? All people not pregnant or doing other things were invited into the game. If they were too young, they had to wait. If they were too old, they could decide themselves whether to play. There were only a few rules, no touching out of anger. A person could hold another person like a hug from behind or in front. A small ball would be passed from person to person and taken from one end of the play ground to the other. There were teams as you call them but they switched around often and this we found to be good so no one became jealous of the others.
Sometimes there was much holding between two people, mostly men and women, but sometimes women and women and men and men. The men showed great affection for each other, just like they did for women – so different than your time, your world, so sorry that men miss out on love in your time maybe they can start to be with each other more soon.
When the affection was between a man and a woman, I would see a spirit baby floating beside them and it would look at me and I would oblige the baby to me and when I was pregnant with the spirit baby I would tell the woman and the man and they were very happy. So like all the women to have babies, the woman would lie down and ask the spirit baby to come to her from me. This usually happened but sometimes the baby was not ready for some reason and the couple would have to wait until I found them later and I birthed the baby for them.
Sometimes I would climb into the Tree and she would tell me who would have babies soon and what they needed. Sometimes they needed a new place to live, a new home, and so I would let the people of the village know that the Tree had said who needed a new house. They always believed me for I had no reason to say otherwise. I had no reason to lie about such things. This was my life and I was Mother of the Tainos.
A great artist would make images, drawings, as you say, of me when I had a spirit baby and it was good and made me feel loved when they offered this to me. Did I ever want the Taino baby? Not that I remember. I had enough pains to know that what I felt was nothing compared to the women who had Taino babies. I never wanted more than what I had. I had the Tree, the Special Tree, who lifted me to the highest point so I could see all the way around. See the mountains and the ocean and the rivers and the animals and feel the sun warm on my face and in my heart.
I do not wish to talk about the Invaders. Their story has been told so many times and not all listen to really hear the pain of it. So let us not go to that place of Sorrow. While we were free of that torture we had a good life in the plants and the animals had a good life. And the spirit babies were all around needing Taino mothers and fathers and I felt love all the time you know.
People shared food with me and gave me a hut near the meeting place. Where the building of a wood home now stands. There was my hut and I loved it and I could go to the Tree and be with her whenever I wanted to. I also traveled to villages all over for a while. As I got older my feet hurt from walking so much so the women would come to me.
When I got older, not able to take the spirit pain of birth as I had when I was young, I decided to give it up to a younger woman who was like me. It wasn’t hard to find her because she had dreams of being with me, of learning my way, what I was doing. It happened quickly too, once I decided that the gift must be passed on. I climbed the Tree and she held me against her soft bark, her soft trunk, and I sat with sunshine on my eyelids and she spoke to me to look down as a woman passed by underneath the Tree. And the Tree said she is the one. And I knew for the Tree had no reason to say such things as false and I trusted her completely.
So I went down and found the woman looking up into the Tree at me. I smiled and said what the Tree had told me, that she needed to ask the Tree herself, and to climb as I once did very long ago and this she did. She bowed in front of Tree and I could tell they were speaking together. Then she raised her arms and again I saw myself all those years ago and she began to climb and it was then that I saw the golden light of the branches bending down to help her and that was it!
The woman would learn from the Tree, from the spirits all around us and from the spirit babies. I felt relief and I didn’t even know there was just a small thing of doubt in me but there was. Well we all learn all the time, don’t we?
I was not forgotten. I was cared for and I watched many Taino babies come into our world and I felt so happy and I got time to sit quietly in the sun, to sleep on the sand near the ocean. Mother ocean. Sister water. So good, so good to hear the breathing of the world. When it was time I dreamed of the Grandmothers. The ones sitting here who came before me and it made me happy to know I would be with my sisters and we would teach the young ones, like you, who come to us.
You do not feel young? You make me smile for you are so very young in your spirit. Even you feel you have far to go, much to learn. I am glad you have come to us and to tell our stories. This is good. This is what you do for you and you do for us. We all have stories and they are for Mother Earth and they are for people. This is good. This is happiness. This is love. I knew love back in my day and I know love now. Is it a different love? No, all the same love but when your eyes of your heart change over time, it would seem like different love but it is not. It is all the same love. All love is the same.
Thank you for telling my story. Thank you. Maybe we will speak again. Yes, that would be good. Much love to you from all of us.