The thought of “Tau” being a religious corruption was a very interesting element added to the “Tau” discussion…
Some folks believe that “tau” is of christian origin because of the tau cross used by the Franciscan monks, as a mark of those who accept Christ as their savior, and maybe even the mark painted in lamb’s blood on the doorpost of the Israelite’s homes; protecting the first born of the household against the angel of death during the tenth, and final, plague the western God imposed on Egypt when ordering the pharaoh to “let his people go”.
Initially, I didn’t want to consider this point, not because of any religious apprehension, but because I have noticed the recent alarm rising among my people: how they have allowed themselves to be besotted by fears of persecution and paranoia. The conspiracy theories range from the word “tau” being used as a greeting to the death and destruction of all non-caucasians via King Alfred’s plan. I know I am not the only one who’s observed this recent development in our people and I cannot help but wonder, could our present economic and political upheaval in the United States be such that a greeting will be seen as a cultural conspiracy?
Let’s say it is… has anyone considered that a population that is scared is easier to control than one that is strong and centered? I mean, if we are going to consider conspiracy theories, maybe we should wonder if these stories are control tactics. Then we need to question, who is seeking to control us? Who is it that continues to feed this splintering of our people as a “good” thing? What purpose is behind this need for control? What final outcome are they seeking?
But, because I believe that true communion comes from suspending judgement, and considering all angles, I’ve considered this possibility and here are my thoughts.
Being that the Taino language was never written, we would have to go by the sound of the word. Needless to say, the sound “tau, taw, or tao” is one that can be found in different languages and cultures all over the world. One cannot say that because the word is present in one language with a particular definition, it means the same in another language, or even carry the same cultural connotations- as in the christian mark of salvation.
Before Tau was ever a christian cross, it was a letter in the proto-Canaanite alphabet, the parent of most all alphabets in existence. It is also the last letter of the Phonecian alphabet and the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet, as well as the number 300 in the greek numerical system. All this was in existence before christianity was ever an official religion. Again I offer that meanings in one culture or language doesn’t necessarily mean the same cross culturally.
Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, studied symbolism and found symbols that he states are common to all mankind. This is the basis of his idea of the “collective consciousness”. One of these symbols is the mandala, and what is a medicine wheel? We find different wheels or mandalas all cross the world: Buddhist wheels, Sand wheels used by the Dine, even historical stone wheels in the mountains and valleys of ancient peoples, including our own. Even though the sacred wheel is found worldwide, no nation has stopped using the symbol of the medicine wheel. We’ve continued using the wheel with the symbolism and meaning that we choose to ascribe to it, regardless of how others use it.
And, if you pay close attention, more often than not, you will find a cross at it’s very center…
And frankly, all too often we forget the power we wield, and how much of that power resides in our creative impulse. We have a choice in how we see things and what perceptions we adopt, so why not take a more positive view? In Indonesia a Tau-tau is a wooden effigy honoring the dead, Tatau in the Samoan language means balanced, correct, appropriate, and in Maori it can mean beloved, partner, lover, sweetheart. What awesome ways to greet each other!
In my research, I also came across a book titled The Great Encounter by Jayme Sokolow and in it he describes how the Jivaro, our Amazonian cousins, chant “tau, tau, tau” for the purpose of finding a soul to provide them growth and protection. Having a choice, which we do have, I would choose this meaning over the christian meaning any day!
My point is that language grows and expands according to the world view of the people living that language and not necessarily according to anyone’s “plan”. The Taino language was suppressed to the point that, today, it is a dead language. It was not afforded the opportunity to grow and evolve naturally as our conquering languages have. For this reason, the insistence of a non-existent world view and the expectation of full academic support is not feasible. Especially when there are no linguistic academics working on it!
I wonder, what is the damage of using Tau as a modern Taino greeting? How is it offending our present world view? How is it irresponsible to the Spirits, our elders (who never spoke taino) or our future? What is the fear of the use of the word Tau as a greeting? Or has it now become so “political” so that it’s use now defines who’s side you’re on?
Personally, I am on the side of the Taino people- regardless of groups, titles or group affiliations.
I offer that the disharmony and the division created by minimal issues like this is incredibly destructive to the tenuous unity we have presently among the Taino Nation as a whole. We need to get over the need to be right, imposing one way, and just work on being a community that can get along as human beings, otherwise there will no one left to speak the language “correctly” or “incorrectly.”
(c) Anita “Nanu” Pagan, March 2009