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Taino Symbols meanings

Taino Symbols - Taino Meanings

Taino symbols. The Taino Indians were an ancient civilization originating from what is now Puerto Rico. Ancient inhabitants of the region, the Taino Indians left behind narratives and tales in the form of these symbols. The Taino mainly lived off of what they could find on land and were also fishermen. Unfortunately, disease, war, and starvation left the Taino destroyed after merely two decades – leaving behind only their symbols.
These symbols have been left behind on caves and walls across the region. Although carbon dating is not possible on the rocks and caves where these images have been found, the best estimate is that these were created somewhere between 5000 BC to 1700 AD. There is also conjecture that these symbols may not have been created by the Taino at all, but a precursor society that lived there before the Taino arrived. Because there is little evidence to prove any of these claims as true, the common acceptance is that these symbols were left behind by the Taino themselves.
While some of the symbols relate to deities and nature, others are about depicting their daily life. With no written language as such, these symbols become their primary way of communication. Some theories state that these petroglyphs were created by shamans. Others believe that these symbols were created as a warning to other tribes, both in terms of territory and to inform others of natural disasters and other events. While some of the symbols and their meanings remain under debate, there are clues and hints that can be used to decipher what they actually mean.

Great seal Taino symbol

Great seal

Found etched on a rock in 900 BC, the great seal is very important. It depicts 2 branches, surrounded by 24 leaves of the sacred Cojobana tree. It is the Sacred Badge of Authority according to the Taino and is indicative of tribal blood lineage. The symbol is traditionally carried by the Cacique of the tribe to cement their authority.

Spiral Taino symbol


The spiral is a common symbol found in Taino art. It is a representation of cosmic energy and its unendingness. It is also representative of sweet water. The spiral is a symbol of both material and immaterial concepts and objects.

Turtle Taino symbol


Going back to the legend of the tumor, and when its removal was attempted a turtle was found, this symbol relates to that. The turtle is seen as the origin of life. It is a maternal figure. It is representative of fertility and mankind. Its connection to mother earth, i.e. Dimivan Caracaracol (Mother Earth) and the tumor removal, it cements the symbol of the turtle as the beginning of life.

Snail conch Taino symbol

Snail conch

For the Taino, snails and conches held particular significance. Snails were a source of sustenance and food. They were also used as a hallucinogen during rituals. Conches were used as decorative pieces. Larger conches were used as a communication device during the hunt, due to their distinctive sound.

Toa Taino symbol


Legends are rife in Taino culture. For the Toa symbol, it is said that the Guahoyona, a god, abducted all of the women of the island. Without their mothers, men were left to take care of the children. As Toa is the word for mother in Taino, the children began to cry out the words ‘toa toa’ as a plea for their mothers in the hungry state. The men who were unable to console their children were turned into frogs.

Eternal lovers Taino symbols

Eternal lovers

The symbol of the eternal lovers is usually shown as birds connected by their beaks, or a possible love scene. For the Taino, eternal love was important. As there was no belief in private property, everything that was grown or killed belonged to the entire tribe. The eternal lovers represent equality amongst the tribe as well as fertility.

Bird Taino symbol


Birds such as herons and cranes were significant in Taino culture. These birds were given human characteristics. Birds were seen as a symbol of masculinity. The birds could also represent members of the tribe but this remains under debate.

God of Cohoba

God of Cohoba

The God of Cohoba was the main deity in the Taino religion. During religious ceremonies such as the Rite of Cohoba, the plate on its head was used to move the hallucinogen-inducing dust during such ceremonies and rites. The cohoba was an important and sacred substance that was used by shamans to communicate with ancestors and gods.

Opiyel Guobiran Taino symbol

Opiyel Guobiran

The opiyel guobiran is a hybrid of god and dog. The legend states that it was tied in the evening and then released into the jungle. The symbol depicts his readiness to escape towards freedom. It is also referred to as the soul dog. The opiyel guobiran was a sacred entity relating to death. It is a canine spirit that accompanies the dead into the afterlife

God of force Taino symbol

God of force

The trunk depicted in the hands of the God of force has particular significance. It symbolizes the willpower of the Taino and their success in achieving freedom. The God of force is a symbol of abundance. It is representative of the peace and prosperity of Taino.

Sun god Taino symbol

Sun God

The sun and the moon were both born in the same cave, legend states. This is the cave of Mautiatibuel (son of dawn), also known as the “Lord of the Dawn” and belonged to the country’s chieftain. The Taino believed that the sun rose from this cave, and hid when the moon emerged from the same cave.

Moon goddess Taino symbol

Moon goddess

The legend of the moon goddess states that there is a cave of the country chieftain Mautiatibuel (son of dawn) or “Lord of the Dawn.” Both the sun and the moon were born in this cave. It was believed that the moon rises from the cave Mautiatbuel at dusk, only to return when the sun rises. The moon goddess hides in this cave when the sun has risen.

Dimivan Caracaracol symbol

Dimivan Caracaracol

The Dimivan Caracaracol is representative of Mother Earth and is her only named son. The legend says that it started as a chieftain who developed a tumor. When his brothers investigated and removed the tumor, it turned out to be a live turtle.

cemi boinayel Taino symbol

Cemi Boinayel

An agricultural god, Cemi Boinayel controlled the harvest. He was known as the god of rain. The belief was that when Boinayel cried, the tears would turn into rain. His tears were a sign of the water that would then cultivate the crops.

Behique Taino symbol


The Behiques were one of the four social classes within the Taino society. These were priests, as well as witch doctors or shamans. The wisest in the tribe, Behiques held key knowledge of plants and substances for medical application. They were also in charge of negotiating with the gods and advocating for their tribe to these gods.

Itiva tahuvava Taino symbol

Itiva tahuvava

A representation of the goddess of Earth, itiva tahuvava is a symbol of the elements. She is a goddess who is the mother of twins. This represents the “four winds” or the four cardinal points that are fundamental to the Earth. Itiva tahuvava is representative of a maternal figure.

Potiza Taino symbol


Shaped like a container, the Potiza was an important part of love during this time. It was used to store water as well as a fermentation device. The juice of the Guáyiga was stored and fermented in the Potiza. This would then be gifted by men to women to declare their love.

Trigonolito Taino symbol


The god of fertility, Trigonolito was buried in the soil as a means of fertilization. He was usually buried in conucos cassava and yucca as these were the primary food source for the Taino. Spanish chroniclers described finding small statues of Trigonolito and were the first to highlight its connection to the staple root crops in the region.

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