Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tabako (Tobacco) is Taino

Did You Know: Tabako (tabaco/tobacco) is a Taíno word, however, traditionally it was not used in the way it is used today to describe the plant (Nicotiana tabacum / N. rustica). According to Spanish historian Bartolome De Las Casas, the word tabako was originally used to describe dried leaves rolled into the tube-shaped cigar for smoking the world is familiar with today. Another historian, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes also notes that tabako was the word used for the Y-shaped pipe used to inhale ceremonial snuff powder. While the meaning of the word tabako has changed to describe the leaves and plant (Nicotiana tabacum / N. rustica), traditionally the leaves of the plant where called kohiba (cojiba). The ground leaf powder used for ceremonial snuff was called kohoba (cojoba). Additional early uses of tabako among Indigenous Peoples of the region included breathing the odor of fresh green leaves of the plant relieved persistent headaches. For colds and catarrh (mucous membranes inflammation), green or powdered tabako leaves were rubbed around inside the mouth. Today, some Taíno community members still consider tabako a sacred plant and offer tabako seeds or dried, crushed leaves as an offering before picking other medicinal plants.  - UCTP Taíno News © 2012

Illustration: The first published illustration of Nicotiana tabacum by Pena and De L'Obel, 1570-1571 (shrpium adversana nova: London). The small illustration on the right of the picture shows how the "Indians and sailors" smoked Nicotiana leaves in a funnel.