Yúcahu, —also written as Yukajú, Yocajú, Yokahu or Yukiyú— was the masculine spirit of fertility in Taíno mythology. He was one of the supreme deities or zemís of the Pre-Columbian Taíno peoples along with his mother Atabey who was his feminine counterpart. Dominant in the Caribbean region at the time of Columbus’ First voyages of Discovery, the peoples associated with Taíno culture inhabited the islands of the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles.
"They call him Yúcahu Bagua Maórocoti" is the earliest mention of the zemí taken from the first page of Fray Ramón Pané's Account of the Antiquities of the Indians. As the Taíno did not possess a written language, the name is the phonetic spelling as recorded by the Spanish missionaries, Ramón Pané, and Bartolomé de las Casas. The three names are thought to represent the Great Spirit's epithets. Yúcahu means spirit or giver of cassava. Bagua has been interpreted as meaning both "the sea" itself and "master of the sea." The name Maórocoti implies that he was conceived without male intervention. He was also later known as "El Gigante Dormido", or "Sleeping Giant".
The Taíno had a well developed creation myth, which was mostly passed down via oral tradition. According to this account, in the beginning there was only Atabey, who created the heavens. However, there was still a void, where nothingness prevailed. The heavens were inactive and any action was meaningless. Earth and the other cosmic entities laid barren. Despite being dominated by darkness, Atabey herself failed to notice that this universe was incomplete. Eventually she decided to create two new deities, Yucáhu and Guacar, from magic and intangible elements. Atabey now felt confident that her creation could be completed and left it in charge of her sons. Yucáhu took over as a creation deity, becoming a universal architect and gathering the favour of his mother. From his dwelling in the heavens, he contemplated and awoke the Earth from its slumber. As part of this process, two new deities emerged from a cave. Boinael and Maroya, controlling the sun and moon respectively, which were tasked with illuminating the new world day and night. No longer would the Earth be shrouded by darkness. Yucáhu was satisfied with his work, but in a fit of jealousy Guacar hid within the heavens, never to be seen again. Now bored, Yucáhu roamed and noticed four gemstones that lied in the ground, which he took and converted into the celestial star beings Racuno, Sobaco, Achinao and Coromo, who reproduced and spread throughout the universe, where they guide the deities. He followed this by creating animals, granting them dwellings and teaching them how to live. Yucáhu then had a revelation, believing that something else should complete his creation. Convinced that the new entity should be neither animal nor deity, he pondered this profoundly. Yucáhu then opened a rift in the heavens from which emerges the first man, whom he granted a soul and named Locuo. This man would roam the Earth endlessly filled by joy and thanking the deity for his creation. Finally satisfied with his creation, Yucáhu left the world in the hands of humanity, feeling that balance had been reached.
Yúcahu became known as the deity of agriculture, as well as the zemi of peace and tranquility, he represented goodness. This was contrasted greatly by the goddess Guabancex (more commonly, but erroneously, known as Juracán) whose fierce nature was regarded as responsible for persuading other zemis in order to bring forth chaos and who was associated with the more aggressive Caribs. Yúcahu was believed to have a throne in El Yunque peak, the largest mountain found in the tropical El Yunque National Forest reserve, where he resided in the same manner that the Greek gods did in Mount Olympus. The Taíno referred to the peak as yuké, or "The White Lands", in reference to the thick cloud shroud that always surrounds it. This mountain range diverts the wind of hurricanes, minimizing the damage that the storms do to the lower parts of the island. Noticing this, the natives interpreted this as Yúcahu confronting Guabancex and her cohorts over the safety of his worshipers. Located in the northern mountains of Puerto Rico, the region where El Yunke is located was originally known as "Yukiyu", a name that became associated with the deity. Following the Spanish colonization, it became known under the Hispanized variant of Luquillo a name that remains in use.
- Fray Ramón Pané 1999, p.4
- Stevens-Arroyo 2006, p.221
- Rouse 1993, p.13
- Rouse 1993, p.5
- Fray Ramón Pané was the first European missionary to arrive in the New World and the first to learn the native language. He was the first person who studied the beliefs of an indigenous people, and his account was the first book to be written by a European on American soil.
- Pané 1999
- Stevens-Arroyo 2006
- Rouse 1993
- Fray Ramón Pané (1999). José Juan Arrom, ed. An Account of the Antiquities of the Indians. Susan C. Giswold (trans.). Durham, NC ;London: Duke Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-2347-1.
A New Edition, with an Introductory Study, Notes, & Appendixes by José Juan Arrom
- Arroyo, Antonio M. Stevens (2006). Cave of the Jagua : the mythological world of the Taínos (2. ed.). Scranton [u.a.]: Univ. of Scranton Press. ISBN 1-58966-112-5.
- Rouse, Irving (1993). Tainos : Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus (New ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05696-6.
- American Anthropologist. Original from the University of California: American Anthropological Association. 1909. pp. 354–356.