We pull from many cultures.
Setu Tribe draws inspiration from the many cultures we honor and represent. Many of the practices that we have chosen to incorporate into our performance have deep rooted meanings and symbolism in various cultures. As a tribe, we honor the history behind these meanings and symbols. As individuals, these practices resonate for each of us for historical as well as for personal reasons.
Before each performance, the Setu Sisters gather to adorn and paint each another with white paint. White symbolizes hope, purity, and peace. In Native American Culture, the color white also symbolized the “spirit of the wolf which gives strength.” (Palmer, 2006) Hope, Purity, Peace, and Strength are the blessings that we call upon for each sister in the tribe as we support one another in growth and transformation. The acts of adorning and painting your sister and of being painted and adorned is bonding, empowering, meditative, grounding, and trust building for our tribe.
Ubuntu is a South African term which can be phrased in many ways in English - each phrasing of this term has the same underlying meaning. The phrasing adopted by Setu Tribe is, “I am, because we are.”. It is both a philosophical and political concept. Ubuntu is the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. It is also the action of being the community you want to create. Acts of compassion, teaching and sharing all build a stronger, more positive community.
Setu Tribe has adopted “Ubuntu” as our mantra and motto, as a reminder to have gratitude and to care for one another with great respect and love, always.
Yemanya is a Yoruba Goddess or Orisha who lives and rules over the seas. Yemaya is motherly, fierce, fair and brave. She resides in the water and without her life would not be possible. It is said that Yemaya’s first gift to humans was a sea shell in which her voice could always be heard. Holding a shell to your ear in order to hear the ocean honors her. She also loves to move with the rhythms of the waves and dance. Yemaya teaches us that things are always changing and that through those changes, compassion and gentleness, allows us to create and transform through the process.
Read one of our favorite articles honoring Yemaya.
Shells have special meaning all over the world. Many cultures associate them with women, fertility and prosperity. For example, an African legend states that the cowrie shell represents Goddess protection which is very powerful and ties us to the ocean. It also symbolizes power of destiny and prosperity. Setu Tribe adorn their costumes with cowrie shells for their beauty, feminine energy, percussive qualities and connection to Yemaya and the ocean which represents the womb.
All throughout history, various cultures throughout the world, have used feathers as a symbolic expression. In Native American culture, a feather symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power and freedom, and it is expected to be treated with the utmost respect. In Egyptian culture, the feather symbolizes Shu, the Egyptian god of air, and Ma’at, the goddess of truth and order. In Christianity, a feather represents the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
With respect for all of the various cultures which find symbolism in feathers, Setu Tribe honors life, “flight”, and shedding of what is no longer serving us as individuals. Other connections with feathers are personal and varied. We incorporate feathers with gratitude for the continual waves of wisdom they seem to bring as well as for our ancestors for recognizing this power they possess and passing on the tradition.
“The Meaning of Feathers plays an important role in the belief system of Native American Indians. Their beliefs are based on Animism which embodies the spiritual idea that all natural things within the universe, including birds, have souls or spirits. Animists believe that souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in birds, their feathers and in animals,plants, rocks and natural phenomena. The doctrine of animism is that everything is alive, and possesses an inherent virtue, power and wisdom.”
“The generalized meaning of feathers signified honor & connected the owner with the Creator and the bird the feathers came from. Native Indian warriors were awarded a feather when they took coup or were particularly brave in battle. When a feather falls to earth, the Native Americans believe it carries all of the energy of its former attachment on a bird to a living being. Feathers are perceived as gifts from the sky, the sea and the trees. Feathers arrive unexpectedly, but not without purpose.”
It is in our practice to honor nature and to honor our ancestors. We strive to educate ourselves and one another about the various cultures from which we draw inspiration. While our individual beliefs and spiritual practices vary, the common thread is honor and, of course, Ubuntu. The concept of the Goddess and the Divine Feminine are wonderful reminders of these practices.
Setu Tribe is committed to healing one another and our world. We respect and accept that the path to healing is different for each person, and is carved out by countless circumstances - including family, community, heritage, etc. We aim to evolve as a planet - to honor, to educate, and to move with intention as we do this good work for humankind.