Bad Luck and Obeah

A recent article by Chris Burns at the Jamaica Observer, titled with the claim, “No Connection Between Bad Luck and Obeah” asserted the following:

“It is often said that bad luck is worse than obeah, but this is untrue. Obeah and bad luck are unrelated because bad luck cannot produce obeah and obeah cannot make bad luck. In fact, as Murphy’s 56th law asserts, “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” This means there is always a possibility of things happening contrary to our expectations, particularly with things over which we have no control.

Therefore, no one should use this aphorism to explain certain outcomes or behaviour, especially when it is crystal clear that neither bad luck nor obeah had anything to do with the negative consequences that emanate from certain deeds. In a sense, application of this adage is a cop-out and a slick way of ducking personal and collective responsibility.”

Mr. Burns made a very good point – far too often people do assert that witchcraft, Obeah, or just bad luck is at fault for what they should take responsibility for. The case of criminal finally caught after a life of crime exclaiming, “Obeah did me in!” falls into this category. It is not the Obeah, but the natural outcome of living that type of lifestyle. As Mr. Burns said, it does not take Obeah or bad fortune to explain why certain results come from certain deeds. However, Mr. Burns sells the truth short when he claims that Obeah and bad luck are not related. The two are inseparably intertwined. And the aphorism that bad luck is worse than Obeah is a piece of African wisdom that has many, many secrets to tell us:

Witchcraft, Vodou, Obeah, or by whatever name you prefer to call it is the ritual part of generating a spiritual force. Bad luck is the actual spiritual force. Bad luck, misfortunes, illness, financial ruin and even death can come to any man at any time. As the Holy Bible tells us, when it rains it does not rain upon one man alone (or only upon the wicked). These spiritual forces exists and they can reach out and touch any person. Obeah can generate or invoke the spiritual forces to bring harm – Obeah can cause bad luck, as the aphorism indicates. However, bad luck can also come without Obeah. This is one meaning of the expression bad luck is worse than Obeah.

Obeah can bring healing, blessings, benefits to the individual and even spiritual salvation. However, bad luck is always bad. Behind this there is always a negative spirit. This is another meaning when we say that bad luck is worse than Obeah.

An Obeah man can place a curse upon you. He can also lift it and restore you. Bad luck that comes by itself, however, is not as easily removed. It can be lifted, but it is not the same as the bad fortune caused by an Obeah man being immediately erased by the same Obi man. And this is yet another meaning of the expression that bad luck is worse than Obeah.

Mr. Burns made the very important point that we alone are responsible for the consequences that come from our own actions. And his point is truly not in contradiction to the one made here, because not all bad luck that befalls a person is the result of their actions. Many innocent people suffer due to evil men, evil spirits and evil forces in the world. This is the most important meaning of bad luck is worse than Obeah. Obeah can be used to fight against random evil forces in the world that harm innocents. Bad Luck refers to those forces that bring nothing but evil upon all of mankind.

We must use Obeah, even if unseemly, to stamp out the truly evil forces that plague us as human beings.

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Strange Incidents of Witchcraft in Zimbabwe

Map of Harare ZimbabweIn Zimbabwe, two young women were found without any clothes on in the front yard of a home in Chinhoyi – some 70 miles away from their home in Harare. When asked how they arrived they revealed that they traveled by flight – a metaphor perhaps for spiritual transportation – to take them the distance. This is akin to the European traditions of witches on broomsticks. The concept and magical rituals behind instant transportation or flight are believed to be practiced worldwide.

In local belief, the flat, traditional hand-held winnowing basket is equivalent to a witch’s broomstick in Western fable.

Officials said a Chinhoyi court on Wednesday set another hearing for July 11 to hear medical reports and testimony from tribal healers.

It is unfortunate that the Associated Press report refers to this as a “tribal superstition,” when it is just as legitimate a spiritual belief and practice as any. This is the unfortunate view that many take toward witchcraft – even those who adhere to various beliefs rooted in witchcraft. It is also unfortunate that the two women will face court and a fine for practicing a traditional African belief system. However, with every cloud there is a silver lining. The positive indication, although slight, is that the government of Zimbabwe is interested enough to provide both medical and psychiatric evaluations, as well as the testimony from tribal healers. This will allow the determination to be made if the event is genuinely witchcraft and, despite not having the religious freedom to practice in Zimbabwe, it will build the increasingly growing base of scientific evidence for the supernatural.

Reggae Artist “Perfect” and the Obeah Prophecy

Reggae Artist "Perfect"An interesting note by world-renowned reggae artist Perfect in an interview with unitedreggae.com on a prophecy he received in his early career from a Jamaican Revivalist, closely related to the spiritual traditions of Obeah:

I knew I was going to travel a lot. Because back in Jamaica you have what they call the Revival Group. It’s a religious group – there’s a Pocomania order, a Revival order, it’s coming from Africa. In Jamaica people see them as also being Obeah, black magic people. So if someone fell sick and said an evil spirit was upon them the Revival Church is one of the first churches they would take those people to try to get them back together. And in that order you have a Mother Woman – like a chief. Now, when I was young, about 15 years old and going to High School, there was a Revival Group that used to come to the square in Browns Town. I was always kind of scared of those people. One Friday afternoon I was coming from school through Browns Town when the chief, the Mother Woman – who was wearing red when the others were in white – she just pointed at me and said “You! Come here!” I was a bit scared but people were like “Oh! The Mother Woman, she called, so go!” She said “Let me see your hand” and said “You’re going to go all around the world. You’re going to fly like a bird. Go fly fly fly!” When I’m on a plane sometimes I flash back to that and she was right!

Many of us who have grown up around Obeah have experienced very much of the same. It is not uncommon to be stopped on the street at least once in your life to have a prophecy blurted out at you that later comes true. The sensation is often eerie to the uninitiated, particularly when one looks back and finds it to be so very true.

 

Obeah, Jamaican Maroons and Tourism

The Maroons, escaped slaves in the West Indies, were feared by colonists and slave owners for their fearsome fighting ability and magical arts. Those magical arts were, of course, Obeah. Today, Maroon communities live and thrive in Jamaica. However, with the financial crisis impacting the world they too struggle to thrive economically. Tourism – and to a degree Obeah – play a part in this as well. CBS News reports on Charles Town, Jamaica, a community of Maroons who have held onto traditional African rituals, practices and Obeah:

CHARLES TOWN, Jamaica — In a backwoods town along a river cutting between green mountains, quick-footed men and women spin and stomp to the beat of drums. One dancer waving a knife is wrapped head-to-foot in leafy branches, his flashing eyes barely visible through the camouflage.

This traditional dance re-enacts the Jamaican Maroons’ specialty: the ambush. It was once a secret ritual of the fierce bands of escaped slaves who won freedom by launching raids on planters’ estates and repelling invasions of their forest havens with a mastery of guerrilla warfare.

Tourism plays a part in the economic livelihood of the Maroons of Charles Town, but the traditional practices of Maroon spirituality – specifically Obeah – also draw in visitors. These practices attract people not just from the inner-city of Jamaica, but from all around the world. It is also worth noting that this is one example of Obeah breaking the stereotype of being a destructive magic. Here Obeah is demonstrated as a balanced, positive healing force as it accurately should be:

“If a person is mad or if they are sick, we can make a healing dance. Our Obeah is a good Obeah,” Prehay said, referring to an Afro-Caribbean religion that involves channeling spiritual forces and is feared by some in Jamaica’s countryside, where superstitions about shamanism and the occult run deep.

But visitors are very rare in his poor town along a dusty, rutted road about a 45-minute drive from Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. Unlike the other three Maroon communities in Jamaica, Scott’s Hall has no museum, dancing grounds or other attractions aimed at tourists.

May our blessings and prayers go out to the Maroons of Charles Town. Let their Obeah, traditions and culture elevate them to new heights!