Great Smithsonian Article on Obeah’s Role in Antigua’s Slave Revolt

antiguaFrom smithsonianmag.com, Antigua’s Disputed Slave Conspiracy of 1736:

Klaas is a figure of compelling interest to historians. Gaspar and others argue that his influence over his fellow slaves went further than the Antiguan planters of the day realized, since, according to the official report on the planned uprising, “it was fully proved that he had for many Years covertly assumed among his Countrymen, the Title of King, and had been by them address’d, and treated as such.”  They further identify him as an Ashanti, a member of a tribal confederation renowned for discipline and courage, not to mention abundant use of human sacrifice.

The most intriguing evidence relating to Prince Klaas concerns a public ceremony held a week before the planned rebellion. In the course of this ritual, Gaspar says, Klaas was enthroned by an “obey man”—an obeah-man, that is; a priest, shaman or sorcerer who practiced the West African folk religion known as voodoo or santería. In other Caribbean risings, it was the obeah-man who administered oaths of loyalty to would-be rebels with a mixture made of gunpowder, grave dirt and cock’s blood; strong belief in his supernatural powers helped cement loyalty. Michael Craton is not alone in arguing that the ceremony Antigua’s obeah-man presided over was actually a war dance,

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