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!

A Guyanese Student’s Experience of Obeah

Obeah, although most frequently associated with Triniad or Jamaica, is found throughout the Caribbean. In Guyana Obeah is also called Obeah and practiced widely. A Guyanese student at the City College of New York wrote about his experience of Obeah in Guyana:

There are many names for this type of religion in Brazil they call it Umbanda, Condomble de Congo or Angola. In Caribbean countries such as Guyana where I am from they call it Obeah and in Jamaica they call it Kumina.

In Guyana you will find Muslims, Hindus, and Christians who use Obeah and their religious books such as the Quran to perform powerful magic with the help of Jinn’s and Angels. Those who practice Obeah help people with problems concerning their work, romance, domestic life, and health, but they can also do harm to those who they want revenge on or is jealous of. In other words they are good and bad Obeah man. Some people are given charms to protect them from evil or harm.’

Guyana has unique religious demographics with sizable portions of Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Obeah is practiced across religious lines:

In order to make my research effective I interviewed six Guyanese people, in which three were women and three were men. All of which are either Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. I had two Muslims, two Christian, and two Hindu’s. The age’s ranged from 22-56. Four of the interviewees had college degrees, and the other two had high school diplomas. Two of the interviewees were born in America, but is highly influenced by the Guyanese culture. The other four were born in Guyana.

All of the interviewees agreed that they knew someone that has practiced Obeah and tried to harm someone.  All of my interviewees didn’t practice any type of Obeah.   One of my interviewee’s was actually affected by Obeah, she said that one of her family members was jealous of her so they put a spell on her.  She said that weird things were happening to her and she was feeling sick.  She went to doctors and they couldn’t find out what was wrong with her, so she saw an obeah man who gave her a charm to protect her from the evil that had been done to her.

Voodoos and Obeahs – Phases of West Indies Witchcraft

Voodoos and Obeahs – Phases of West Indies Witchcraft, an ethnography concerning Voodoo and Obeah released in 1932. Origins on Obeah begin on Chapter 4 and the Development of Obeah begins in Chapter 5, with discussion intermittent in both the preceding and concluding chapters. An important text in understanding the perceived history of Obeah in Jamaica and the West Indies similar to the Malleus Maleficarum’s depictions of witchery in the 15th century.You will not learn Obeah from this book but you will learn what was believed about Obeah by some.

Obeah Involved in Story of Extradited Drug Lord Dudus Coke

Excerpt from the Jamaica Gleaner:

Dudus Coke ObeahThe caller said that the belief in Tivoli was that Mr and Mrs Johnson had worked obeah on Jah T and caused his death. This was said to Jim Brown, who was in General Penitentiary awaiting extradition to the US. Jim Brown confirmed the request for action to be taken against Mr and Mrs Johnson.One morning, gunmen entered their house and shot Mr Johnson at the door. They went upstairs and shot Mrs Johnson to death.

Why Obeah?

Why Obeah – why the topic that has brought both awe and fear into the hearts of men from the times of the earliest African history? Much is said of Voodoo, of Santeria, or Palo Mayombe or other religions taken from the African continent and transplanted to Caribbean soil. Yet, Obeah remains more mysterious than all. Please join our community to understand Obeah, to practice Obeah and to allow Obeah to guide our lives with its spiritual principles.