Jamaica has a reputation for having some of the best obeah men and women in the world, and the underground obeah tourism business people are benefiting big time from ‘ill’ repute, Paul H. Williams writes in Hospitality Jamaica. My thanks to Esther Figueroa for sending a link to this article.
Nanny, Jamaica’s only National Heroine, was reputed to be a feared obeah woman who wreaked havoc upon the British. Her ‘magical’ feats are legendary, smacking of mythology in some quarters. Nanny did not even exist, some argue. What is certain, however, is that obeah was a popular weapon in the fight against the enslavement of Africans in Jamaica. Slavery is long dead, but the practice of obeah is still alive and kicking.
It is big business, so much so that even people from abroad are coming here seeking out our obeah men and woman. Obeah tourism then might not be well publicised and marketed, but it does exist, and recently, Hospitality Jamaica spoke with a man, whom we named ‘Linx’, who said he has been transporting visitors from abroad to obeah men for quite a while now.
There are those who come for other purposes, but when they get here, they take the opportunity to seek out ‘madda woman’ and obeah man. Others come, ‘with addresses’, directly for the sole purpose of consulting obeah practitioners. But what exactly is obeah, and where does it come from?
‘The Wanderling’, in an electronic document, found at http://www.geocities.com/ the_wanderling/how.html, says, “Obeah is the most dreaded and most powerful of all occult practices.” Also known as obi, it’s a practice that falls under the same umbrella as voodoo, witchcraft and black magic. In essence, it’s generally regarded as evil, something bad, Satanic even. Yet, many of those who practise it and those who seek it out do so for benevolent purposes, to make a certain situation better.
The Wanderling further says, “Thousands upon thousands of Ashantis, as well as Yorubans and others, along the slave coast, were rounded up against their will and transported in slave ships to the Americas – (They) in turn bringing their thoughts and religious beliefs with them … those that did make it to the new world, young or old, experienced or beginner, used their knowledge as their only way to gain the upper hand or power over their slave masters. In the process, the strength of the religious beliefs increasingly manifested itself towards the occult and cloaked itself in the ever more secret.”
Martha Warren Beckwith, in Black Roadways: a Study of Jamaican Folk Life, writes, “The practice of this power over the shadow world is called obeah, and the so-called obeah religion depends on the belief that such spirits may be employed to work harm to the living or may be called off from such mischief. ‘Working’ obeah means to ‘set’ a duppy for someone; ‘pulling’ obeah means to extract the obeah set by another.”
Reboe Rallin, a deacon from Bath, St Thomas, who said he knew much about the connection between the wish and the action, agreed. He said the jobs are carried out by the agents of the obeah man, ghosts, who infiltrate the mind and body of the ‘victim’, and cause them to get sick, die, and in other cases, to get well, and/or prosper.
Its practice is not confined to poverty-ridden rural folks. Just wait and see when Sunday evening comes, how many “high-colour people with tall hair” in their SUVs are returning from rural balm yards. This, according to a woman in Port Morant, St Thomas, who claimed to know a thing or two about obeah.
objective of obeah
The whole objective of the act is to bring success, prosperity, doom and destruction to the subject of a spell, through supernatural means. But the interference may also be physical, involving the use of oils and other potions, pieces of clothes and other personal belongings such as a textbook, a job letter, a wedding ring.
Last week, Linx told Hospitality Jamaica about the mother and son who came here, recently, all the way from Queens, New York, to get some ‘business’ done. The son, who was a smoker and on ‘dope’, is now free of the duppy of drug addiction that was allegedly set on him. “And him cyaan smoke yah now, no sah, cyaan even stand the scent,” Linx declared, smiling. “The mother is a chef and was getting a fight on the job. She control that person [the boss] now.” Linx said he himself could do a little reading, but he preferred to do the transporting since it is more lucrative.
The money for transportation, consultations and for the making of oils, concoctions and charms is big, but since there are existing laws against the practice of obeah, it is mainly carried out clandestinely. But could such laws be abolished making the way clear for Jamaica to be marketed as an obeah tourist destination? Well, abolition or not, Jamaica has a reputation for having some of the best obeah men and women in the world, and the underground obeah tourism business people are benefiting big time from ‘ill’ repute.
“It’s widespread, man, a lot of people come here for it”, Linx would want you know, and Westmoreland is a popular destination.
For the original report go to http://www.hospitalityjamaica.com/news1.html