Myths and Rituals: From Christianity to Obeah

Essay by DarmayUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2006

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The islands of Trinidad and Tobago have beautiful rolling belts of mountainous highlands, flourishing rain forests, large reserves of petroleum, and obeah. Obeah, a form of black magic or witchcraft used in the West Indies, is prevalent even today in Trinidad and Tobago. Obeah was viewed by white slave owners as a superstition, was a form of slave religion a powerful facet of African culture transplanted to America. The word Obeah translates into the meaning serpent of wisdom. Obeah is primarily used to cause harm and is done out of malice, envy or "bad mind". The obeah man is often asked to "put a blow" or "work" on someone to make them ill, experience unwarranted adversity, bad luck, become mentally ill or, in extreme cases, die. It is also believed that the Obeah men and spiritual shepherds possess healing powers. What interest me is whether people today believe more in modern medicine and such, or more in the Obeah man's powers? I also wonder about the people that have left the Obeah way of life behind, and why? In addition, do they believe in it at all and to what extent?

My mother, who now lives here in Hawaii, was born in raised in Trinidad before coming to the United States at the young age of 19.

My uncle, who now resides in Hilo, was also born and raised in Trinidad before moving to the United States with my Grandparents. My mother, now a devout Christian, told me about her niece, my cousin, which was very sick. The girl was deathly ill for several months. My Aunt was worried and wanted to take her to the hospital, but everyone back in Trinidad insisted that she use an Obeah man. Instead of taking her to the hospital, they flew an Obeah...