Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obeah-Black Magic

One element of Caribbean culture that especially fascinates me is their frequent talk and/or use of Obeah or black magic. It is a subject that I have yet to find little documentation on in the local libraries, but I continue to research. My husband, being a native islander, speaks of it on occasion and I am an eager listener.

On a recent visit to Castries, I approached the librarian at the Central library and asked to see the books on St Lucia history. My jaw dropped a little when she handed me three books. This was it? Three books in their central library on the history of the island? Ok.

One of the three books was St Lucia Historical, Statistical and Descriptive by Henry H. Breen. First published in 1844 and second edition in 1978. It is basically a documentation of the revenue and expenditures of the colony of St Lucia from Jan 1, 1817 to Jan 1, 1844 during which time the population of the island was approximately 20,000.

Mr. Breen referenced Kembois or Obeah as the "addiction of the peasantry to the practice of sorcery." Look for more blogs to come on this topic, as soon as I find more information.
Merriam-Webster dictionary references:

Main Entry:
also obi \ˈō-bē\
often capitalized
of African origin; akin to Ibo díbìà folk healer
circa 1711
: a system of belief among blacks chiefly of the British West Indies and the Guianas that is characterized by the use of magic ritual to ward off misfortune or to cause harm

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