Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/291

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


Obeah in the West hidies.

2«I

He says that whilst obeah would seem to have the same general characteristics in all the Leeward Islands, he had noticed that in the obeah practice of the /c?/'(??>-speaking places, or places having much communication with them, blood seems more frequently necessary for the charm, and where, too, the belief in vampire-women, i.e. women who divest themselves of their skins at night, andj in this worse than nude condition, fly about amusing themselves sucking blood of children, horses, etc., is more prevalent. The only one of the Leeward Islands where patois is now usually spoken by the natives is Dominica, a colony more recently taken from the French, and where Dr. Earl resided for some years as a medical officer. St. Lucia, one of the British Windward Islands group, and the seat of the " Monchy Murder" trial in 1904,13 another /^7/6'zV-speaking country, and confirms this statement.

Dr. Earl's remarks on the attributes and practice of obeah are very interesting, and I give them in his own words.

" Obeah men officiate for a primitive people in the threefold capacity of priests, magicians, and medicine men. The necro- mantic function is most prominent, and many of them do little but practise sorcery, closely resembling the witches of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Great Britain and the New England States, the definite personal contact with the Evil One being much less prominent. The obeah man catches 'jumbies' — i.e. the spirits of the dead. He bottles them with a secure cork ; he finds them permanent employment by staking them on the sea-shore in a loop of string, instructing the unhappy spirit not to leave his post until he has bailed the sea dry; or he sets the jumby on some other person. He gives charms to be taken into Court to influ- ence the magistrate's decision, or to obeah his adversary's tongue, so that he will be unable to speak properly, thus losing the case. He keeps wives faithful or gives seduction powders ; he protects gardens and fruit-trees with some vile stinking stuff in a bottle ; he makes shops profitable ; he prevents boats from being wrecked; he cures diseases; he kills your enemy or his stock, or sends him away crazy ; he compels an unwilling shop-keeper to give credit,