Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/293

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

ObeaJi in the West Indies. 283

suspect afterwards that this fowl had been sacrificed at Carrot Bay in order to find hidden treasure. As Dr. Earl, who was evidently acquainted with Sir Spenser St. John's Hayti, says, " blood is always found necessary for this ; a goat, horse, cenci fowl, and even occasionally a 'goat without horns,' i.e. a child, is killed to obtain the necessary blood for the magical rites."

Dr. Earl would seem to disclaim any suggestion that the natives of his own colony participated in any of these more serious rites. He says that he has never known any serpents to be used by obeah men there, with the single exception of a serpent with a head at both ends of its body being put into a man's house at Road Town (Tortola) to obeah him. Whilst believing that the worship of the serpent was a part of the systematic obeah as practised at Hayti, he does not believe that meetings to worship it with voodoo ceremonies have for many years past taken place anywhere in the Leeward Islands. Many Virgin Islands labourers go to Santo Domingo every year to work on the sugar estates during crop time, and he has no doubt that they are aware of these voodoo rites, but he has no evidence that they ever participated in them.

Whilst Dr. Earl does not appear to share in the general belief that there had been a revival of obeah in recent years in the Leeward Islands, he admits that the belief in it is very general, if somewhat less intense than formerly. He has no doubt that 90 per cent, of the Virgin Islanders believe in it, and that quite 50 per cent, of the persons practising obeah there are women.

Dr. Earl's opinion as a professional man as to the extent to which it was generally feared that obeah practice might go in the direction of injuring or removing persons through the agency of poison comes somewhat as a relief. He thinks that the popular belief in the obeah man's know- ledge of mysterious poisons is very much exaggerated ; the will to poison may be there, but the knowledge is absent,