When a Jamaican or anyone hears the word Obeah, something bad, wicked, evil, Satanic comes to mind. The mere word elicits deep fear into the hearts of some, while others foolishly dismiss Obeah and its powers as a fallacy, foolishness, nutten nuh guh suh! There are many claims as to the origin of the word Obeah, but I shall not spend time here, only that the word is synonymous with Jamaica and Jamaicans, it is a word we use to identify with things which are not of the natural world, and this is me putting it mildly. Read here.
I have written on Obeah here on embracing spirituality over and over again, but there is so much information and stories regarding the topic that I will always make new posts on it, because the tales, the stories can never finish. I am intrigued by all that is spiritual,and at odd times, something may jump up into my memory box, so never mind me and these posts, if you do not like the subject of Obeah (I am sure you all do) there are many other topics to choose from.
This morning while pondering about what to write on today, I remembered a lady called Chiquita. She died a very long time ago and it was at the hands of Obeah.
Chiquita (as I heard it, I was a small child back then) was a very hard working woman, at one point even holding down three jobs. She was a big woman, as in tall and sturdy and she was handsome like Doreen, from the story Alton and Doreen posted here in ESP, I saw her picture. She was black, well black and cool in her complexion. Chiquita was a cheerful woman always jolly and smiling, she was an all around good person according to everyone who spoke about her.
She worked in a factory early in the morning on an assembly line, then another factory in the afternoon, and also she took care of an elderly couple in their home at nights. She was Jamaican and we are known for our ten and twenty jobs. We are ambitious and hardworking people. Jamaicans big up oonuh self, all people in the world who love to work, big up!
Well the story is that Chiquita met a man called Jeffery, someone in Chiquita’s age group, around mid fifties. He worked in one of her factory Jobs, perhaps having seniority over her there, I think he was manger there. Chiquita had one son who was grown and he was in the military, she loved him and spoke of him often she was proud of him. It was said that after her son’s father left the home, Chiquita never had another man, she concentrated all her efforts on her son and her many jobs, she was not afraid to work, even doing construction at times,and not too proud to shovel snow on the side to make an extra buck. Chiquita did all she could for her and her son.
As I heard it Chiquita was somewhat cautious when this man began to woo her, and when she spoke of him she blushed like a school girl, which was odd to see, as she was 6ft, 300 pounds, a strapping bear of a woman, albeit pleasant looking in the face. Who says dark skin girls can’t blush, lol.
The man was small in stature, of average height for a man, 5ft 8’inches, he was slender weighing around 140 pounds. Jamaicans made crude jokes of the two in there gossiping, saying Jeffrey was like a mouse on a huge loaf of bread.
Chiquita’s caution came from not only their difference in size but also from the fact that Jeffery was a married man. That did not sit well with Chiquita, as well it should not, but according to Miss Junie and Jimmy, Chiquita’s family, Jeffery pursued Chiquita, telling her that he and the wife was having problems and that he hated her, she stole his money, moved in her awful children, (she had five, four before she knew him and they had one together) into their home, she did not wash,cook or clean, she had boyfriends on the side who she would meet in the clubs which she frequented at nights, one who even came to his home and beat him up. She would drink and smoke and would put on her church hat and go to church on Sundays, badding (bullying) up Jeffery to go with her.
He was frustrated and wanted to leave, but he did not know how, because so much of his life was tied up with her. He told Chiquita that he needed a reason to walk away from it all, and he found himself in love with Chiquita. He begged her to have him, and she relented, feeling sorry for him, and also beginning to fall for him.
What Jeffrey left out of his resume when presented to poor Chiquita was that the wife was a known Voodoo worker. She was from South Carolina, born and raised, and she had roots in Haiti, meaning that she had family there and would visit the country quite regularly. Wilma was the woman’s name, and she too like Chiquita was big, brawny and burly, so Jeffery certainly had a type, except Wilma looked like a Black Bam Bam Bigelow with zits (the wrestler, google him) hairstyle beard and all.
It was said that Jeffery was Wilma’s beating stick and would often run to neighbors when Wilma came home drunk and wanted sex, but Jeffery being unable to “stand up or rise” to the occasion, due to Wilma’s demanding ways, would try to fend him off, er, excuse me, HER off, which earned him an assing (Jamaican term for beating).
Neighbors were sorry for Jeffery, who would often drink because of his predicament, he was never a drunk, just an unhappy man with a man Royal wife, WWF champion looking wife.
Chiquita and Jeffery began an Affair, and all who knew her spoke of how happy Chiquita was. Jeffery was also a changed person, as Chiquita would could some good Jamaican food and bring to the job for Jeffery. He would bring his clothes to work and Chiquita would bring them home to wash and press them and give them to him. It was said that Jeffery was the happiest when he was with Chiquita and likewise she. Love had found the two and embraced them together, they were the happiest they had ever been.
Wilma heard of his husbands affair, and jumped into action as soon as she heard, which was about a year after the affair had began between Chiquita and Jeffery began, she went to the job and created a scene when she caught Chiquita having lunch together, unfortunately for the love birds she walked into the lunch room and found Chiquita wiping Jeffery’s mouth while he was eating lunch. It was said that Wilma went crazy that day, and began to destroy the lunch room, like a raving lunatic and the police had to be called. She threatened to kill Chiquita and it took eight security guards to restrain her from killing Jeffery who was hiding behind a equally frightened and trembling Chiquita.
Jeffrey never went back home to Wilma, instead he filed for divorce, which Wilma swore he would never get. She ripped his passport up (he was Guyanese) and all his important documents were shredded and sent to his job. Wilma would park outside of the factory where Jeffery and Chiquita worked and try to run Jeffery and Chiquita over with the jeep. Chiquita had to quit the job out of fear for her life, Wilma stalked them and mad their lives hell, Jeffrey eventually got an order of protection. Eventually Wilma stop going to the job. Things were quiet for a while.
People said that although things were quiet, Chiquita was always apprehensive about Wilma and why she was laying low. Jeffery told her that she was paranoid, but little did Jeffery know that Chiquita had good reasons to be.
Miss Junie (Chiqita’s cousin in law) said that Chiquita went to sleep one night and woke up screaming, Jeffery jumped up and turned on the lights to attend to Chiquita and her distress. She was freezing cold to the touch and crying, she told him that she had dreamed a bat had bitten her in her hips and then she saw a whole bunch of bats flying toward her as if she was their meal, she tried to wake from the dream and that was why she woke up screaming.
Jeffery hushed and hugged her and told her that it was just a dream. It was not!
All was well for Chiquita for the next two days, but on the third day after the dream, Chiquita woke up and tried to get off the bed and found that she could not move. She tried and tried to get up, she could not. She called out to Jeffery who was in the kitchen making tea, and he came running, he tried to assist her, but nothing could move Chiquita. The Ambulance was called and Chiquita was taken to the hospital, all sorts of test on her, nothing was found, no explanation as to why Chiquita could not move her body from the neck down. Specialists were brought in, all were puzzled, she had no pain no distress, she just could not move at all. She was taken to different hospitals, and tests were ran, nothing! The doctors told the family that the problem was medical, one doctor from India even told the family and Jeffery that the problem was spiritual and that they should find help, all this while Chiquita was hospitalized.
The family and Jeffery eventually went to look about Chiquita, spiritually, almost two years had passed since she had first gotten ill, they were told, during divination, that it was too late, it was revealed that Wilma was the one behind it and the job was well done, the diviner said Chiquita would die. She did. Three years into her sickness, and being bed ridden. Chiquita died. Jeffery was heart broken, and to his credit, he was with her every day up until the end, he held her hand as she made her transition on that final day.
Wilma went to the funeral, dressed in full red, looking like the good year blimp. Nobody knew how she found out about the whole arrangement and where it would be held, but she presented herself, eating popcorn and holding a bottle of red wine. Everyone knew that it was Obeah at the hands of Wilma which killed Chiquita. It was said that she told someone that she killed Chiquita because she knew it would hurt Jeffery badly, she wanted him to suffer, so she left him alive.
Wilma died within a year of Chiquita, she choked to death on a chicken bone, how odd. Jeffery lived for a long while after, still broken heart of his Chiquita. Chiquita’s son is alive and well with his wife and family. To this day Chiquita’s story is always told with tears by her family.
I found this Article last night on the internet;
For hundreds of years Jamaicans have been prevented by law from practising Obeah, a belief system with similarities to Haiti’s Voodoo. Now, campaigners and practitioners believe they have a chance to overturn the law.
Until recently, the practice of Obeah was punishable by flogging or imprisonment, among other penalties. The government recently abolished such colonial-era punishments, prompting calls for a decriminalisation of Obeah to follow.
But Jamaica is a highly religious country. Christianity dominates nearly every aspect of life; and it is practiced everywhere from small, wooden meeting halls through to mega-churches with congregations that number in the thousands.
The island claims to have the highest ratio of churches to people in the world.
So the proposal to decriminalise what many Christians regard as black magic, a scam, or even evil, is highly controversial.
One of Jamaica’s seven national heroes is Nanny of the Maroons, whose face now appears on the island’s $500 banknote. She led the Maroons, a term for runaway slaves, in their fight against the British in the early 18th Century. It was claimed that she was an Obeah woman because of her skill in guerrilla warfare and military tactics. Warriors believed she could catch bullets with her bare hands; the colonial authorities twisted the tale and claimed that she could catch them with her buttocks.
Obeah thrived during the era of slavery, but it has virtually died out in urban centres, where over half the Jamaican population now live.
It has survived in rural communities though, and finding an Obeah man is a relatively easy task in the hills of St Mary.
Locals point out a property that is surrounded by a corrugated metal fence, painted in bright blue and yellow. It is not exactly a discreet location for a man who takes part in illegal activity. But he is not hiding who, or what, he is.
“I’m an Obeah man, I’m not a science man, I see things,” says the man, who is known by only one name: Judge.
People come to him all day long for the advice that he dispenses from his veranda.
He is in his sixties but says he first got the “gift” as a child when he predicted the death of a neighbour.
“I have nothing to hide, it’s what I do, and that’s my work. If you are sick I can help you; if a man puts a curse on you I can take it off. That’s what I do to help,” he says.
He says he can help with all manner of things, from curing illness to removing curses.
Obeah’s history is similar to that of Voodoo in Haiti and Santeria in Latin America. Enslaved Africans brought spiritual practices to the Caribbean that included folk healing and a belief in magic for good and for evil.
But Obeah has been outlawed in Jamaica since 1760, so Judge and others like him are technically breaking the law. However, it has been decades since anyone was convicted.
Some politicians argue that if it is right to rescind punishments such as flogging with a wooden switch and whipping with a cat o’ nine tails, the whole law should be repealed.
“We need to get rid of the Obeah act,” says Tom Tavares-Finson, a senator and a barrister.
“If people want to pay for someone to cast a spell or to give them some sort of help, that’s their business.”
The government says it is open to discussing the issue.
“What I’ve suggested is that they should bring a motion for debate in the Senate on the abolition of criminalisation of Obeah, and such a debate would trigger research and discussion that would be good for the society as a whole,” says Justice Minister Mark Golding.
Obeah in the city
Although few people believe in Obeah in the cities, the practitioners have to come to Kingston to stock up on the potions and products they need.
Jamaica’s Obeah legislation
- 1760: In response to a major slave rebellion, the colonial government outlaws Obeah for the first time in the Caribbean, with the Act to Remedy the Evils arising from Irregular Assemblies of Slaves, defining Obeah as: “The wicked Art of Negroes… pretending to have Communication with the Devil and other evil spirits”
- 1898: Under the Obeah Law practitioners face 12 months in jail and flogging. An Obeah practitioner is defined as: “Any person who, to effect any fraudulent or unlawful purpose, or for gain, or for the purpose of frightening any person, uses, or pretends to use any occult means, or pretends to possess any supernatural power or knowledge”
- 1908: Parliament passes the Medical Law, which was intended to regulate medical practice, but was also used frequently in cases to define difference between medicine and Obeah
Sources: obeahhistories.org and Jamaican government
One small chemist in downtown Kingston has most of the regular goods you would expect to see for sale. But it also has some surprising items on the shelves at the back: rows of candles, soaps and sprays called “go away evil”, and potions that claim to either attract a new partner or stop an existing one from leaving.
“The Obeah man or woman send them here with a shopping list; we’re like a pharmacist,” says shopkeeper Jerome, who says he does not believe in Obeah.
But over the years the popularity of Obeah has waned and finding Obeah men and women to reveal what they do is rare.
People who use them, rarely want to talk openly about it. Many of the pharmacists who sell the paraphernalia refused to talk on the record and did not want to be identified.
Customers will mostly ignore questions about their Obeah purchases. But one young woman says she is after something that will “tie” her man, to stop him running off with other women.
“It was something my grandmother believed in. It worked then and it works now,” she says.
But repealing the legislation will be tough. The Church associates Obeah with evil, others believe it is used to defraud vulnerable people, and many Jamaicans believe parliament has more important things to be getting on with, like tackling crime or improving the economy.
It is a sentiment shared by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga. He is an expert in Jamaican anthropology, and does not believe decriminalisation would make a difference.
“People don’t consider it criminal. I don’t remember the last time someone was arrested,” he says.
“These deep beliefs are part of the folklore of the country and they aren’t easy to extinguish. I don’t think criminalising it one way or another will make much difference to its survival.”
Judge, the practitioner in St Mary, agrees. He says he will continue what he does regardless of what the politicians decide.
“They’re all idiots in politics. I don’t vote for any of them, it’s God I vote for. I’ll just keep doing what I do,” he says.
Tan an si nuh bruk nuh dance, only interference…..Jamaican Proverb!
All religion are valid as long as it teaches peace and love…. Obara Meji!
There are no disappointments in life, only lessons learned!….Obara Meji