March 9, 2015 Obara Meji 41Comment

There I was in the middle of a very hot Kumina session in Saint Thomas Jamaica. The night was hot, very hot. It had not began that way, before the Kumina started the day was cool, and I (who do not like the heat) enjoyed the cool breeze while sitting in the yard, under a huge Almond tree earlier that evening watching the men and women preparing for the Kumina to be played that night.

The Kumina had began around ten, perhaps, I really do not remember the time, this was more than ten years ago, but the drumming began and the yard began filling up with people coming to enjoy tonight’s Kumina, read here. The Kumina being held was a celebration of sorts for the person who was keeping it. He was a master drummer and known Obeah man in the area, his name was Crawford. A fellow who seemed to be approaching his forties, a very dark man in complexion with a few missing front teeth. I was visiting Jamaica and before I left he wanted me to see how he did HIS Kumina, haviing realized that I was a knowledgeable person in the art of Spirituality, Metaphysics, Tradition and more.

Jamaican Culture as with most cultures is sweet, dear and intriguing to me, especially when it comes to spirituality and how it is celebrated, the history, the authenticity of it, how it being taught or handed down. It is the Anthropologist within me, for that I am.

The etymology of the term Myal have long been speculated by scholars, along with Obeah and Kumina, some arguing from where the term derived, what language or region out of Africa did it come from. This I will deal with another time, in another post as it is important I think, that we know our history and who we really are, Africans within the diaspora. What is known however is that Kumina, the practice is from Central Africa and even to this day many of the practitioners who can be found in the Eastern part of Jamaica, mainly Saint Thomas speaks the Kikongo language, and in a real Kumina session, the Kumina is opened up with Songs sung in the Kikongo language, of the Congolese people of Central Africa who mostly came into Jamaica as indentured servants. More on this at another time.

On this night,Crawford who was on the Playing Cast drum (This drum weaves all sorts of complicated rhythms which serves to invoke and dispel spirits), I provided a link in the second paragraph of this post which will explain the instruments used in Kumina in detail, Bello was on the Kbandu drum (this drum is steady in its rhythm and is lower pitched), Putus was the scatter stick man (Cattah tick in our Jamaica Patois language), these three usually make up the players in Kumina, but on this night, we had Gully man playing the bottle (yes the bottle or backle as we say in Jamaica) which was just a plain old bottle being hit rhythmically with a stick, and also One Son and Son-Son who were both playing the greater, yes the greater, This is a greater which a knife or a dull object is used to scrape on in tune to the Drums and singing,also Bang Gut playing the Shakas, or shake shake as we call it in Jamaica. .

Together they all made a wonderful melodious, electrifying, magnetic sound, which seemed to ignite something locked deep down in all attendees, unleashing it and making us all come alive. The hypnotic  sounds of the drums, coupled with the starry night, and the moon trying to peep through the trees curious of our sessions, but lending its lights which added to the energy filled air, all seemed to seduce us, as we sing and dance, gyrating our hips to the drums, the drums the passion filled drums!

While I was there that night, I was transformed back to a time when my ancestors, known then as slaves or servants, after a hard day of labor, would gather together and play Kumina, in reverence of their ancestors, honoring them, venerating them, appeasing them. Within these Kunima sessions, the ancestors, our African elders, though without a body,but still very much alive in the realm of spirit and never far from us, would come to the Kumina and would make their presence known through the act, the ritual dance, a state of deep possession called Myal.

Of Myal 

Imagine if you will, a grate wind blowing as you are walking home, perhaps from the grocery store. The wind as you head back home, is not as harsh, It blows and then stop, building up to wherever it will go, but you realize from the whooping sounds it makes that it will get stronger, harsher and so you hurry to reach home. As you walk briskly, the wind picks up, there is no rain, just the warm wind with her whooping sound. Something inside of you fear that the wind may blow you away, and fear wants to accompany you on your brisk walk, but you reject its company. The wind has now developed into a whirlwind and suddenly you are caught up within it, you are carted away, and encased within its emptiness, not knowing if you will survive it, but somehow you are not afraid, you are told by your mind to relax, all this will come to an end soon, and so you try, while sending up a silent prayer.

The wind has you in its grips, but you notice while there that you can see the world and all things within, it has taken you high above the trees, almost close to the sky. You feel detached from your physical body, and what is happening to you seems so surreal, is this a dream, you ask your self, you wonder for a brief moment of you have died. The whooping sound of the wind which has carried you off, begins to sound like language, and you realize that it is speaking to you. It tells you of things to come, and about people you know, it warns of events of the world and also show you how you can help and heal. This seems to go on forever, and you no longer care about that is happening to you, this experience is astounding and you yearn to hear more from this mysterious wind who can talk. Then you find your self on the ground, and the wind had gone, all is still, people are milling around you, trying to make sure that you are ok, and you are. This what you have just experienced is exactly the feeling you get when Myal walks in. What is Myal?

Myal occurs mainly or perhaps always in a Kumina setting or an intense drumming setting where the ancestors are invoked with drumming and song. Myal is catching the spirit, not the holy Ghost and speaking  the universal holy ghost tongue, but really catching the spirit in that you are transformed in looks, behavior and abilities. Myal when it occurs, sends the person into another world, the spirit world. The person who catches Myal can then do miraculous things. They can walk on fire, climb a coconut tress like walking up a stairs, while on the tree they can walk on the limb of the tree without it breaking or them falling, no matter how weak the limb is. They can see all your inner problems and what is to come, and they, while in this state can warn of dangers and remove them, or even heal what is deemed incurable. Myal is a state of power, a power which comes when the great mysterious ancestors are invoked, they manifest as energy which moves from place to place, persons to persons. They will only come at a certain hour and during the heated frenzy of the sessions, and if they have been appeased well before the drumming sessions began. Items of their desire must be present, and this must happen out doors under open skies, in nature.

The spirits who posses attendees are old healers and diviners, herbalist, spiritual doctors while they lived on earth. They are ancestors from Africa and other places, who are willing to help human beings in their daily lives and problems. With them there are good and some bad, Malevolent and Benevolent, this is why when Kumina is held for wakes, burial or for celebrations, the person in charge of the preparing the celebration must be knowledgeable. Having knowledge of what must be there when the spirits come in, doing the proper sacrifices before the celebration begins and making sure that it is accepted. White Rum must be present, preferably of the moon shine quality Jamaicans call “Dranco Batty”, White sheets must also be there, I will explain why later on, and the ground must be prepared spiritually to house the spirits when they come and also to protect attendees who have no knowledge of the whole affair, and who may be affected by the strong presence and influence of the spirits who will be attending in the night.

The drums must be fed, and prayers must be held, these are rituals which has to be done before the sessions begins. They are done by the people involved in the preparation of the celebration, attendees must not be privy to these rituals. While food is cooked for everyone, a special food is prepared separately with no salt added for the spirits (Jamaicans does this, but I do not agree with the omission if salf and I have my reasons why), this will be placed on the ground (some people place it on the table, this is not correct, it must be on the ground) and the white sheet mentioned up top placed over it. Beside the food will be Bottles of white rum and beer, and also glasses filled with said rum. Before this is placed on the ground the knowledgeable person in charge will have prepared the ground, the real knowledgeable ones will place medicine in a hole beneath the prepared food which will lay on top, and then when it is covered, they will spew rum from their mouth onto the ground before placing the prepared food is put down. It is preferable for an older woman who has gone through menopause a one who is not sexually active to do this, or a straight man (de gully dem love these things, and dem very talented, mi cyaan lie). When this is set in a place, not to be disturbed, and covered, some knowledgeable persons will circle the place with candles outside of the bottles, (what is to be used however is bottle torches or what we call lamps made from clay or old time lanterns, the colors of the candles should always be white, as this sets a message to who, which non-physical will be invited. If colored candles are used, then it can bring an assortment of non-physicals, some not so easy to manage when the Kumina gets hot and the energy (power) begins to flow, jumping from one person to another, and so the competent person should be able to manage if he or she chooses to use any color other than white candles.

The hours are key within these sessions, and after 12 midnight, things will begin to get serious, because the hour has brought about a change of shift like when workers change shifts on the job, but these hours are not to be played with and yet they bring about some of the most revealing messages and messengers (non-physicals), this is when Kumina get sweet! Three am is the hour which people needs to be careful and if the person in charge is wise, they will close the gate (spiritual gate) and end the Kumina by 1 am.

So there I am (as the post started out) standing there with many people who were all dancing, wining, almost even twerking (which by the way came from Africa and made it way to Jamaica, and into our go-go clubs and dance hall floors and even in to the bedrooms of some of the wickedest slams, although we Jamaicans did not call it twerk, we ah bubble or wine, now Miley Flat bum as in bottom, Cyrus is famous for it, minus the tongue action for us Jamaicans however), these modern days Kumina ah tell you.

The drums are beating a steady “du dum, du dum, du dum, du dum, du dum, du dum (close your eyes and sound this in a steady rhythm, not listening or hearing to anything else, but the sound of your voice quietly and steadily sounding this, like an hypnotic beat, which can send you into a deep trance, like the tick tock of an hypnotist time piece swing from its looming chain)  this being the Kbandu drum. While the playing cast, beats out a story, a colorful tale, giving all kinds of sounds, switching octaves yet still in sync with the Kbandu, sending out its many different frequencies, while cattah tick man is hunched down behind the Kbandu, rhythmically knocking two sticks against the Kbandu drum, catta tick, catta tick, catta tick, catta tick, say it slow and steady. My favorite is catta tick (scatter stick) man.While One Son and Son Son integrate their greater (an actual geater, the ones we use to grate coconut and carrots) rhythm into the mix, and gully man blows his whistle sweetly into his bottle (backle).

Crawford catch spirit while drumming and singing, he runs off the drums and another man named No Teeth takes his place in playing the cast  drum. Crawford runs around and dances with participants, while greeting the elders in attendance, I was standing beside a young man who asked me in that moment to tell him what was going on, the place was hot, the drummers sweating and it was very obvious that the spirits had arrived. I took a look at my watch which thankfully had a light and saw that it was 1 am, a dangerous hour (meaning that the dead, are arriving in droves, but the danger lies within the fact that both good and bad are coming, the elders who are knowledgeable must be able to now sieve out who is to stay and who to turn away, it is important also to know that it is very dangerous to leave a Kumina session before it is over) , this maybe the reason why Crawford got into such a frenzy and running around the place like a chicken with its head cut off. As I responded to the young guy, telling him that it was one o’clock and that the spirits of a different kind just walked in, Crawford ran right into me and spun me around and left, running to his next person.

I immediately felt hands around my waist and I heard Crawford voice shout hold her, do not let her fall! The young man and others all held onto me, while strong hands belonging to non-physicals because there was no one behind me, were clasped around my waist pulling me down. I was in spirit,I was dancing  one leg, while trying to steady myself, and come out of it, but the hands were trying to fall me, while the young men tried to release me from their grips. All of a sudden I was steady on my feet, and back to myself. I had to sit down as my feet were hurting and slightly swollen.

Many people when  Myal occurs, they are deeply possessed to the point where some tek grung (fall to the ground), when this happens when they get up or are released they may get up with messages for people or for themselves. Some will be able to be released right away while others when they tek grung, they may stay there (a sort of initiation, but they are chosen by spirits and taught by them) for seven days or longer. This is similar to what spiritual baptist people call mourning. I will tell their story one day. When the ones who have tek grung gets up most often if they just an ordinary person before, now they have raised with a gift, a spiritual gift. It may be of healing, or divining among other things. We will only pray God that they drop on a “Good” grung, and that they are not “soiled” when they are released, do not ask me to explain this, an to avoid you asking, I will walk away singing “Sammy plant piece ah cawn dung ah Gully!

How wonder is African Spirituality, which is our legacy! A few drums, some liquor (spirits) song and dance can invoke our ancestors to come and play, dance, communicate, heal and teach us. All the way from Africa and through the trauma of the African holocaust, Slavery, our ancestors are with us always. Africa, our true mother has never left us, and the drum which is like the umbilical cord or the navel string, is our source of Attachment, our call and our voice to the womb of our mother, Africa. We are truly special people, and when we look at ourselves and how special God has blessed us, it is easy to see why the other races despises us so much, it out of fear!

This is to be a lengthy post and so there will be a Part 1 which is this one, and a part 2 and perhaps a part 3.

http://barringtonsmiles.tumblr.com/post/110320679903/kumina-is-described-as-one-of-the-most-african

A stammerer would eventually say father. Yoruba 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

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41 Comments on "AFRICAN JAMAICAN SPIRITUALITY – KUMINA- MYAL-REVIVAL/ZION-THE DIFFERENCE-PART 1"

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IBQueen
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IBQueen

Well written piece a work….imagery was divine. I am happy that I found this blog. Bless you Obara Meji!

toy7318
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I am doing good, Obara how about you? Why do the spirits get so hot or is it just the energy from the dancing and and non stop moving?

NuNu
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Also why can’t anyone leave before the session ends? Will they follow them home or sumn?

NuNu
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What I want to know is do the elders come in at the 3 o’clock hour if it goes beyond 1?

NuNu
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Man I liked the description of the set up. The food, white sheets and rum etc. It would be nice to witness some of that

NuNu
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Good evening folks! I was on the road all day. Hope you all had a fab day. I have two posts to catch up on

NuNu
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That means the video we watched with the Columbians the men that walked onthe coals and pierced their cheeks were in the myal possession

Ty
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As the kumina session take hold…many times the drummers will stop drumming and the drums will continue to beat…then they will feed the drums and the sounds get louder….

Ty
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Obara, you right, there is always one with a few teeth missing….and dem love grin too you see….lol

Ty
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Obara you killing me with the names…real yaaad names….

Ty
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Obara when you kotch pon one foot…hear me…a bongo to rass….lol

Ty
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The skin of the drum has to be from a male goat is what I was taught …. And just like how people name dem cutlass and swords…many drummer will name their drums….

Ty
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Kikongo is still spoken in the east while kromanti mostly in the west and central ja…

Big up to the maroons, who continue to speak these languages… Some speak over 9 languages…

Ty
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The barefoot dancing is also sweet to see,..the funny thing is that when I went, I had never seen the dance, heard the music before but could dance along with them….

My grand aunt used to do Kumina….iba aunt B

Iba to all who continue the tradition…

Ty
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Obara, I have seen them use a scarf and wrap around someone waist to brace them so they do not trek ground…

Ty
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Hey everyone….

Thank you Obara for making this post…I know it took a lot…I asked for this because of the many different explanations I have heard….

Kumina is sweet ….for anyone who has not experienced it, put it on your bucket list…also scratch in gerreh too….

toy7318
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I always love your post Obara. I would love to attened a Kumina. Hey everyone. Going to take in the videos

Vanessa
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Vanessa

I felt like I was there. Your writing is amazing. Thank you.

Yazzy
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Yazzy

Obara yuh nuh affi tek back yuh chat mi love. I love you and respeck weh yuh affi seh yet mi have no intentions fi tek back mi chat needa.

I wasnt judging you but just as how you voiced your opinion and have every right fi stan up behind it. I also have a right fi defend mi chat.

Although I am not yet with child… mi still can have motherly opinions. You have given birth to your children yes and you have raised them all on your own yes and you want what’s best for them yes and mi rate dat yes.

I never once denied that people of color (which is also speaking for myself) don’t have life harder than any other race and skin tone out deh. I would never caz mi know likkle bout mi history and mi deh ya a learn even more but while we should be careful in this depraved land, why should we live in fear?? Trust me, the way we are hated, if wicked people want to torture us or kill us, they will do it no matter what and at all cost. My thing is, while we should exercise caution in life, when it comes to a pure form of love, it’s easily said but not so easily done.

And as a damn good mom or dad, you raised kings and queens with all they would be equipped with to manuever life …. But the greatest gift you gave them was your love and sent them on their way.

Armed with love, especially the love from a strong, single black woman, that has infused all she is and all she has, into your kings and/or queens… that passion in them when it is further ignited by passions of their own heart is something that doesn’t come with a manual. Suh dem tek dat and gone do road and meet dem twin flame (wedda yellow, black, white or blue)… We can only be concerned but we can’t tell them what to do.

So much can get you killed or harmed for being the opposite race in a threatened scenario/predicament … but when it come to love… Some are willing to take the risk, hence, the interracial scene.

For me, the marriage vow comes to life and is tested. “Till death do us part”…

joy
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Good day to Obara and good day to all my family and yazzy hello to you and how were your weekend

MTH
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Mi nuh dun read but mi si glimpse Bubblez a sey something bout white ppl. If a nedda set a white ppl come badda unno, nuh fraid fi open unnu mouth an tell dem di hol a nice and decent fu*k-off. Call mi, mek mi help unno trace dem. Mi memba when mi did a stay wid di white lady first, one time shi mek one comment bout, mi might not have had a lot of running wata. Mi open up mi big yeye dem pan har an after dat, each time shi even think fi come wid har smart mouth, mi open up my even smarter one. Havent my people suffered enough? MI gane a class. Stay bless mi fambo.

MTH
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Mawning/afternoon. Just a show mi face. I have class in 10 mins. But yu done know, haffi come link up mi family.

Yazzy
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Yazzy

Amazing read Obara. A pleasant Monday to you and all the beauties here. Bless up to our Kings here as well. Peepers, a pleasant Monday to ya…

Obara, I love your honesty in the comment you wrote about your boys being in interracial relationships and your concern. I respect your opinion… BUT I don’t necessarily agree…

Obara we can’t live like this. We should be able to date freely and marry not into… race… but love. Marry into love… Not color. And yes, it’s not an easy road, especially for black men out there, but when you’re in love, you care not what others think. You care not how the in-laws will feel. You acknowledge that “shit, we are way in over our heads on this one” but you are driven by passion and that flame is not easily put out. And with that, you are wiling to take a risk, you are willing to address the challenges as they arise, being an interracial couple.

I would rather a man that loves me so very much that he is willing to put up a fight (not physical but rather a lifetime fight of passion) for me, the love of HIS life. Not the love of his parents life, or the love of his family’s lives or the love of the naysayers lives. Yes, it may be seen a selfish, with lives at risk, but when driven by true love and passion, there is no quenching the thirst of the heart and what it wants.

I think to not love and marry a person, for not what they have done as an individual but rather what history has done to their race is unfair. Why live in fear? I have not a child of my own as yet, so I say this from I sight on how I was raised. We raise our kids never live in fear. We raise them to live their lives, each day, as if it were their last. We raise them to diligently and passionately pursue the desires of their hearts. We raise them as warriors. We raise them as kings and queens. We raise them with love and compassion. We raise them up with the strength that noticing is impossible or unachievable. Most importantly, we raise them up with the purest of love. Then we send them out into a world that is not perfect but where all they were taught can be attained.

They meet their kings or their queens (not some hood rat eenuh) but their twin flame. That person ignites that flame within them that not even death can put out. The odds are against them… Society says they are “wrong for each other” … They are scoffed at… Ridiculed, brutally victimized… Their lives are threatened… Yet they never break. They were taught well. The forgive the world for the war they’ve waged against them. They will never break. Their LOVE is all they have…. They cry inside but they were raised warriors….Kings and Queens…. Yes their outer skins may not be identical.. But their inner flames are! …

KB
Blogger

Good morning Obara I enjoyed the Kumina read. I’ve watched that video before now I will rewatch and look for No teeth, Crawford and Putus lol ( i know is not them)

I am ok with white people not liking me or my race. Why they hiding their hate for so long and now it’s busting out, they want to come apologize every two seconds. Be honest with your self and your friends! Don’t apologize because each one that chanted on that bus meant exactly what they said! A next reason why I do not use the N word…I know exactly what it means. And hell no it isn’t cool to call your homie or bredda N*****. Black people better wake up right now to see this genocide being done to us.

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