In Jamaica’s history there are many stories about different people. Some who are hailed as “heroes” who have contributed something great spiritually to our history and culture. Among these people is the famed Nanny of the Maroons, Three Fingered Jack, and others. As a child, I felt the spirituality of my country. Of course I had no idea what I felt but also I had no idea that I was a citizen on a very small island in the Caribbean with less than 3 million people. Jamaica seemed large to me, not large in population or geographically, but it seemed to radiate something bigger, something of which possibly could be described as spirit.
I felt this as a child. Perhaps then, I would not have known how to put it in words but then I was not an ordinary child, and I saw beyond what stood physically in front of me. Let me share with you some of my experiences of my island, Jamaica and growing up there. I attended Maxfield Park Primary School in Kingston, Jamaica, just around the corner from where I lived. At times, just like any ordinary school we would go out on school outings. I remember the first time I was taken to a place in St. Mary called Castleton Gardens. I was about seven years old at the time but as we walked into Castleton Garden, which looked like an enchanted forest with a beautiful river running through, I remember feeling frightened, almost wanting to run back to the bus which had taken us there. I wanted to hold on to the frock tail of my teacher or hide behind her as I felt that I was being watched by many eyes as we walked.
My fear must have shown on my face because I remember my friend, Sophia Spencer, asking me what was the problem? I didn’t know how to tell her, so I said “Nothing.” When we got to the river bank of where I believe that we would picnic for the day, the water felt as if it called me. By that time I was Omo Osun (child of Osun) but I had no idea. Then there was the time when I stood outside of my back patio with no one in sight, just myself. We had a cherry tree in the backyard and as I stood there I felt very frightened, small pebbles began to hurl at me from behind the tree. None caught me of course but fear allowed me to stay rooted to the spot, unable to run. To this day I cannot tell you what happened but I know that this was not a human being who threw pebbles at me. These 2 stories and plenty more that I have had are my own personal stories of spiritual encounters which ode to my feeling that Jamaica was not a natural place. Jamaica itself has a certain kind of spirit that takes hold of its citizens in various ways and I will explain this as the post continues.
It was when I met the Jamaican Babalawo who first took me to Africa that I learned that Jamaica is ruled by Eguns, which are ancestral spirits, Ogun which is an Orisa and a deity of nature who rules iron, therefore he is known as the God of War, Technology, and more, and Osun, goddess of sweet river water, love, family, creativity, and more.
The black in the Jamaican flag represents the Eguns or ancestral spirits. The green in the flag represents Ogun, nature spirit and God of Iron. The yellow in the flag represents Osun, nature spirit and Goddess of river, ponds streams and lakes. This realization made me see the spirits (the black in the flag), our ancestors, and the rebelliousness in our people to not be confined by social laws, or oppressive rule, and also not to be a people without a voice – this is the Eguns that stand with us. Our protest became voices heard melodiously on records, a genre of music called Reggae music. This did for us what no lobbyist could do and that is to take our plight out into the world so that others who would not have normally heard of the country Jamaica, would hear us and our protest coming through songs with a sweet melody among voices of reason.
Ogun supported us by giving us the strength and the bravado to face our enemies even if death itself faced us as a people. The fierceness of Jamaicans come from the ruling deity Ogun. Ogun is the machete, he is the gun, he is the knife, he is the bottle and stone, he is anything to draw blood, that is Ogun. He is also technology which aids in Jamaicans creativity (soundsystems, the mic, etc.)
Jamaica is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. People come from all over the world to explore our island, rivers, beaches, caves, and other hidden treasures that makes up this beautiful country. In this description we see Osun, goddess of beauty, of the river, of love, sweet waters, of creativity, of family. Osun highlights Jamaica through the creativity of the people and this is evident by Reggae music which is indigenous to Jamaica, not the Caribbean as it is falsely claimed nowadays. Because of the music there is no where in the world where no one has never heard of this small island. Osun has lifted us up and has spread us all over with our sweet melodies to influence other cultures or societies that had no culture. To integrate within them, a part of us (although many will not give credit, i.e. the birth of Hip Hop music and more). Jamaica attracts, even amid news of our violence, people from all over in droves, even wanting to be apart of the culture (who wouldn’t?).
This post is about the spirituality of Jamaica but I wanted to share with you first about the ruling powers, spiritually, of the island. Although Christianity is very strong there and obeah (a word also indigenous to our culture), is also very strong. Originally, the country was called Xamaica which means land of wood and water, as the natives who Columbus met there called it. Our spirituality came out of our strong belief in our Supreme Being and also the rebelliousness of our spirit, which not only came across with us through slavery, but also that which the island itself gave to us, it’s citizens.
As a child growing up, whenever Jamaica faced any problem with nature such as hurricanes, storms, tidal wave, earthquake, etc. the whole island would go on a prayer quest in the removal of such threat. There was something about Jamaica as I grew and even as I became an adult that I realize that regardless of the guns and the violence and whatever Jamaica is known for, the belief of God or a Supreme Being and of spirit, was always first and foremost in the minds of the people there. Where morality is wavering on a seesaw now because of the influence of foreigners, long ago any type of lewd act or conversation was not accepted out in public. In recent times, however, there has been people who have tried to break the society with things that the ancestors, who have been watching our behavior and are quick to assist us when there is problems, do not approve of; and when these things happen, the first thing that happens in Jamaica is a drought.
Whenever Jamaica has come out of alignment with the Universe (and this has happened many different times before), it seems to become plagued by drought (remember I told you that one of the ruling powers of Jamaica is Osun, goddess of sweet waters). Going back as far as 1976, which was considered the worst drought of Jamaican history, Michael Manley ruled with the People’s National Party and because of the election many lives were lost at that time. Albeit this was not the first drought Jamaica had and it would not be last and this happened always when ever the ruling deities became upset with Jamaica which is evident by the droughts (Osun) and bloodsheds (Ogun). Corruption was at it’s heights during the time of the 1976 drought and the people suffered. This was when nature turned it’s back on Jamaica. Water supply was almost gone, farmers could farm no more, rain would not fall, and rivers began to dry up…
Look through the history of droughts or any natural weather occurrences in Jamaica – what travesty happened (or threatened to happen) just prior to these disasters? I always tell you all that life speaks to us in codes and the best way for God to roar at his children if he is upset is to use nature as his tool.
Jamaica, being a place filled with nature, surrounded by it’s beauty and ruled by it, felt the hands of it’s displeasure. Always in any country where nature is preserved and large cities are few, the sacredness and morality of the country is kept in tact. This is what upholds the country and it’s citizens, regardless if the world at large sees them as behind or “not modern enough,” and foreigners try to come in to bring them forward into whatever century they regard is “in.” The minds and mentality of the citizens, if this is successful, is broken down and often times the people of the country separate mentally.
Jamaica, the continent of Africa, and any country where there is not much money and does not have cosmopolitan cities, are typically highly spiritual places where people hold morality sacred, where people venerate nature, where people respect their elders, and see each other as Bredrins and Sistrens or Brothers and Sisters, where people practice their daily life as a community instead of divided – these places are where nature embraces and also where the ancestors are grounded, so they continue to teach and uplift the citizens. This is almost like a “swap out”. Our wealth, instead of being “gold” or “money” will be preserved knowledge, wisdom, understanding, a clear and clean mind that is not filled or yearning for the salaciousness of the world which is not conducive to it’s citizens or the country.
For the past couple of years Jamaica has been spiraling out of control because of the desire to be like Americans or other countries who they believe are more “modern,” or “trendy.” Now Jamaica is facing again another drought, or the wrath of the deities who rule the country. Blood is being shed everyday more so than ever, farmers are not able to produce, the rain is not falling, and rivers are drying up. Something that breathes, lives, and watches over Jamaica (a spirit) is angry, and until the citizens of Jamaica including the government realizes that Jamaica itself is a highly spiritual place and what works for foreign nations will not work or be accepted on our sacred island, until they realize that the land has been defiled and disrespected, only then will a reprieve be given to the country as we get back to ourselves and who we once were.
Tí orí kan bá sunwọ̀n á ran’gba. /
If one head (a person) is blessed, hundreds others will be positively affected….Yoruba Proverb!
[Success is contagious]
Everything comes when it must, and everything happens for a reason, do not hurry your life, what is destined for you, cannot escape you, just keep the faith, be patient and be prayerful, filled with compassion, kindness and respect for all, let these qualities be among your name, God will fill in the rest…..Obara Meji!
All religions are valid as long as it teaches peace and love….Obara Meji
There are no disappointments in life, only lessons learned!….Obara Meji