Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/215

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OBEAH WORSHIP IN EAST AND WEST INDIES.




I.—In Jamaica.


THE mystery with which the professors of "Obeah" have always surrounded themselves, and the dread negroes have always had, and still have, of their power, have made it very difficult to find out much about the worship or superstition.

The best account is that contained in Edward's History of the British Colonies in the West Indies, published in 1793, and was transmitted by the Agent of Jamaica to the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council, and by them subjoined to their report on the Slave Trade.

"The term Obeah is now become in Jamaica the general term to denote those Africans who in that island practise witchcraft or sorcery, comprehending also the class of what are called Myal-men, or those who, by means of a narcotic potion made with the juice of an herb, which occasions a trance or profound sleep of a certain duration, endeavour to convince the deluded spectators of their power to reanimate dead bodies.

"As far as we are able to decide from our own experience and information, when we lived in the island, and from the current testimony of all the negroes we have ever conversed with on the subject, the possessors of Obi are, and always were, natives of Africa and none other; and they have brought the science with them to Jamaica, where it is so universally practised that we believe there are few of the large estates, possessing native Africans, which have not one or more of them. The oldest and most crafty are those who attract the greatest devotion