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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/216

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Obeah Worship in East and West Indies.

and confidence; those whose hoary heads and a somewhat peculiarly harsh and forbidding aspect, together with some skill in plants of the medicinal and poisonous species, have qualified them for successful imposition on the weak and credulous. The negroes in general, whether Africans or Creoles (i.e., born in Jamaica), revere, consult, and fear them; to these oracles they resort, and with the most implicit faith, upon all occasions, whether for the cure of disorders, the obtaining revenge for injuries or insults, the conciliation of favours, the discovery and punishment of the thief or adulterer, and the prediction of future events. The trade which these impostors carry on is extremely lucrative; they manufacture and sell their Obies, adapted to different cases, and at different prices. A veil of mystery is studiously thrown over their incantations, to which the midnight hours are allotted, and every precaution is taken to conceal them from the knowledge and discovery of the white people. The deluded negroes, who thoroughly believe in their supernatural power, become the willing accomplices of their concealment, and the stoutest among them tremble at the very sight of the ragged bundle, the bottle, or the egg-shells, which are stuck in the thatch, or hung over the door of a hut, or upon the branch of a plantation-tree, to deter marauders.

"In cases of poison, the natural effects of it are, by the ignorant negroes, ascribed entirely to the potent workings of Obi. The wiser negroes hesitate to reveal their suspicions through a dread of incurring the terrible vengeance which is fulminated by the Obeah-men against any who should betray them. It is very difficult, therefore, for the white proprietor to distinguish the Obeah possessor from any other negro upon his plantation; and so infatuated are the blacks in general that but few instances occur of their having courage enough to impeach these miscreants. With minds so firmly prepossessed, they no sooner find Obi set for them, near the door of their house, or in the path which leads to it, than they give themselves