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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/217

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Obeah Worship in East and West Indies.

up for lost. When a negro is robbed of a fowl or a hog he applies directly to the Obeah-man or woman; it is then made known among his fellow-blacks that Obi is set for the thief, and as soon as the latter hears the dreadful news his terrified imagination begins to work; no resource is left but in the superior skill of some more eminent black man of the neighbourhood, who may counteract the magical operations of the other; but if no one can be found of higher rank or ability, or if, after gaining such an ally, he should still fancy himself affected, he presently falls into a decline, under the incessant horror of impending calamities. The slightest painful sensation in the head, or any part, any casual loss or hurt, confirms his apprehensions, and he believes himself the devoted victim of an invisible and irresistible agency. Sleep, appetite, and cheerfulness forsake him, his strength decays, his disturbed imagination is haunted without respite, his features wear the settled gloom of despondency; dirt, or any other unwholesome substance, becomes his only food; he contracts a morbid habit of body, and gradually sinks into the grave.

"A negro who is taken ill inquires of the Obeah-man the cause of his sickness, whether it will prove mortal or not, and within what time he shall die or recover. The oracle generally ascribes the distemper to Obi, the malice of some particular person, and advises to set Obi for that person....... Considering the multitude of occasions which may provoke the negroes to exercise the powers of Obi against each other, and the astonishing influence of the superstition on their minds, we cannot but attribute a very considerable portion of the annual mortality among the negroes of Jamaica to this fascinating mischief In the year 1760, when a formidable insurrection of the Koromantyn, or Gold-Coast negroes, broke out in the parish of St. Mary's, and spread through almost every other district of the island, an old Koromantyn negro, the chief instigator and oracle of the insurgents in that parish, who had admin-