One day, the principles and teachings of Obeahism, the once ancient practices of African-Caribbean people, will be to the world, what the global resurrection of medicinal marijuana is today.
One day, Obeahism will become to the world what the meditations are to the Hindu and the Buddhist; what the chants are to the Kabbalah; and what ancient contemplative teachings are to religion.
One day, along with reparations, there will come the apology. The apology for the robbing of history. The apology for the condemnation of Afro-Caribbean cultural practices. The apology for the demonising of the attempts, both little and great, to claw back some dignity, during slavery.
It’s Time To Reclaim A Positively Told Bahamian History!
OBEAHISM WAS LINKED TO BAD, IGNORANT NEGROES AND PAGANISM IN ORDER TO DISCREDIT AFRICAN HISTORY AND TO SEPARATE AFRICAN DESCENDANTS FROM OBSERVANCE OF THE PAST
Obeah was first the oral tradition of ancient African medicine and ways of healing. Worship, the so-called black arts and religious ideology attributed to Obeahism, by the Europeans, was secondary to the slave in mortal pain.
Obeahism was the practice of ancestor worship, religious observance and ways of living healthier, with the help of the only things available, the products of nature. In the face of European Christianity, traditional African-Caribbean practices, which the descendants of slaves tried to hold on to, became illegal paganism, idol worship and culturally forbidden.
18th, 19th and 20th century laws forbidding the practice of Obeah, as well as, repeated propaganda messages against native African traditions, created such morbid fear and castigation, that soon successive generations wanted nothing to do with it. Bahamians in particular, dismissed it altogether, never really understanding the truth about it all.
As long as the Bahama Negro remained the cherry compliant fellow, all was okay.
In reference to the celebration of Emancipation Day.
“This anniversary is still celebrated, with much noisy rejoicing, by the less advanced members of the Negro community.”
Separating the races… The negro more docile. Mixed race Bahamians are demonised as morose and suspicious of white Bahamians.
“The pure-blooded negro in the Bahamas, as elsewhere, is a much more attractive personality than his half-caste brother.”
Obeah associated with backward Out Island negroes who still engage in the ancient African traditions of ancestor worship.
“Obeah has by no means disappeared, although it is seldom or never mentioned, and to the relatives of the dead do not fail to place offerings of food on the grave of the dear departed as soon as the back of the clergyman who conducted the funeral service has been turned.“
(The Province, Sunday, 3rd. April, 1927)
A NATIVE GIRL GATHERS FLORA FROM A BAHAMIAN HILLSIDE
Bush medicine, which was a substantial part of the Obeah tradition, was slowly discredited as backward practices.
In the present day, the global revival of organic natural medicines, sees countries around the world trying to become a part of this new growing industry and philosophical way of living.
African-Caribbean peoples, Bahamians, were one of the first in the New World to experiment and prefect these medicines and lifestyle philosophies.
OBEAH LINKED TO ANCIENT EUROPEAN PRACTICES
In 1898, in a lecture given to the Brooklyn’s Women’s Book Club, Obeah, it was said was the remnants of some old African snake worship; the same thing which had existed in Europe. And this, the paper went on, would lead us back to Edentree and the birth of the human race.
(The Evening Times, Tuesday, 12 April, 1898)
OBEAH WAS CHIEFLY ABOUT MEDICINE WHEN SLAVES FOUND THEMSELVES IN THE NEW WORLD
Once African slavery began, with its high economic ideals for the Europeans, it was convenient to forget the savagery that gave birth to the West Indies, and the savagery which maintained it. New imaginations about savagery centred around the pagan slave practices of Obeah.
However, Obeah, used by slaves in the New World, was chiefly about medicine and pain relief pain. All the religious and superstition ideology was secondary. It was really only in response to the savagery inflicted upon slaves by the Europeans. Every effort was made to associate Obeah with intentional poisoning of slaveowners and use in spurring on slave insurrections. If you practiced Obeah you were associated with attempting the murder of whites; whether real or otherwise, death was the penalty for the negro.
(The Evening Times, Tuesday, 12 April, 1898)
Slaves suffered unimaginable cruelty and violence, which led to broken bones, as well as continued lifelong pain and suffering. It is really only in the movies where one can see someone being whipped fifty times or have a leg cut off for trying run away, only to see them a few scenes later, fetching water or picking cotton. In reality, slaves lived with lifelong painful disabilities.
Work in the fields and plantations, virulent diseases, living in close quarters and without shoes or anything to protect their hands, meant that the mortality rate among slaves was extraordinarily high in many colonies.
The only medicines available to enslaved people, in the New World, was their experimentation with the leaves and barks of unfamiliar trees that they found. For this, we can only imagine how many died in seeking some sort of pain relief, before finally stumble upon something that would actually help them. And then, without the benefit of being allowed to read or write, they passed down this vital information, on the properties of various plants and trees, solely through the oral tradition.
Any cultural practices by negroes, which contravened or attempted to impeded the machinery of slave capitalism, was met with extreme consequences. Obeah became one of these practices.
There were few things in Bahamian Afrohistory which lasted as long as the oral tradition of medicine and healing through Obeah. Overtime however, with legal and Christian mandates, as well as many social pariah attitudes against it, Obeah, simply withered from the social consciousness.
Along with the disappearance of Obeah, traditional medicines, growing the plants and trees needed for traditional medicines, also disappeared from the Bahamian consciousness.
(The Brandon Sun, Thursday, 23 October, 1975)