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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


Editor’s note:This is a guest post from Danielle Edwards – a Literature and History student and an aspiring Journalist.

Evil exists, no doubt. But do we sometimes feel so haunted by the threat of evil that we allow our minds and bodies to be controlled by unsubstantiated beliefs…?

It is rumoured that some Haitians claim the practice of Obeah is more prevalent in Dominica than Haiti! – I must say I would be very surprised if this were to be proven. In a nation of so many Christians, it is necessary to wonder why superstitious beliefs are so rampant, and why they exert such a powerful force on our lives. There must be a reason why people hold on to such beliefs, even when they profess that Christ is in control- or do these beliefs hold on to the people?

Do Superstitious beliefs in the Caribbean exert a sort of mental slavery on our people, the way our colonizers once did, particularly in rural communities- or have WE allowed ourselves to be enslaved by unquestioning belief in irrational myths?

Think of the number of Dominicans who have testified to seeing a ‘soucouyant’ or ‘la diablesse’ in the forest, or a ‘jumby’ dancing late at night in Roseau. They are not alone- many Jamaicans believe in the ‘Ol’ Higue’ who is fabled ‘to be a witch or sorceress, who enjoys humans and preys especially on infants.’ She bears an uncanny similarity to out local soucouyant. Some Jamaicans also believe that when a person dies, his ‘earthly spirit remains for three days in the coffin with the body, where it may escape if proper precautions are not taken, and appear as a duppy’, or ghost.

I’ve heard so many soucouyant stories from persons of all walks of life- from varying backgrounds, degrees of education, communities and ages- that I’ve come to the conclusion that some of these things really do exist- and I’m not being sarcastic. How could so many people be wrong? Our grandparents and great aunts and uncles are such keen-sighted people, I would hate to think that NONE of them know what they’re talking about.

But perhaps this is the root of the problem- that superstitious beliefs have been allowed to seep into all generations- and classes- so they will never die.

Many West Indians, educated and uneducated, acknowledge that legendary folkloric characters, many of whom originated from West Africa, really do exist. Even Bob Marley expressed his belief, in ‘Duppy Conqueror’. A thrill comes from knowing supernatural creatures exist, and the exciting stories of the deeds of the Obeahmen in numerous rural communities can certainly be magnetic. In fact, any student of the arts ideally should have some level of appreciation for superstition- it makes a fine subject of fantasy for painters and poets, and a great subject for theatre, dance and music.

Superstition has given such vibrancy and colour to our culture: We have been warned to beware of who gets a slice of our wedding cake- because some people allegedly have the power to destroy a marriage before it starts. And to be wary also of the people who hide consecrated bread under their tongues during the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I once heard a tale of a person who placed the names of his enemies in a paper bag with rotten eggs in a coffin at a funeral ceremony. I was even told a story, 9 years ago, of a polling station that mysteriously became filled with candles, all ablaze on the eve of an election- soon after it was dead-bolted. More recently, I have heard stories of people who eat garlic and bathe in jays to keep ‘soucouyants’ away. And when you’re about to construct your next house, do not be surprised at the number or Dominicans who may be willing and ready to sprinkle the blood of a dead chicken on your foundation.

I must say these stories and superstitions are all quite interesting, even if some of them are unbelievable. I certainly don’t find them all ridiculous. Like I said, our older and wiser citizens can’t all be at fault. And when it comes to dreams, I’ve personally found many of them reliable and meaningful.

While superstition is one of the few aspects of our life which is dominated by African heritage, it has made too many of our people vulnerable to mind-control –not least by Obeahmen. I don’t think there is a logical explanation for everything in this world, so it’s sometimes necessary to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I think if some of us took the time out to recognize that many of these beliefs are really shackles on our minds, we would be able to learn from our mistakes instead of blaming them on ‘bad mind people’.

And we would realize, ironically, that we have more power over our lives without adhering to superstitious beliefs than when we submit to the Obeahmen who propose they have a remedy for everything.

Sources:
http://www.nlj.org.jm/
http://en.wikipedia.org/

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5 Comments »

Comment by Dan
2008-07-24 11:16:40

Isn’t Christianity just another superstitious belief? Aren’t Voodo and Obeah a mix of Christianity and African religions?

 
Comment by Ami Subscribed to comments via email
2008-07-24 15:21:27

Danny, i think you really hit the nail on the superstitious belief on a whole.

The so called Christians or Christianity as a faith is awesome but when we get down to the knitty gritty of the religion & the unexplainable its as if the human instinct of logic hits the back door and superstition takes full flight.

There are somethings that I can agree with but the far fetch stories.

History has a lot to do with this. If people read and understand and not interpret for their own gain. I mean Caribbean History is a little tricky but if we master the flaws there we can sort of knock of the mental shackles in no time.

😆 two thumbs up on your piece

 
Comment by Joel Halfwassen
2008-07-24 22:50:08

What influence have the Caribs had on the myths and folklore of the island? You talked about Christian belief which came to Dominica from Europe and Voodoo and Obediah have roots in Africian and Christian beliefs. Where are the Caribs?

 
Comment by Dan
2008-07-25 13:08:31

Missionaries destroyed the Carib beliefs (which were also myths). The Caribs believed that a snake came up from the sea and laid an egg that became Dominica. You can visit Tete Chien in Carib territory: A lava flow looks like a snake’s body. Until a landslide destroyed it a couple of years ago you could also see a rock outcropping that looked like a snake’s head (hence the place name, which means snake’s head in Creole).

The missionaries told the Caribs that their beliefs were silly myths — and then taught them about two naked people in a garden with a talking serpent!

 
Comment by Dan
2008-07-25 17:32:21

This post comes from a nut who “graduated” from Bob Jones University — which requires blacks and whites to sign a pledge not to marry outside their own race. But in the USA, anything can be a religion! Bob Jones is “fundamentalist & evangelical” & “Christian”. You can decide:

UFOs, Aliens, and Christianity
July 25, 2008 10:00 AM EST

Former Apollo 14 astronaut, Dr. Edgar Mitchell, has recently made it public knowledge that aliens exist and that NASA officials have had contact with them. Dr. Mitchell says that there has been a sixty-year cover-up by our government of the existence and reality of aliens.

No doubt, all this will be used to support evolution and discredit the Bible. The fact remains, however, that science has shown that only micro-evolution (variations within a biological kind such as varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) is possible but not macro-evolution (variation across biological kinds or from simpler kinds to more complex ones). The reader is encouraged to read the author’s article ‘The Natural Limits of Evolution’ at http://www.religionscience.com. Mathematical probability alone has shown that it is not rational, logical, or scientific to believe that life could originate by chance.

Alien beings cannot wait millions of years to evolve complex and necessary organs for survival anymore than species on earth. Imagine a species waiting millions of years for reproductive organs to evolve so that it can finally reproduce!

Then, how do we explain aliens if they are for real? The Bible teaches that Satan and his demons (the fallen angels) can take on take all sorts of shapes and perform all sorts of miracles in order to deceive mankind. In fact, some who have been claimed to be abducted by aliens say that these aliens have told them things that undermine the truth of the Christian Scriptures and the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

This is not say that God cannot create life on other planets, but the point being made here is that the supposed alien contacts popularly mentioned are not actual alien beings at all but the work of dark supernatural forces.

The Christian Gospel is unique, unlike any other religious teaching. That in itself is powerful evidence of its true and divine origin. The Christian Scriptures teach that man can never earn his salvation and that salvation is only by the grace (undeserved act) of God through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s eternal and only begotten Son Who paid for our sins on the Cross through His suffering and death and Who rose bodily from the grave after three days.

Just as a co-signer to a loan takes the legal responsibility of paying for the loan should the borrower of the loan be unable to pay , Jesus Christ, because He was both divine and human and sinless, was able to take the responsibility to pay mankind’s moral and spiritual debt to God. Through His suffering, shed blood on the Cross, and death He paid for our sins by taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself that we may be freely forgiven through faith in Him.

All other religions, no matter how different they may be from each other, teach basically the same thing, that man can save himself through his own good deeds. The Christian Gospel, however, teaches that man is completely fallen and can never be good enough to earn salvation, indeed cannot even be spiritually good at all in God’s eyes apart from Christ. For God only sees what is done for His glory as being good. God is not being egotistical. By the very nature of things, truth demands that God be the reason and motive for our deeds and the object of our life and worship. God Himself would be sinning if He demanded anything less that Himself as the reason and motive behind our life and deeds!

Although good deeds cannot save us, once a person is saved in Christ he can and will begin to perform good deeds out of true love for God and his fellow man because of the Holy Spirit of God in his life Who has changed him. Good deeds do not produce salvation but salvation will produce good deeds.

The Christian is not perfect in this life or fully saved yet in this life. A Christian, in this life, will not always do good deeds because he still possess a sin nature, but, at least, the Christian will have a new heart and will always perform some, if not many, good deeds that are truly and spiritually good from God’s point of view, the only view that counts!

The Christian Gospel is an offense to the natural thinking of man. Unfortunately, sometimes we Christians unnecessarily add to this offense by the way we share the Gospel and/or by some erroneous doctrine that we attach to it.

The uniqueness of the Christian Gospel shows that it could not have originated from fallen man or aliens. To Christ be all the victory!

‘For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

For those not familiar with the Bible, the above quotations are from chapters and verses of two books (the book of Ephesians and the book of John) in the New Testament part of the King James Version Christian Bible or Scripture.

The author, Babu G. Ranganatha, has his B.A. degree with concentrations in theology and biology from Bob Jones University, and has been recognized for his writings on religion and science in the 24th edition of Marquis Who’s Who In The East. The author’s website may be accessed at http://www.religionscience.com.

 
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