Systems of North American Witchcraft and Sorcery

By Deward E. Walker Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
TWO VIEWS OF OBEAH AND WITCHCRAFT

1. OBEAH AND OTHER WITCHCRAFT AMONG THE BLACK CARIBS

Nancie L. Solien Gonzalez

The Black Caribs are descendants of escaped African slaves and a group of Carib-Arawak Indians who inhabited the Lesser Antilles at the time of Columbus. In 1797 they were taken by the British from St. Vincent to the Bay Islands, from whence they soon migrated to the Central American coastline, which they still inhabit today (see Figure 8.). Various aspects of their history and culture have been described by Coehlo ( 1955), Solien ( 1959a), and Taylor ( 1951). At the present time their villages may be found strung along the Caribbean coastline of British Honduras (Belice), Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua as far as Bluefields. Without accurate census data it is difficult to estimate their numbers, but a total population of 50-75,000 seems reasonable.1 Their economy is based upon fishing, small-scale cultivation, and sporadic wage labor, the relative importance of each varying somewhat with the particular village.

The data presented here on witchcraft were collected by the writer in 1956-57 while doing field work in one community in Guatemala (See Appendix 3). Two survey trips lasting six weeks each were made to British Honduras and Honduras where a total of twelve other Black Carib villages was visited. Information was collected from these villages as well. The material on witchcraft showed remarkable consistency throughout the area -- enough to warrant treating it as a unit. Although there were some important differences among the villages in social and cultural organization, the position of the Black Caribs vis-à-vis other ethnic groups in the area was similar. Furthermore, it is clear from informants' genealogies, life histories, and from my own field observations that there is constant traveling and communication among these people, not only from village to village, but from country to country. A considerable amount of cultural homogeneity and social solidarity within the ethnic group is maintained by the following practices: the use of an esoteric language, Garifuna ( Island Carib); a preference for ethnic-endogamous marital unions; the practice of "loaning" children to relatives in other villages; migration in search of wage labor; and skill in long distance traveling by native dugouts. Although individuals may be strongly patriotic about their native country, they usually identify themselves as Carib first, and either Guatemalan, Honduran, or British second.

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Systems of North American Witchcraft and Sorcery
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Contents vi
  • Introduction 1
  • References Cited 9
  • Chapter I - Western Apache Witchcraft 11
  • Chapter II - Pueblo Witchcraft and Medicine 37
  • References Cited 70
  • Chapter III - Witchcraft in Tecospa and Tepepan 73
  • References Cited 92
  • Chapter IV - Two Views of Obeah and Witchcraft 95
  • References Cited 108
  • Notes 122
  • References Cited 123
  • Chapter V - Sorcery in Santiago El Palmar 125
  • References Cited 145
  • Chapter VI - Introduction Skokomish Sorcery, Ethics, and Society 147
  • Appendix 5 166
  • References Cited 181
  • References Cited 182
  • Chapter VII - Menomini Witchcraft 183
  • Chapter VIII - Witchcraft AMong Kaska Indians 221
  • References Cited 235
  • Chapter IX - Iroquois Witchcraft at Six Nations 239
  • References Cited 262
  • References Cited 264
  • Chapter X - Sorcery Among the Nez Perces 267
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