What is Obeah?

Why Obeah Has a Scary Reputation

Obeah has a reputation as the most or one of the most powerful magical systems on Earth.  As powerful as it is, the fact that most information about it is transmitted orally means that much of the specifics are secret.  Obeah practitioners very rarely take on apprentices, and do not even teach it to their children or relatives unless they have the signs.  A person’s secrets and discoveries can die with them.  This is considered part of the natural order of things.

We believe that some things a person should go through the steps of learning and discovery on their own.  They should not be written down or passed to others because they won’t learn what they are supposed to learn by discovering the Truth on their own.  The journey, in many cases, is as or more important than the destination.

This does not mean that Obeah people never teach or share.  Indeed, we are often very generous with laypersons in giving information that will help them in their daily lives. We may also share information with people who have reached a certain level and deserve the knowledge.

Though Obeah is very closely connected to the Yoruba style of Vodun, there are a few distinct differences.  It does not rely on a strict hereditary priesthood, and it incorporates methods and techniques from other belief systems.  The basic philosophy is that all people are children of Yemaya (or how ever one’s tradition personifies the spiritual essence of Water), regardless of the place they are born.  So as long as a technique is sound and it works, it can be used to get the job done.

Rather than sticking to a limited tradition, it draws from all.  This is one reason why Obeah people are sometimes feared and sometimes looked down upon by practitioners of more ethnocentric traditions. Yes, we do draw from many sources but this is only because we come from a variety of sources. We do our best to respect all of them because to mess this up and mix things haphazardly is a good way to alienate and anger forces of Nature. Granted, we can’t even allow ourselves to really think of the spirits’ anger as anger in the way that humans think of it. It isn’t a feeling for them. It is like a reflex that if you mess this up in the physical realm, things fall like dominoes.

We are used to navigating this balance very carefully, but I have to admit, personally, I can totally understand the fear and worry someone who isn’t familiar with how we go about things may have about our practices. It is not easy. We make it look easy for flair and theater, but it is a like dancing on a Universe sized spider’s web with atom sized strings, trying not to get stuck or tangled up somewhere. We have to operate with extreme levels of respect.

Another reason for the fear is some true and some false tales of what Obeah people do to accomplish their goals.  The use of psychoactive plants is one of the truths.  We do use a variety of herbs for healing and for trance.  Some are less concerned about legality than others. Most of us avoid the “poison path” though. Some of us even have spiritual practices around our medication. If you’ve seen someone from the islands do a little hand gesture before they smoke a cigarette, that’s what that is.

There is also concern about the use of blood in ceremony and the creation of talismans.  Some would call what is done to sacrificed animals before they are dispatched, cruelty.  Though I personally don’t practice cruelty to animals, and have any slaughtering done by a priest of Ogun or a shochet (a Jewish kosher slaughterer), some others are not so careful.

Then finally, there is the use of death curses.  Many believe that death curses are a normal thing in Obeah.  It is and it isn’t.  I’ll explain.  It is normal in that there are Obeah people who do them.  It’s just that it’s not something that is done normally.  A death curse is not something that is done without thought or regard for the consequences.

Though Obeah practitioners do not have a uniform religion per se, we all believe that no human is stronger than Nature itself, and that every action has consequences.  Just as unjustified killing with your hands will bring the wrath of that person’s family, law enforcement, and the Spirits, unjustified killing with a curse will as well.  There is a high price even for unjustified ill will, so for a conscious curse, the price is even higher.

There are many perspectives about Obeah and many articles about what it is.  Everybody has their view.  The important thing to remember about it though is that though it is very individualist, the basis of it is Mami Wata.  Obeah could be defined as eclectic Vodun in the West Indian diaspora, but more the practical using local resources than a religion/tradition. It is not however, the same tradition as west African Vodun. It is its own unique approach to African diaspora spirituality born from the Caribbean.

Pages ( 2 of 6 ): « Previous1 2 3456Next »

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: Orisha Online Altar − What is Voodoo?

  2. May I enter to learn obeah please? Thank you very much!

    • Thank you for your question, Ethel. 🙂 I do not teach Obeah online, but I do teach general witchcraft. Though some elements of Obeah will shine through in my style of teaching, I have not been led to teach Obeah on the internet specifically. Others do, and I respect them for this, since it is an extremely challenging mission. It’s just that the task that I’ve been given is different: to help prospective witches, sorcerers, rootworkers, and others in this type of occupation to reconnect with the ways of their Ancestors and become effective practitioners regardless of which style they will eventually settle into. Obeah will only be the answer for a very select few, and there are already teachers for them. Our community is pretty stable. Others though, need our help to recover and stabilize.

    • How can obeah be Igbo when none of the deity are Igbo

      • We don’t generally share our personal pantheon with people. We may reveal some of it so as to teach beginners, but we aren’t going to give away the entirety of our allies. I tell people about the Yoruba pantheon because they are offering this information to the world freely and publicly. Igbo are not generally so ready to share. There is the guy with the Medicine Shell channel on YouTube, and a couple of others, but nobody I know gives very specific instructions for someone outside the community about how to deal with specific deities. I am following the rest of the community’s lead in that. I’m in the diaspora, and it is not my place to make sudden innovations in this matter. If someone is interested in Igbo spirituality, I refer them to the “orthodox” Igbo practitioners.

  3. I have much regret and apologies to have to ask. i am inquiring about the proper spelling and pronounciation regarding a spirit. It sounds like Obigetkchi. It is a soulmate matchmaker. Greatly appreciatied if you are able to help.
    Thank you.

    • This came during a time I was a bit distracted. This is a Turkic or Afro-turkish entity by the sound of the name. Be careful as there wasn’t the concept of “soulmates” when this was crystalized as there is today. You may be calling on something you don’t know how to handle.

  4. Hello.
    I am retired and still trying to acquire the path I should be on. Any suggestions or advice, excluding personal opinions?

  5. Hallo, my Name is Johann Musyl from Vienna, Austria. I have a question about obeah initiation online. Do you Know someone who is doing that. And can that obeah man or woman tell me if obeah is my path, my way?
    If you need more Information about me, please ask.
    Thank You very much for Youre answer to come.
    Johann Musyl
    musyl.johann@gmail.com
    P. S. And can you tell me more about transmission of obeah?

    • Hello Johann. 🙂 Thank you for your comment and good questions.

      Online, though it is possible to teach on some level, it is not possible to receive a full initiation online for a few reasons. Anyone can read about and learn the things that have been published, but there is a lot to Obeah that is not published, and for good reason. Some things are exclusive to particular lineages, and some thing must be passed from teacher to student live. In most lines that I’m aware of, there are things the teacher must do themselves.

      A teacher can however, initiate you specifically as an online or distance acolyte. This has been done since before the internet. One takes the vows of a student in order to begin learning. We tend not to call this “initiation” though because this word has been overused and misused to mean something that it doesn’t. People will claim to be initiated into Obeah, Vodun, or other African and diaspora systems, and take this to mean they are qualified to teach or to lord over others or claim ranks and titles that they did not earn to standard.

      The truth is that any teacher can form their own curriculum and standards and “initiate” people to their group, but that doesn’t mean what they’re teaching you will give you anything good or important. So don’t be so concerned with initiation just because some others make a big deal out of it. I’ve encountered people who were “initiated” to Orishas but had no idea what offerings to give them or how to care for any of the items they were given in the ceremony.

      As to whether or not Obeah is your path, since we have greater access now, your best place to start looking is an Ifa or Afa reading from a qualified African diviner. They will tell you more about what you should do.

      Obeah may seem very fascinating, but it is, like any other spiritual system, very difficult for someone to get into as an adult. It is nothing like Wicca or other neopagan religions or magical disciplines. Though some have come in from other places to learn and one has reportedly received the Obia, this is extremely rare. These few instances should not be taken as normal or preferable. Unless you are connected to our community somehow, there is no real reason to pursue it. It is not the reclaiming of a dead belief system with a broken line. It is the continuation of a legacy of a very much living, unbroken, African tradition of sorcery. There are responsibilities and obligations involved that most people are not ready for, and no outsider really wants unless they have an ancestor or two prodding them towards this path.

      This is why online, I teach general witchcraft and not Obeah. Some others may, but I don’t because I don’t want to give anyone a wrong impression or be blamed for anyone taking what I taught them to claim a title they didn’t earn.

  6. I had a dream last night. Perhaps, I should lead up to this.
    I’m living in an unjust situation and under heavy oppression and persecution. Recently, I’ve been calling out, spiritually, for an energy to help me turn things around. I asked for a sign. I did this for 2 days, the sign asking. Help from spirits I’ve been asking for, for years. I made an offer in exchange for this help and I asked for a lot, but only what I feel is my Karmic due.
    Last night I had the weirdest dream. I entered a night club. There were offers of drugs and alcohol and I declined, saying I was there on business. It was loaded with people of African heritage.
    A ritual was taking place down near the stage and there was a circle in front of it. I heard the word Obeah spoken many times. People gathered around and a woman, also of African heritage appeared, within it. The ritual was a normal ritual where the being would choose her tributes. By the time she arrived, everyone but me was in a trance. Before she chose her tributes though, she summoned me and I entered the circle. She hugged me, called me old friend and said it had been a long time.
    Is this some sort of being answering me, giving me the sign I was looking for, that my offer has been accepted? I have felt ungrounded and spaced out yesterday morning and also today, like I’m here but not quite.

  7. I’ve never heard of an Obeah before and I know this is me completely. Everything in this article Explains me to a T.

    I can’t even explain how I know. But I know.
    I am a Mixed race almond woman born in Miami.

    Thank you for sharing this. All of my knowledge has been passed from spirit to me. I just keep wondering why I’m different then others. And somehow I feel this just explained me and I know who I am.
    I’ve been at this practice my entire life.

    • Hello Ezralea 🙂 If this is so, then you must rid yourself of slavery era “race” concepts and think in terms of actual lineage. Though awareness of how other people think is useful in terms of social justice, actual belief in anti scientific hierarchies of humanity do not suit a prospective mage.

      Just being categorized as Black by authorities in the occupied Maizeland has nothing to do with whether or not a type of Obeah is your path. It is connection to the specific history of the islands, and the struggles and cultures in which they developed.

      Though anyone can be called, there is no “self initiation” in this. One is either instructed by a mentor from or in the lineage of people from the islands, or promoted to a kind of mage or “Obeahman/woman” level by serving a community in the islands or families in their diaspora for some time.

      If certain aspects of it seem familiar, it is because there are many branches in the African diaspora, of people who originated from places in Africa that have the Obia concept or something like it. It is similar though not the same as the Roman “daemon” or Yoruba Aje. It may have been a branching off that happened before the concept of the Kemetic Sobek. Nobody knows. There are some pretenders out there claiming to be Iyami Aje, and Yoruba people and diaspora Ifa practitioners have plenty to say about this. The Obia concept being co-opted doesn’t generate much hype, but eventually it still catches up with people, even those who innocently misinterpret things. The spirits hear it and it’s like, “Oh really? Let’s just see how much suffering they can take.”

      So for now, if you feel that it is for you, find the non Christian folks from the West Indies, Caribbean, and other east coastal islands who are having meetings, running supply shops, etc. Eventually, if they like you then they will start teaching you. Even if the spirits are teaching you a lot, there is the concept of word power, and as soon as you speak a cultural lineage, this will signal the spirits to test your endurance compared to others who came through that culture. Better to do the slow endurance test of how much of various translations of papyrii you can commit to memory than the fast track of brutal hazing by Jamaican ancestors.

      Blessings and Ashe!

  8. My apologies first for being one of many bombarding you with questions about “how to”…I am not of Caribbean descent, and I’m not sure where I would even find a shop that supplies goods for people as you mentioned to someone in another post…I understand that you said the teachings need some one on one time to share their knowledge to students by talking with them…That certainly makes sense…If I wanted to learn this way of life do I begin by reading the information above?
    Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you at your convenience… Kindly, Sue R

    • It’s alright. As I mentioned before, I found the Motherland non traditional folks, so the Caribbean version, while wonderful, is no longer the lonely strain of Afroscientific Spirituality available to the western world. You can learn straight from the heart of Africa from Efe West’s Master Class at https://kindoki.net/asmc

      So that you know, I don’t get paid anything from promoting him. We help each other because we’re spiritual family. Just be ready because you’re going to do a lot of reading. It’s a bit harder catching up as an adult, but it is do-able since we all have the compulsion to service to our community. It is very likely what drew you into the healthcare field in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.