Central Africa in the Caribbean, 7-8



Associated Religions


pp. 178-9, 352 indigenous Koongo gongs

p. 178

"The ngonge, ... synonymous with ngunga ... is made of iron, and consists of a double bell in the shape of U, each leg of U representing one bell. There are no clappers in these bells. They are rung, or rather played, by striking with a piece of iron on either cup alternately" (Chaterlaine 1894, 271).

Single gongs were also used".

p. 179

"Ngonge or ngunga ... also were associated with trade caravans that move through the territories ... . Such caravans sounded these bells".

p. 352, p. 7:4

"Vansina (1969, 194) discusses diffusion of single and double bells from West to West Central Africa".

Vansina 1969 = Jan Vansina : "Bells of Kings". J OF AFRICAN HISTORY 10.2:187-97.

p. 186 submitting being whipped as hazing endured praeliminary to being initiated

"In joining Nkimba, for instance, the neophyte .... underwent a rite involving being whipped with a broom ...; in Kimpasi one was flogged ... (Jonghe 1907, 33, 36, 54, 56)."

Jonghe 1907 = E'douard de Jonghe : Les socie'te's secre`tes au Bas-Congo. Bruxelles : Joseph Polleunis.

p. 189 Kimpa Vita

"In about 1702 a Koongo woman, by name Dona Beatrice Kimpa Vita, began claiming to be the reincarnation of St Antony [of Padua]. ... However, ... her religious ideology linked the operation of a simbi cult with ... "direct, unaided communication with the other world", she "claimed to die each Friday, visit heaven, and return to earth on Mondays" to deliver her heavenly messages."

The Kongolese Saint Anthony : Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian movement, 1684-1706. http://www.worldcat.org/title/kongolese-saint-anthony-dona-beatriz-kimpa-vita-and-the-antonian-movement-1684-1706/oclc/38438708/viewport p. 30 the dead stay among the living

p. 190 mayaala

"the Jamaican term mayaal (generally spelled myal) derives from mayaala ["from yaala, to rule" (Laman 1957, 2:150)], the physical representations {viz., regalia} of ... a paramount chief's authority. The abstract {viz., supernatural} power mayaala wield is called kiyaazi, a Yombe cognate of the term nkisi. ... In Jamaica, mayaal was identified as the source of "good obeah", or good, that is, healing, sorcery".

Laman 1957 = Karl Laman : The Kongo. Vol. 2. Uppsala.

p. 352, n. 7:10 etymological cognates of Jamaican /obeah/




Fanti Twi


Senah 2000, p. 68

" "


Sawyerr 1999, p. 89, fn. 42



Cassidy & LePage 1967, p. 326



Handler & Bilby 2001, p. 92

Senah 2000 = Emmanuel Senah : Trinidad and the West African Nexus ... . PhD diss, Univ of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago.

Sawyerr 1999 = Harry Sawyerr : "Spirit Belief in the Cosmology of Africa and the Caribbean". AFRICAN-CARIBBEAN INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA RESEARCH REVIEW 4:71-90.

Cassidy & LePage 1967 = Frederick Cassidy & Robert LePage : Dictionary of Jamaican English. Cambridge Univ Pr.

Handler & Bilby 2001 = Jerome Handler & Kenneth Bilby : "On the Early Use and Origin of the Term "Obeah" in ... the Anglophone Caribbean". SLAVERY AND ABOLITION 22.2:87-100.

p. 191 mbumba & nkadi mpemba

"Mbumba was ... concerned with ... healing a community well-being; its priests of both genders were intermittently possessed by mbumba-type spirits ... (Hilton 1985, 17).

On the other hand, nkadi mpemba ... accorded protection for the individual (Hilton 1985, 16). Its priests were male, were not normally possessed, but manipulated spirit power by ... reasoning. ...

Mbumba-type nkisi could be could be an unusual object in nature, such as a stone or piece of wood;

those of nkadi mpemba were manufactured by the nganga, who placed ... substances in sacks or sculpted wood (Hilton 1985, 15 ...)."

Hilton 1985 = Anne Hilton : The Kingdom of Kongo. Univ of Oxford Pr.

p. 192 obeah in Kumina

"And when a duppy [ancestral spirit] is used in undertakings known as "cutting [obeah]", "clearing [one's way to a goal]" or other "special working", the dead person's "skull, teeth, hair, or fingernails together with his grave dirt are employed in controls" ([Moore 1953,] pp. 158-60). ...

[quoted from Moore 1953, p. 160 :] "The power key for this ceremony is a crooked stick and a glass of water is placed at the centre of the circle between the drums. Answers to questions may come from the fall of the stick after it is twirled by the obeah man, from spirit transmission through water, or through visions incurred during the ceremony."

Moore 1953 = Joseph Moore : Religion of the Jamaican Negroes. PhD diss, Northwestern Univ, Evanston (IL).

pp. 192-3, 195 mayaal & mayaal-dancing

p. 192

"At the end of the eighteenth century, and at intervals during the nineteenth century (1760s, 1831-32, 1842, 1860-61), Jamaica experienced ... mass spiritual revival called ... mayaal dance, wich involved a "circular gathering or ring of devotees, surrounded by a larger group of onlookers. The gathering sometimes took place under the sacred {silk}cotton tree ... but sometimes in a yard over a spot where Obeah [was] believed to have been buried". ... adepts wore headwraps "tied in fantastical manner" and waistbands ... . Dancing involved wheeling ["giddying

p. 193

turns"] and was "accompanied by rhythmic beat of hands and feet ... leading to ... spirit possession". The onset of possession took the form of "walking 'up and down'".

"The first written documentation on mayaal indicates that it offered "invulnerability to death caused by Europeans. ..." Mayaal leaders purported to identify the spiritual source of problems and exorcise it (Schuler 1979a, 67)."

"During the seventeenth century, the cult known as Kimpasi dominated in central Koongo, while the "closely related" Nkimba cult dominated Kakoongo and Loango, and the Lemba cult was based

p. 194

north of the Zaire River. These were secret associations of an ancient date, which met regularly outside villages and towns in dark groves. Entrance to the grove involved the use of passwords, and the initiate underwent a ritual of death and revival (Hilton 1985, 26-27)."

p. 195

[quoted from Schuler 1979a, p. 66 :] "In 1831-32 Myalists assumed a leading role in the last Jamaican slave rebellion. The postslavery period saw it [mayaalism] reemerge stronger than ever ..., acquiring new converts and openly challenging Christian missionaries in the early 1840s".

"Furthermore, in mayaal, the charm {amulet} ... which could exert its force against the evil {viz., against the slavery-promoting Christian religion?} under attack {by slaves, combatting Christianity?} earned the name amba ... . [p. 352, n. 7:12 : "A possible African source could be mbiya (Ko) 'glass bead'."] It is described as "a transparent little ball with red lines about it and something blue inside" (Beckwith [1929], 32 n. 34)."

Schuler 1979a = Monica Schuler : "Myalism and African Religious Tradition in Jamaica". In :- Margaret Crahan & Franklin W. Knight (edd.) : Africa and the Caribbean : Legacies of a Link". Baltimore : John Hopkins Univ Pr. pp. 65-79.

Hilton 1985 = Anne Hilton : The Kingdom of Koongo. Oxford Univ Pr.

Beckwith 1929 = Martha Warren Beckwith : Black Roadways : a Study of Jamaican Folk Life. Chapel Hill : Univ of NC Pr. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015002677949;view=1up;seq=13

pp. 195-6, 352 European Christians who enslave Africans are regarded as thieving stealers of humans

p. 195

"Enslavement presented itself to the slaves as a type of wtichcraft. Already in seventeeth-century Loango, nocturnal witches were believed to "drag off the souls of the dead to slavery and forced labour" (Janzen 1982, 53). To Central Africans, witchcraft was

ambition, hatred or greed", in

{Ambition, hatred, and greed are characteristics peculiar to Christians, and caused by Christianity.}

p. 196

addition to "a failure to accept equality" (Vansina 1983, 86).

{/Capitalism/ is the general name of the thievery-system which is absolutely refusing to accept legal aequality of humans : chattel-slavery is one of its manifestations.}

There is oral evidence that the enslaved perceived their captors and owners as thieves, a perception that ... is absent or muted in the scribal medium which hardly reflects the views of the subaltern."

p. 352, n. 7:13

"This echoes the Trinidad Yoruba lament (Warner-Lewis 1994 144B), which begins :

"Olorun le maa gbohun re /

'Your God will hear your voice;

Ole lo laye, o laye ...

Thieves own the world ...

Oba oyinbo lo ko a wa"

The European government/king seized us and brought us here.'"

Vansina 1983 = Jan Vansina : "People of the Forest". In :- David Birmingham & Phyllis Martin (edd.) : History of Central Africa. Harlow : Longman. vol. 1, pp. 75-117.

p. 196 natural shape of the soul

"The soul should be round, like the sun,

{Human souls are also seen as sphairical by Bodish possessers of praeternatural insight.}

but witchcraft attacks may cause it to crumble at the edges (vezuka) ... . (MacGaffey 1986, 161)"

{Capitalism (including enslavement) is the main variety of such soul-destroying witchcraft; we cannot be rescued from our soul's being eroded until the hideous evil of capitalism shall have been annihilated, and every thieving capitalist-stooge soul condignly thrust (for an everlasting term) into the prison of Hell.}

MacGaffey 1986 = Wyatt MacGaffey : Religion and Society in Central Africa : the BaKongo of Central Zaire. Univ of Chicago Pr.

pp. 196-7 modes of escape from the monstrous evil of Christian-imposed capitalist enslavement : Mayaal, Lemba, and Gaan Tata

p. 196

"African ... religions like mayaal ...

p. 197

recommended themselves as

an antidote

{to Christian/capitalist enslavement of the soul},

especially since they taught that "victims can be rescued by

healers able to discover where the soul has been taken by force or negotiate its return"

{typical social duty of a shaman}

(MacGaffey 1986, 162).

Lemba was a public corporate "cult of healing, trade, and marriage relations" in the "triangular region extending from the Atlantic coast to Malebo Pool ... and from the Congo (Zaire) River northward to the Kwilu-Niari River valley" (Janzen 1982, 3). ... .

... Gaan Tata emerged among among the northern South American Maroons from the 1880s when they controlled the river traffic ... in the Guianese interior."





p. 202 "Congo pose"

"for the Haitian Pe'tro rites : "Women sometimes use a typical Congo pose, with the left hand on the hip and the right hand held poised in the air" (Courlander 1960, 131)."

Courlander 1960 = Harold Courlander : The Drum and the Hoe. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.

p. 214 women who deliberately expose their buttocks in public

"in the Nsundi region. ... The women ... now bend down and turn their posteriors toward the enemy. ... (Laman 1957, 2:161)" [p. 354, n. 8:26 : "See chapter 2, p. 46, for reference to this".]

[cap. 2, p. 46 : "the turning of the rump towards another ... is called mfingulu ya diikina (MacGaffey 1986, 59), but is is also practiced in the ... Gold Coast area as well. This gesture is well known in the Caribbean as the supreme insult on the part of women ..., and is identified in Jamaica with the female Maroon leader, Nanny, who expressed her disdain of the British forces in this symbolic way".]

{It would naturally be plainly understood that in doing this she was enticing the ordinary English soldiers to mutiny against their officers; forasmuch as, though any man will gladly press him face against any woman's buttocks, European military regulations forbid this, so that the forbiddance is a major grievance of enlisted soldiers against their own army-command and against their own government.}

pp. 215-6 medicines empowering idols include metallic-lustred beetles' wing-coverings

p. 215

"Formerly the hearts of the images contained beetles or other animals {insects, such as dragonflies} with a metallic lustre, intended to scare away the bandoki and bankuyu with their flash and glitter, but these have now been replaced by bits of mirror ..."

p. 216

(Laman 1962, 3:74). ... the nganga's outfit "was modeled, very often, on that of his nkisi, which was also intended to suggest frightening, supernatural powers" (MacGaffey 1993, 52)."

MacGaffey 1993 = Wyatt MacGaffey : "Eyes of Understanding : Kongo Minkisi". In :- Astonishment and Power. Washington (DC) : Smithsonian Institution Pr. pp. 21-103.

p. 219 priestly staves do rattle; whilest whips crackle in Rara (Rada, Arada)

"In ... the Rara band ... (Yonker 1988, 148) The major jonc carries a jonc, "a baton of wood ... covered with embossed metal and terminating in conical tips that are filled with materials that rattle".

In African rituals, rattles on priestly staffs attract spiritual presences. Thus the jonc, like the musical instruments played in the Rara band, is ... before use ... "left overnight to sleep in the cemetery ... to restore its power" (pp. 148, 150). This ceremonial is remininscent of ... One of his passes, called

a ze'clair ['lightning'] ... "involves ... the baton ... twirled ..." (p. 150). ... Rara bands ... officers ... carry long whips".

{By the >ans.ayri, thundre is often described as the the crackling of the whip of <ali.}

Yonker 1988 = Delores Yonker : "Rara in Haiti". In :- John Nunley & Judith Bettelheim (edd.) : Caribbean Festival Arts. Seattle : Univ of WA Pr & the St Louis Art Mus. pp. 147-55.

pp. 220-3 ritual fire-jumping & torch-dances

p. 220

"A ... fire-jumping ordeal is still performed in Colombia, and on the island of Bonaire, and used to take place in Curac,ao. ...

Similarly, Trinidad "Congo" dances of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by the lighting of a fire around which the people danced.

Ceremonies of the Convince or Bongo religion in Jamaica involve the presence of a fire ... (Chevannes 1995).

Even among the Windward or eastern Maroons of Jamaica, fire is an importaznt ritual element in their "Kromanti dance". They call the fire timbambu, and timbambu-sticks ... are "used in a spectacular dance which sends showers of sparks about the danceground". ... (Bilby 1981, 72)."

"Central Africa ... dances often continued "for a whole night long, ...

p. 221

the illumination being obtained by burning wisps of this grass" (Monteiro 1875, 2:137)."

"in Trinidad ... In the nineteenth century, soon after midnight ... a procession of people with torches ... was called kambule ... . ...

p. 222

Furthermore, ... kambule derives from kambula (Ko) 'procession, parade'."

"south Trinidad town of La Brea : ... 1882. ... From all sides negroes ... run towards a central point where there are other negroes who have lighted torches ... . ... They are nearly all masked or have some sort of disguise ... . (Verteuil 1984, 63-64)"

"They were called congos in northeastern and northern Brazil, and congadas in Sa~o Paulo, Goia`s, Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais (Fryer 2000, 61). In Minas Gerais, ... the dancing procession ... retinue came blacks "carrying large burning ... canes covered with silver paper" (Spix and Martius 1823-31, 468). And in ... Goia`s ..., ...

p. 223

"a bonfire was lit in front of every house" ... (Pohl 1832, 2:82)."

Bilby 1981 = Kenneth Bilby : "The Kromanti Dance of the Windward Maroons of Jamaica". NEW WEST INDIAN GUIDE 55.1-2:52-101.

Monteiro 1875 = Joachim John Monteiro : Angola and the River Congo. 2 voll. London : Macmillan.

Verteuil 1984 = Anthony de Verteuil : The Years of Revolt : Trinidad 1881-1888. Port-of-Spain : Paria.

Fryer 2000 = Peter Fryer : Rhythms of Resistance : African Musical Heritage in Brazil. London : Pluto Pr.

Spix & Martius 1823-31 = Johann von Spix & Carl Friedrich von Martius : Reise in Brasilien ... in den Jahren 1817 bis 1820 .... vol. 2. Mu:nich.

Pohl 1832 = J. E. Pohl : Reise im Innern von Brasilien. 2 voll. Mu:nich.

pp. 223-4 jonkunu

p. 223

"The sacred implications of masquerade ... to the Jamaican jonkunu ... is extensively examined in Wynter (1970). The relationship of this celebration to Central Africa, however, seems to be indicated by the identity ... between the player of the jonkunu character itself and a mayaal man from Lacovia in south-western Jamaica; ... the mayaal man "always took the cap out into the grave-yard on the night before it was to be brought out upon the road, and performed the songs and dances there anong the dead" (Beckwith [1928], 11). ... in the Nassau mountains of the westerly St Elizabeth parish in Jamaica ..., "the jangkunu house headdress ... concealed within it ... the ancestral powers of myal" (Bilby 1999, 67), and the gumbe drum which accompanies jonkunu performance "is intimately tied to local ancestral ... spirit possession ...; and ... this form of spiritual possession is still known as myal" (p. 64). The main person

p. 224

involved in the construction of the headdress is a mayaal man, and the special hut in which it is built "receives frequent visits from vigilant ancestral spirits ... some of whom may manifest themselves from time to time in the form of an animal, such as a lizard or a toad. ...", .... and ... a big gumbe (sometimes spelled gumbay) religious ceremony is held to display the headdress at certain family cemeteries, where previous jonkunu builders lie buried. The ceremony not only involves spiritual possession by the mayaal man ..., but also the feeding of ancestral spirits at family graveyards of the jonkunu antecedents."

Wynter 1970 = Silvia Wynter : "Jonkonnu in Jamaica". JAMAICA JOURNAL 4.2:34-48.

Beckwith 1928 = Martha Beckwith : Jamaica Folk-Lore. NY : MEMOIRS OF THE AMER FOLK-LORE SOC. (reprinted NY : Kraus 1969)

Bilby 1999 = Kenneth Bilby : "Gumbay, Myal, and the Great House : ... Jonkonnu in Jamaica". AFRICAN-CARIBBEAN INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA RESEARCH REVIEW 4:47-70.


Maureen Warner-Lewis : Central Africa in the Caribbean : Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures. Univ of West Indies Pr, Kingston (Jamaica), 2003.