Garifuna [Carib immigrants in Belize]

p. 8 terminology




placatory ritual


dance with chanted accompaniment


dance by medium at dugu




spirit-helpers (familiars) {cf. /RUwaH./ ‘spirit’ (Strong’s 7307)}


diagnostic se’ance conducted by a medium


malevolent aspect of the ancestors


benevolent aspect of the ancestors






ritual for nourishing the dead with food-offerings

Strong’s = Complete Dictionary of Bible Words.

p. 11 historical origin

They originated from "indigenous Island Carib ... communities in north-eastern St. Vincent. The Island Caribs called themselves karifuna or kalinago; ... [now pronounced as] Garifuna or Garinagu."

{If the etymon of /Carib/ be /KALiB/, then we may relate [the <ibri^ name /KALeB/ ‘hound’ (Strong’s 3612) with "the first mention of the Caribs as people with dogs’ snouts." (CIP—"FC")}

CIP—"FC" =

pp. 16-18 cases of spirit-possession requiring a curing-caerimony

p. 16

[one case :] "When the time came it was she who dreamed those ancestors; she dreamt that they were coming after her into the hospital. It was in the hospital that they (the ancestors) let me know that it was they who were upon her. ...

p. 17

Well, I went to a spiritualist there. ... Well, then I went to my grandfather (i.e. to consult a spirit medium for the spirit medium’s spirit helper, "my grandfather", to advise on a course of action). ... Well, then we prepared in haste to give (the ancestors) what they wanted. Well, when we had finished the dugu, how pleased my ancestors were with what they had received!"


[another case :] "Well, it was as if I weren’t in the world : ... as if I were in space ... . . I had to take a walking stick so that I knew I was setting myself down on the sand ... . ... I dreamt and a woman came to me in a dream ... .

p. 18

Then I flew out of my dream, I jumped up ... . This women [the same one as in the dream] was around me, so I was telling them, "Here she is, here she is!" but nobody could see her. ... [The woman who had undergone this dream and this vision] subsequently consulted a medium, and her kinsfolk assisted her with the preparations for the dugu which was required. [She] says she would have died as a result of her disbelief in the ancestors; since the dugu she has been in perfect health. [Her] request for cassava beer (hiu {the initial component of the compound word /HIU-ruha/}), ... is consumed virtually exclusively at dugu".

pp. 19-20 diagnosis by spirit-helpers

p. 19

"The spirit medium – buyai -- ... it is her possession by spirit helpers (hiuruha) which makes her a buyai ... . ... The buyai, then, is one possessed by hiuruha, the spirits of the mediums of the past. ... The medium’s possession by spirit helpers enables her to differentiate ... illnesses ... caused by the malevolence of ancestral spirits. In fact it is believed to be the spirit helpers themselves who, in their petulant vices, communicate diagnoses to the afflicted

p. 20

in a seance (arairaguni, "descension [of the spirits"]) held either in a cult house (dabuyaba) or a domestic house. ... Where, however, the spirit helpers determine that the ancestors are responsible for an illness, the afflicted are informed that one or more ancestors requires a ritual placation."

pp. 20-23, 29-32 visitations to woman by spirits : strange effects on woman from her proximity to a human corpse (indicative of praedilection to become a buyai); and of the incapacity of a candle to be ignited (indicative of the presence of a spirit-helper); and of visitations to the same woman by spirits -- all these events prior to her becoming a buyai (ritual spirit-medium)

p. 20

"The visionary sequences the medium experienced" : "The apparition of the young girl ... speaks to her of the offering tables (madudu) used by the Island Caribs to present gifts to the spirits; the spirit helper, D, stamps on the ground at his departure, as did the Island Carib mediums at their seances, and the medium sees a land populated by persons dressed ... as the Island Carib are remembered. Eventually the medium ... accepts her spirit helpers and in doing so her heart is put back into place. Her cure is her acceptance of traditional religious culture, of which she is now the leading advocate and practitioner."

p. 21

[autobiographical account :] "But while the doctor was working on me {so, this could qualify as a "near-death experience"} I went {in a dream} to a place where there was a strange glare – orange-coloured. All the glare there was orange; it was a pretty colour, but I didn’t know where I was." [After waking from that dream, events of some days later :] "Suddenly that night – that was the first time I saw that man. {actually, a spectre, a spirit-helper} ... The man came then, he came to me. When she reached me he said to me, "... Go! So that you can be healed! Buy 13," he said to me. {Thus, she learned her personal "lucky number"?} .. But when he left I felt as if I was rising above the ground. Then I called and ... I told ..., "... Someone just spoke to me in Garifuna; he told me I was to buy 13 and go home." ... "It must have been a spirit ... – the funerals always pass here." ...

p. 22

[She returned from Belize in a truck :] "There was the coffin with [a human corpse] in it, in the truck. ... Let no one tell you (a medium [buyai]) shouldn’t see a dead body, but you must know those herbs with which to bathe. The reason that a medium can’t see a dead body is because ... it will make you sick. It is not because you don’t want to see the dead but because you’re allergic; it will make you ill. If you don’t know which medicine is made for you to bathe, ... it’s harmful to you. Then I went with this body. ... I was so short of breath; ... but I didn’t realize that it was because that body was there. ...

p. 23

As I took the cassava bread to put in my mouth, my jaws locked. ... I sat there and I couldn’t say anything ... . ... Since I used to deal {to do divinations} with cards, I took the cards and performed, but the cards were all red. There was no sickness nor sorcery. ... But afterwards, when I was with ... (the spirit helper) he told me that it was on that day that he first went to my house ... . So when he went to visit ... he found me there lighting a candle to a dangerous saint. When he saw me he ... loved me, but ... the candle didn’t light."

p. 29

"Because seeing is part of believing – what I have seen I have believed. ... I jumped up and ran to ... the mortuary. On my way ... I saw the same man {actually, a spectre, her spirit-helper} I had seen in Belize ... . He said, "... I have come for you." He walked ahead of me and I followed him ... . ... When I became conscious I found myself under a bed. ... That’s where the cult house is right now.

p. 30

... this (side of my body) is dead. {She was then numb, temporarily paralyzed, on one side of her body.} ... I tried to crawl ..., but it was as if my foot was buried – I couldn’t move. ...

p. 31

Then he (the spirit helper) said to me, "I will stamp my foot on the ground ... . I am leaving. Do the same thing; follow me," he said to me. ... Then he stamped his foot and left. When I stamped, it remained (caught) in the hole. When I looked yonder after him I saw across from Dangriga an extra mountain ... . ... D came in crossed scarves. That is the time he told me his name. ... He said, "I am D. I am from Cheweche (near Livingston, Guatemala). ..." ... He washed my feet in the sea. When he took the path I noticed it led to the cult house. ... As we reached, D continued to sing; he stamped and he was gone."

p. 32

"the spirit helpers were with me at that moment. ... When we reached the opening of the lagoon I saw twelve men, six on one side, six on the other, leaving a space between them.... When I became conscious of my surroundings, I was in the depths of the lagoon – they had thrown me into the sea. When the time came for them to raise me from the depths ... . And when the hiuruha raised me, I touched the bottom and stood up. When D called the diyubariuna song when they took me from the depths to the heights ... ... I saw the clouds at the same level as my eyelashes."

pp. 33-34 formal retreat of the same woman to become a buyai : being instructed by the spirits (hiuruha) themselves {by hearing their voices praeternaturally?}

p. 33

"everything in the dubai is covered with white sheets, including the altar. ... A special bath is prepared ... . After you bathe, you receive holy water and buwe (fragrant tobacco smoke). ... Before you enter the dubai your hair is plaited ... . You stay for one month in the gule, in that house; fifteen days in and fifteen days out. ...

There will be another medium with you, but not in the dubai; you will be in one section, she in another. She will visit you occasionally. If she comes when the hiuruha are with you, you can’t speak to her, nor she to you; you cannot speak to anyone ... . This thing is strange to you. ... everything the hiuruha tell you to do, you do it, because you are afraid of them. Then they will teach you everything and show you what to do – the songs for this, the songs for that. ... when they arrive, they sing it for you, then they call for you to sing it. ...

p. 34

There is no food; you remain without food ... . ... After you’ve learnt everything, then you can come out. {Apparently, the spirits teach to the apprentice-initiate whatever lore that the established medium hath suggested to them for them to so teach.} When you leave the dubai you practice what you have learned."

pp. 35-36 ‘trance’ & ‘death’; crop grown for dugu; construction of cult-house

p. 35

"The Garifuna term ... for possession trance, auehani, is virtually homonymous with the word for death, aueni."


"Cassava was planted in preparation for the dugu, and a medium consulted, but for the nine months that followed, during which the cassava was maturing, the ancestors visited ... again only to give ... an adugurahani song."

p. 36

"the construction of a new cult house was begun in prepartion for the dugu, to the accompaniment of drums".

pp. 42-45 dugu; approach from the sea; mali

p. 42

"The purpose of the rite is to placate (amaliha) the ancestors, who are thought to have afflicted their descendants, and hence to rmove the cause of the affliction. A performance of dugu takes the better part of a week".

"the ancestors journey from sairi {cf. mt. /S`e<IR/ ‘satyr’}, the afterworld of luxuriant manioc gardens, and ... enter the cult house through the doorways, and are referred to as ahari {cf. />AHRo^n/, or else />AH.eR/} – the dead in their benevolent aspect.

On the other hand, they are drawn into the cult house from its mud floor; in this aspect the dead are gubida – malevolent.

... dugu transforms the dead from their malevolent to their benevolent aspect : from gubida, associated with the physical decomposition of the grave site, to ahari, associated with the air".

"In the villages the cult house is constructed on the beach, its main entrance facing eastward across the Caribbean ... . Af first light, as the rite begins, fishing crews, composed of both men and women, circle offshore in their dories in readiness for their ceremonial entry. The crews, adorned with dead-dresses of palm fronds

p. 43

and vines, have come from the cayes, whence they bring ... crab as offerings for the ancestors, but their arrival also signals that of the ancestors, who accompany them on their journey."

"the mali (placation) dance, during which the ancestors make their transition from the cult house floor, focuses on and revolves around the central point of the floor where ... a mount of earth, termed "the heart of the dugu", was constructed. ... But this central mound ... was ... shaped in the manner of a coffin ... . ... It is from the heart-centre ... that the ancestors make their transition, into the body of the cult house and into the bodies of the dancers. ...

In preparation for the mali, the medium bathes her gourd rattles (sisira) {cf. /SISRA>/} with raw rum and, entering the main hall from her sanctuary, announces the name of the ancestor to receive the mali. The heart-drummer takes up the dance’s pulsating

p. 44

rhythm and, as the dancers chant in accompaniment, the medium moves to face the three drummers at the centre of the cult house. As the dancers chant, "It is silent", the singing ceases and the medium bends forward and down to shake her gourd rattles close to the heart drum, which has also been lowered to the floor, just above the ground at the centre of the house. The medium then gestures upward with her rattles momentarily, before lowering them again to the centre point. this sequence is repeated as the dance rotates through the cardinal points".

p. 45

"The central point of the cult house ... comprised ... a mound of earth termed the "heart of the dugu" (lanigi dugu), and ... it was coffin-shaped (kai tigaburi gahun). The mound was thus an analogue for, or model of the grave, and the voices of the ancestors are believed to emanate from this point. Garinagu state that in their malevolent aspect as gubida – the aspect of the dead which causes affliction – the ancestors are strongly associated with ... the grave ... .

The medium’s gourd rattles are analogues for the human head (for the medium must make a rattle stand on its handle in order to revive a woman too deeply entranced). Hence the upward gesture made by the medium with her rattles is a signal for the ancestral spirits to rise up from the mud floor of the cult house, associated with the grave. (This upward gesturing is strikingly similar to that made by the Catholic priest over the grave at a burial, as he recites, "May the Lord ... raise up his body on the last day.") Drumming is explicitly associated with life, "the clamour of the earth", and the drums are believed to attract spirits. ... the term for the central drum, "heart drum", suggests that the rhythms symbolize the heartbeat. ... So the dugu brings the ancestors from ... sairi and transforms them from malevolents to benevolent, from gubida to ahari." {Perhaps, instead, the intent of the dance is to subordinate the will of the gubida to the will of the ahari.}

p. 51 "Garifuna ritual characteristically exhibiting a strong sense of humour".

p. 51

[ritual jokes about the ahari being unable to enter on account of wrong drumming by the drummers, with a joking threat to beat the drummers : "using the power of the spirit helpers to threaten the drum leader into line."] " ‘The drumming is wrong. The ahari are frustrated (would want to dance but can’t).’ ‘I will beat you’.

p. 52

‘the drumming is wrong. The ahari can’t enter. They linger outside. ... The ahari we expected cannot enter.’ "

Byron Foster : Heart Drum : Spirit Possession in the Garifuna Communities of Belize. 2nd edn. Cubola Productions, Belize, 1994.

etymologies of /DUGU/



ancestors’ hearts are MELTED by it,

/naTaK/ ‘melt’ (Strong’s 5413), /hitTUK/ ‘melted’ (Strong’s 2046)

so that the sponsor is RELEASEd from afflictions

Maori /TUKU/ ‘release’