Obeah: is it real? What the people say about...
by Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
February 25, 2002

The practice of obeah has been in the news recently, so we asked the man/woman in the street if they believed in obeah, whether it was good or bad, whether it was widespread and whether it should be banned. Their comments follow:

Granny - pensioner: "I don't believe in all that nonsense called obeah. Jesus is my obeah. I believe in him and that he is the strongest obeah there is. When I was 84 years old a doctor told me that I would not be able to walk because of an ailment I suffer from. I am now over 85 years and I am as fit as anyone my age should be all because of my faith in Jesus. I know there is evil and it comes in many ways but no evil can overtake you when you believe in Jesus."

R. Singh: "I don't believe in obeah but it exists. I don't know if it is good or bad but most people associate obeah with things evil. I know there is good and there is bad but I don't think that any society should tolerate evil. For people practising evil, I think there should be restrictions. I don't mind what people believe in, but there should be restrictions to people's actions when they start hurting anyone and that goes not only for obeah but for any religion whether they are Christians, Hindus or Muslims."

Pinky: "I believe God is who he says he is the Supreme and the Most High. I don't know if obeah exists. As far as I am concerned obeah is a scam to get money and people's possessions from them. When God blesses you with something, he doesn't take it back. A lot of people believe in obeah. I think it is more widespread than many of us would like to believe and it is practised secretly... Unfortunately, too, many people in high society believe in the practice of obeah and encourage it. They feel they could gain wealth through obeah. It would be a problem to ban obeah. You just can't say ban it, because it will impinge on people's religious beliefs."

Terrence aka `Beardman': "Spiritualism, obeahism, spiritism, Kali Mai are all faiths or religions. Even the Christians, Hindus and Muslims hold rituals rooted in customs and traditions. However, my own belief is that when you call on the name of Jesus, then and only then, you are clearly identifying with God and basic reality. Go to the seawalls on a Sunday morning and what do you see? Some of the best fruits offered to appease a god for some favour, such as money, wealth even a lover. Some even open the bible and point it in a particular geographical region to bring them wealth. These practices are not limited to any one particular race. The practice is widespread. If persons' well being is going to be interfered with and lives lost because of these practices I believe that government should put some controls in place so that lives are not lost. However, government cannot stop people's beliefs, probably, only their actions."

Lalo carpenter: "There is good and there is bad. I've heard about obeah or witchcraft. Which Guyanese has not heard about it? It is practised not only in Guyana but all over the world. But the problem comes about when you believe in it. I don't. As a Hindu, I believe in the teachings of my religion. Obeah for some people is a religion and it is their belief. I don't think that you should suppress people's beliefs. Some people feel that they could get by, using obeah to hasten the process of getting rich instead of turning to God and following the scriptures. However, if someone goes against the country's laws in practising any religion then they should be penalised and suffer the consequences. People are successful when they free up themselves and think positively. If you think negatively then you wouldn't be successful."

Seeram Persaud: "Obeah exists. I think that the practice of obeah may be used for good and bad purposes. The bad part of obeah is when you use the art to hurt someone. That is the problem I should think. Personally I don't believe in it because of my own religious beliefs but then you just can't dismiss it if there are persons practising it. You just know it is there. I am not sure that it is widespread. You can't ban it but once people break the country's laws then the law should take its course. That goes for members of any religion."

Sahadeo Sukhnandan teacher: "I am a Hindu and my religion says there is good and bad. I believe in my religion. A bad or evil person we say is possessed by demons. I have heard of obeah and it exists but I don't know how widespread it is. I've never known anyone practising it. But I don't believe in it because I believe in my church's teachings. If the practice of obeah is harmful then I think there should be controls in place to ensure that everything is done within the law. I also think that when people are practising obeah they should keep their belief to themselves."

Golin Roberts housewife: "I am a Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ as my God and Saviour. I hear about obeah but I don't believe it exists. Obeah as far as I am concerned, exists only in peoples' minds. There is good and there is bad but I would not put down the bad things to obeah. As a matter of fact I don't even know what obeah is. It exists only as a word to me. It is distant to me because I put the Lord above all things. If I need direction I pray for guidance and comfort. There is evil about and if I feel evil things are affecting me I pray to God Almighty and I feel relieved knowing that good always gets the better over evil. Evil doesn't like prayers."

David Hatton pensioner: "Obeah is a money-making exercise for those who say they have `the gift.' They con good people out of their money. If only people can believe that they can do things for themselves by using their own will power they will find the success and wealth they go to the obeah man to get for them. Obeah is more widespread than I'd like to believe. It is more bad than good. It would not be easy to control the practice of obeah because it is a custom practised by every race in Guyana only that is called by some other name. People at all levels of society believe in it. Even those upholding the law. But my belief is that if you are a Christian, Hindu or Muslim just stick to the good of your religion. There is no place in eternity for the bad but only damnation. In the end there is no way that evil will triumph over good."

Cecilia James teacher: "I was brought up in the Catholic Church and there is where my belief lies. But no one would admit to taking part in rituals associated with obeah. They do it in private, secretly. Obeah is a money making exercise. If it wasn't those practising it wouldn't do it. Believe me... If I recall correctly the woman was found guilty and she paid the ultimate price with her life. I believe that if you need help you talk to God. You can walk and talk to God at any time in your quiet moments. God helps those who help themselves."