A Study of Creole and Neo-African Religions in the Caribbean




Obeah and Myal


Literature and Creole Religion

For Further Study


We left somewhere

A life we never found,

Customs and gods that are not born again…

                        -Derek Walcott, “Laventille”


            The above excerpt from Derek Walcott’s famous poem expresses a longing for a connection with the past, with African roots, and with spirituality that is often unavailable for the African slave and the victim of oppression.  If one subscribes to the notion that religious faith (or lack thereof) is one of the most fundamental aspects of a person’s identity, the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not the colonized peoples of the Caribbean have any real access to a true process of identity-making, since their African faiths were persecuted, made illegal, and in many instances have died out due to forced conversions to Christianity.  The purpose of this project is to take a look at Neo-African and Creole faiths in the Caribbean since, as Margarite Fernandez-Omos and Lizbeth Paravisini-Gerbert assert, “The coercion and resistance, acculturation and appropriation that typify the Caribbean experience are most evident in the Creolization of African based religious beliefs and practices in the slave societies of the New World” (2)1.  Since religion is so closely tied to Caribbean identity, it is important to begin an exploration into the nature of Creole and Neo-African faiths, most importantly when these faiths display a potential for resistance to white colonizers and oppression. 

            This project is by no means comprehensive, but seeks only to begin an exploration into the diverse and multi-faceted nature of Creole religions and their relationship to race, gender, age, locality, and nationality.  Here you will find an overview of a few of the most prominent Creole religious traditions and an analysis of their function in one of the sites of culture making—literature.  I hope that this project will lead to further research questions, as well as further exploration of the media that use Creole faiths as tools to combat imperialism and to search for identity such as film, visual art, music, and other kinds of literature. 



**Painting:  Obeah in Trance II (1984) from series "Romare Bearden, Rituals of the Obeah" by Romare Bearden.

1 Fernandez-Omos Margarite and Lizbeth Paravisini-Gerbert (eds).  Sacred Possessions:  Vodou, Santería, Obeah, and the Caribbean. 

New Brunswick:  Rutgers University Press.  1997.