THIS week I had promised the conclusion in a response to –Trinidadian Ramdath Jaggessar’s racist diatribe against the development heritage of Afro peoples in Trinidad and Guyana. But I will possibly do that in the future, the above subject needs to be addressed, as it revolves around the local dynamic of ‘self-contempt and the undercurrents of chronic racism’. Recently some women carried out a candle vigil around the 1763 monument and it raised some ridicule from persons in religion and nasty comments on Facebook and other social media idioms. Why? There’s no real rational reason but perhaps in one instant that they were Afro –Guyanese and the monument based on where you are in this society still needs definition, or the other, that arrogance of the self-righteous religious ego had to be fed, by condemning that which is not agreeable.
When Freddie Kissoon penned his outrageous fictions titled ‘The Buxton Conspiracy’ some years ago, he mentioned that the insurgents holding out in Buxton practised Obeah. The fact is, that it was one of the local mercenaries who were paid to go after the insurgents who when he was killed, revealed a peculiar out of the ordinary feature, he was from Linden, it was noticed that he was bare feet. I was asked by a sister from the coast after two others who came into the village with an assault team and lost their lives were also bare feet if I could explain what this meant. I explained to her that I knew that in some belief systems, bare feet are believed to connect a believer to protective powers of the earth, and I explained this to her. I also had a previous encounter with this particular experience.
Some years before I had convinced a member of a religious organisation to allow me to take pictures of one of their rituals. He got permission from a priestess and I proceeded there. Along with me was Kenton Wyatt, who had an interest as a musician, folktale researcher and teacher. I told him however that my father had always said that when you enter certain ritual places keep on your shoes, don’t test with notions that this can’t happen, or duh can’t happen, just toe the line dem old people draw. We entered the location in the Ruimveldt area and located ourselves in the western side of the building; we were alarmed at the number of people awaiting the service of this high priestess, then the service as I termed it, began to happen. Devotees eating fire, and the white of eyes only visible, I began taking photographs, and then it happened. A stout woman shouted, “Somebody in here wid deh shoes on!” She was away from us, but turned to face us, with only the white of her eyes visible. She was advancing towards us; I told Kenton: “ Time for us to leave bro,” and we were gone.
Whether spirituality occurs with hymns, drum or candle rites, like the ‘Fast’ a popular practice among most religions, the faith and dedication, is believed to arrest and channel psychic or kinetic energy into an active conduit towards results. This is an argument on and about something we do not yet quite understand, but in theory, is accepted to exist. Based on a person’s awareness and situation, they seek spiritual or mystical help, a placebo as the psychologists like to define faith systems, more so when they produce positive results, so they can place faith, God and spirit into an antiquated cabinet of past things.
But people are attracted and become connected to that mystical ambience that they can logically fit their situation into. In many cases with life’s challenges ‘faith and works’ can yield the humble inspiration of hope, where despair is overwhelming. The quick reaction to pounce on all that does not fit into one’s sacred corner of ideals and icons is in itself one of the oldest deficiencies linked to the human ego, and the forerunner of many wars and justifications for genocide and repression. The latter can be avoided by the difficult challenge to explore, two incidents have troubled me over the past years, but though I have engaged some persons from the related religious group, no plausible answer was forthcoming.
On May 24, 2006, three perished in river during ritual- then in February 3, 2015 four persons again drowned in pursuit of a related religious ritual. This is a tremendous coincidence, if that is what it was, if not, then what? Every ancient religion has had Gods. Deities, sirens and rituals by rivers, lakes and the sea and those religions are still alive, Yemanja of the orisha a Yoruba Goddess of the sea, whose worship is popular in the Latin Caribbean and Americas. Science does not now, have the means to pronounce on whether this or that belief exists because of this or that natural cause, but to any writer or folklorist, who understands that the beat of the drum can throw someone into an alternative personality, as it did to the late Jules Innis who was standing next to me that evening in West Ruimveldt, causing him to conduct a ritual dance that he could not recall after they had used water from the canal some distance away to revive him. This experience had later pronounced on me that despite the con-men and salawala hustlers, that at a lower percentage there’s something that needs shrewdly exploring, rather than with the bigotry of arrogance to loudly dismiss, what perhaps has from the dawn of our consciousness have grown around us and will not, or cannot, just depart.