Balm Yard Perspectives

By: Leah Brown  

African-derived religions characteristically concern themselves with the realization of optimum wellbeing and prosperity for its participants and the wider community and not with issues of individual salvation and the after-life, as do most major religions. Their communo-theistic conception of the divine embodies deities who exist for the sole purpose of ordering matters in the human realm, with a mandate to create, provide, protect, and punish human transgression. Healing, then, is viewed as a matter of religious necessity amongst their participants. African Caribbean practitioners view religion as ebo, as a “work” or duty, a life of service and deed that does not reflect a belief in a particular religious institution or set of doctrines. Women play a dominant role in these healing cults. In this paper I define “balm” as any healing rites, rituals or practices held or performed by ritual healers in African derived religions in Jamaica and Trinidad. In its commonly used context, balm is used to describe the folk healing tradition in Jamaica that is closely related to Revivalism. I have elected to examine specifically the Revivalist and Kumina religions in Jamaica and the Spiritual Baptist and Orisa religions in Trinidad, looking at some of the practices they hold in common, the specific roles of women in these faiths and their levels of authority vis-à-vis the religions’ alignment with Christian philosophy.

Orisa, Ritual, Healing, Women, African-derived, Caribbean
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Leah Brown

Assistant Professor of Voice, Academy for the Performing Arts, University of Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago