Obeah (sometimes spelled "Obi") is a term used in the West Indies to refer to folk
magic, sorcery, and religious practices derived from Central African and West
African origins. As such, Obeah is similar to Palo, Voodoo, Santeria, rootwork,
and hoodoo. Obeah is practiced in Suriname, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands,
Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, Belize, the Bahamas and Barbados.
Obeah is associated with both black and white magic, charms, luck, and with
mysticism in general. In some Caribbean nations Obeah refers to African
diasporic folk religions with admixtures such as Hindu puja; in other areas,
Christians may include elements of Obeah in their religion—Obeah is associated
with the Spiritual Baptist church—and the word Obeah, although not the practice
of Obeah, appears in a text associated with the religion of Thelema.
Obeah also came to mean any physical object, such as a talisman or charm, that
was used for evil magical purposes. However, despite its fearsome reputation,
Obeah, like any other form of folk religion and folk magic, contains many traditions
for healing, helping, and bringing about luck in love and money.
Obeah within Thelema
Main article: Obeah and Wanga
The term Obeah appears in conjunction with the term Wanga in The Book of the
Law, the central sacred text of Thelema. The text, written by Aleister Crowley in
1904, reads, "Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of
the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach".
Interpreting this line, Crowley writes:
The obeah is the magick of the Secret Light with special reference to acts; the
wanga is the verbal or mental correspondence of the same. [...] The "obeah"
being the acts, and the "wanga" the words, proper to Magick, the two cover the
whole world of external expression. Crowley was given to reinterpreting magical
terms from other traditions, as is evident with Obeah, an Afro-Caribbean term that
refers to Congo-derived folk magic.
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