How does Obeah work? Well let's say your best friend just landed a new job, made out with a total babe and is about to put down a deposit for a sweet apartment. You might take a trip down to the Obeah Man to get some of that luck for yourself. The Obeah Man will instruct you to go get the right kind of oils and sprays, perform some sort of ceremony and send you on your way. It's like playing the lottery and someone's gonna get paid, so it might as well be you.
Unlike Voodoo, Obeah has a practical place in the medicine cabinet of many Jamaicans. Right next to your foot cream, there might be a bottle of “Evil Away Spray” or a love potion. It's not a surprise then that those who dabble in the Afro-Caribbean religion's white magic aren't particularly forthcoming about it. In August 2011, an angry mob of Jamaicans killed an Obeah Man by stoning him to death. So practitioners will call themselves Science Men or ministers but hardly ever just straight up Obeah Men, cause it might get 'em killed. Obeah is for real.
That realness became evident as Natalia and I cruised through Jamaica, slaloming the MINI Roadster around massive potholes and political rallies that were like highly amplified block parties. Jamaicans are joyously loud, but they're hush hush about Obeah, even if they know where to find it.
Our first stop in Jamaica was the notoriously violent Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston. So a visit to an Obeah man for protection might be a safe bet, like an extra lock on your door. Whether it’s the spells he casts or the money you pay, you might be spared the occasional robbery or stabbing.
There's a store in Tivoli Gardens that sells all of the material goods for Obeah's occult ceremonies. Oils, sprays, candles, amulets, potions and more. Natalia discovered a particularly hilarious candle that apparently guards against infidelity. Curiously, these products are all labeled with modern packaging. Contemporary consumer culture meets ancient superstitions. The store owner, Neil, showed us around while more than a few customers bought Obeah goods. Check out this and other bonus content on MINI Facebook.
After we loaded up with Obeah supplies, we drove into the interior of the island to find Joseph, a fabled and storied Obeah sorcerer referred to us by Neil at the shop. This dude was irrepressible. He sees angels and demons in the trees. Joseph was a self-taught mystic whose philosophy was cobbled together like an encyclopedia of the occult. Tarot, Kabbalah, Reiki, Ayurveda you name it. It was hard to get a succinct answer from the dude. Though he showed us some of his less-than-stellar levitation tricks and warned us about seeing “a demon dressed in a white headscarf.”
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We were left with more questions about Obeah, our Mission incomplete. So as we drove through each town, we asked as many locals as we could where to find another Obeah man. Silence. No one would talk on camera, but eventually we were whispered directions to a house at the end of a tiny cracked road down a deep ravine and guarded by a dismembered and spooky plastic doll.
There an Obeah woman emerged from a large house built into the hill. She cursed us out for calling what she practiced Obeah and aggressively sent us on our way.
But — guess what color headscarf she was wearing? White.
Watch the full episode here, and get ready for an odd, disorienting and slightly spooky to ALL THE WRONG PLACES: OBEAH MAGIC MAN.