Obeah is a staple of West Indian culture in the novel. Magic and superstition govern, to an extent, the actions and perceptions of the natives. Like in Part I where the former slaves completely abandon their ruthless destruction of the Cosway/Mason home, “I remembered that it was very unlucky to kill a parrot, or even to see a parrot die. They began to go then, quickly, silently” (39)…Obeah and Magic are greatly distanced from Rochester’s English disposition. Where a practitioner of Obeah might say it is something to be feared, Rochester casts it aside as a childish futility. However, he has clearly been exposed to superstition. “‘Is there a ghost, a zombi there?’ I persisted” (96). He asks this of Baptiste after the incident at the abandoned home. Upon returning home, he takes up his copy of The Glittering Coronet of Isles and reads the chapter titled “Obeah” (97). The pressures and odd happenings have made him question and doubt.Christophine, a master of Obeah herself, warns Antoinette about the dangers of a white woman playing with magic. “So you believe in that tim-tim story about obeah, you hear when you so high? All that foolishness and folly. Too besides, this is not for béké. Bad, bad trouble come when béké meddle with that” (102). Her warning is unheeded, and the love potion she subsequently gives to the Englishman is mistaken for poison. This all adds to the divisions between blacks and whites (former slaves and their former owners), between men and women, and between the natives and the English foreigners
.Obeah out of the Wide Sargasso Sea context
- Spelling variations: Obi, Obea, Obia
- “Obeah men (and sometimes women) in the Caribbean were diviners, doctors, and petitioners who specialized in finding out why things happened in daily life" (Rucker).
- “The Obeah-man (or woman) is a well established persona in the Jamaican society, with a patronage which is largely lower class” (Rucker).
- The Obeah priest who wanted to display his power to his followers was said to prepare an infusion of rum and the macerated leaves of a plant known as the Branched Calalue (Angelfire).
- Obeah can be used as a way of curing possessive states: "Possession indicates the takeover of a person’s mind and body by an external force such as a spirit, deity or ancestor. The force then controls the person’s thoughts and actions and deprives them of responsibility for these" (Incayawar).* Even today websites offer spell casting services. The California Astrology Association charges $29.00 to cast an obeah spell for such purposes as retrieving a lover, "striking it rich", and reconciliation among others. For an extra $9.00 the spell will be cast twice. They do, however, advise caution: "WARNING: Do not turn to Obeah unless your need is great. Obeah spells are too powerful to waste on trivial pursuits!"