Using October To Highlight Caribbean Spirituality

Using October To Highlight Caribbean Spirituality October 1, 2018

Over the month of October, I’m going to be tweeting about gods and spirits from the Caribbean over on my Twitter account. I want to highlight gods, spirits, and monsters from all over the world and it’s partially for that reason I’ve always been able to get along with people from a wide range of religious traditions and conceptions of spirituality. I’m hoping that as I do this I can learn more myself about other religions and worldviews aside from the ones I already know about. Which is why the deities and spirits I’ll be talking about over the month of October aren’t the usual monsters and spirits I’ve covered in the past which have for the most part been Central and South American beings not ones from the Caribbean.

I'd love to carve this pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern with Guabancex's face. That'd be a fun way to celebrate October.
I’d love to carve this pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern with Guabancex’s face. That’d be a fun way to celebrate October.

Why October?

I quite like the month of October. During October a lot of people realize that people will be sharing things and stories that make them uncomfortable and that frighten people. That’s appropriate for the deities, spirits, and monsters that the people of the Caribbean believed and in some cases still believe in. These are not like the supernatural creatures that many western and/or Abrahamic monotheists are comfortable with. If you’re reading this and you’re someone who views these beings as real and alive even if its in the lense of Christianity where other gods exist but aren’t “true gods” these are not beings that live on distinct ends of a moral spectrum, they are living beings with moods that shift from day to day and from hour to hour. Their behavior in the eyes of the people who believe in them reflects that. Sometimes these creatures can be cooperative and kind and other times they won’t be. Just like how the weather in October can range from day to day and some days it can be quite warm and just a few days later it’ll start to snow. This is as far as I know fairly common in religions outside of today’s popular monotheistic belief systems.

What are the supernatural beings of the Caribbean like?

They are interesting that’s for sure. Let’s take a look at Guabancex. For those of you who don’t know Guabancex is the zemi of chaos, transformation, and destruction. Guabancex is an easy spirit to provoke and also an easy spirit to mischaracterize.

In the eyes of the Taino and most likely anyone who believes in Guabancex as a living being, she is the being that is at least partially responsible for hurricanes. I personally don’t really like this characterization of her because it focuses on an innately destructive way of achieving change and because I’ve read more than a few accounts that focus more of their time here than anywhere else. You see in the old beliefs when someone or a group of some people angered this spirit she’d get together with a few of her companions and by working together they’d wipe up a horrible storm and use it to punish those that had angered her. A lot of the literature, both formal and informal, I’ve read on her suggest that people believed when she wasn’t satisfied with what was given to her she’d act and punish those she viewed as having slighted her. It’s not really fair to associate her uniquely with hurricanes and other deadly storms though because if she reigns over chaos and transformation she could also be associated with the internet and with elections both of which are chaotic and transform societies. And both of which don’t have to do harm or cause destruction to do so but definitely can and have in the past. Guabancex is also associated with other natural disasters and things that cause natural disasters like volcanos and earthquakes  I’ve read a handful of pieces of literature about Guabancex, but if you want to read one of my favorites click here.

Another being whose followers can be found in the Caribbean is Mami Wata, a being that I’ve seen described in various ways (including in the plural form, as a sort of collective term for a body of water spirits) but generally as a water deity worshipped either on her own or venerated as part of Voodoo practices. She can be respected and adored for granting people wealth and other generally positive things or she can be disliked and distrusted due to people blaming her for the power of the tide to take lives and cause misfortune in other ways. In some ways these ideas about her reflect attitudes religions in the Caribbean tend to have about gods and other supernatural beings: they can grant people power and status, but they can also cause (or at least be blamed for) disaster and tragedy. If you want to read about Mami Wata click here and here.

Want to see more of this throughout October?

Well if you want to see more of this throughout this very spooky month follow me on Twitter! I wrote a series of tweets about a loa, Erzulir Dantor who belongs to the family of spirits known as the Petro Loa, fiery and warlike spirits. Accounts exist that say Erzulir Dantor was a warrior whose tongue was ripped out during the Haitian Revolution which if you ask me is metal as heck. To read more about her click here and here.

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