About

 

About “Nature and Supernatural Nature”

The focus of this blog is Jamaican plant lore, especially that which was associated with the spirit world, recorded by the American anthropologist and folklorist Martha Warren Beckwith in the 1920s. The idea arose out of my PhD thesis, “Shadow Worlds and “Superstitions”: An Analysis of Martha Warren Beckwith’s Writings on Jamaican Folk Religion, 1919-1929”. I had intended to include a chapter on spiritual healing but due to time constraints, “Spiritual Healing” never made it to the final thesis. However, during the course of my research for this chapter I came across lots of lore associating Jamaican flora with the spirit world. This, combined with my fascination for the general folklore surrounding plants, has materialised in the form of “Nature and Supernatural Nature”.

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About me

I’m a UK-based independent researcher with interests in Jamaican folk religions, ethnobotany, Caribbean History and early Boasian female anthropologists.

 

About my sources

Because my PhD thesis examined Jamaican folk religion in the early twentieth century, a number of the sources I use for this blog are by writers from the late post-emancipation era, a period spanning from the 1880s to the end of the 1930s. Whilst acknowledging that some changes have occurred in religious practice and belief over the ensuing years, some continuities remain.

I believe that the writings by these early ethnographers can make an important contribution to understandings of the history of African-Jamaican folk religions. They were collecting information at a time when there was a growing interest in Jamaican folk lore and folk life. In a number of cases, they have compiled very detailed records of folk practices and spiritual beliefs, some of which have since died out. However, it is important to bear in mind that it was also a time when African-Jamaican folk religions were disparaged and their followers looked down upon and this is reflected in some of these texts.

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “About

    • Thanks for your nice comment, Eric. It is a fascinating topic.

      A lot of the sources I use are from the late 19 and early 20th centuries and can be a bit tricky to get hold of. A good modern overview is Sylvester Ayre’s, “Bush Doctor: Jamaica and the Caribbean’s Almost Forgotten Folklore and Remedies” (2002). On the folk medicine side Arvilla Payne-Jackson, and Mervyn C. Alleyne’s, “Jamaican Folk Medicine: A Source of Healing” (2004) is pretty comprehensive.

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  1. Hi there, I just wanted to say a quick thank you for writing these posts. I’m UK based and I write, and I’m also quarter Jamaican. I’ve never known much about my heritage, but now I’m starting to explore and research my heritage, and my next story idea is/will be partly inspired by Jamaican folklore and myth, and this blog has been a wonderful, wonderful research resource for that! So thank you very much.

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    • Thanks for you lovely comments, Lydia. I don’t know if this is of any use but the blog is very much based on Martha Warren Beckwith’s writings on African-Jamaican folk cultures. Her key work was Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaican Folklife and you can view it online here:
      https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015002677949&view=image&seq=11

      It was written in the 1920s but has been very influential on modern research as she covered some topics overlooked by other commentators at the time. All the best with your story.

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      • Hi, no problem, this blog is such an amazing space! Aw thank you very much- that might be really helpful and I wasn’t aware it was accessible online! Many thanks 🙂

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