Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A form of religious belief of African origin, practiced in some parts of the West Indies, Jamaica, and nearby tropical America, involving sorcery.
  • n. An object, charm, or fetish used in the practice of this religion.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A form of folk magic, medicine or witchcraft originating in Africa and practiced in parts of the Caribbean.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Same as obi.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (West Indies) followers of a religious system involving witchcraft and sorcery
  • n. a religious belief of African origin involving witchcraft and sorcery; practiced in parts of the West Indies and tropical Americas

Etymologies

Black and West Indian English, of West African origin; akin to Efik ubio, anything noxious, something put in the ground to cause sickness or death, bad omen.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Origin uncertain. Apparently from a Caribbean creole, probably ultimately from a West African language. The OED points to Igbo abià ("knowledge, wisdom"), obìa ("doctor, healer"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • British West Indies under that of "obeah," and which sometimes lead even to human sacrifices.

    Santo Domingo A Country with a Future

  • It is believed the items were part of an "obeah" ritual done by a criminal defendant, who hoped for supernatural intervention that his court case would be dismissed.

    Stabroek News

  • If Hinds was living in an area of the Caribbean where old folklore is alive and well, he might have thought that he was the target of an 'obeah' curse.

    CaribbeanCricket.com

  • The slave owners were encouraged to insist on conversion of the slaves to Christianity as a way of de-popularizing the obeah religion.

    Official Slave | SciFi, Fantasy & Horror Collectibles

  • Does the inclusion of obeah as a real force in 18th century novels about slavery make them horror, or fantasy, or are the authors using an element of the spooky unknown in some sort of larger context?

    Genres of Fiction, and Why They Aren’t Discrete Entities

  • They were Jamaican ghosts who could be summoned from the grave and made to do the bidding of an obeah man.

    The Season of Risks

  • Crack was still the kinder-chanting sing-song thing you avoided on the sidewalk -- in order not to break your Momma's back -- and not an extended enchanted evening of white-rocked witchcraft inculcated by a dangerously ambitious Bad Lieutenant Colonel and teenage obeah men carrying divination rods that resembled AR-15's.

    Barry Michael Cooper: Michael Jackson Agonistes: An American Pop'era In Three Acts

  • A woman who claimed she could help another get pregnant by using obeah and took over $1.5 million in cash an jewellery to do so was yesterday jailed for one year when she appeared at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate's Court.

    Archive 2008-02-01

  • Magistrate Fazil Azeez also fined Sharon Lall, who pleaded guilty to a charge of practicing obeah to defraud, $20,000.

    'Obeah' Woman's $Million Con

  • Thus, those who practised obeah, ‘necromancy’ or engaged in supernatural practices, are encouraged to continue to prey on their victims with impunity as they enrich themselves with unjust earnings.

    Archive 2008-06-01

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