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Psychology and Obeah: Psycho-Spiritual Illness and Jamaican Mysticism

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Author: Racquel K Millwood
Past research suggests perceptions surrounding emotional distress in certain regions was linked to cultural lore, namely that which inferred the influence of the paranormal to conceive human suffering. Specifically, in the Caribbean, it was known where numinous experiences were paramount to the lives of natives there was also a tendency to ascribe phenomenological explanations of emotional distress, as opposed to psychological explanations. This research will attempt to understand the way Jamaican immigrants conceptualize psycho-spiritual illness in the socio-cultural context of Obeah, a West African religious tradition sharing an affinity with Vodou. In particular, this research will examine Jamaican immigrants' knowledge of, or experience with Obeah and how they construe psycho-spiritual illness in light of indigenous beliefs.

Table of Contents Copyright ii Signature Page iii Acknowledgements iv Abstract v List of Tables ix List of Figures x CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1 Spirituality in Jamaica 1 Carnival 3 The Invisible and Visible World 4 Premise of Research 6 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 7 History of Jamaica 7 History of Nanny 8 History of Mental Health in Jamaica 10 Obeah Versus Vodou 12 Obeah and Mental Illness 16 Vodou Diagnosis 19 Acculturation and Stress 21 Help Seeking 25 Rationale 28 vi

CHAPTER 3: METHOD 30 Research Philosophy 30 Narrative Analysis 30 Participants 31 Method 32 Procedure 33 Data Analysis 34 Self of the Researcher 34 CHAPTER 4: RESULTS 35 Immigration and Acculturation 36 Mental Illness 40 Obeah 44 Psycho-Spiritual Illness 46 Treatment 49 CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION 51 Limitations 54 Future Directions 56 REFERENCES 58 APPENDIX A: INFORMED CONSENT 61 APPENDIX B: DEMOGRAPHICS SURVEY 63 APPENDIX C: INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 65 APPENDIX D: TRANSCRIPTIONS 67 vii


List of Tables Table 1: Participant Characteristics 100 Table 2: Descriptive Statistics of Participants' Religious Affiliation and Spiritual Consultation 101 Table 3: Descriptive Statistics of Participants' Number of Years Living Abroad, Citizenship Status, and Level of Adaptation 102 IX

List of Figures Figure 1: Age Frequency Distribution Histogram 104 Figure 2: Gender Bar Diagram 104 Figure 3: Level of Education Pie Chart 105 Figure 4: Religious Affiliation Pie Chart 105 Figure 5: Spiritual Consultation Bar Diagram 106 Figure 6: Number of Years Living Abroad Frequency Distribution Histogram 106 Figure 7: Citizenship Status Bar Diagram 107 Figure 8: Level of Adaptation Pie Chart 107 x

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Over the past few years the United States has experienced a steady influx of Jamaican immigrants, many having decided to immigrate based on determinants such as attaining personal, professional, educational, and financial advancement (Murphy & Mahalingam, 2006). Typically, such aspirations were supported by a strong sense of will, identity, and solidarity with the surrounding African American and West Indian communities (Lalonde & Cameron, 1993). Each of the prior mentioned factors also serves as buffers, which sustained Jamaican immigrants during the acculturation process (Walker, 2007; Walker, Wingate, Obasi, & Joiner, 2008). Spirituality in Jamaica Traditionally speaking, pride, faith, and self-efficacy to triumph danger, uncertainty, and stagnation were grounded in a Jamaican's fundamental spiritual beliefs (McDermott, 2002; Meance, 2006). The ties between church and state in Jamaica were evident and well known. Religious rhetoric influenced the people and structure of Jamaican society (McDermott, 2002). In addition, hope was paramount in Jamaica, a country striving to stabilize its economy despite its tumultuous past. 1

Historically, beseeching the gods for help, wisdom, and protection through belief was derived from the early West African religious tradition in Jamaica, Obeah. It was well documented during the African Diaspora that various tribes in Jamaica possessing unique languages reconciled their inability to communicate linguistically via shared indigenous practices (Ito & Deren, 1985; Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). In Jamaica, Obeah was the manifestation of beliefs and rituals rooted in West African customs. According to Fernandez-Olmos and Paravisini- Gebert (2003), Obeah is "a set of hybrid or creolized beliefs dependent on ritual invocation, fetishes, and charms [incorporating] two very distinct categories of practice," such as creating enchantments and formulating herbal remedies (p. 131). Moreover, Obeah facilitated the slave revolts in Jamaica. For example, the freedom fighter known as Nanny of the Maroons asserted her tactfulness and courage during Jamaica's liberation movement through the use of Obeah (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). There was a silent reverence given to Obeah men and women in Jamaican society. This ambivalence was the result of stigma commonly transmitted by way of Christian missionaries (Boursiquot, 2001; Jean-Pierre, 2005; Meance, 2006). For example, in Haiti, where Vodou has recently been recognized as an official religion, its practice was previously shrouded in the divinity of Catholicism (Meance, 2006). Missionary work within this country and Jamaica facilitated the stigmatization of the practice of African religions. 2

However, Obeah men and women were comparable to clergy in that they were widely regarded as possessing some divine wisdom to alleviate psycho-spiritual illness (Boursiquot, 2001; Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002; Gomez & Gomez, 1985; Meance, 2006). Hence, despite the dominance of Christianity in Jamaican society, Obeah continued to be a cultural mainstay. Carnival Furthermore, Jamaica's tradition of carnival personified lore rooted in indigenous beliefs. Reparation, rejuvenation, and emancipation were the precepts behind this celebration, which revered heritage, and reconciled history through gay displays of optimism (Carnival Power, retrieved November 25, 2008). For example, the Arawaks, the early inhabitants of Jamaica adhered to animistic beliefs or the belief in the presence of a "spiritual essence" or zemes in all things occurring in nature (Morrish, 1982). The Arawaks also storied their knowledge of existence based on these beliefs, such as stories explaining creation. Zemes, the "indwelling spirits" in all nature served as conduits maintaining contact between the gods and man. Additionally, zemes were omnipresent in the lives of the Arawaks and punished wrongdoing with disease and illness. The Shaman, who was responsible for the health and welfare of his villagers, organized festivals in attempts to appease the gods with song, dance, and food offerings (Morrish, 1982). According to Morrish (1982), "During festivals the Arawaks dressed up in all their colorful finery, including shells, feathers, and beads, and painted themselves in symbolic and ritualistic ways" (p. 6). 3

Also, during the festivities the Shaman acted as "intermediary," aligning the will of the gods to benefit villagers and restore balance, health, and harmony (Morrish, 1982). Today carnival captivates symbolism found in indigenous practices through costumes and artifacts. Moreover, wherever Africans have settled and constituted a society following the Diaspora, carnival is celebrated. Similarly, wherever there has been widespread Caribbean immigration to North American territories and Europe, carnival is celebrated (Carnival Power, retrieved November 25, 2008). The custom is regarded as an integral component of ethno-cultural identity and demonstrates the continued importance of indigenous cultural and spiritual practices. The interplay of history, religion, and culture influenced Jamaican immigrants' unique perception of human suffering. As a result, providing mental health to this immigrant population might prove difficult (Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002). Their worldview and perceptions are intricate and different from Western tradition (Meance, 2006). Acculturative stress, in terms of experiencing discrimination and linguistic barriers also deter the wellbeing of Jamaican immigrants (Jean-Pierre, 2005; Walker, 2007). Past research suggests clinicians must first understand cultural context in order to capture the Jamaican immigrants' worldview and provide comprehensive services to this group (Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002; Meance, 2006). The Invisible and Visible World In the West Indies reality was contextualized in terms of what was visible and what was invisible or the 'spirit world' (Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002). 4

The unseen world was comprised of spirits, both good and malevolent who intervened to help, protect, and chastise. In Christianity, such was parallel to the relationship between God and man. Furthermore, according to Desrosiers and St. Fleurose (2002), belief in the unseen world tended to foster superstitions, and the perception magic can be used to entice mischief. In examining the perception of psycho-spiritual illness in the context of Haitian culture, Desrosiers and St. Fleurose (2002) found most Haitians believed psycho-spiritual illness was owed to the work of "Bokos" or sorcerers. According to Desrosiers and St. Fleurose (2002), "Mental illness is seen by the vast majority of Haitians as caused by supernatural forces," (p. 513). Moreover, Haitians tended to typecast individuals suffering from psycho-spiritual illness given its disabling affect (Claybourne & Craven, 1988). Additionally, Meance (2006) noted Haitians tended to underutilize psychotherapy, preferring more culturally concordant systems of care to treat psycho- spiritual illness. In Jamaica, perceptions surrounding psycho-spiritual illness supported a supernatural etiology. Treatment was sought via folk remedies, which had a spiritual basis to counter evil forces. According to McDermott (2002), "Folk healing as a treatment intervention has been utilized for decades [on] the [island] to treat mental or physical disturbance. In Jamaica, the infesting demons that account for mental illness are called 'duppies' or 'jumbies,'" (p. 25). Likewise, the Arawaks believed all ailments were the result of a foreign presence in the body caused by a zeme. 5

To heal patients suffering from aberrations in their normal functioning, Shamans performed an exorcism if the patient was believed to be possessed; less intense remedies included the blowing of tobacco smoke over the body (Morrish, 1982). Concomitantly, a stigmatized view of mental illness in Jamaica tended to impede Jamaicans' help-seeking behaviors (McDermott, 2002). Premise of Research Preexisting bodies of research dissecting West Indian spirituality, conceptualizing perceptions about mental health, treatment, and healing, gave primary focus to Haiti and Vodou culture. This current study contributes to the emerging body of literature in this area; however, this research will attempt to understand the way Jamaican immigrants construe psycho-spiritual illness given their knowledge of, or experience with Obeah. The literature review will first examine the historical groundings of Obeah in Jamaican society to emphasize its significance as a composite of Jamaican culture. Then, a review of the literature on folk beliefs and the mental health setting will follow to describe its implication on the client-in-therapy dynamics. Finally, to examine this phenomenon, this researcher conducted individual interviews with Jamaican immigrant participants. The aim was to gain participants' view of Obeah, perception of the etiology and nature of psycho-spiritual illness, and the nature of health seeking patterns. Implications for health care provision in the Jamaican immigrant community will be discussed. 6

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW History of Jamaica According to the Government of Jamaica (Retrieved November 2, 2008), Jamaica was first introduced to the rest of the world in 1494 via Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. The island was annexed in the names of Columbus' benefactors, the King and Queen of Spain, and endured Spanish colonial rule for 146 years beginning in 1509. Jamaica's first inhabitants were the Arawaks or Tainos, an indigenous population of hunters and gatherers, originating from South America, who were forced into slave labor by the Spaniards. However, they were quickly extinguished as a result of the Spaniards brutality and their low immunity to foreign infectious diseases. The fatalities were reportedly numbered at sixty thousand. Following the extinguishment of the Arawaks, African slaves were brought to the island to fill their stead. In 1655, British troops invaded the island seeking to capture the Spanish colony after failed attempts in Santo Domingo. The British were successful in restraining the Spaniards who were allied with their slaves. The Spanish were forced to leave the island. Their slaves and slave descendants, known as the Maroons, were freed consequentially and fled into Jamaica's mountainous ranges to escape British enslavement. In 1657 and 1658, attacks on the British led by Don Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi of Spain were subdued on each occasion with the help of Maroon allied forces. However, 1663 marked the end of the Maroon's allegiance with the British. 7

Additionally, an unsuccessful British raid against the Maroons led by Juan de Bolas, a former Maroon, briefly enacted the restoration of peace through treaty (Government of Jamaica, retrieved November 2, 2008). In the 1670's when sugar became a cash crop, its harvest instigated the increase of slave labor on the island. The new wave of African slaves was transported by way of the Middle Passage. Beginning in England goods were brought to Africa in exchange for slave labor. The slaves were then transported to Jamaica. This cohort of African slaves originated predominantly from the Gold Coast and was from the Asante tribe, a proud, noble, strong, and courageous people (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). In 1690, a slave rebellion took place in the parish of Clarendon. The rebels were overtaken and their leaders executed. Those who managed to escape fled into the mountainous territory of the Maroons. It has been well documented the new generation of Maroons were fierce warriors, embodying the true spirit of the Asante tribesmen. For example, one outstanding Maroon warrior recognized as one of Jamaica's national heroes was "Granny Nanny" (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). History of Nanny Nanny descended from the Asante tribe, where women were as honored and skilled in the art of war as the men. Nanny arrived in Jamaica as a slave during the slave upheavals. 8

"Rebel towns" or the settlements of runaway slaves were widespread on the island. The Maroon settlements in particular were the most fortified. Fleeing slaves typically sought the safety of these villages, because the Maroons were well adept at navigating Jamaica's terrain (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). Nanny headed the Windward Maroons occupying the East in Portland. She established Nanny town, which was comprised of the Blue Mountain ranges and the surrounding rebel villages. The area was cultivated into an Asante like society, making Nanny town impenetrable by British troops. Watchmen placed strategically among the foothills alerted the village of British invasion by blowing an Abeng, a horn commonly used in Obeah rituals. Hence, the act was also symbolic of entreating the spirit world for guidance and protection (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). Nanny's leadership tactics also entailed survival. She was instrumental in developing and maneuvering strategies, which maintained the Maroons' freedom and increased their manpower. Her skills were attributed to the powers of Obeah. It was believed the mystery and mysticism shrouding this early tradition was no match for British artillery (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). Jamaicans admire the combined wit, diligence, and mastery as demonstrated by Nanny, which marked the beginning of a revolution. In particular, Nanny's seemingly supernatural abilities cultivated the emphasis on self-reliance through undying spirit and will, and belief in divine intervention from a higher power to install justice, reward, and punish (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). 9

History of Mental Health in Jamaica The history of mental health in Jamaica was instigated by the need for social reform following slavery. The civil disobedience led by Samuel Sharpe, another national hero, against plantation owners prompting the Christmas rebellion in 1831 was regarded as the last major social upheaval prior to the passage of the law which granted Jamaicans "emancipation and apprenticeship" in 1834 (Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, retrieved November 2, 2008). However, social unrest continued well into the 19th century and "influenced [Jamaica's] socio-political climate," (McDermott, 2002, p. 12). Additionally, prior to 1834 advocates for slavery sought to secure their wealth by maintaining their political power (McDermott, 2002). According to McDermott (2002), "As apprentices, the former slaves were now responsible for their [own] mental health care needs, which were often ignored due to their meager wages," (p. 13). Following the passage of the law, which granted Jamaicans full freedom in 1838, social unrest waged forward as the political climate limited the rights of former slaves and slave descendants who demanded social reform, in terms of having fair access to health care and increased wages (McDermott, 2002). The brutality of slavery such as kinship separation, hard labor, and bearing witness to the consequences met by those escaping bondage "indicated that many individuals had to endure a combination of severe psychological stress and mental duress" while going against Jamaica's adversarial government as free men (McDermott, 2002, p. 13). 10

Consequently, it was amidst this socio-political backdrop that Lieutenant Governor Edward Eyre built the first lunatic asylum in 1863 (McDermott, 2002). The former Jamaican Lunatic Asylum was a reformative landmark, which served the role of imprisoning rebel rousers and former slaves suffering from "mental illness," (McDermott, 2002). Furthermore, the Lunatic Asylum Act of 1873 was passed to thwart a seemingly emerging national mental health dilemma. The Lunatic Asylum Act of 1873 also pardoned colonists of the responsibilities of improving the emotional welfare of former slaves through benefits, given the legislation advocated for "the institutionalization of mentally ill Jamaicans," (McDermott, 2002, p. 14). According to McDermott (2002), "The legacy of the slave era was a mental health policy that either provided the slaves with no treatment at all, or had them incarcerated in local jails, workhouses, or almshouses, or allowed them to be abandoned by plantation owners" (p. 14). In addition, the Lunatic Asylum Act imposed the use of law enforcement and the judicial system to assess whether an individual's emotional instability warranted institutionalization. In 1863, Dr. Lewis Bowerbank, an Englishman recognized for commencing the reformation of Jamaica's mental healthcare system, worked to establish quality care for the mentally ill. Dr. Bowerbank's efforts entreated the former British Commission on Lunacy to create a new medical facility staffed with a proficient psychiatrist. 11

Additionally, Dr. Bowerbank pushed for the British Colonial Office to actively expedite the quality and efficiency with which other healthcare facilities operated (McDermott, 2002). The 1990's brought about the need to reevaluate, on a governmental level, Jamaica's mental health care system in terms of quality, access, and the adequacy of service delivered. According to McDermott (2002), Jamaica's mental healthcare system has been shortsighted and inefficient in providing care to the growing needs of those suffering from emotional distress, "In particular, mental health services have failed to offer assistance to the mentally unstable, except where their symptoms warranted hospitalization" (p. 17). Jamaica has, however, attempted to improve island wide perceptions of the former Jamaican Lunatic Asylum by renaming it after the requited American mental health care facility, Bellevue Hospital. However, the social stigma surrounding this facility still remains (McDermott, 2002). Obeah Versus Vodou Comparatively, Obeah as a mechanism for psycho-spiritual illness promoted a stigmatized view of mental illness. The following captures some of the fundamental givens of Obeah as grounded in Vodou. However, the two systems of belief differ based on Obeah's syncretism to Vodou; in addition, Obeah lacked the systemic structure of organized practice (Fernandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003). 12

According to Meance (2006), Vodou is "a system of magic that may include sacrifice, divination, and conjuring" (p. 8). Additionally devotion was facilitated through Vodou priests (Houngans) or priestesses (Mambos), who further demonstrated their skills via curative potions and other herbal remedies. According to Meance (2006), "Vodou has an affinity with many other religions and mythologies" (p. 7). For example, it is known in parts of the Caribbean and Latin America as Candomble, Santeria, or Espiritismo; and it is known in Jamaica as Obeah. The underlying premise of Vodou maintained that both the seen and the unseen world were integrative aspects of society. In particular, families inherited their ancestral spirits, which serve to guide and protect members. According to Simpson (1978), Vodou established ethnic pride and identity among its followers, as well as group solidarity. In addition, according to Michel (1996), the precept of Vodou was balancing misalignments within the universe to create natural serenity between the visible and invisible world, and forces of nature. Likewise, Meance (2006) reported Vodou was a "practical religion," which centered on strengthening one's sense of protection, prosperity, justice, and self-efficacy. Vodou philosophy, much like Christianity, maintained the belief in a pre-ordained system of order, which governed the roles, actions, and perception of all human beings, and was mediated through unseen forces. In Vodou lore, the presence of such forces can be experienced through possession. The manifestation of "Iwas" or gods in the human experience is a consistent interaction, changing in its depth and quality over time (Meance, 2006). 13

The craft of Obayifo or Obeye, meaning sorcerer or witch respectively, could be traced to its Asante roots (Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003). Concomitantly, Obeah as it became known in Jamaica was transplanted into the culture by way of slaves and slave descendants originating from the Gold Coast. Obeah was noted as sharing similar qualities with Vodou and Santeria, which incorporated group worship. However, the craft of Obeah was customarily dispensed individually during consultations (Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003; Morrish, 1982). Obeah had the distinctive dual components of creating enchantments for self- protection and the protection of loved ones, prosperity, luck, and retribution, as well as possessing knowledge of the medicinal properties of flora and fauna. Obeah was regarded as an indigenous set of principles rooted in a conglomeration of West African practices. It was not an organized shared set of beliefs such as Vodou and Santeria (Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003; Morrish, 1982). Furthermore, according to Femandez-Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert (2003), "Obeah as a set of secret ritual geared to bring about desired effects or actions and promote healing, is thought to have provided the slave population with at least an illusion of autonomy, as well as a familiar method of social control" (p. 132). The practice of Obeah was feared by plantation owners and was outlawed as a result. Many slave revolts were organized surrounding the belief that Obeah enchantments and rituals protected slaves going up against their armed oppressors (Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003; Morrish, 1982). 14

For example, the Easter Rebellion of 1760 in Jamaica was led by a former slave known as Tacky, a self-proclaimed Obeah man who has been mythologized for his invincibility against British ammunition. Tacky organized slaves and covered them with a special powder, which gave them supernatural abilities (Government of Jamaica, retrieved November 2, 2008; Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003; Morrish, 1982). Additionally, many unexplained deaths and illnesses, which befell slave masters, were suspected as resulting from Obeah charms (Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003; Morrish, 1982). The restraints placed on Obeah forced its practice to go underground. Moreover, according to Femandez-Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert (2003), Obeah, though animistic, is not "centered on a community of deities" (p. 132). Obeah men and women also possessed inherent power passed down generationally and revealed through prophetic dreams and visions. Knowledge of Obeah could also be learned through one's conversion to the craft. In-depth knowledge required self-discovery and experience with the medicinal aspects of alchemy, botany, and zoology following one year of solitude in the wilderness to hone one's skills (Femandez-Olmos & Paravisini-Gebert, 2003). Obeah men and women did not wear distinctive clothing. However, it was noted they carried a 'utility belt' of sorts, which held knives and scissors. Seemingly, such utensils came in handy while scavenging for ingredients for elixirs and natural remedies. Also, the dwellings of Obeah men and women were detectable by a black flag with a red horizontal cross typically hung and displayed on rooftops (Morrish, 1982). 15

Obeah and Mental Health Past research suggests folk practices such as Obeah gave language to and subsequently shaped perceptions of illness and illness etiology (Snowden, 1999). For example, people of African descent are likely to conceive symptoms of psycho-spiritual illness in terms of folk idiom transmitted inter-generationally (Snowden, 1999). Additionally, people of African descent adhered to a cultural frame of understanding the nature and etiology of illness (Jean-Pierre, 2005). For example, people of African descent commonly ascribed somatic and non-medical descriptors of symptoms (Miranda, Siddique, Belin, & Kohn-Wood, 2005; Snowden, 1999). It was thought these vague descriptors acknowledged emotional distress, which was only understood based on an indigenous model of reference (Snowden, 1999). Snowden (1999) also noted women of African descent in particular were more likely to endorse the utility of folk remedies. Likewise, Gomez and Gomez (1985) conceptualized the ethnic unconscious, which characterized an aspect of shared cultural identity. According to Gomez and Gomez (1985), the individual unconscious was unique and guided by culture and experience. Thus, upon developing a "psycho-pathological condition," an individual might "invent" language to describe their symptoms (Gomez & Gomez, 1985, p. 383). However, culture bound syndromes related to the ethnic unconscious or shared inherent set of principles "[could] be explained by means of the knowledge of cultural values, norms, expectations, and belief systems" (Gomez & Gomez, 1985, p. 384). 16

Moreover, according to Schein (1991), culture is "the sum total of what a given group has learned as a group.. .usually embodied in a set of shared, basic underlying assumptions that are no longer conscious, but are taken for granted as the way the world is" (p. 705). Additionally, Jean-Pierre (2005) agreed that the fundamental systems, which organize a society, including culture and religion, factored into the socialization process of individuals within a particular cultural context. As a result, spirituality and tradition influenced the way in which individuals construed their reality. Understanding the structure of cultural value systems allows us to grasp how worldviews are developed. For example, religion, an organized value system shared by individuals with similar beliefs was one frame of reference in which to define self, other, and context. Religion as a component of culture had a similar impact of shaping individuals' interpretation of lived experiences, attitudes, "and [played] a significant role in individuals' ideas about illness etiology and psychological wellbeing" (Jean-Pierre, 2005, p. 16). Research has shown religiosity instilled a sense of self-efficacy, which resulted in more positive representations of self. A study conducted by Morrison and Thornton (1999) examined the parallels between religiosity and perceptions of the nature and etiology of mental illness from three religious traditions. Citing similarities in their fundamental principles, Morton and Thornton (1999) examined Vodou, Slave religion, and Protestantism and found that in each religion, mental illness was externalized and reframed as the recompense for transgression. 17

From this perspective believers were more enlightened to seek complementary methods of treatment such as consulting a priest, herbalist, or spiritualist. Similarly, Jamaicans perceive mental illness as the result of supernatural causes. Hence, Obeah, which accessed the invisible world, was the relevant solution to treat psycho-spiritual illness (Casimir & Bibb, 1996; Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002; McDermott, 2002; Meance, 2006). Spirituality has been a definitive core for African-Americans and Afro-Caribbean immigrants. African belief systems maintained within both groups differed significantly from Western based religion. In particular, Afro-Caribbean immigrants held fast to beliefs in divinity and the supernatural. According to Jean-Pierre (2005), adherence to these African religious principles "significantly influences these individuals' perceptions of illness, especially, psychopathology" (p. 20). According to Meance (2006), Haitians enacted a particular pattern of first consulting Vodou following the onset of emotional distress. Western modalities of care were considered only after traditional systems of care were exhausted. In her research study, Meance (2006) eloquently demonstrated parallels between psychotherapy and the therapeutic implications of Vodou. She outlined the intake process for the afflicted or family representative and defined diagnostic categories according to Haitian folk idiom. The process of consulting a Houngan or Mambo was comparative to consulting a psychotherapist. Upon the first visit, an intake assessment interview was administered to formulate hypotheses surrounding the nature and etiology of illness. 18

The generation of theories relevant to illness etiology was understood as the infusion of divine intervention from the spirit world. Vodou Diagnosis In her study, Meance (2006) identified three categories of Vodou diagnosis, denoting their consistency with disorders found in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. The first diagnosis she identified was giyon and a variation of giyon called dyok. Giyon was characterized by nervousness, lethargy, and ego fragility. Criterion stipulated for this diagnosis was parallel to the Western diagnosis of depression. Treatment of giyon consisted of elevating the self-esteem of the afflicted by externalizing the problem. Other remedies for giyon included reinforcing protective barriers for the afflicted through use of elixirs, protective ornaments, and personal and environmental cleansing. Dyok, or evil eye, was characterized as exhibiting difficulties in attention and concentration, and displaying carelessness as a result of being impacted by the negative energy of others. Treatment for dyok consisted of helping the afflicted regain balance. Additionally, it was noted dyok bared similarity to the concept ofmal de ojo, known in Mexican tradition (Jean-Pierre, 2003). The second diagnosis Meance identified was "Iwa kenbe" or psycho-spiritual illness consequent to past misdeeds and exacted by ancestral forces. According to Meance (2006), the presentation of Iwa kenbe was comparable to that of "phobias, hysteria, and overtly paranoid delusions of persecution" (p. 17). 19

Full document contains 118 pages
Abstract: Past research suggests perceptions surrounding emotional distress in certain regions was linked to cultural lore, namely that which inferred the influence of the paranormal to conceive human suffering. Specifically, in the Caribbean, it was known where numinous experiences were paramount to the lives of natives there was also a tendency to ascribe phenomenological explanations of emotional distress, as opposed to psychological explanations. This research will attempt to understand the way Jamaican immigrants conceptualize psycho-spiritual illness in the socio-cultural context of Obeah, a West African religious tradition sharing an affinity with Vodou. In particular, this research will examine Jamaican immigrants' knowledge of, or experience with Obeah and how they construe psycho-spiritual illness in light of indigenous beliefs.