Obeah–A Sorcerous Ossuary, by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is a detail exploration of Obeah, a little known form of Afro-Caribbean sorcery. Focusing on spirit trafficking and existing in the shadow of occult literature Obeah is a mystery to many. Frisvold’s work is a firsthand account of his experiences in this primal and living form of sorcery. Well researched and respectful of the tradition he is studying Frisvold creates a colorful and exciting look at Obeah.
Like Hoodoo or Voudon Obeah is a syncretic mix of European Occult practices and African folk traditions. there is an illusion of safety originating from the Christian Saints and references. There also exist a link between Obeah and the Sango Baptists Church. One anecdote that reinforces this link is found early in the book when Frisvold discusses his Obeah teacher’s urging that Firsvold give up on trying to work Obeah. His teacher a nameless man from Trinidad was both and Obeah-man and a Sango Baptist who tired to scare Firvold away with dark fairy tales concerning meetings with the Devil in the form of a colorful and fearsome character known as Papa Bones. The aforementioned safety is soon stripped away as Firsvold delves deeper into the practices and beliefs of Obeah.
Before we go further is must be said that Obeah is impossible to codify. According to Frisvold there are no standards and practices. Western magicians used to lodge traditions may be duped into thinking the Angel and saints the frequent Obeah rituals makes this path safe. While many of the printed rituals mention the buzzwords of Western occcult practice (most notably the Legemegaton, Kabbala, and various books of the Bible these are soon juxtaposed with the primal nature of a lonely night in the deep woods. Rather than the ritualized format fo the lodge tradition Obeah is rife with primal imagery. Obeah practitioners ( Obis) are those who can stand alone in the woods at night willing to be torn apart in the search for more power. Fire burns in their blood as they confront spirits and angry ghosts alone. Obeah is experiential, a path of spirit trafficking for those who are willing to trade safety for wonder.
The false veneer of Christian safety is peeled away once Frisvold explains the ritual work. Rather than the loving arms of Christ or the bright light of YHVH Obeahmen can find fierce deities whose practices require flensing the flesh from unwary sorcerers, Anima Sola is on such spirit being. The daughter of Papa Bones and the Lady of the Moon, Anima Sola’s personality, purpose, and shape changes depending on which Zodiac sign the Moon is in. In Leo she is a wooden girl burring in ecstasy in a pyre of hell fire. In Libra is is drenched in blood from her various stigmata standing in a field of … you guessed it hellfire. All of the spiritual encounters Frisvold describes feature similar horrors. This is a tradition that mires itself in the visceral world. Obeah seems not concerned with spiritual advancement, but with mastery of the physical world.
In conclusions Obeah is an adventure into the heart of a powerful Caribbean tradition. Frisvold’s work is well researched and the academics are balanced by his firsthand account of imitations and ritual work. Readers will find this book to be a look into unexplored territory for many magicians. The only short fall of this work is that there is not more of it. Despite its 80 some pages, this work is dense with visuals and information. Perhaps this book will light a fire in the blood of future Obeahmen. A great read on a fascinating subject.
If this work sparks you interest be sure to listen to this podcast with Frisvold concerning the book. http://deeper-down-the-rabbit-hole.com/podcasts/Episode110-Nicholaj-de-Mattos-Frisvold-Obeah.mp3