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Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ iii ] A M aroon group found in Surinam, one of the six clans of the so-called ‘bush negroes’. This term distinguishes the bush negroes from the ‘town’ African slaves who did not run away from their owners. The territory in which the Saramakkas found themselves in the 18th century was very inhospitable. This made pursuit of them difficult, but it also made their own lives very hazardous, and there was great suffering: even the river near which they settled was contaminated, calling for the performance of powerful rituals in the name of a great oracle-deity to purify the water. They protected their villages as carefully as they conserved their African beliefs. They believed in the power of their ancestors, and their ancestors’ O beah. They believed that protective A mulets rendered them safe against bullets. As their communities developed and stabilized, so the somewhat fractured institutions and kinship networks of their early settlements appear to have developed less coercive and less centralized institutions. The possibility of supernatural punishment replaced that of harsh guerrilla leaders. By the 19th century it appears that highly individual cults had given way to more communally expressed religious observations. In the 20th century ‘town’ negroes had spirits which were of African origin and were called winti. Leba is of the greatest significance: he is the guardian ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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