It's time to admit it. Most of us believe in the monster under the bed.

Not some bug-eyed hairy thing with banana-sized teeth, but something that's in the mind's eye, that we all see differently.

And it's all pervadingthe politicians consulting spiritual advisers to choose the election date or cast out bad from the official residence or to order that the weather-vane snake be removed from the Red House and replaced with a dove, to the farmer with his blue "blight" bottle among the crop and a bloodletting sacrifice to ensure a good harvest.

The Works Ministry diverting an entire Cipero river around a feared Silk Cotton tree.

The parents believe their belly-aching child got "bad eye" because some jealous person "put something on them".

The wife of a politician visiting a shaman in Marabella (only last week) hoping for the spell that could defeat his enemies.

Don't point at the cemetery. Don't look back after the symbolic "feeding" of the dead at the prayer service.

Walk backwards through the door after attending the funeral because you may invite the dead back home. Or worse, invite one of the virtual X-men army of local supernatural thingsSocouyant, La Diablesse, Papa Bois, Douen, Lagahoo, Gumbo Glisse.

For to be possessed by one of these other worldly creatures is to be forced to have to visit an equally scary being with the power to undo the evil or make it worseThe Obeahman (or woman).

Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall they are not. But the sorcerymagic both good and bad for which they are credited could have come from the pages of the Harry Potter books.

Not that you will find any local obeahman living in anything resembling a castle, but judging from the number of classified advertisements in the newspapers, (curiously most appear in the Express) the practicioners of the darks arts are doing good business. Lovers need uniting Call Madame Theresa.

Want to pass that exam Prof Ali for immediate results.

Sickness Court cases Casting out evil spiritsThere is a St Flemin Healing School.

Of course, there is an origin to all of this. The old religion of the Africans brought to the West Indies in the hearts and minds of slaves and kept alive, in different forms, in Jamaica and Guyana and Haiti and elsewhere.

In Trinidad, it was famed Obeahman Papa Neza (Samuel Ebenezer Elliot (1901-1969) who made withcraft feared and Moruga its home to this day.

Born of African American descent, he attended the village primary school to seventh standard. His forefathers came to Moruga as free slaves from America.

They arrived in Trinidad in 1812 as "merikins" immigrants who fought as soldiers on the side of the British during the war of American Independence.

Papa Neza was 32-years-old when his alleged powers were revealed.

He had four children - two boys and two girls - and every year he would host four feastsJune, August, September and from Old Years' to New Years'. It is said that people travelled from as far as Venezuela to attend the St Michael's feast (St Michael was known for driving out evil spirits) which was celebrated in September.

Papa Neza and his many followers would sacrifice goats, fowl and someone might bring a cow. The meat would then be cooked and distributed to the villagers.

Many feared the man, who could get a woman married and pregnant in days. But sometimes hundreds would line the street outside his home to get a dose of his infamous bush medicine.

And Papa Neza, they say, never took money as payment.

Whatever money was left behind by "a satisfied client" was used to buy things for the next feast.

Papa Neza fell ill and had one of his legs amputated. He died at the San Fernando General Hospital on January 8, 1969.

He was buried at the Third Company Baptist Church cemetery in Lengua.

Long after his death historians discovered a turine (a large jar for mixing concoctions), morocoy shell, flambeaux, various sizes of clay bottles, a large black Bible, a cornmill and several items that can be found in an alchemist shop.

There are hundreds of people, men and women, who claim to have the "gift". A good 70 per cent are bogus, say obeah experts.

His legacy lives largethe big towns nearest Moruga, Princes Town and Rio Claro both have pharmacies that contain the usual drugs, but also a shelf upon which all manner of powder and grains and liquids can be found.

Researched by

Louis B Homer

Tomorrow:

Mother KaliGood or evil

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