Christianity is the main religion in the Caribbean. However, there are adaptations and various sects of Christianity. Pons (392) asserts that the vibrant variety of religions in the Caribbean was brought about by the existence of slaves and contracted servants. There were also other religions which were as a result of the African slaves. These were known as Creole religion and were mostly practiced on islands that belonged to French and Spanish natives. Contrary to general views, the Creole religion is not usually associated with evil spells and the sticking of pins on dolls.
Apart from Christianity and the Afro-Caribbean religions, there are also the East Indian, Muslim and Jew religions. In Trinidad and Tobago, close to a quarter of the entire population is Hindu. Research has revealed that this is the largest concentration of the Hindu across the globe. According to this paper there are a number of different religions in the Caribbean which have different ways of worshiping their supreme beings.
The arrival of the Europeans saw the introduction of their religions in the Caribbean. This was mainly Christianity and eventually variant religions to Christianity developed. The natives of Spain and France and Irish immigrants from Britain were committed Roman Catholics and by extension, they introduced the same into the Caribbean. The British introduced the protestant religion. The Dutch on the other hand introduced the catholic faith and reform beliefs from their country. When the islands were colonized by different nations the religions became mixed.
According to Caribbean guide.info (1), the influx of slaves into the region resulted into reduced growth of Christianity in the region as they brought along their own beliefs which were still made up of diverse religions. With time, the slaves who were born in this area became indoctrinated Christians. It is worth noting that when the era of slavery was brought to a stop, diversity of religions in the Caribbean emerged. It is true that Rastafarianism is a variant of Christianity in the Caribbean. (Hylton, 134).
They use the bible as their main holy book as much as its readings are different from the traditional Christian sects. The bible affects both social and political causes.
The Catholic Church was headed by bishops and cathedral chapters that were competent. The priests and also brothers were required to be morally upright. The bishops were charged with the responsibility of administering the dioceses and also offering spiritual nourishment to the congregation.
In the early days of Protestantism it was difficult to appoint the clergy though the situation picked up with time. The situation in Cuba was such that the establishment of the Spanish rule in addition to the strong Catholic Church base, the growth of Protestantism was challenged until the time for the war for independence. In the Dominican Republic, the priests supported the political movements by using the pulpits to recruit followers
This religion is also known as Creole religion. As mentioned earlier they were as a result of movement of the Africa slaves in the Caribbean region. Santeria and Vodou (pronounced as voodoo) are the most common forms of Creole religion. As slaves who mainly worked in the fields, were introduced to Christianity, they ended up developing other new religions.
The masters believed that full introduction of religion to the slaves would lead to wastage of time. They believed that the practiced would eat into the field time not knowing that the slaves went ahead to fully develop the religions by referring to various personalities as supreme beings, that is gods and goddesses. As Vodou was associated with the Haiti, Santeria was associated with Cuba. These regions were inhabited by people who spoke French and Spanish respectively.
Other islands embraced the belief in the power of witchcraft and modern healing practices. The practices by western standards were taken as offensive therefore qualified for an investigation. Santeria religion dictated that every person is born and directly associated with a certain guardian saint or Orisha.
The most popular orishas include Eleggua, Yemaya, Obatala, Oggun, Ochosi, Babalu Aye and Chango. Eleggua also referred to as Echu is the crossroads guardian. His significance is such that he is can punish those who don’t show respect to him. Before any ritual begins, he must first of all be invoked. Yemaya is considered as the motherhood goddess and queen of the seas who is prudent, warm, happy and intelligent. Obatala is taken as the one who created the earth making him the god of peace and father of all guardian saints.
Oggun is associated with war since he is in charge of all things that are made of mineral and iron.Chango represents unbridled sexuality. He is also the god of strength, thunder, lightening and virility. Ochosi is the one concerned about justice and rules over spell casters and all the hunters. Babalu Aye is the foreseer who also happens to represent sicknesses. The person is therefore expected to worship him for the rest of his or her life.
The African religions usually have a common supreme being and many deities. They had a belief that the spirits of the ancestors and the living dead played a great role in their present lives. The belief in the spiritual world meant that they also knew and respected the existence of supernatural powers.
Animal sacrifices acted as a link between the spirit and the human world. Blood of turtles, goats and roosters was a common offering. Organized dances and music were used during their various rituals. According to Gibson (98), the Creole religion has found its way in to many areas including New York due to movement of the natives of the Caribbean. (Beckford, 199). The fact that the religion is protected means that not just anyone will be willing to join.
A closer look at the Creole religion reveals that Santeria is built on the foundation of beliefs and practices of the West African tribes while Vodou is based on general beliefs of the Africans. Robinson (1) states that Vodou can be associated with magic while Santeria can be entirely associated to the belief of possession as opposed to magic and charms. Espiritismo is a combination of catholic elements, French spiiritualism and Taino beliefs. When Espiritismo and Santeria are combined they form Santerismo. Santerismo is practiced more in the outskirts of the Caribbean.
It is worth noting that Myal, Quimbois and Obeah are kinds of practices with an inclination towards healing and witchcraft. Plants were mostly used to make medicine that could heal various diseases. Olshan (1) asserts that in addition to plants, they also used flowers, herbs, roots, birds and animals to perform their rituals. The various forms of Creole had different symbols to identify their gods and saints.
East Indian religion
The people who are natives of this region have their ancestors in India. They are commonly known as Indo-Caribbean American people. The subgroups associated with this category include the Indo-Guyanese, Indo-Jamaicans and Indo-Trinidadians among others. They are known to live in moderate numbers. Hinduism as a religion is the most common among the indo-Caribbean community. They believe in reincarnation and worship gods such as Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Durga, Kali, Pavarti and Ganesh. Hinduism in Anguila comprises of people who have recently migrated from India. In Barbuda and Antigua it is made up of people who moved to the Caribbean from India including those from Pakistan.
The large population of Indians from Guyana to Barbados led to the growth of the Hinduism religion in this particular area. In Bermuda most natives of the Hindu religion came either from Sri Lanka or Tamil. Hinduism has its least concentration in Cayman Islands as compared to other areas in the Caribbean. However, the Dominican Republic has overtime experienced the growth of both Hinduism and Buddhism. According to Caribbean guide.info (1) Hinduism is arguably the second most common religion in Jamaica as much as a significant number of Hindus convert to Christianity.
The largest number of the Muslims was in English-speaking regions. Islam was brought about by contracted servants mainly from India and Indonesia. Muslims believe in Prophet Muhammad and the revelations clearly written in the Koran. They refer to their supreme being as Allah. The situation in Cuba is such that due to insufficiency of mosques, the Muslims worship in their respective homes.
In Rio de Janeiro people learnt about the Islamic religion by watching how the Muslim slaves in the area behaved. Examples of such behaviors included the continuous prayer session and neither indulging in alcohol nor eating of pork. The Muslim faith in Trinidad despite the small concentration, it is very organized. The Islamic revivals that took place in those days have been known to have had a lasting impact in the lives of many people. With times Islam was able to establish itself as a competing religion. Women covered their hair and thus referred to as las tapadas limenas. (Taylor, 121).
There are many religions in the Caribbean if not in the world. People are different in the way they worship their respective supreme beings it is not up to us to judge but to respect another person’s religion so that we can live together in the society in harmony.