The Myal Healer

The Myal Healer

I was in Jamaica a few weeks ago interviewing both academics and healers who are in some way affiliated with Myal or the practice of healing.

I also spent time at the African -Caribbean library there pouring over and through literature on Myal and  its evolution.

I made several discoveries, and was able to photograph some of the basic herbs used in the practice.

Tony, a RASTA Brethren, connection to the land and ancestry is undeniable.  Tony, Maroon Healer/Herbalist

Tony is a Maroon, a herbalist and a member of the Charles Town MAROON COMMUNITY.

Maroon is a Spanish word that means wild, and was referred to the enslaved Africans who ran away and formed independent communities.   There were Maroon communities all over the NEW WORLD, including in North American, particularly in South Carolina, but Jamaica is famous for two formidable Maroon communities under the leadership of siblings, Nanny who is a national heroine and lead Nanny Town in the WINDWARD area of the Island and Cudjoe aka Kojo, her brother who led Accompong in St Elizabeth.

Accompong is derived from Acheampong, a personal name among Akan-speaking people who were brought to Jamaica in the 17th century.

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Tony is a member of the Windward group, and since a young age has been studying plants for healing. He does not identify with any Myal practice,even thought this practice was popular in  the Maroon community of which he is an important member.

He, however, considers himself a herbalist and healer and spent a great deal of time pointing out to me various herbs that grow on his property and their use in various treatment.

See photos of herbs that he uses, also lush mountain range that sustained and continues to sustain this community.

Additional Bibliography:

ROOTS OF JAMAICAN CULTURE –Mervyn Alleyne (Pluto Press), 1988.

SOULD-FORCE: AFRICAN HERITAGE IN AFRO-AMERICAN RELIGION –Leonard E. Barrett (anchorPress) , 1974

JAMAICA FOLK MEDICINE: A SOURCE OF HEALING  –Arvilla Payne-Jackson & Mervyn Alleyne (Univ of the West Indies Press), 2004

THE SOCIOLOGY OF SLAVERY –Orlando Patterson (Farkeigh Dickinson Univ Press), 1967

2 Comments

  • Andrew

    Opal, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this entry on the blog today. I literally was just about to email you seeking more info on Mayal healers. I am working on a theater piece of my own and one of the characters is beginning to take on some of the characteristics of a healer or a goddess of some kind and I was going to email to see if you could be point me in a good direction. However, I see that you have already beaten me to the punch. Thank you so much for the bibliography, it will be helpful.

  • Jessica Robinson

    Opal, Thanks for sharing about your recent journey to Jamaica with us. I look forward to seeing how all of these fascinating stories weave their way into your performance!

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