The Village Obeah Woman by Verdanci Benta

[2006 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]

No sensible student from Bath Hope Estate dared to take the shortcut through Gigi’s yard to or from school. Any foolhardy student who defied that well-known unwritten village law would most certainly fall asleep during class, drop out of school or end up pregnant if it is a girl child.

As my granny told us, nobody knew Gigi’s village of origin or her age. Only that she had moved to the village when it was still a sugarcane plantation populated by wattle and daub houses with Massa Joe Moore’s Buff on the hill where the New Beginnings Church of Christ now stands.

However, Gigi’s strange behaviour, her frequent trip overseas reportedly to Guadeloupe, her early morning walk to her ground in the hills and her attraction to cats and little children earned her the reputation of being dark. 

So when John-Joe’s family moved in next to Gigi, Brawler, the village conduct-maker, took it upon herself to warn John-Joe’s mother about Gigi’s doings. It was a Sunday morning about ten when John-Joe’s mother stopped by the lone village shop to change a hundred dollar bill to make change for her church offering.

“Excuse me Misses, I notice you are new to the village so I am giving you a little warning about your next-door neighbour, Gigi. She dabble inna iniquity. Don’t let your son walk in her yard. She keep children down in school,” Brawler declared in her best English to impress the newcomer.

“Pardon, me,” replied John-Joe’s mother combatively, as she brandished like a sword from her handbag, a huge bible, “This has the remedy for any obeah!”

Brawler, mouth half opened, was for once, at a loss for words.

“OK, ahrrright…..mmmmee sarree fu badda you”, she stammered as she hurriedly left the shop without buying what she had come for. Every other newcomer had heeded the village’s warning but this one was different.

For the next few weeks the village watched and waited for something sinister to happen to either John-Joe or his mother, as they had befriended Gigi.

“Wha sweet inna goat mout’ sour in ee battom,” I overheard my Granny telling Miss Ruby as they spoke in hushed tones at the Sunday morning market at Moore’s Corner.

As the weeks turned into months strange things started happening in Bath Hope Estate.

First, Miss Ruby’s grandson, Bobo, broke his right arm during a school’s walkathon the week before he would have written his exams.

Not long after, Brawler caught a stroke, rendering her unable to speak properly. The rumour was that something terrified her on a late night rendezvous with a strange man, who had raised the alarm about her misfortune. 

Meanwhile the villagers watched Gigi’s every move. When she journeyed to her ground in the wee hours of the morning grown men and even children would deck the path with certain evil-warding plants and paraphernalia, laying in wait to witness her demise.

Gigi never even flinched, as she would routinely walk over those traps. 

John-Joe’s mother had by then gained a reputation for being a prayer warrior. She preached sermonettes at church and was called upon to pray for the sick and evil possessed souls. “ Fret not thy self of evildoers” was the scripture John-Joe’s mother quoted anywhere she went.

My grandmother, however, was not one to warm up too easily to anybody so she just listened when she heard the villagers talking about John-Joes’s mother’s performances.“Not all who say Lord, Lord will enter heaven” was one of my grandmother’s favourite religious sayings.

It happened that the day before the school exams, just about midnight, John-Joe’s mother was caught naked as she was born, spreading a strange substance on the path leading to the school.

The next day, there was no sign of her anywhere. Gigi told my grandmother that a strange man had taken John-Joe and his mother away in a black car fore day morning.


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