Jamaican Maroon religion

The traditional Jamaican Maroon religion otherwise known as Kumfu[1] was developed by a mixing of West and Central African religious practices in Maroon communities. While the traditional religion of the Maroons was absorbed by Christianity due to conversions in Maroon communities, many old practices continued on. Some have speculated that Jamaican Maroon religion helped the development of Kumina and Convince. The religious Kromanti dance is still practiced today but not always with the full religious connotation as in the past.[2]

Jamaican Maroon religion
OriginSlave era
Merged intoChristianity


What can be deduced today about the religions origins points to the idea that it is founded upon Akan religion but syncretized with other African beliefs. This is evident by the many specifically Akan aspects found in the religion.[3]

Very little was written about the original religion of the Jamaican Maroons because of little contact Maroons had with the outside world. What was written at the time by Bryan Edwards (a British slaver and planter) was the practice of Obeah by Maroons. When Anglican Christian churches were established in Maroon towns the traditional religion began to be practiced separately from Christianity and served a different religious purpose. As other non-Anglican churches appeared in Maroon communities they rallied against traditional Maroon beliefs and they became less popular. Today the Kromanti dance still is practiced on occasion even by self identified Christians.[4]



According to the faith a supreme deity named Yankipong rules the cosmos and is generally unconcerned with human life. exist called the Below Yankipong exists ancestor spirits called "duppies", "jumbies", or "bigiman". These spirits have hierarchies of their own and can be communicated with by humans so their powers can be used for worldly matters. The matter of spirits and their influence on Earth is considered to be Obeah (although the use of that specific term is controversial and some instead call it "science").[4] It is believed that the omnipotent god "Yankipong" is the Jamaican Maroon's conception of the omnipotent god Nyame from Akan religion.[3] Other Akan deities are reported to have been recognized like Asase Yaa and Epo. The Akan based word "Kumfu" was used for the total spiritual system and understanding of the world.[1]


A priest of the religion is referred to as a "kumfu-man". The word "kumfu" itself has its origins Twi language.[3]

Ceremonies are involved in Jamaican Maroon religion but no worship of the god Yankipong is practiced, unlike in traditional Akan religion.[3] An important ceremony of the religion is the Kromanti dance which involves the direction of a "fete-man" (ritual specialist) and the sacrifice of an animal to the pakit (ancestral spirit). The purpose of the dance is for participants to be possessed by ancestral spirits.[5] The Jamaican Maroon Creole language is used during the Kromanti dance ceremony when addressing people possessed by old Maroon ancestors.

See Also


  1. ^ a b Gardner, William James (1909). History of Jamaica, From Its Discovery To The Year 1872. Appleton & Company. p. 184. ISBN 978-0415760997.
  2. ^ Bilby, Kenneth (1981). The Kromanti dance of the windward maroons of Jamaica.
  3. ^ a b c d Payne-Jackson, Arvilla; Alleyne, Mervyn (2004). Jamaican Folk Medicine: A Source of Healing.
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Patrick; Case, Frederick (2013). The Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions: Volume 1: A - L; Volume 2: M - Z.
  5. ^ "Caribbean Religions: Afro-Caribbean Religions". encyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 27, 2019.

Convince, also known as Bongo or Flenke is a religion from eastern Jamaica. It has roots in Kumina and Jamaican Maroon religion.

Jamaican Maroon Creole

Jamaican Maroon spirit-possession language, Maroon Spirit language, Jamaican Maroon Creole or Deep patwa is a ritual language and formerly mother tongue of Jamaican Maroons. It is an English-based creole with a strong Akan component, specifically from the Asante language of the Ashanti Region of Ghana. It is distinct from usual Jamaican Creole, being similar to the creoles of Sierra Leone (Krio) and Suriname such as Sranan and Ndyuka. It is also more purely Akan than regular Patois, with little to no contribution from other African languages. Today, the Maroon Spirit language is used by Jamaican Maroons (largely Coromantees) while possessed by the spirits of ancestors during Kromanti ceremonies or when addressing those who are possessed.

The term "Kromanti" is used by participants in such ceremonies in order to refer to the language spoken by ancestors in the distant past, prior to the creolization of Jamaican Maroon Creole. This term is used to refer to a language which is "clearly not a form of Jamaican Creole and displays very little English content" (Bilby 1983: 38). While Kromanti is not a functioning language, those possessed by ancestral spirits are attributed the ability to speak it. More remote ancestors are compared with more recent ancestors on a gradient, such that increasing strength and ability in the use of the non-creolized Kromanti are attributed to increasingly remote ancestors (as opposed to the Jamaican Maroon Creole used to address these ancestors).

The language was brought along by the Maroon population from Trelawny town to Nova Scotia in 1796 where they were sent in exile. They eventually traveled to Sierra Leone in 1800. Their creole language highly influenced the local creole language that evolved into present day Krio.

Jamaican Maroons

The Jamaican Maroons descend from maroons, Africans who escaped from slavery on the island of Jamaica and established free communities in the mountainous interior, primarily in the eastern parishes. Africans enslaved during Spanish rule of Jamaica (1493–1656) likely were the first to develop such refugee communities.

The English, who invaded the island in 1655, expanded the importation of slaves to support their extensive development of sugar-cane plantations. Africans in Jamaica continually fought and revolted, with many who escaped becoming Maroon. The revolts had the effect of disrupting the sugar economy in Jamaica and making it less profitable. The revolts simmered down only after the British government promised to free the slaves if they stopped revolting; and slavery was abolished in 1834.

The Windward Maroons and those from the Cockpit Country resisted conquest in the First Maroon War (c. 1728 to 1740), which the government ended in 1739–1740 by making treaties to grant lands and to respect Maroon autonomy, in exchange for peace and aiding the colonial militia if needed against external enemies. Tension between British colonial Governor Alexander Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres, and the majority of the Leeward Maroons resulted in the Second Maroon War from 1795 to 1796. Although the governor promised leniency if the Maroons surrendered, he later backtracked and, supported by the Assembly, insisted on deporting 600 Maroons to British settlements in Nova Scotia. The deported Maroons were unhappy with conditions in Canada, and in 1800 majority left by succeeding in getting passage to Freetown, eight years after the Sierra Leone Company established it in West Africa (in present-day Sierra Leone) as a British colony.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Diverse roots

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