By  E. Roy Cayetano
Fall 1974

Song and Ritual as a Key
To Understanding Garifuna Personality

This paper is based on two fundamental assumptions.  The first is that in a culture where songs play such an important role, a study of the lyrics and behavior associated with the songs should reveal much about the people. Secondly, there is a tendency for people to seek to attain congruence between their beliefs and their behavior (and avoid cognitive dissonance).  Ritual is a manifestation of a belief system and, since it is easily observable, it can be used to get at the underlying set of beliefs and the modal personality traits of the people who share those ritual observances.

Until about two decades ago the Garifuna were referred to by anthropologists as Black Caribs, partly because they are black and partly to distinguish them from the aboriginal Island Caribs whom Columbus encountered in the West Indies. These people, who call themselves Garinagu (derived from Island Carib Calinago), were the result of racial and cultural mixing between escaped African slaves originally from two shipwrecked slave ships (Taylor, 1951 pg.18) and the Island Caribs.  Whereas the physical characteristics remained predominantly African, it seems reasonable to conclude on the basis of a number of similarities that can be found between the Caribs and a number of South American cultures from which the Island Caribs originated, that the Island Carib culture was retained almost completely and, in addition to some African influences, the extent of which has not yet been determined, later became subject to some influence from European cultures.

The Garifuna are today found only in Central America. Before 1797 they occupied the West Indian Island of St. Vincent and in that year following a series of clashes with the English who sought control of the Island, they were deported to the Central American Island of Roatan whence they spread south to Honduras and Nicaragua, and north to Guatemala, and British Honduras, now known as Belize.

In this paper I will concern myself mainly with the Garifuna of Belize since the material I am using was collected there. This is not to say, however, that what is said here will not apply to those in the other countries since those who hold on to their language and traditions from a fairly homogenous community that cuts across national boundaries. Some of the songs, although collected in Dangriga, a Belizean town, were composed in Honduras (Indura) or Guatemala (Wadimalu). Needless to say, the rites are basically the same throughout.

Religion and Ritual
Most of the Garifuna in Belize are Roman Catholics ? at least nominally.  Most of the others are Methodists while the rest, which constitutes an almost negligible proportion of the total population, are members of the Adventist Church or the Church of the Nazarene.  So we see that the traditional belief system has not gone unchallenged by competing European religions who have until recently, and even today to a lesser extent, strongly discouraged its manifestation especially in the form of the D?g? rite.  For example, quoting the Methodist Record as his source, Waddell (1961 pg. 68) writes that “Finding the Caribs practicing devil-worship, the Methodists extended their activities to Stann Creek, where they still retain a following ?..?.  The missionaries, in spite of all the power they have built up in the area have not tried to understand the significance of the rituals but, while their condemnation of the native practices has been strong, Garifuna Religion has survived if not flourished.  It appears in fact, that there has been ?a steadily rising rebirth of interest in Black Carib ancestral rites?.  (Palacio 1973).  This rebirth is interesting in itself and could be the topic of another study.

One question that comes to mind is this:  Why should the Carib retain his traditional rites and belief system after three centuries of contact with influential missionaries and their western religion?  Why should the D?g? rite and the Buyei retain importance in Garifuna life while the people profess to be Catholics, Methodists, or Nazarenes even though these practices are actively opposed by the Church leaders; and the other ethnic groups in the country regard these practices with suspicion, calling them such names as ?Devil Dance? or ?Mafia Dance??  And why should they be turning more and more to their traditional beliefs at a time when there is truly a national government (as opposed to a colonial type of government) and they are, if anything, playing a more active role in the day to day running of the country?

Whatever the full answer to those questions may be, whatever the external (and/or internal) pressures that are at work, it seems to me to be true that the traditional religion and the rites serve a function that continues to be necessary for the Garifuna and his adaptation ? as an individual or as a group ? to uncertain and changing times.  This is a function that the foreign religions, which have been superimposed on Garifuna culture, cannot serve.  If I am right, then I expect that by looking closely at the rites and the beliefs underlying them, by looking for parallels in the social organization and other aspects of Garifuna life, we might find indications of personality traits that are perhaps common to most Garifuna.  Incidentally, we might also be able to suggest why these personality traits and the ritual system have persisted.

The main idea underlying Garifuna religion and perhaps their view of the world is that the spirits of the departed ancestors mediate between the individual and the external world.  If the individual performs as he should, then all will be well with him.  If not, then the harmony that one desires in his relationship with others and the rest of the external world will be disrupted.  This disruption takes the form of persistent and recurring misfortune or illness that cannot be cured by ordinary known medical practices.

This religious or cosmological system implies that the living Garifuna and the ancestral dead have certain responsibilities and obligations to each other.  It behooves the living not to neglect the ancestors.  Food and drink should occasionally be laid out for them and, since the incorporation of Catholicism into the Garifuna way of life, masses have come to be one of the requirements.  The ancestor may also indicate by appearing to the individual in dreams that he is desirous of certain food items, or a mass, and failure to comply with the request may result in the negligent progeny being struck by lamiselu (trouble) in some form.  It is not clear exactly what the role of the ancestral dead is in the maintenance of harmony between the individual and the external world.  It is not clear from my own observation, from Taylor?s account (1951 pg. 102 ? 137), or from Palacio?s (1973) brief analysis whether the world is seen as inherently dangerous and the evil is warded off by the protective ancestral spirits, or if the world is seen as being inherently good and that the evil that befalls the individual is inflicted by the angered spirits as a punishment for negligence.  But whether evil befalls the individual because the ancestral dead cause it, or because they allow it, the fact remains that they are seen as having some control over the living; similar to the control parents have over their children.  This is not to say that the living live in fear of the dead, for the informality that prevails in the d?g? temple would disprove that.

Garifuna religion requires the services of a specialist, a priest called buyei (derived from South America ?paye?), to mediate between the living and the ancestral spirits.  This is done with the help of spirit helpers (hiyuruha) who serve as a means of communication between the buyei and the individual ancestral spirits in Seiri, the place where souls go after death.  In a ceremony called areiraguni (bringing down) the buyei goes into a trance, and finds out the causes of his clients? ailments and what needs to be done to make amends for past negligence.

There are three principal rites.  The smallest and perhaps least important, the amu?adahani (the burying), which Taylor translates as ?refreshing the dead?, involves scattering cassava meal and water in a retangular hole and some singing.  This is a family affair.  The chug? (feeding of the dead) takes about a whole day and for this the buyei is required.  Actually, the chug? is a mini d?g? and unlike the amu?adahani is a propitiation rite.  The d?g? (the feasting of the dead) is the most important rite.  The d?g? proper lasts between 3 and 5 days but if one counts the preparatory stage which involves a number of people sailing to the cayes to collect sea food after being ritually prepared, even the smallest d?g? requires a minimum of one week from start to finish.

One of the interesting and perhaps most important aspects of the d?g? is that it involves not only the immediate family of the person on whose behalf the offering is being made, but all the relatives, no matter how remote, of both that person and the departed one to whom the d?g? is being offered.  This means that most people in a village are involved since, as noted earlier, the Garifuna of Central America can be said to constitute a community that cuts across national boundaries.  Relatives usually travel from Honduras and Guatemala to participate in a d?g? given in a Belizean village or town.

Just as living relatives from far and wide assemble in the dabuyaba (d?g? temple) to join with their ailing or provisionally healed kinsman, so too, the ancestral spirit to whom the d?g? is being offered is believed to invite relatives in the Seiri spirit community to feast with him.  Thus the two communities ? the living and the dead ? are joined together during the d?g? ceremony and this is manifested in visible physical terms when some of the ancestral spirits enter the bodies of some of their participating living relations, thus causing them to go into trance and to behave the way the ancestors did when they were alive. This takes place especially during those parts of the rite called ?malihani (placating the dead), when the drumming, dancing and singing, starting with a relatively slow pace, gradually builds up in pace and intensity.

The only musical instruments used are three huge drums, which are played by hand, and the buyei?s s?sira (rattle).  The singing, the drumming and dancing are kept up for the entire duration of the d?g? with only short breaks from time to time.  Chickens and a couple of pigs and maybe turtles are slaughtered at prescribed intervals and these as well as the cooking, distribution, and offering to the dead, are done in the manner prescribed by tradition.

This has by no means been a complete description of Garifuna propitiation rites.  This has been done reasonably well by Taylor (1951).  My purpose so far has been to state the basic ideas that underlie these rites and to point out the salient features of the rituals, particularly the most important rite, the d?g?. It only remains to add that at the conclusion of the d?g?, the buyei in an ara?raguni ceremony receives word from the ancestors as to whether the d?g? was accepted or not.  If it was not acceptable to the ancestor(s), he is told why and, at some time in the future, the whole procedure has to be repeated.  Fortunately, this does not happen very often for a d?g? requires many months, sometimes over a year, of preparation and, for many, the inconvenience of travelling, as well as the financial burden that it places on the shoulders of the family that is giving it.

Songs are a very important part of Garifuna culture.  Indeed there are songs for just about every purpose.  There are songs associated with grating cassava, the traditional food, there are songs that are associated with work and, of course, each of the many dances has its own type of song.  It is not surprising then that there are usually many ?composers? in each village or town.  Although some are more prolific composers than others, it is as though even the most unlikely person has the potential and only requires some intense personal experience, like death, to open the door so that a song that he already had locked in his psyche could come out.

There are no Garifuna songs that deal with fictitious or imaginary events or feelings.  All tell something about the ?composer? or about some experiences he or she is having or has just had.  Indeed, one can safely claim that one of the purposes of Garifuna songs, their reason d?etre, is to give expression to the feelings genuinely felt by the ?composer? and shared by the people among whom the songs gain popularity because they have similar experiences or because the songs deal with themes that are among their main concerns or preoccupations.

Before considering the themes that are most common in the songs, it is necessary to state why I do not feel comfortable using the word ?composer? with reference to the person who first sings a song and comes to be seen as the person whose song it is.  Because the expression of one?s feelings is the strongest motivating factor behind the emergence of a new song, an element of spontaneity, which the word ?composer? does not convey, is involved here.  This is important not only because of what it implies for my assumption that the songs tell us about the personality of the people, but also because of the claim that in many cases songs are ichah?war?g?ti (just given); that is to say that a person may be ?given? a song in his sleep and he wakes up knowing it, (d?g? songs are usually given by the ancestors in dreams), or it grows out of his thoughts and, without any conscious effort at creating it, it comes out as a complete song.  Because of this, some composers do not regard certain of their songs as theirs.  I am not qualified at this point to say anything further about this claim of ichah?war?g?ti beyond the observation that if the claim is true ? and I have no reason to doubt it ? then these songs, like dreams, constitute a valuable means of exploring the mind at the subconscious level.

One of the most common themes in the songs is death.  Songs 1, 2, 3, and 4 tell of similar experiences and emotion.  The singers of these songs, who incidentally are all women, have each just lost a loved one.  In 1 and 3 a mother has just lost a daughter, in 2 a wife has lost a husband, and in 4 a husband has lost a wife, but this is being reported by a sympathetic female singer to whom he expressed his grief.  The sense of personal loss and the feeling of grief are equally strong in all four examples and it is not merely co-incidental that the lines:
?tara lian ra miseria, maga,
?tara lian ra lamiselu
occur almost word for word in songs 2, 3, and 4.  A free translation reads as follows:

?So grief is like this!
So this is what it is like to have troubles!?

However, there is an element of shocked surprise expressed by the morpheme ra which cannot be adequately captured by the English translation.

There are also several songs that deal with the dead.  Numbers 5, 6, and 7 are good examples of this, but numbers 1 to 4 can be said to be about the dead as well as about death.  In 5 the singer?s father has been dead for nearly a year and in 6 we find what is perhaps a more typical situation:  the dead exerting a guiding influence over the behavior of the living descendant.  Just as a living parent corrects and reprimands an erring offspring, so too, the dead parent and others from preceding generations guide the living, speaking to them through their consciences.  What seems to be happening is that the precepts and values inculcated in individuals by their parental and earlier generations continue to surface from the subconscious level long after the socializing agent has departed this life.

This leads us to the next theme, which is a feeling of dependence and helplessness.  Parents and other relatives from preceding generations are seen as being endowed with more power, wisdom, and ability to cope with lam?selu (troubles and misfortune of all sorts).  In the last verse of number 8, for example, the singer asks:

Where were the supernatural powers of my male ancestor?  I would have anointed/equipped you with it, dear kinsman, before your departure; then I wouldn?t be crying now.

In this song, the singer is grieving because the son has gone off to the war and it is feared that he will be killed.  She feels an overwhelming sense of helplessness and feels that if she only had her ancestor?s power and skills she would have been able to control the situation.  Notice the striking similarities between this and the last verse of number 9, which suggests that God is conceptualized as just another mighty ancestor who can be called upon in such situations.

M?te?u is another important theme and is closely related to all those already mentioned.   M?te?u is the state of being bereft of parents and close relatives.  It is obvious that the state of m?te?u is dreaded.  Number 5 is a good example of this.  Here the singer laments the fact that he cannot send a letter to his dead parents and complains:

When will m?te?u leave me, my dear,
It has tied its hammock on me (i.e. It has made itself at home).
Although I?m already grown, I still feel it.

This idea is also clearly expressed in some of the other songs like number 10, which expresses the fact that the death of his kinsfolk has made this a sad world for him.

It is interesting that kinship figures prominently in the songs.  In number 11 we get the words:
She who has no sister is poor,
She who has no mother is poor.
Death did it ? Death took my male ancestor from me;
(Otherwise), I would not be crying.

In addition to the theme of m?te?u, we get the idea that no matter what the rest of the world says about you, no matter how much you are slandered or how much lamiselu rains on you, you can always turn to these people for comfort.  In 12, the signer, whose house has just been burnt down, fails to find this comfort and relief in her brother?s house.  Instead, it is her friend who does what she had a right to expect from her relatives.  Hence the imaginary television in which she ?have seen my friend here to be my relative?.

It is necessary at this point to give a word of warning about the kinship terms that are found in the songs.  Considering the importance of kinship ties in traditional Garifuna society, it is perhaps not surprising that kinship terms tend to be used rather loosely.  For example, a daughter may be referred to as nam?leluwa (my little sister) or n?guchu (my mother) while a son or a younger relative may be called n?guchi (my father), n?ti (my elder brother), nam?len (my younger brother) or wanwa (dear young male relative).  This is usually done as a means of expressing affection and kinship affinity.  Some terms are used in a similar fashion among people who are not so closely related and, as Taylor (1951, page 87) found, a girl may discourage a young man who is trying to flirt with her, by calling him n?ti, for this implies that she considers him a relative, and this in turn has implications concerning the type of behavior that he should display towards her.

It should be clear from what has been said up to this point that lam?selu ? grief, misfortune and trouble of any sort ? for the individual stand out as perhaps the most common single concern in the songs.  As we have seen, there are many songs about death, grief, helplessness and m?te?u.  There are also a number of songs about sickness.  Numbers 13 and 14 are examples of this.

This account would be unbalanced if I did not make mention of a less serious but nonetheless important group of songs which are concerned with slander, scandal and criticism.  Unfortunately, most of these songs defy translation, even more so than the other songs, because many significant subtleties and nuances tend to be lost in translation, and what we are left with is at best only a rather crude approximation of the original lyric.  Still, we can see in numbers 15 to 19 the essential points for our present purpose.  In number 15, a young man had been the subject of gossip among a few women who criticized him severely because a girl had become pregnant by him, a teacher in the town.  He chastises each one in turn:  one had a child by a Spanish (muladu) from Honduras many year earlier; so who was she to condemn him?  Another, ?the charcoal?, could afford to be self righteous for her being barren helped hide her own iniquities.  Another was hump-backed and bow-legged; no wonder, for even the devil seemed incapable of putting up with her.  In 16 a woman ridicules an unwanted man who dared to make advances at her; in 17 a woman accuses another of hypocrisy, for the discovery of the tell-tale hat was not congruent with the image of the good girl who was supposed to have been a virgin bride.  Presumably, this attack was not unprovoked.  Number 18 shows the singer getting back at some people who are gossiping about her because, having failed to keep other men she has had before, she has just taken yet another mate.  Her method of attack is not unlike the one in number 15.

Number 19 is a little different.  The n?siun (i.e. the non-Garifuna foreigner) is praised for providing well for his wife and, therefore, for himself.  He has just returned from a Mexican town where he bought her a number of silk underwear, embroidered and decorated with starch like a rich tablecloth or serviette.  While the singer, his employee, is washing these, she hears the wife nagging as usual.  To her Garifuna mind, it is unthinkable that such a good, thoughtful man should be treated in this way, or that he should tolerate it.  Hence the advice that he should

Stamp your foot to her,
Pound your chest to her?

Finally, a song may be thought of as iyawa? (an image or picture) of a person or event.  The iyawa? of a person may be a tribute to a loved or respected person or a stinging attack as we have seen.  The point is that Garifuna songs provide an avenue for the release and expression of emotion and gives the individual a way to get even, but equally interesting is the idea suggested by the notion of iyawa? that people and events can be recorded in songs like little pictures which become public property and remain, long after the former become a matter of history, to give comfort to those who sing them.  And, incidentally, I am reasonably certain that one could piece together a history of the post Saint Vincent Garifuna on the basis of the songs alone, although I suspect that the brighter side would be missed in such a reconstruction because of the singers? choice of topics for their songs.

Personality and Behavior
It is clear from the above account of ritual and song that certain patterns of thought and behavior occur in high frequency and can thus be seen as indictors of what one might call typical or modal Garifuna personality.  However, it must be remembered that the generalizations made here do not apply equally well to all Garifuna persons.  This is especially true of a few who have become so westernized, not merely through the impact of western type schools but especially through the effects of the religious indoctrination that invariably go with the education, with the result that they have come to regard the traditional practices with skepticism, if not something bordering on disdain.  It must also be mentioned that in addition to non-participation in the ritual and belief system, people from such families are not known to be ?composers? of songs.

In considering the personality traits and behavior patterns that are suggested by the material, I am reminded of what Eggan (1966, see LeVine 1974, pg. 267) had to say about weaning and the Hopi:

Weaning of course, when discussed in personality contexts, means more than a transition from milk to solid food.  It is a gradual process of achieving independence from the comfort of a mother?s body and care, of transferring affections to other persons, and finding satisfaction within oneself and in the outside world.  Most people learn to eat solid food but many of us are never weaned, which has unfortunate consequences in a society where individual effort and competitive independence are stressed.

Eggan could just as well have been speaking of the Garifuna when she observes a few sentences later:

Weaning then was from the breast only, and as he was being weaned from his
biological mother, he was at the same time in a situation that increased his emotional orientation toward the intimate in group of the extended family.

There can be no doubt that this runs counter to some of the aspirations of the individual.  For example, the Garifuna are known, not only by others but by themselves as well, not to be able to make it in business (i.e. commercial enterprises), at least not on a large scale.  The reason, as they are well aware, is that when one begins to show signs of prosperity he is expected to be more supportive of his less fortunate kinsfolk, an expectation that he does not have the disposition to ignore, and, as one might expect, the promising business concern soon begins to decline.  This then, serves as a leveling mechanism so that unless the individual can break the ties that were welded into his being during his childhood socialization and escape the consequent feeling of guilt, it is unlikely that he can rise high above his fellows in terms of material wealth.  This means that the group rises and falls, prospers and suffers bad times as a unit.

The evidence in the material I am using here also indicates that the average Garifuna is never completely weaned in the broader sense defined by Eggan.  It is also true that instead of emphasis on the process of ?finding satisfactions within oneself and the outside world?, the individual?s orientation is towards the kingroup.  It is in the kingroup that the individual Garifuna finds his satisfactions.  When one is faced with a situation with which he cannot cope, he turns to his mother, father, sister, brother, other kinsmen, or even the ancestors, for help.

Given this mutual dependence, one can understand why sickness and death should be among their main concerns and why a death in the family should prove to be such a traumatic experience for the individual.  One can understand why m?te?u (the state of being without parents and close relatives) should be dreaded so much.  When a close relative dies it is like having some of the ground swept from under one?s feet and when m?te?u sets in, it is like having been deprived of the support that one relies on for his very survival.  In the original lyrics, we find that one does not just die; rather he ?dies from me? or ?death took him from me?.  It is as though an integral part of one?s being died, leaving him a less viable person.

But obligation is not uni-directional.  Obligation is mutual along both horizontal and vertical lines.  That is to say that one has obligations to relatives in one?s own generation (e.g. siblings and cousins) as well as to those in preceding and succeeding generations, and they to him.  The songs suggest that the strongest bond of mutual obligation is between parent, especially mother, and child.  The traditionally oriented Garifuna cannot bear to fail in his obligations, and I expect that, seen from a psychoanalytic point of view, one could argue that failure to meet these obligations either through negligence, or because the parent or ancestor has died gives rise to guilt feelings.  The propitiation rites would thus be seen as the means available for resolving this conflict.  In any case, the ?rites do provide a forum for the psychological release of the participants?  (Palacio, 1973, pg. 6), and serve to reassure the participants of the unity not only of the kingroup but also of all Gar?nagu, past and present, be they in Seiri or on earth.

Since the Garifuna sees power as being diffused among the members of his lineage with a certain concentration at the top (i.e. among the ancestors), gradually reducing as one goes down the line, he considers himself as being relatively powerless.  He may be more able than his juniors, like the mother in song number 20, but compared to his seniors he is powerless and has to be dependent the way the daughter addressed in the same song is expected to be dependent.  Does this mean that the Garifuna is socialized to be dependent?  In view of the evidence we find in the ritual and the songs, one would have to answer in the affirmative.  However, my own observation is that the average person was brought up to be self reliant and independent in terms of meeting his subsistence needs by traditional means.  Yet, with respect to his psychosocial adaptation, the evidence that he is socialized to be dependent is, to my mind, irrefutable.
A certain feeling of resignation, and perhaps even fatalism, is also evident.  This is particularly noticeable in the songs dealing with sickness.  Here the singers tell us that they have done their best, travelling abroad to obtain medicine and using up all the available medicine, but in each case we find a feeling of despair and resignation.  It is as though personal effort is worthwhile only up to a given point, and when that point is reached one concludes that it had all been preordained, and that there is nothing left to do other than to let fate take its course.

But whereas we get this acceptance of one?s lot, it is by no means a stoic acceptance.  In song number 1, for example, the singer actually states, in the last line, that this lam?selu, the death of her beloved daughter, is ?my share, I accept it?, but this does not stop her from raising her voice in anguish.  In fact, the songs leave no doubt that the people do not hesitate to show emotion.  We can be certain that the songs are not the only socially approved outlet for expressing emotion, for if this were the case it is not likely that we would find reference to weeping, ?raising my voice (in anguish)?, and drinking ?my own tears?, among others.  In addition, skeptics can also argue that onwehani, (going into trance), in the context of a d?g? rite, is just another of the ample socially approved avenues available to the individual.

Considering everything that has been said up to this point, especially the most prevalent themes in the songs and the nature of the relationship that obtains between the living and the dead who mediate between the former and the external world, one would perhaps expect to find a sad, morose and frightened people.  Yet nowhere in Taylor?s ethnography (1951), in Palacio?s work, or in any other reference to the Garifuna that I am aware of, has this observation been made.  Seen on the ground, they are a happy people, with a culture that is very rich in song, music and dance.  Very few outsiders can resist the beautiful rhythms of the native drums or fail to be fascinated by the beauty of the dances.  This certainly seems to be inconsistent with the evidence that stare us in the face when we examine the ritual and songs.

In order to reconcile the two, that is, what is suggested by the material and what is actually found on the ground, one has to look more closely.  To begin with, all the songs listed here are dance songs for punta and h?ng?h?ng?, two dances that require vigorous movements and are associated with celebration and fun.  Because the lyrics nearly all have sad themes, this fact appears to be contradictory to all but the Garifuna mind.  How, one might ask for example, can one dance and celebrate to the tune of a song that treats of the death of a love one?  One might also ask similar questions about the type of behavior that is found in the beluria (ninth night wake) (Taylor, 1951, pg. 99 ? 100).

The beluria consists of prayers said for the soul of a departed relative every night for nine nights, beginning a few days after the death occurred.  It is usually scheduled so that the ninth night falls on a weekend because this means that more people will be able to attend.  While prayers and hymns may be kept up in one corner of the grounds, the beluria may be seen as a celebration or party given for the dead, for although real drums are not usually allowed, boxes are used instead and the people attending sing and dance.  There is usually some story (?raga) telling, games, eating, and drinking.  Their own explanation for this apparent contradiction is that ?the rite is a sort of farewell party to the spirit-double of the deceased.  The greater the gaiety and the number of those who attend, the better for all concerned ?. The spirit of the dead person is pleased and satisfied, and therefore more ready to depart and leave the living in peace? (Taylor, 1951, pg. 101).

My own conclusion is that the Garifuna are basically a serious people, as suggested by the songs and ritual.  The gaiety and the mirth and what appears to be the carefree attitude that we find on the surface do not go far beyond the superficial level.  Nevertheless, the surface manifestation is very important for the individual and the group as a whole because it makes life without the departed relatives more tolerable.  It enables one to survive.  It serves as a sort of distraction ? a distraction which in the end is good for the individual, whether he is the dancer dancing to the drums and the tune of the sad song he composed about his lam?selu, or whether he is the surviving relative whose more distant relatives and friends have brought singing, laughter, dance and story telling to him.

We have seen that as well as indicating certain patterns of personality and behavior as being prevalent among the Garifuna, the belief system, as seen through the window of the ritual, and the songs also suggest explanations.  I have tried to incorporate some of these into the preceding section, in some cases trying to make causal connections.  However, I freely admit that the material can bear closer and more detailed analysis, which I hope to be able to do at some time in the future.

One fact that I doubt reanalysis will change is that the ritual and the personality patterns that have been identified here have been indispensable elements in Garifuna psychosocial adaptation.  The socialization leading to the development of these patterns and the socioculture pressures that ensure their maintenance must have their psychic cost to the individual, but I believe that this is balanced by the benefits that he can derive through participation in the ritual system and by making use of the other means that are available to him for psychological release.

Seen from a historical perspective, one can see why such characteristics as group solidarity, interdependence and the consequent feeling of inadequacy (at the individual level, that is) or lack of self reliance, and even fatalism, had to be emphasized over the centuries.  I strongly suspect, although admittedly without adequate supporting evidence, that the beginning must have come from the African side of their ancestry and became developed into their present form, as an adaptive mechanism, to meet the stresses of the chain of traumatic experiences they encountered over the last few centuries.  These include, to name only the major ones:

a) The horrors of being uprooted from their African homeland and the passage through the machinery of the slave trade.

b) After they ?became? Black Caribs through intermarriage and adoption of Island Carib language and culture, conflict with the Island Caribs who had not become mixed.
c) Prolonged, and in the end unsuccessful, resistance of English encroachment on their Saint Vincent lands.

d) Deportation to Roatan by the English in 1797.
e) Persecution as a result of having supported the Royalists in an unsuccessful attempt to reestablish Spanish rule in Honduras.

f) Suspicion and contempt with which they were regarded by white colonists and Creoles (non-Garifuna blacks) of Belize at the time they settled in that country.

The Garifuna, unlike his Island Carib counterpart, has been able to survive and increase in number, in spite of adverse conditions, precisely because he was able to find his satisfactions in the group.  Although the individual is not wholly self reliant, the group, because its organization is predicated on mutual obligation and support, is as a whole independent and capable of surviving severe odds.  This does not mean that the Garifuna is wholly resistant to change.  Just as he is able to superimpose a happy exterior on to a basically serious disposition, he is able to adopt many foreign values, even a foreign way of life, without completely setting aside the basic structure which, after all, is an essential part of his adaptation and which he needs to be able to fall back on should that be necessary.  This, I believe, explains why he can be an active member of his church living in a manner prescribed by Western standards and, especially at critical points in his life, go to the dab?yaba (temple) of his ancestors despite the objections of the church leaders.

Taylor, Douglas M.
1951 The Black Carib of British Honduras.  New York:
Johnson Reprint Corporation

Palacio, Joseph O.
1973 Carib Ancestral Rites:  A Brief Analysis.
National Studies Vol. 1 No. 3 Published by BISRA in Belize City



Waddell, D. A. G.
1961 British Honduras ? A Historical and Contemporary Survey.
Oxford University press

Eggan, Dorothy
1966 Hopi Dreams in Cultural Perspective.  In Robert A LeVine (ed.)
Culture and Personality Contemporary Readings.  Chicago:
Aldine Publishing Company

Cayetano, E. Roy and Phyllis Cayetano
Unpublished Collection and translation of Black Carib Songs


Black Carib Songs

1) I was just passing the time, having fun with you, Sini,
I was just attending a ninth night with you.
How awful the news that came to me that night,
I have raised my voice (in anguish).
Where will I run from troubles?

Troubles can?t kill, Chona;
It would have killed me that night.
If I were a gur?suwe, I would have just flown away.
That is my share, I accept it.
(Gur?suwe is the name of a certain bird in Carib)


2) How now, husband?  On this trip of yours,
Won?t I go with you to Guatemala City?
No, I ha, stay here waiting for me;
If I don?t return ?.you will hear.

So this is what having troubles is really like!
So this is what misery is really like!
No, papa, to whom do you leave Mama?
You went and died from us in Guatemala.
Oh, when will you return?



3) It has been played on the radio,
It has been announced on my behalf;
I have drunk my own tears.
?Go, Death?, is what you should have told him, little sister,
?I won?t go with you? is what you should told him.
I have drunk my own tears
?No, Death?, is what you should have told him, little sister,
?I won?t go with you?, is what you should have told him.
That day was sad.
?No, Death?, etc.
So misery is like this!
So death is like this!
I have drunk my own tears.
Go, Death, etc.
4) The mulatto has cried out, weeping;
?My wife has died from me?, he says.
?To whom do you leave me?
I have been with you twenty years ? I never beat her.
The earth has covered her from me today
And again I didn?t sleep.

Dawn has again broken with me today
And again I didn?t sleep,
Thinking only of her life with me.
So this is what death?s sting is like!
You are not asking me questions;
My sister, pardon me, I?m talking to you;
I didn?t know that this is what death hurt is like

5) My father, it seems, is about to complete a year (i.e. since he died)
Without my seeing him.

One can?t send with the dead, my dear,
There is a letter here that I would send to my parents.

When will m?te?u leave me?
It has tied its hammock on me.
I have grown old, but I still feel it.


6) I?ve dreamt my mother –
What do you want mother?
Please speak to me.

That mass that you gave me,
I did not accept it.
I would have accepted it
But a lot was lacking,
Much was wrong.

I did not send you to steal so
So you could give to me;
But when you find it(i.e. the money by legitimate means)
Don?t be forgetful:
Give me my mass, dear young kinsman,
So I may find salvation.


7) I hear the voice of the Departed One
In my sleep, a-yae
?You will not quarrel, my child,
Close your mouth.
You will not argue, my child,
Close your mouth,

Christmas will again be coming, my kinsfolk,
We are about to celebrate it, a-yae.
We will sell songs as we go, my child,
For money to buy shirts.
8). I am expecting my letter from England
About my deceased.
I had prayed to my God for you
For you, my son,          To keep you from the enemy who are in the sea.

This sleeplessness that is on me,
You will feel it?, my mother had told me.
Where is my female ancestor, where is my mother?
So she may take some of this grief from me.

Where were the supernatural powers of my male ancestor?
I would have anointed / equipped you with it, dear kinsman,
Before your departure;
Then I wouldn?t be crying now.


9) Behold me, my dear sister,
Look at me, Chris? mother.
How  heavy my burden on earth is, older sister;
I had already cleared a path before me older sister,
But to no avail.

God, my father, where are you?
Come to me with your hand;
Come to me with your hand, my God,
So I may rub it on my star,
So I may find luck there.
10) I won?t laugh big (laughs) anymore
The world has become sad around me
After my kinsfolk (i.e. after they died).
So this is what it is like to have troubles:
So this is what misery is like!!
I won?t laugh big anymore ?
The world has saddened around me
After my kinsfolk (departed).
11) My name has been raining, my child,
The thunder has rolled, the world has rumbled
With my name, my child.

She who has no sister is poor,
She who had no mother is poor,
Death is responsible, Death took my male ancestor from me;
(Otherwise), I would not be crying.
12) I am going to tie my hammock on my friend?s back;
My friend to be my swinger, to be my relative.
My friend has opened her door to me.

My burden has become heavy, I can?t carry it anymore;
But I won?t get angry about it.
I am in a television,
I am seeing a relative,
I have seen my friend here to be my relative.
13) What is wrong with you why do you weep?
What has happened to you?
Confess to me, dear male relative.
Let me talk with you.
You are about to die from me.

I have traveled all over the coast, dear male relative,
In search of the ?kindness of your skin? (i.e. medicine).
I have caused the stores to go empty;
For your skin (i.e. your ailment), there is no medicine.
14) Sheila, my sister, Sickness is making fun of me.
I have roamed Honduras in search of medicine;
The supplies are exhausted.

My sister, you cry then as usual I will hear that its your pleasure.
Wipe your tears; my sister, save them.
The day for you to cry is coming.

Am I about to die leaving my sister behind?
It is in Livingston that I will be buried,
Among my ancestor?s grandchildren
So I may see them before I am buried.
15) What?s wrong with me that these people should despise me?
I haven?t done wrong, mother of mullato.
What is the matter with that charcoal? (she is barren)
After all, she doesn?t always have children like I can.

What tremendous disgrace his is in!?
What?s?her?name reportedly said about me.
But what ;s the matter with *Lady Lemu-lemu  Dege-dege?
The devil must have put a curse on her.
*Lemu means to bend and dege is to open one?s legs or to step. The reduplicated from, used here as a proper noun, is an  adjective indicating that the referent walks with her back bent and legs spread wide. In order words, she is hump-backed and bow-legged.
16) I have been wooed by  a man who has been spat upon by women.
?Deo?s mother, have an affair with me,
I love you, I will marry you?. Is what he told me. ?Have an affair
?Have and affair with me, I love you.
Deo?s mother, have an affair with me, I love you.
I will marry you?, is what he told me.
I am not coming here to have affairs, my brother,
I am coming here to work with the Company for my livelihood.

Marriage doesn?t frighten me, my brother,
Ring, my brother? Veil, my sibling?
I?ve been wearing them since my childhood.
17) Why do you (pl.) fuss about me?
That?s my key, it?s with me.
If I fall I will get up by myself.

If you hear the words of the duck, friend,
She, unlike me has good luck;
She was married for her virginity.

But you have forgotten something, female:
What about that hat that was found in the house
While your husband was away at Orange Point?
18) Basia, I have again admitted a man,
I have made the world murmur.
I have admitted yet another man,
I have made the murmur:
They have never seen the like.

Basia, isn?t pitiful the way they assault their own purity?
They were bitches
How their cleanliness was wasted!
They behave like dogs.
They have forgotten about that!
Basia, it?s just that their deeds can?t stain ?
We all would have been stained by now:
Very few among us would have been left unaffected.
19) Stamp your foot to her, Pound your
Pound your chest to her!
You provide well for her.

Silk, embroidered and decorated with stars
Is the cover of his meat:
He provides well for her.
The foreigner provides well for himself,
Yes, he provides
Silk, embroidered  and starry
Is the cover of his meat;
He/it is ready.
20) A  meeting has been held about you, my child,
Your father has gone to a meeting about you.

But never fear, Pul?; God will help you.
Let the world speak (as it will),
I still am; you will lean on me, my child.