Tracing the African Origins of Obeah (Obia): Some Conjectures and Inferences from the History of Benin Kingdom
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The practice of Obeah divination among people of African descent in the Americas has long been established to originate from West Africa. But the place of origin has remained a subject of speculation. The earliest speculated places of origin were the Akan and the neighbouring Popo. Most recent studies using demographic size and linguistic evidence have concluded that Obeah originated from among the Igbo of the Bight of Biafra in Nigeria. This paper disputes this conclusion and shows that demographic size is least relevant and the linguistic evidence is faulty. It then argues that in spite of the marginal role of Benin Kingdom, Obeah and its early practice are most likely derived from the Edo-speaking people of Benin Kingdom, Nigeria. It substantiates this with historical evidence and etymological inferences from the practice of slavery in the kingdom and its involvement in the Trans-Atlantic trade.
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