Abstract

This article explores the connection between individual experience, religious initiation, historical consciousness, and ethnicity within the context of Dugu, the religion practiced by the Garifuna, an Afro-Amerindian group that originated in the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. During colonial times, in 1797, the British Crown forced the Garifuna people to leave their homeland; they were displaced to the Atlantic coast of Central America, where they now live in scattered communities. This traumatic event remains entrenched in Dugu and emerges among individuals' somatic experiences and ritual performance. Overwhelmed, ancestors become visible in dreams and hallucinatory visions and are the instigators of misfortune. Also, the spirits of the dead are believed to act on the bodies of their living descendants by spirit possession. By focusing on some recurrent patterns of possession episodes among the Garifuna people, I argue that particular scenes of a collective memory are embodied by individuals, who evolve from afflicted patients to “living supports” of a historical legacy via initiation.

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