Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
In the Trinidadian English/Creole, words can take on unexpected meanings. “Mourning” is one of those words, referring not simply to postmortem grief but to a practice of travel that is central to the Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Baptist faith. Mourning involves the blindfolding and seclusion of an initiate for multiple days. In this simulated death, the body remains immobile and blindfolded, while mourners’ spirits travel to various locations in the "Spiritual Lands" (with the more common destinations including the "Spiritual Nations" of Africa, India, China, or the Depths). Rather than an exercise in bridging the chasm between the living and the dead through memory (or accepting this chasm’s finality), mourning aims at cultivating an everyday awareness of the palimpsestic worlds of “the carnal” and “the spiritual” by teaching mourners how to separate spirit and body.