From the 1940s prosecutions for obeah became less common, at least in Jamaica. The conviction of Cindy Brooks in 1964 is one of only a handful of prosecutions that took place after Jamaica became independent in 1962. As in the earlier conviction of Daniel Young in Trinidad in 1931, the occultist publishing and distributing house De Laurence was involved in this case. Founded by Lauron William De Laurence, the company was based in Chicago and became notable for publishing a range of occult and magic books, some plagiarised by De Laurence. They also distributed a range of magical implements throughout the world and were particularly popular within the Caribbean, as Owen Davies states, achieving ‘mythical status’ in the region.
Cindy Brooks was a Jamaican woman who in 1964 was arrested for having received parcels including pamphlets and with using holy oil which came from the United States. She had received a parcel containing holy oil and a book called Occultism, Arts and Science. In the package was an envelope labelled “De Laurence” – Incorporated.” According to a newspaper report in the Daily Gleaner, headlined ‘Woman fined £25 for practising obeah’, Brooks explained in court that she had ordered the material because ‘duppies’ (meaning spirits of the dead) were bothering her in her sleep. She had a relative working at the De Laurence Company who recommended the items to her. She was charged with practicing Obeah and with having in her possession instruments of Obeah and was sentenced to £25 or 3 months on each charge.
Cindy Brooks’ cases highlights the growing international nature of Caribbean spiritual practice and belief with the importance of importing items from the United States of America, particularly items from the De Laurence company of Chicago. Partly as a result of the mass marketing and distribution networks created by De Laurence, Obeah practice in the twentieth century Caribbean was influenced and shaped by a range of European mystical beliefs, through their publication and distribution of occult and mystical implements and books.
‘Woman fined £25 for practising obeah’, Daily Gleaner, 26 March 1964.
Books and Articles
Bryan, Patrick. ‘Proletarian Movements (1940-90)’, in Brereton, Bridget, Teresita Martinez-Vergne, and René A. Römer. General History of the Caribbean: Volume V. Paris: UNESCO; London: Macmillan Caribbean, 2004.
Davies, Owen. Grimoires: A History of Magic Books. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Davies, Owen. ‘Owen Davies’s top 10 grimoires’ The Guardian website, Wednesday 8 April 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/08/history, site accessed 18 November 2012,
Elkins, W. F. ‘William Lauron DeLaurence and Jamaican Folk Religion.’ Folklore 97:2, 1986, pp. 215 -218.