My mother always used to say to me that, “A belief in signs and wonders always follows the believer.” and I have lived to watch those words being borne out in the process of life.
I have also come to the conclusion that the course that we decide to pursue in life determines what our material and spiritual wellbeing will eventually be.
This obeah thing is very pervasive. I was able to read from a very early age and never let my fellow pupils know how far ahead of their lessons I had reached, but I struck up a good relationship with a woman in Bank Alley and started to make money. The major politicians used to disguise themselves and visit her, long after dark. She used to read the cards for them and one of her functions seemed to have been that of writing a variety of letters to many people.
Now that I am much older and more experienced, I have come to the conclusion that, in spite of her alleged powers, she was probably illiterate. But she was a boss at “cutting cards”.
My job was to write the letters at sixpence per letter. She also taught me how to collect “ Holy-Water ” when it rained. I was a pupil at the St John’s Boys School and was years away from winning a scholarship to the Antigua Grammar School, but I was smart and my income from writing letters etc. (my pardner, John Quarkoo was my pen-supplier ) was, quite reasonable.
I used to store my coins in cigarette tins and felt that I was rich, for I was able to buy my sugar-cakes and sugar-babies at will. Every Sunday afternoon, I bought my coconut ice-cream from Henny Jeffrey. What more did I want? But, I did not reckon for my mother. A certain person squealed on me, revealing what I thought had been a very disguised, well-kept secret, and all hell broke loose. My mother nearly skinned me alive and I had to unearth my secure cache of coins, take it to Church one Sabbath morning and put everything in the collection-plate, under her stern gaze.
I pretended to be poor again, but every Sabbath morning, she simply held out a hand and told me to put the silvers there. I was soon poor again. I received several lectures on obeah from her, how fake it was and on the intellectual level of the excursions into the unknown. She never curtailed my reading, and before I was fourteen, I had already read Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, return of the Native and Gone with the Wind etc.
I developed a fascination for Zane Grey as a writer of Western tales. I never knew nor suspected that every day that I went to school, my mother monitored everything that I read or was reading. By the time I was eighteen, I was ready to go to university with an Inter-BA under my belt. I had access to Lucein Reid’s vast collection of books and had begun to delve into books like Moses and Monotheism, writings on the Illuminati, books like the Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry and other deep metaphysical stuff.
Then quite suddenly I received a visit from Dr William Osborne, who used to lecture at Fisk University, who said that he had come to Antigua to pray with me. How she contacted him, up to now I don’t know. She had known him in College and we had three days of frank, open discussion on the nature and concept of God. We explored questions about the supernatural and the paranormal etc. I have never faltered in my belief in God, but I subsequently discovered that she had been concerned about the direction that my reading had been taking.
Dr Osborne told me that eventually I would come to a fork in the road, and at some time I would have to choose the correct branch in the road. Frank Agard who used to be steeped in the study of metaphysics later told me the same thing.
I subsequently entered the world of politics and a man who was a lawyer, introduced a law that made it a crime to write or say anything harsh about a minister of government. The truth of the matter should not be inquired into. You were automatically guilty.
They hauled Victor McKay before the Courts and I was scheduled to follow. The irony of the situation was that my personal friend whom I was always warned was a big, big Obeah-man told me that he had always protected me. He showed me a 1923 copy of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with dozens of imps on the cover and told me that my fight in the spiritual world was a very rough one .
He then took out a large volume of a book that was in mint condition, which he said was from the De Lawrence Company and he only used it in matters of life and death. I should make up my mind what I wanted to do with those who opposed me. One phone call to De Lawrence and anyone who troubled me was dead. He knew that I was a Seventh Day Adventist and that we didn’t believe in those kinda ah things, but “ You better look after youself, ah going to send a man from Potters to see you” A few days after, a man from Potters walked into my bakery and told me that he was supposed to meet a man there and in order to deal with matters.
When I asked the man where he was going to spend eternity, he replied, “Oh, ah you ah de man?” It was a close friend from Gray’s Farm, one of my staunch supporters and campaigners. We embraced and had a hearty laugh. My very strong suspicion was that none of the big obeah-men could read.
I was a pall-bearer of the first obeah-man when he died from prostrate cancer. I was not in the island for the Potter’s man’s funeral. Even on his death – bed at Holberton, the first one couldn’t cure himself. He told me that he was convinced that somebody do him!