Legal Eagle : Man wants help from De Lawrance

May 15, 2017
The punishment for persons practising obeah is imprisonment and/or whipping.

Recently, a man known to me as 'Willie D' approached me to assist him to write a letter to 'D. Lawrence' for him to get some 'help' to overcome problems that are now confronting him. I refused, but I could not help but think of the impact made by this American pioneer, whose ingenuity assisted with the development of obeah in Jamaica.

So who is this man? Bishop Dr. Lauron William de Laurence, also known as De Laurence, was born in Ohio in the USA in 1868. In his lifetime, he authored and co-authored several books, including The Master Key and the Great Book of Hindu Magic, which were published by his publishing company De Laurence, Scott & Co.

He was also accused of plagiarism with respect to some of his publications. In the early 1930s, he was consecrated as a bishop of the American Catholic Church. De Laurence died in Chicago in 1936.

De Laurence's greatest impact might have been his pioneering role in starting a business of supplying magical and occult goods by mail order. This was indeed novel, as he could easily reach a global market. It is believed that thousands of Jamaicans accessed magical and occult goods by mail from the De Laurence organisation over several years. One example was Cindy Brooks, who in 1964 was prosecuted and convicted of receiving holy oil and a book from De Laurence. She was fined £25. Remarkably, many Jamaicans still speak of De Laurence as if he is still alive today and without any recognition that he died in 1936, before the vast majority of our present population was born.

It should be noted that Jamaica's connection to obeah went back to slavery. Some say that Nanny of the Maroons was an obeah woman. However, in 1970s the daily lives of Jamaicans were disrupted when it was said that there was a coffin on wheels cited in several parts of Jamaica. The target was a Mr Brown. Some schools were closed early and many people, especially in rural Jamaica, had to lock their doors before the usual time. Also, there was talk about a Font Hill duppy calling out Mr. Brown's name. There are so many other 'stories' about the work of De Laurence in Jamaica, including stones being thrown on houses.

In addition to the above, De Laurence had a major impact on black spiritual churches in America and the Caribbean, whose leaders felt that they should move towards a more traditional view of Christianity.




In the late 19-century, obeah was a big concern for the ruling class. The response was, for instance in Jamaica, theoObeah Act. This 1898 law made the practise of obeah an illegal act and defines it as one and the same as myalism. According to the obeah Act, an instrument of obeah means anything used and possess of any occult or supernatural power. Obeah is similar to voodoo in Haiti or santeria in Latin America. The punishment for persons practising obeah is imprisonment and/or whipping. However, whipping is abolished in Jamaica.

The Jamaican Government went further by prohibiting the importation of all publications of De Laurence Scott and Company of Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism or supernatural arts.

De Laurence is not a household name in Jamaica, but from the turn of the last century and up to the 1980s, his name was fairly well known in Jamaica, and what he professes to do will continue to haunt many. His true gift was the manipulation of the mind. He was really good at it.

For those who wish to practise obeah or use it in any way, just remember that there is a law in Jamaica that makes it illegal.

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