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All about quimbois in Martinique

The origin of the word quimbois in Martinique

The word quimbois or kenbwa, tchimboi or tjenbwa in Creole would be of Kikongo origin and would mean "knowledge". Another possible origin would be the phrase "tiens bois", one of the practices of quimbois being to give concoctions based on plants and roots. For the Martinican, quimbois is synonymous with witchcraft !

The practice of Quimbois in Martinique

The quimbois, a spiritual heritage of Africa in Martinique

The quimbois, as evidenced by one of its possible etymological origins, derives its existence from Africa and its animist rites. Brought by slavery, these rites developed, creolized and spread in the Antilles.

A resistance to slavery

It would seem according to some that Quimbois magic developed as a form of resistance to slavery. Thanks to the knowledge of poisonous plants (mancenillium, maroon cane, roots...) of the quimbois practitioners, they used them to poison their masters, other slaves or even draught animals.

What is quimbois ?

Quimbois, without being simplistic, is a form of black magic, witchcraft, but also of spirituality and mysticism, at the heart of which is a character who is inseparable from the practice, the quimboiseur, who, in order to respond to the needs of those who consult him, dispenses rites and practices specific to the quimbois.

The quimboiseur, the master of knowledge

Not just anyone can practice Quimbois. One becomes a quimboiseur after initiation and transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. This heritage of knowledge gives him a special status. The gadezafé, another name for the quimboiseur, is an interpreter of the visible and invisible world.

He is consulted by locals of all social classes to find meaning in life, to choose a spiritual orientation, or simply to obtain answers to questions related to the future, whether private or professional.

Because of this position he is as respected as he is feared. Solitary, isolated from the population, he is a mystical character, guarantor of the tradition, a bit of a shaman, a bit of a diviner, a bit of a medium, a bit of a healer. An authentic Creole symbol, heir of African animism, which remains discreetly but deeply alive on the island.

The rites and practices of the quimbois

The quimbois consists of various rites and practices. The quimboiseur is consulted to :

  • protect himself from evil spells and powers

  • concoct aphrodisiac or love charms

  • enter into a relationship with the spirits

  • heal oneself with the help of plants

In the Quimbois rituals one generally finds animal sacrifices (such as chicken) or potions composed of snake venom, plants, roots and alcohol.

If you take the road during your car rental in Martinique, on traffic circles or roads you will see typical Quimbois scenes such as a dead chicken tied to a new chair! You might even run into a quimboiseur at work...

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