Amelia Barker’s case shows how accusations of obeah were widely made, even when people weren’t on trial for obeah. Barker, who lived in Port of Spain, Trinidad, was threatened with arrest by a policeman, Sergeant Bernard, because she threw water onto the street outside her house. Angered by what she perceived as interference in her business, Barker reportedly verbally attacked Sergeant Bernard, accusing him of winning his promotion through the use of obeah. She said:
if he trifled with her, she would send him to the Lunatic or the Leper Asylum and that he was drunk and had got his stripes by the aid of obeah.
Bernard arrested Barker and brought her to court, where he had her charged with throwing water in the street and with ‘violent language’. She was found guilty and fined. The case is interesting in showing a small slice of everyday conflict, and particularly because it reveals what was likely a common suspicion that people in authority had not acquired it fairly. Obeah was sometimes understood to be a way that people could get ahead illicitly.
Amelia Barker at Caribbean Religious Trials
Port of Spain Gazette, 21 May 1898 p. 3.