Ireka Jelani

Activating the Healing Powers of Herbs: Divine Sounds and Incantations


The paper analyzes how the healing powers of plants and herbs can be activated through divine sounds and incantations. The narratives discuss the power, effects, and values of different types of prayers, words, songs, doption, chants, and other divine utterances, when spiritual and ritual healing is being conducted at Spiritual Baptist ceremonies and other events. When using plants and herbs in spiritual and ritual healing practices, divine sounds and incantations are powerful tools and techniques used by Spiritual Baptist to help invoke and activate the life source. The interchanging paradigms of sounds, rhythms and vibrations emanating from humans and plants are fascinating deep-rooted features in the spiritual and ritual performances of Spiritual Baptists and other Creole religions in Barbados and other eastern and southern Caribbean countries. In addition to the bell, drum, and other musical devices, the body is a useful percussive instrument that creates sounds and rhythmic patterns which helps to balance, build, and lift the energies of healing, when the methods of gathering, preparation, treatment, and other procedures are being applied. Stemming from the colonial slavery experiences, the beliefs, philosophies, and phenomenology surrounding the values and effects of sounds and incantations when using plants and herbs in spiritual and ritual healing practices, contains cross-cultural influences and syncretic blends of integration, adaptations, innovations, and improvisations, that are uniquely Caribbean. As a scholar-practitioner and an elder Queen-Mother in the faith, I reflect on my own practice in relationship to many other healers and devotees of Spiritual Baptist. In centering the plants as a key locus for studying how we use divine utterances; I wish to show the means through which divine wisdom functions as an integrative divine science bring spiritual energies to activate the innate medicinal potency of plants.


Ireka Jelani is a cultural practitioner whose involvement, experience and expertise in the arts and crafts sector spans over forty years. She specializes in basketry but explores organic sculptures, painting and print making. Over the years she has worked independently with community, educational and governmental organizations as a coordinator, promotor, teacher and consultant for tutorials, art and craft markets, exhibitions, and various cultural and spiritual events. Ireka studied various aspects of visual arts and craft at the College of Art, University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Some of her fine crafts include an array of “Royal Vessels” (artistic baskets) that have won awards numerous awards. Currently pursuing her Ph.D. through the department of cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, she is an ordained Reverend Mother Superior at the Triune Shouters Spiritual Baptist Church in Barbados.


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