When Doption Becomes Language and Makes Road
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” - (John 1:1, KJV)
Spiritual Baptist services are oftentimes long because they do not rigidly follow prescribed formats. It is ritual masking as ceremony. At any juncture, a song or sankey is pitched and, once a connection to the spirit world is established, road opens up for the indwelling, manifestation and transmission of the spirit. In these moments a song signals the opening of portals of mystical healing, of divine messages. The song becomes a symphony, its sonic disruption broadens, develops, and then transfers to bring an embodied rhythmic action called “the spirit of a doption”. Here, a road to the spirit world is created and we “Spiritual Baptists” journey in the spirit. Doption becomes an important mechanism for spirit to come in and for devotees to launch out, to travel to specific locations in the spirit world, to commune and communicate with the divine, and then return to present time, often for the service to resume and continue to the next item in the program. In this paper, I attempt to create an embodied visceral narrative for those of us devoted to Spiritual Baptist worship. Here the singing, rhythmic breathing, aspirating bodies are co-opted to fortify high energy portals between worlds. In this moment, literally, metaphorically, and symbolically, “the Word [is] made flesh, and dwells among us and we behold [its] glory… full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 KJV). With this mapping, I hope to make tangible what is very much a lived experience for Spiritual Baptist practitioners. Hopefully, in trying to do so, I clarify (and complicate) some of the previous documents written about us, who we are and what we do.
John Hunte is a performing arts practitioner, activist, and teacher, armed with a diploma in dance theatre and production from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, a B.S. in dance from State University of New York – College at Brockport, an M.F.A. in performing arts management from City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and a Ph.D. degree in cultural studies from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus. Hunte serves as executive director with Barbados Dance Project Inc., an ongoing program for budding dancers to educate, collaborate and engage the Barbadian community. He serves as artistic director/principal at the Barbados Dance Theatre Company Inc. He sits on the Barbados Landship Association Advisory Committee. Hunte is an ordained minister in the Caribbean Regional Spiritual Baptist Community and currently serves as chair of the council of Spiritual Baptist Churches of Barbados.