Garifuna Spirituality and Religion

Garifuna spirituality and religion are a blend of the rituals and beliefs of Arawak, Island Caribs and West African beliefs and culture.   All of these cultures have a strong belief in ancestral spirits and their influence on those who are living.  By acknowledging these spirits through different ceremonies, they would bless their family members and ensure continued well-being.  Over time Garifuna spirituality and religion has developed to be an integral part of the Garifuna culture.  The most common Garifuna ceremonies are as follows:

  • Garifuna Beluria (ninth night)
  • Dugu
  • Chugu

The Dugu and Chugu ceremonies take place exclusively within the Garifuna temple, the Dabuyaba under the direction of a Buyei (shaman).  All Garifuna rituals and ceremonies include abundant drumming, dancing and singing.

Unfortunately Garifuna spirituality and religion are under threat.  Many Garifuna people are also loyal Catholics, with drumming and Garifuna hymns often sung in charge.  But the encroachment of pentecostal churches into Central America has contributed to a recent rise in public derision of Garifuna spirituality.  It has become common for those Garifuna people who attend Dugu and Chugu ceremonies to be accused of devil worship.  Those who make these accusations have clearly never attended a Dugu or Chugu.  In reality, these ceremonies are constantly thanking God.  This new attack on Garifuna culture is worrying.  When the Garifuna people first arrived in Belize the British would tell their African and Creole slaves that the Garifuna people were cannibals and devil worshippers.  These new attacks threaten to reignite religious and ethnic divisions.  As many drum rhythms and songs are exclusively used in the temple, they also threaten much of Garifuna culture itself.

Garifuna spirituality and religion

Garifuna temple in Barranco