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Winti is the Afro-Surinamese traditional religion that resulted from the syncretization of the religious beliefs and practices of slaves brought to Suriname from west Africa. Similar religious developments can be seen elsewhere in the Americas and the Caribbean (e.g. in Brazil's Candomblé, Cuba's Santería, Haiti's Vodou, Trinidad and Tobago's Orisha, etc.). The term 'Winti' literally means wind, because in the belief of the practitioners, just like the wind the spirits are omnipresent.
The foundation of Winti is the belief in a creator God called Anana Kedyaman Kedyanpon, the believe in pantheons of gods or spirits called Winti and the veneration of the ancestors. The term Winti was originally only the name of the gods or spirits but nowadays is used to refer to this religion in general.
Winti may further be described according to C. Wooding (a Winti expert) as:
"...an Afro American religion, within which the belief in personified supernatural beings occupies a central position. These personified supernatural beings can take possession of a human person, switch off their consciousness, as it were, and thereby reveal things concerning the past, present and future as well as cause and/or heal illnesses of a supernatural nature." (C. WOODING, Winti: een Afro Amerikaanse godsdienst in Suriname (Meppel: 1972)
Another Winti expert (H.J.M. Stephen, 1985) describes Winti as:
"...primarily a religion, which means that respect for the divine, worship and prayer are central. In addition, it has a strong magical aspect, which often has been emphasized too one-sidedly and unfairly. Magic involves the influence of earthly events by supernatural means."
History of Winti
During slavery members of various West African tribes were brought to Suriname. They came from kingdoms that had certain religious aspects in common, like the belief in a supreme god who lives far away from the people, leaving the world to gods who are less powerful than him, the belief in an immortal human soul and the related ancestor worship.
After the 'abolition' of slavery in 1863, a ten-year period of economic slavery followed known as 'De Periode van Staatstoezicht' (the period of State Supervision). The period of State Supervison ended in 1873 and was followed by a very long period of mental and cultural slavery. The 'former' slaves and their descendants were forced to convert to Christianity and for nearly 100 years (1874–1971) practicing Winti was forbidden by law. They were also forced to speak Dutch, education in their own language 'Sranan Tongo' was forbidden and children were not allowed to speak Sranan Tongo in school. If children did speak Sranan Tongo, they were forced to wash their mouth with soap.
In Winti it is believed that a human being has three spiritual aspects, the Dyodyo, Kra and Yorka. Through these aspects human beings are integrated into the supernatural world. The Dyodyo are the supernatural parents who protect their children and may be higher or lower gods. They received the pure soul, the Kra, from Anana and give that to a child. The Kra and Dyodyo determine your reason and mentality, while the biological parents provide blood and the physical body. Yorka, the other spiritual part, absorbs the life experiences. After the death of the physical body, the Kra goes back to the Dyodyo and the Yorka goes to the realm of the dead.
There are four (4) Pantheons or groups.
- 1. The Earth pantheon with the Earth gods or Gron Winti.
- 2. The Water Pantheon with Water spirits (gods) or Watra Winti.
- 3. The Forest Pantheon with the Forest Spirits (gods) or Busi Gado's.
- 4. The Sky Pantheon with the Sky Gods or the Tapu Winti.
Certain groups of maroons also distinguish a fifth pantheon, the realm of the death.
The Earth pantheon
The Winti of the Earth pantheon are called. Goron (ground, earth) Gados (gods).
The Goron Gadus are:
Also called Mama Aisa, Wanaisa or Awanaisa. She is the mother of gods. The mother of Africa (Mama fu Nengre Kondre). She is Mother Earth, the head of the Winti of the Earth.
- Loko (He is the husband of Aisa. Lives in a Loko Tree.)
- Leba (the god or spirit of the crossroads, in other African or African-American religions known as Legba or Papa Legba)
The water pantheon
- Watra Ingi
- Watra Kromanti
The forest pantheon
Included in the forest pantheon of the Winti religion are Ampuku (also known as Apuku) which are anthropomorphic forest, or bush, spirit. Ampuku are said to resemble tall black men. An Ampuku can possess people (both men and women) and can also pass itself off as another spirit. Ampuku can also be water spirits, and are known in such cases as Watra Ampuku.
- Busi Ingi
The sky pantheon
This pantheon contains the spirits of the sky, the so-called Tapu Kromanti.
- Opete or Tata Ananka Yaw
- Wooding, Ch.J. (1972). Winti: een Afroamerikaanse godsdienst in Suriname; een cultureelhistorische analyse van de religieuze verschijnselen in de Para. Meppel: Krips.
- Wooding, Ch.J. (1984) Geesten genezen. Ethnopsychiatrie als nieuwe richting binnen de Nederlandse antropologie. Groningen: Konstapel.
- Stephen, H.J.M. (1983). Winti, Afro-Surinaamse religie en magische rituelen in Suriname en Nederland. Amsterdam: Karnak.
- Stephen, H.J.M (1986). De macht van de Fodoe-winti: Fodoe-rituelen in de winti-kultus in Suriname en Nederland. Amsterdam: Karnak.
- Stephen, H.J.M. (1986). Lexicon van de Winti-kultuur. Naar een beter begrip van de Winti-kultuur. Z.pl.: De West.