The Revival Table

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Spiritual, eye catching, colourful and mouth watering are descriptions used for a Revival table.   A Revival table is a combined religious service and feast.  The temporary ritual dining table arranged with contains an assortment of unsalted cooked food, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, fruits, nuts, spices, candles, flowers, medicinal plants and other ritualised objects to facilitate are arranged and communication is said to be made with the spirit world. Some tables are set up regularly; however, others are set up when a spiritual message is received telling them to do so. The message will contain very specific instructions as to how the table is to be set up, and such a table is referred to as a “duty”. Table ceremonies are arranged for a variety of reasons, the most important being: thanksgiving, money raising, uplifting, mourning, memorial, and healing.

The Thanksgiving Table is sponsored by ‘ban’ or cult members; most successful leaders usually have thanksgiving tables annually to celebrate their band’s good fortune.  Members sometime have similar ceremonies to give thanks for good luck or for the recovery of health. On such occasions, singing, praying, Bible reading, speech making and eating continue all night.

The Candlelight Table serves a fund-raising function. The table is laid out with a large number of candles and after the usual drumming, singing and praying, the leader usually explains the purpose of the table and invite persons to pay a fee, light a candle and make a wish. The lighting of the candles is followed by Bible reading, singing, dancing and brief messages from the leader.

The Uplifting Table or Deliverance Table is given to remove evil spirits. Uplifting or deliverance tables fall into two general categories: those that are to “cut destruction” and the “rising” table given by a new convert who has been “on the ground” to celebrate the release from the spirit. Persons usually seek deliverance from “dangers” such as illnesses, unemployment, family troubles; and sins which the person has committed and is worried about. Sacrifices are usually offered at special uplifting tables. The table consists of candles, loaves of bread, and fresh fruits. The colours used on this table are white and blue.

The Mourning Table usually would include a photograph or a favourite piece of clothing of the deceased.  Mourning tables are held, three, and six months after the death of an individual.  In addition, a third mourning table is held a year and a half after the burial of an individual. Here, the special purpose is to recommend the complete crossover of the individual to the other world and to recommend him to the Holy Ghost. The colours for this are black and white, the white said to be for purity, representing the flesh of Jesus Christ; and the black for mourning, representing sin and death.

Memorial tables are held to honour dead leaders and relatives. The first ceremony is usually held two and half years after the burial of an individual. The reasons for this table are that relatives and friends are sorry about the death of the individual and / or the family hopes to get a revelation from the spirit of the dead person. This service is normally held between the hours of eleven o’clock and midnight. Colours used on this table are black and white.

Another is the healing table, the purpose of which is to cure. The distinguishing feature of this table is the presence of herbs, particularly the Leaf-of-Life, that are used in healing. The healing table is also adorned with numerous white candles and fruits (though not as many fruits as the thanksgiving or uplifting tables). The colour is white as rule, although when an illness is very serious, white and blue may be used.

The setting of the table is always accomplished before sundown and after all preparations are completed the service will begin.  The variety and numerous objects found on the Revival tables can be costly. Tables vary in size and shape. They can be round, rectangular or may take the shape of a cross, also termed four-pole.  The food is prepared for the living persons present as well as for the various ancestral spirits who may attend. Salt free food such as rice and meat are prepared specially for the ancestral spirits, and could have adverse consequences for the unintended consumer.

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The Revival tables contains meat, bread,  pastries, fruits, spices, medicinal plants, seeds, flowers, candles, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. The meat prepared for the Revival table primarily comes from goat (usually ram goat) and chicken. Dishes accompanying the meat may include steamed okra, calaloo, roast yam, salt fish and mannish water. The table features round breads as well as cakes and pastries such  as  fruit cake, pudding, dukunnu otherwise known as blue-drawers, gizzards and  homemade buster (bus-mi-jaw).Grapefruit, mangoes, pineapples, custard apple, cashew, citrus fruits are a few of our island fruits that are often placed  on  the Revival  table. Spices such as cinnamon stick and leaves, nutmeg, cloves, annatto, thyme, garlic, pepper and bissy are placed on the table as well. Alcoholic beverages including white rum, usually accompanied by vodka and beer and non-alcoholic beverage such as soda, homemade drink and glasses of water can be found. Arranged in bowls, basins and baskets are medicinal plants, seeds and flowers. Revival plants, such as the croton, leaf of life, variety of stems, sinkle bible, dried tobacco, mints, roots and vibes are added to the arrangement of the table.

Other important objects which are often featured on Revival tables include the bible and candles. The Bible is regarded as the most important sacred book and is sometimes placed at the head of the table. Bible reading is a part of all Revival Zion services.  Also, candles of many colours are central icons of   the Revival table. They serve to attract the spirits, may be used to clear persons of unwanted spirits and when colour coded can indicate the nature of the ritual being held.  The ritual ends with the breaking of the table and sharing of the food, the final symbol of the ritual feasting with the spirits. Revivalism is a vital part of Jamaican’s heritage and the table is an integral part of their worship.

 

References

Chevannes, Barry.  “Revivalism a disappearing religion.” Caribbean Quarterly 24.3 & 4 (1978):

1-17.

Hutton, Clinton.”The Revival Table: Feasting with the Ancestors and Spirits.”  Jamaica Journal

32.1-2 (2009): 18-23.

 

Payne-Jackson,   Arvilla and Mervyn  Alleyne.  Jamaican folk medicine: a source of  healing.

Kingston: University Press, 2004.

 

Seaga, Edward. “Revival cults in Jamaica.”  Journal 3.2 (1969): 18-23.

Senior, Olive. Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage.  Kingston: Twin Guinep Publishers, 2003.

Simpson, George Eaton. Jamaica Cult Music: Revivalism in Jamaica.  Folkways Records and

Service Corp.1954.

 

Simpson, George Eaton. Religious cults of the Caribbean: Trinidad, Jamaica and Haiti. Rio

Piedras: University of Puerto Rico, 1980.

 

Simpson, George Eaton. Jamaican Revivalist cults. [S.I.]: Institute of Social and Economic

Research, 1956.

 

African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/ Jamaica Memory Bank .  Afro-Jamaican Religions.

Kingston: African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/ Jamaica Memory Bank, 2007. CD.

 

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