Religious Beliefs. Both Island Carib and modern Garifuna believe that human affairs are governed by a higher god, but also by the spirits of their deceased ancestors, whom they both love and fear. Since the nineteenth century, most have also been Roman Catholic. In addition to the ancestors, the shamans call upon "spirit helpers," who assist them in curing and locating lost objects. There may have been a belief in nature spirits in previous times, but today these have been replaced by a faith in Catholic saints and angels.
Religious Practitioners. Called buwiyes, shamans are born to their calling, receiving training through dreams and apprenticeships. A very few have become Roman Catholic priests and nuns.
Ceremonies. In addition to the usual Catholic rites, Garifuna have included some prayers and other rituals in their ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. They also sacrifice pigs and roosters, dance, sing, beat drums, and ritually drink alcohol in an effort to get the ancestors to pay attention to them and to assist them in their human trials and tribulations. Several other ritual occasions are celebrated during the year, but these are all taken from either the Catholic calendar or British secular observances. "John Canoe" is an important dance performance during Christmas and the New Year.
Arts. Dancing and singing are the primary means of artistic expression, as they were aboriginally.
Medicine. A wide range of bush medicines is known and used by most Garifuna today, both at home and in their U.S. urban homes. They also respect and use modern Western medicine when they deem it appropriate, but when all else fails, they refer their illnesses to the ancestors, who can either save or doom them.
Death and Afterlife. AU Garifuna anticipate a continuing interaction with their loved ones after death. They believe that if not properly propitiated, the dead ancestors can wreak great harm upon them, and they look forward to having such power in their own hands.