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Traditional West African Libation Ceremony Held on Sunday Hosted by the St. Croix Orchid Society

On Sunday, the members of the St. Croix Orchid Society held a traditional West African Libation Ceremony to honor the ancestors who lived, worked and died on Estate St. George.

In addition, it served as the dedication of the Sugar Factory 1,000 Orchid Memorial Garden that is located at the St. George Village Botanical Garden on St. Croix. The event was held on the 145th observation of the St. Croix Fireburn.

At the start of the ceremony, Magda Finch prepares to pour the libation into a decanter held by former Sen. Myron Jackson.
From left, front row is Jackson, Finch, Dr. Chenzira Davis Kahena, and Professor Olasee Davis. Back row is Dr. Chester Copemann, Helen Copemann, and Stephanie Chalana Brown. (Photo submitted by Tom Callahan)

Libation ceremonies have been held throughout the world for thousands of years. Various liquids are used, such as milk, wine, sake and water, depending on the location and culture. These ceremonies carry important meaning to those participating as they give prayers for the ancestors.

The libation of water fills the decanter. Front row is former Sen. Myron Jackson, and Magda Finch. Back row is Dr. Chester Copemann, Helen Copemann, Stephanie Chalana Brown. (Photo submitted by Tom Callahan)

To begin the ceremony, the libation is poured into a decanter held by the celebrant. It is then transferred to a smaller bowl to allow the libation to be sprinkled as prayers are said.

Former Sen. Myron Jackson says prayers for the ancestors as Ray Illes drums. Front row is Jackson, Dr. Chester Copemann, and Magda Finch. Back row is Helen Copemann, and Stephanie Chalana Brown. (Photo submitted by Tom Callahan)

As the libation was sprinkled by former Sen. Myron Jackson, ceremony participant Chalana Brown called the names of some of the ancestors who have passed, including the queens and others involved in the Fireburn. Attendees were asked to call out names of family members who have passed. Soft drumming by Ray Iles was in the background throughout, an important cultural part of the ceremony.

Former Sen. Myron Jackson sprinkles the libation in tribute to the ancestors. Back row is Stephanie Chalana Brown, and Magda Finch. (Photo submitted by Tom Callahan)

Magda Finch, SCOS board member, spoke in a phone interview about the importance of the ceremony.

“It’s just been a closeness to the ancestors and a feeling that they are pleased with what we are doing at the site. They are looking out for us and everything falls into place. We have written several grants which have all come through. The biggest thing for me was the weather, but the sun came out from the drizzle and stayed out during the whole event. There is a feeling of being in a sacred place. It is peaceful and tranquil. People come away with a sense of calmness,” said Finch.

Attendees watch as the ceremony unfolds. (Photo submitted by Tom Callahan)
Soft drumming by Ray Iles accompanies former Sen. Myron Jackson as he asks for prayers for the ancestors and family members who worked and lived on the plantation. Front row is Jackson, Chester Copemann, Helen Copemann, Magda Finch, Chenzira Davis Kahena, and Professor Olasee Davis. Back row is Stephanie Chalana Brown. (Photo submitted by Tom Callahan)

A poem inspired by the ceremony was written and forwarded to the SCOC.

We gathered today on sacred ground, in a most beautiful garden to honor beloved ancestors, to recognize their presence here, before and now, in body and spirit, and to commemorate each and every one of their lives on this land.  

A Tribute to The Ancestors

This garden sanctuary is you.

Bright sun…your light

Dark clouds…your shadows

Jagged stone…your resilience

Gentle rain…your tears.

Branching trees…your limbs

Sweet bird song…your heart song

Inspired design…your artistry

Solid ground…your endurance.

Vast sky….your dreams

Hawk’s screech…your pain

Dragonfly wings… freedom flights

Queen Matilda…your courage.

Exquisite orchids…your beauty…body and soul

This garden sanctuary is you.

– Anonymously penned by a humble witness of the consecration of the ground in the 1,000 Orchid Memorial Garden at the Libation Ceremony Oct. 1.

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