The grass that they cut and trample and dig out and sprout roots again”: The Spiritual Baptist Church in Earl Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment


  • Maria Grau Perejoan



Earl Lovelace, Creole art forms, Spiritual Baptist church, steel pan, resistance


Earl Lovelace’s fiction can be said to, ultimately, work as a force to give validity to the Creole culture created out of the coming together of many worlds in the Caribbean. As in his novel The Dragon Can’t Dance, which celebrated those Creole art forms around Carnival, in his next novel, The Wine of Astonishment (1982), i Lovelace celebrates yet another Creole institution, the Trinidadian African-derived church of the Spiritual Baptists. In the novel the Spiritual Baptist church, made to be seen as the darkness from which natives needed to be weaned by colonial authorities, is celebrated and acknowledged as one of the basis that allowed for the creation of a new society away from the colonial narrowness. In The Wine of Astonishment, the resistance put up by Spiritual Baptist practitioners, in spite of the prohibition and violence endured, is acknowledged, celebrated and recognised as one of the milestones in Caribbean history. This article will trace, as reflected in the novel, the evolution of the Spiritual Baptist church, and will analyse its symbolical relation to another art form created in the New World: the steel pan movement. All in all, this article will examine the survival of this Trinidadian African-derived church together with the emergence of the steelpan as two of the most salient testimonies of cultural survival and creolisation of the nation.