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Winti is an Afro-Surinamese traditional religion that originated in South America and developed in the Dutch Empire; this resulted in the syncretization of the religious beliefs and practices of Akan slaves with Christianity and Indigenous American beliefs.
The foundation of Winti based on three principles: the belief in the supreme creator called Anana Kedyaman Kedyanpon; the belief in a pantheon of spirits called Winti; and the veneration of the ancestors. There is also a belief in Ampuku (also known as Apuku) which are anthropomorphic forest spirits. 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.
Winti is 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."
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 creator God who lives far away from the people, leaving the world to gods or spirits who are less powerful than him, and 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 supervision 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 schools.
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 spirits. 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 Pantheons or groups.
Certain groups of maroons also distinguish a fifth pantheon, the realm of the death.