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What is Bina and How Does it Work?

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Please Note: Cover photo is a placeholder photo and does not show an actual photo of a “bina plant.”

Published: 11th of August, 2023

Last updated: August 14, 2023 at 15:48 pm

Someone who has lived in Guyana for a long time is likely to hear the expression “bina,” also spelt “beena,” or “bena.” Since it is an indigenous expression originating from, and confined to, the Amerindians of the Guianas (British, Dutch, and French), the word did not make its way into the English Dictionary. However, the idea is very familiar to people who live in the Guianas.

Before researching for this article, if you asked me what is bina, and how it works, I would respond that I don’t know. Having lived both on the coastlands and interior regions, I’ve heard the expression used many times by both Amerindians and people of diverse ethnicities. And having heard so much talk about it, I decided to do some investigation into what bina really is and how it works. Nevertheless, my findings are somewhat superficial and not conclusive.

Some documentations state that the Amerindians of Guyana (and perhaps also in Suriname and French Guiana) have used various “charm plants” to achieve various objectives. These objectives include good luck in hunting, protection from harm, victory in sports, and making a person fall in love. This last objective, making a person fall in love,” is the one of most interest and is what this article focuses on.

When I was in Yupukari Village in Central Rupununi, an indigenous friend of mine, a tour guide, showed me a plant with a purple flower. He told me that that is the “bina plant” which indigenous people use to attract a lover. But the mechanism used in doing so is a bit unclear. Some sources have related that the person who wants to gain the use of the charm talks to the plant while others have said that they just keep in their possession (example in the pockets) while making contact with the person they would like to charm. Some have said that the plant is invoked through a ritual.

Countless stories from both people of indigenous descent and of other races suggest that there is at least some substance behind the bina story, and that it really does work. According to some of my Amerindian friends, the bina plant can make a person fall in love with the person who invokes or uses it, but that love will not last long – perhaps six months to one year – before the charm wears off. During this time, the charmed person feels intense love for, and is said to be “wrapped around the finger” of, the person who had charmed them. After the charm wears off, the person comes to their senses and might realize that something had been done to them. But by that time, enough “damage” might have been done to keep the couple together for life or a long time…for example, a conception, marriage, lifestyle changes, or even bestowal of property. Nevertheless, my friend from Yupukari posited that relationships forged through the use of the bina charm almost always dissolve within a few months or years.

The bina charm for love purposes is thought to be used mostly on men of any ethnicity by Amerindian women. But it can be used by either man or woman. I’ve heard statements like “Amerindian girls know ‘good knack,'” and “if they like you, they know how to keep you.” Accompanying these statements are stories of young men from the coasts who went into interior regions, hooked up with indigenous women, and “could not leave.” Some of them were reported to have left a comfortable life at their previous homes with lots of assets, business, and wealth for “love” with their indigenous partners in remote areas. But whether this phenomena can be pinned to bina or actual love cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt and can only be speculated upon.

Due to Christianization of indigenous communities, which been happening for centuries now, the knowledge of bina charms and how to use them has become less popular among indigenous people. Most Amerindians don’t know about them. According to the feedback I’ve received, only a handful of Amerindians today actually know anything about bina plants and how to use them. The Christian church, which wields enormous power over Amerindian communities, has condemned the use of bina and similar traditional practices as sorcery. This has caused many Amerindians to shun the knowledge and practice of bina. As a result, most Amerindians whom I have spoken to know little to nothing about it.

So, what do you know about, or what are your experiences with, bina? Tell us in the comments below.

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