myths and legends

. . Jamaica is truly an intriguing place, for where else can one find so rich in a history mixed with myths, legends and superstitions. Nanny is a National Heroine but, just think of some questions which surrounded her unusual strenght – sometimes linked to witchcraft. And, speaking of witchcraft, the stories of Annie Palmer are sometimes incredible if one doesn’t believe in obeah …


“Teacher mi caan pick yuh charry…” is part of one Big Bwoy story which though leud, has been told innumerable times. Big Bwoy – hated by many because of his insolence and rudeness, but loved by others who are amused by his jokes. Big Bwoy is a character carved by the Jamaican society. A boring day could be changed by these stories. One story is how Big Bwoy stayed in the room of a teenaged girl who complained of “Something riding her”. Her mother who had welcomed Big Bwoy into her house should have known better than to think her daughter had eaten someting wich resten on her stomach all night. Moving on, Big Bwoy brought silence to his class when the teacher asked him to spell M-O-S-Q-I-T-O. Big Bwoy was quick on his feet. “Mosquito Teacher! Dat too small give me something big to spell like Cow,” which he did with rousing cheers from the class. Teachers over the years have pinned the name Big Bwoy on students who continue to display these traits – the comic of the class whose loose tongue is likely to lead them in trouble, or make them a comic hero. Ironically there has never been a Big Girl in class and if there was one it might have been hard to match Big Bwoy’s trickery.


The real Anancy is the creature, which makes a web to catch its prey – sometimes flies, and make them his daily meal. The folk hero – Anancy is no less than a person who through ginnalship and trickery can survive even the toughest times. For many folks, bedtime stories are not complete without Anancy making his appearance. The call could come frim a child who sits around the fireside or an area lit by a bottle torch. Now, how about one story where Anancy finds a piece of dutch- pot and with the magic words – “Do meck mi see,” he is able to secure food for his entire family. But, the greedy Anancy washed the pot clean and never again was able to get any food. Then, it was Anancy’s tongue, which almost cost him his life. Having secured a free ride from John Crow across a lake he asked; “A who fah arm smell so tink.” John Crow knowing he was the one remained silent and again Anancy asked. “John Crow a fi yu arm smell so tink.” Embarrassed, John Crow let go of Anancy who fell into a muddy lake below.


Speak of the Buccaneers to the Spanish Government in the seventeenth century and they were likely to point to the devil. For the Buccaneers had a bad reputation towards the Spaniards whom they hated. Once organized the Buccaneers runed to piracy. This was after the Spanish authorities killed their main source of survival: cattle. A fair description of the Buccaneers would be incomplete without the words, “run-away slaves shipwrecked sailors mostly English and French by nationality.” Based on the island of Tortuga the Buccaneers set out to give the Spaniards hell. When the French and the English were in “hot water” with each other a small group of English Buccaneers established themselves in Jamaica at the settlement of Port Royal. Their Leader, Henry Morgan, led the Buccaneers into several victories. In each case Henry Morgan reprotedly set fire to towns and tortured the inhabitants.


Dubbed a survivor of the dreadful 1692 earthquake, which sent Port Royal bending on its knees, he was buried twice. The man – Lewis Galdy a businessman in Port Royal was attending to his books when he heard the great roar. Galdy witnessed building kneeling over, some disappearing including the wharves and warehouses; the sea foaming tearing vessels apart and sweeping them over the sunken ruins of the town. Galdy, rushed for safety as the street opened up. He dashed for Morgan’s Fort but where this stood was, now sea. Determined to survive, Galdy rushed towards the bustling town but a great hole opened under his feet and gulped him up. Another earthquake shock and miraculously trew Galdy out into the sea and he was saved by men on a boat. Fourteen years later Galdy died and wa buried in Green Bay. His epitaph reads : Here lies the body of Lewis Galdy who departed this life at Port Royal, December 22, 1739, at age 80.


Tired of feeling down. Need to energise and vitalize to keep going the extra mile. The place to be is Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay, the second city in tropical Jamica. Known for its medicinal value Doctor’s Cave Beach is more than an attraction for tourists. Believe it or not, many visitors have claimed physical healing by soaking their skin in the water. Some say they have been healed from ailments such as asthma, tuberculosis and even sexual dysfunction. Doctor’s Cave Beach is said to get its name from one Dr. Alexander James McCatty, who owned it and turned it into a bathing club. His concept was quickly hooked by many who rushed to this beach and, in an attempt to cash in on its popularity investors began to provide accommodations for its customers. Besides the name being birth by a doctor many say the beach rightly gives them much of whatever the doctors prescribed.


Long before piped water came into being people would collect water from, perhaps a river, a spring, a well, or wait on the Almighty to send rain. Unlike today, there would be long lines, as some persons had up to five containers to be filled. The Dome in Montego Bay represents important aspects of our past – the shelter of water, which came from a creek. Erected in 1837 the Dome in Montego Bay served as a shelter for the creek where residents got their full source of water. Legend has it that two little girls hunting shrimps discovered the water of the creek during Spanish times. They lifted a stone and heard water flowing from underground. For over fifty years the town’s people obtained water from the creek until 1894 when piped water was introduced. The common sight was a long line of servants with Yabbas on their heads waiting to collect water. The Dome still exists as a city Landmark and has given its name to Dome Street.


As one writer rightly put is, Mitchell’s Folly: a tragic comedy of one man’s dream and his ruin. The dreamer – American millionaire, Alfred Mitchell, wanted to impress his young bride that he foolishly got a castle – Folly built with sand and sand-water. So, Folly took the place of wisdom. On that day when the curtains were expected to fly open the bride, Alice Mitchell, was stunned when a section of the building collapsed. Disappointed she sailed back home. Some say Mitchell collapsed and died from a broken heart while others claimed he died six years later in 1911. So it was a matter of “haste brings waste”, of a dream destined to come through. In 1992 a visit fo Folly showed the ruins of a once a palatial mansion – drippings from the roof, patches of black mould, long stretches of rusty iron bars that lines it. A well-kept bar is kept busy during evening funcions. After 80 years the Portland Development Corporation was ticking with plans for Folly Great House and the Folly estate, some 55 acres of land which attracts visitors to Port Antonio.


Many are believed to have sacrificed their lives for the Golden Table, said to worth a fortune. Although no one has come forward with concrete proof of this prized treasure, it is much sought after like a jumbo Lotto Jackpot. Many claiming to see this Golden Table spoke of its coils of rubies, gems and pearls – treasures they claimed were left behind by the Spaniards who occupied Jamaica before the English in 1655. One such Golden Table was reportedly seen in the Rio Cobre River. It remained for about 12 short seconds then disappeared. It is also said that there is no set time of the year for the Golden Table to re-appear. There are stories where the love for such treasure has cost the lives of animals as well as humans. A St Catherine planter is said to have devised a plan to take this treasure all for himself. The plan included slaves, mules and carts. However, when the Golden Table appeared and a rope was thrown around it, tragedy struck the gold seekers. Animals, cars and six screaming slaves were dragged into the river, never to be seen again. There are similar stories of curious divers venturing into the deep for such treasures – some lost below. The Golden Table is said to be guarded by Spanish Ancestors who had vowed to protect their prized possessions to the end.


Mention the name Nanny of the Maroons and you would be surprised how people think about this National Heroine. Some say she merely caught bullets in her buttocks to win the war against the British. Hence comes the claim that the must have been an obeah woman. What we do know is that Nanny, along with brothers Cudjoe, Accompong, Johnny, Cuffy and Quoo were from the Ashanti family know for their bravery back in Africa. So when they met upon the British who wanted to silence them, they resisted which led to many wars. Now, history claims that Nanny led over 800 free Africans for more than 50 years. Although the British were more military equipped than the Maroons they had a difficult time trying to oust them. Nanny had many spies; who knew most of the British plans and conquered them on several occasions in the rough mountain terrains. This was not a woman to be tricked, she refused the British peace treaty in 1739. Instead it was a truce, which she agreed on receiving a land grant of some 500 acres. Today Nanny remains a heroine despite talks otherwise.


Why do so many people prefer to spend hours at Bath Fountain, Black River Spa, Milk River Bath and Rocks than in their Jacuzzi. This is so because these springs are believed to have healing powers. The mineral spring known as the Milk River Bath is said to be the most radioactive in the world. It is 9 times as active as Bath, England and 50 timea as active as Vichy, France. Located on the west bank of the Milk River the waters do not come from the River but from a saline mineral spring. The water is usually 33-34 C and flows directly in and out of the bath. Bathers are limited to 15 minutes at a time because of the high radioactivity of the water. The Black River Spa is no longer in use; up to 1930 it was a popular watering place. Miraculous cures have been attributed to its waters. The Bath Fountain in St Thomas is also noted for curing many ailments. The spring is said to be discovered around 1695 by a run-a-way slave named Jacob. Reports say the waters of the spring had healed ulcers in his legs. The water comes from both cold and hot springs, which issue from the rocks over which the bathhouse has been built. Bath mineral water is regarded as special value in the treatment of rheumatic ailments and skin diseases. The Rock Fort Mineral Spring has been a big attraction for years. The water rises from cold mineral springs in the hills above then flows through the bath and into the sea under the main road. The water is slightly saline and is more radioactive than Bath in St Thomas.


It is said that Spirits protect cotton trees. The Spaniards, it is said, would bury their treasure in Spanish Jars under cotton trees and their spirit would guard these trees. The cotton tree is also used as a shelter. So, once there is a cotton tree – in a yard of church, people would be very cautious to throw an axe to its trunk fearing that the dead would be disturbed.


There was a man who, at the age of forty, was never seen with a beard. People began saying this was so because he had the habit of eating from pots – never plates. And the man never grew beard. Yet, another man continually drank from a large Jug and he too never had a beard. But, recently a man said there is no truth in this myth as he used to eat from pots and now he has a long beard.


It is said one should never say, “mi gone” at nine-nights as the dead will follow that person to his home. One mother gave her child a good trashing (beating) for saying, “me gone” to her friends at one nine-night. Friends of the child’s mother agreed this was a wrong thing to do. And, this example has been a lesson for many mothers to warn their children not to say, “mi gone,” at nine-nights.


Many people have the feeling that Rent-A-Dread or the formula Rastas are more loving than the average Jamaican man. It is said that the dread have larger sexual organ and more staying power. So each year hundreds Rent-A-Dread are in place for sex-drawn female tourists and the ?????? for ??????. A dread is said to be quite attractive. Anyway, other claimed this is only a myth. Dreadlocks men are sometimes less gratifying in bed than a baldhead, according to many females.


Dating Back from Slavery and up to 100 years ago the sugar coppers in which cane juice were boiled, could be found on the estate. There were also instances of Spanish Jars. It is said taht the Spaniard actually carried off a boy – the son of an estate worker, into the deep woods. The boy who was found the following day, said the man had long hair and that he was taken to a hut on the estate where he was fed with cane juice and bananas.


There is a myth that a man with a short penis can increase its lenght if it is beaten on a Papaya Tree. Some men are said to have done this only to find that the penis have grown to an extraordinary size. Some women say this is rubbish arguing that if this is true every man would have gone to seek help from the Papaya Tree. Men with short penises have now gone to doctors to rectify this problem as they say the Papaya Tree will never know their secret.


Not only should one not sweep at night but it is also forbidden to throuw water through windows or doors. One Historian believed the myth may have developed during slavery as “Backra Massa”, had to come up with an idea to prevent “Peeping Toms”, wo spy through key holes at nights. Needless to say Jamaicans do not – for whatever reason – dash water through windows or doors at nights. “You might just throw water pon duppy (spirit),” one is often told.


When a spouse (husband or wife in marriage) is dead, especially if they were very loving, it is said that the dead will return for the usual sexual favours as if alive. So, to keep off that spirit the spouse should place one of his or her underwear in the casket – not revealing. The dead spirit would feel satisfied that all his or her sexual favours could be gained while the spouse is able to sleep undisturbed at nights.


It is customary that verandah chairs are turned down at nights and some people will wonder why this is done. It is said evil spirits will sit on these chairs, and people believed this is so true. Not only will evil spirit sit on chairs but spirits will also be harboured at your house. If these are good spirits, this could bring one good luck, but otherwise, bad luck. So, to be on the safe side Jamicans, turn down your chairs at nights.


If one could mistakenly wear his/her clothes on the wrong side people would believe they have gone mad or, “them a run duppy”. To do this is to ward off evil spirits. Many higglers at some time of their lives have decided to wear their clothes on the wrong side. These may include a blouse or an underwear. And they believe this will protect them from witchcraft, even when they are criticised.


The wearing of full red may not have to do with any political leanings. The person who fits himself in full red could be keeping off evil forces. Red underwear, red dress, red tie-head and red shoes are indications that a person is wearing a guard. Ghosts are said to be afraid of Red. A house painted in red is and uncommon sight and this usually lead to curious on-lookers.

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