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Monday, October 01, 2007

Superstitions concerning the dead

You cannot grow up in Jamaica without coming across someone who doesn't have a superstitious nature. This of course goes back to Jamaica's African roots. Most of the fear seems to be concentrated or centered around death. Many Jamaicans believe that when a person dies his soul goes to heaven but in fact his spirit stays here on earth.

You will hear many say, "Duppy (ghost) rises on the third day after the burial and returnes to the house to wander around their possessions." They finally will depart on the ninth night. (if they leave at all). Usually family and friends will gather together at the house to welcome their return and send them back to the grave. This is always a cause for celebration, (called, "nine night.")

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Some superstitious beliefs include:-

  • to get rid of duppy you must burn rosemary and scatter rice around the house
  • put 10 coffee beans in the house, (it is believe duppy can't count past 9)
  • To ensure the duppy dem do not return everyone in the house must say goodbye to the dead body and the youngest child must be lifted and passed over the coffin, while the name is being said.
  • All the buttons must be removed from the clothes from the deceased person and the clothes must be pinned or sewn without knots or the ghost will return. Furthermore all the pockets must be sewn up or the ghost will return and fill it with stone.
  • When you leave a wake touch the person who is to leave with you (do not say their name out loud) or the duppy will leave with that person.
  • As soon as the body leaves the room the room needs to be swept.
Their are also certain rules that traditionally many Jamaicans follow regarding the burial of their loved ones. (it is generally a running joke in Jamaica that if a Jamaican dies on Monday, their body doesn't get buried until all the relatives can come, no matter how long that takes sometimes).

  • The grave should be dug up by one man or an odd number of men . After the first grave digger makes the first dig, he should drink some rum
  • The grave should be dug east to west and the body put in facing the sun
  • The diggers should face the grave backwards and put the dirt in through their legs, so the duppy doesn't follow them home.
  • if possible bury a calabash tree at the head of the grave. If not a calabash tree any tree will do.

For more information concerning the beliefs of the dead in Jamaica check the following sites.

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