Superstitions, age-old magic and spirit-driven beliefs are common throughout the Caribbean region, where ancient old wives’ tales continue to thrive today. Customs and traditions are staunchly held on to within each Caribbean island with mysterious folkloric stories and fairytales playing a part in modern society. Witchcraft, sorcery, shape-changing, spells, wizardry and the paranormal influence the parables used by parents in teaching children right from wrong. Every community has its own ingrained myths and legends influenced by the supernatural world – some more bizarre than others. These range from a belief that cow urine can cure genetic baldness to cravings during pregnancy causing birth-marks and a bout of hiccups signalling a growth spurt. Here we take a look at some of the most well known Caribbean voodoo superstitions worth taking note of.
In Jamaica, it is considered good luck if a baby pees on you but it is bad luck to get married on a Monday. You risk a baby developing a stutter if you cut its hair before it can talk but it is good luck to pinch the bridge of its nose every day. Planting a jasmine tree too close to your house will weaken the strength of its occupants – good trees to plant include mango, avocado, banana and coconut. A house should be built with its front door facing sunrise and its back door facing sunset. To get rid of an unwanted visitor, you should sprinkle a broom with water and leave it behind the door.
In St Lucia, superstitions that survive to this day include the belief that a woman who opens up an umbrella indoors will never be married. If you crawl on your knees, you’ll cause an argument to brew that will result in great tension in the house. Wearing a new ring on a left ring finger as an unmarried woman is enough for a family to disown a daughter. Yet dressing in black underwear will keep evil spirits away and help you sleep better. And if you get lost, simply take off your clothes and turn them inside out before redressing – it will always help you find your way home.
In Tobago, children are warned against picking up copper coins they find in the street in case they are cursed with an evil spell. If you bite your tongue, it means someone is bad-mouthing you. If a wife has a second toe that is bigger than her first, she will rule her husband. However, anyone who gets his or her feet swept over by a broom broom will remain unmarried for life. Worried that a bad spirit is following you home? Then be sure to walk through your front door backwards to prevent it from following you in.
In Barbados, a type of ancient voodoo power handed down orally through the generations is prevalent today in a watered-down form. Islanders believe that it is a potent force than can bring good fortune, or the opposite, if used properly. In some local shops, at the back of the shelves, some fascinating products lurk, such as candles, soaps and sprays called “go away evil”. Also some potions that claim to attract a new partner and other assorted luck-related paraphernalia. Saturday is horseracing day in Barbados, a time of great excitement. Small crowds gather to watch, their pockets stuffed with loose change. Bets are placed in hurried secret exchanges, with each transaction “blessed” by good spirits – a type of simple voodoo that is the equivalent of crossing the fingers and saying a wish. Spells are cast to give a horse extra power or weaken the competition. The ground is also checked for signs of evil or trickery, such as a buried dead dog or voodoo doll.
In Grenada, all popular folkloric stories centre on a trio of characters: Anancy, a West African spider, trickster-god; La Diablesse, the devil-woman and Ligaroo, from the French word loup garou, meaning werewolf. To avoid the wrath of these much-feared spirits, it is important to stay away from dark corners, graveyards and forests at night and do no wrong.
Do you know any Caribbean voodoo tales or superstitions? Share them with us in the comments section below.