Jamaicans are known for being assertive, outspoken and fearless, qualities that can be traced back to our Ghanian ancestors in West Africa. But as much as we like to proclaim that “We run tings,” there are still certain objects that can cause even the “baddest” Jamaican to flatline.
With a little help from my family and friends I put together a list of our most common fears. Here goes:
Duppy: This is another word for a ghost. So many of the things that Jamaicans do
(or don’t do) are associated with duppies, and if you didnt take your Jamaican 101 class you are sure to have a few of them following you. Don’t sweep the house at night, be sure to wear red after someone in your house dies, don’t eat food without salt…
Black puss: As far as Jamaicans are concerned, a black cat is either bad luck of the worst kind, or just a duppy in disguise. Nobody wants to see them, especially first thing in the morning!
Visa denial: Somewhere between never seeing your $24,000 (ever again) and hearing the dreaded “Sorry Ma’am” lies US Visa Denial Street, a place where no Jamaican ever wants to be.
Roaches: Of any kind but more so the ones that fly. According to my friend Janelle, “Flying roach. Dat gi mi heart failure!”
Rat Bat/ Duppy Bat: All over the world people associate bats with vampires. Not in my country. Nope. Duppy alert!
Obeah: What voodoo is to Haiti, Obeah is to Jamaica. This type of sorcery, practiced by an Obeah Man or Obeah Woman, is purported to be the cause of much misfortune from illness, to job loss, losing a lover to someone else, mental illness or even death.
Beating: Most children fear a good “uss ass” but that doesn’t even stop them from getting in trouble (now what fun would life be?). The worst type of lashing though is the type that your mom saves up mentally and unleashes all at once. Cue most feared expression by a Jamaican mother: “If I talk to one more time. Alright!”
Mad man: If you have never been chased by a mentally ill person (Does this even happen anywhere else in the world?) or witnessed such a spectacle you, my friend, have much to be thankful for. As for me, I try to be extra careful when I’m in Cross Roads. Just saying…
Bad man: Yeah. That’s all I have to say about that one, lol. Go watch Dancehall Queen and take in Paul Campbell playing the role of Priest. “Walk and live…”
Bun: If you are being cheated on you are said to be getting “bun.” Worse than getting bun is the type of merciless cheating that makes a grown man want to run crying to his mom, the dreaded “bun without cheese.”
Stew Peas: Mmmmm, delicious stewed peas with salted beef, pig’s tail and those little dumplings, served on a bed of white rice. But men tend to consume this dish with a side of caution, especially when it is cooked by a woman. Why? Because she can use it to “tie” him. In other words he will never be able to leave her no matter how miserable the relationsip becomes.
Dogs: You know the type of dogs that have no owners and just decide to roam the streets, chasing “he, she and the old lady”? Same ones. I should add cows to this for the very same reason!
Lizard: Grung lizard (a type of lizard that only crawls on the ground), Green lizard (just another duppy in disguise), croaking lizard, … o.k. just stop already.
Mongoose: It’s not just any mongoose that Jamaicans fear. Noooo. It’s the darned ones that can’t make up their mind- they run halfway across the street, stop, turn back and run the other way. As far as many suspicious people are concerned that’s a sure sign that a car accident is going to happen.
Gunshot: I have mixed feelings about leaving this one on the list because there are actually people who run in the direction of gunshots to see what’s happening. Go figure…
Snakes/ Scorpion: FYI there are no poisonous snakes or scorpions in Jamaica, but do we care? Nope. If you want to see a big man put on the wings of the morning and fly just throw something in his direction that looks like a snake. Or not. Seriously. Don’t do it…
Banana trees at night: O.K. I’m skeptical about this one but my friend swears by it. In fact our WhatsApp exchange went something like this:
Me: Banana tree???Clearly you are not Jamaican.
Him: Cause a town (Kingston) you come from. Ask smaddy (someone) from country (rural parish) first
Apparently banana trees look like duppy at night. Obviously (rolls eyes:) )
Rolling Calf: A rolling calf is said to be the duppy of a butcher who has died and comes back in the form of a bull with blazing fire where eyes should be. This bull runs through the street at night, dragging a chain behind him, and has the ability to prevent you from moving. I’m still traumatised from hearing rolling calf stories as a child, to the point where I refused to finish writing this post until in the morning!