6 Interesting Jamaican Traditions
Jamaica is, indeed, one of the most colourful and racy countries out there under the sun. The island is simply filled to the brim with a thriving culture, folklore, spirituality, a dash of magic, so many quirky, exciting, and unique customs, traditions, rituals, and so much more that cannot be all gathered in just one article. The best way to explore this madness of colours, flavours, and emotions is by simply visiting Jamaica. But if you are lacking inspiration and you need a bit more information about the country, here are 6 of the most interesting and cool Jamaican traditions and customs you can enjoy and be overwhelmed by when visiting the island.
A mix of European and African religious and spiritual traditions and very Jamaican and unique at the same time, the Revivalism Ceremony is something you cannot experience anywhere in the world. Of course, it has its origin from Christianity but there is a very African twist added to it with the attitude towards nature and spirituality that are traditional and strongly influenced by the African religions. The style of the Jamaican Revivalism Ceremony is of worship unline the European Christianity.
In the case of Jamaica, people do not believe in the separation between this world and the next, so Jamaicans do believe that spirits can affect the material world and our lives too. This is why Jamaicans try to keep these spirits happy and it makes all the sense considering how much of a happy and cheerful attitude people in the country have towards life. The worship of spirits is illustrated through traditional dances and songs, also involving a lot of drumming, hand-clapping, foot-stomping. This is the way Revivalists invite the spirits into their bodies and interpreting their messages in tongues.
Nine Nights Ritual
There are many Jamaican death rituals, unfortunately, most of them are dying nowadays. However, the Nine Night Ritual is still going strong on the island. As overwhelming and quirky as it sounds, the Nine Nights Ritual is an extended wake that is usually accompanied by music, anecdotes, food, and plenty of rum. It is more like a celebration of a person who passed when their friends and family gather together. Traditionally, the dead person is buried after the ninth night. The whole sense of this extended period of celebrating the death is to make sure that one of the two souls of the dead person called ‘duppy’ will not come back to haunt the living.
Obeah is pretty much an out-lawed belief system and almost no one adheres to the practice anymore. However, there are still people secretly practicing Obeah which is a form of black magic that allows people the power to curse their enemies or protect themselves against an enemy, to bring themselves luck, or to be healed. Obeah men are the people practicing the rituals and they are usually hired to use their secret spells for good or bad luck. Such people are very popular in rural areas of Jamaica and many people believe that they are actually immortal. However, nowadays the obeah men charming money for practising the rituals and saying the spells are often accused for profiting from vulnerable people in povetry. However, obeah is still an important part of the lives of many people on the island and the beliefs have been practised in many families for generations.
Kumina is a popular Jamaican religious practice that involves music, dance, and spirit possession. Kumina is a way of appreciating and respecting ancestors and it is perhaps the most closely rooted to Africa ritual since it comes originally from Congo. The combination of traditional Jamaican dances and songs and the rhythmic drumming is very spectacular to watch, almost magical and mesmerising. The hypnotic drumming rhythms and the Jamaicans wearing their traditional dress while dancing in an attempt to “catch the spirit” is considered a true form of art by many people who are lucky enough to be guests of the ceremony. Kumina dances are sometimes performed on funerals and wakes, weddings and engagements, any time good luck is needed too, or simply as a form of cultural expression and entertainment.
Drop Sticks and Stones
This is a Jamaican superstition that is believed to protect against trouble at night by preventing the duppy soul following the family and the home. In Jamaica, it is believed that duppies cannot count past three and this fact is used by dropping stones and matches along as someone walks on a dark and lonely road. This way when the duppy tries following you it gets confused when trying to count the forth one and it remains permanently on the spot trying to work out where to go next while the haunted person goes home safely.
Jamaican Children’s Stories
The Jamaican folklore is simply filled to the brim with stories and beliefs of ghosts, spirits, and, of course, duppies. There are some specific ghosts around that are a traditional staple in children’s stories. One of the most popular one of them is Ol’Hige who leaves her skin at night and feasts with babies’ blood. You guessed it right, Jamaicans are pretty hardcore with their bedtime stories! This ghost can be warded off if a crossed knife and fork and the Bible are kept next to the crib of the baby. Stopping her permanently, however, takes finding her skin and dousing it with salt and pepper. Another creepy night ghost is the phantom the Rolling Calf that is a huge bull with red eyes and clanking chains. Looking at him is very dangerous to try to avoid meeting him.