Yarn In Grenada West Indies

rin ideas on religion—Protestants venus Roman Catholics —Coolies—Compère and Macoml—Churehes in Grenada—Creole patois 88


Slavery in the West Indies—Laws protecting slaves-Exaggerated reports of cruelties—Ineradicable fondness of the negro for bush life—Example given by Aniaba—State of Hayti—Revolts of the slaves—The King Christophe 48


Wonderful power of a blessed candle—The ordeal by eau de Cologne—Quashie's love for litigation—Scenes in police court—Fortune-telling—" Pique Imitation *— Buried treasure—Captain Kidd's hoard—Washing of heads—Credulity of the middle ages . • - . .59


A chapter of horrors—Insect pests—Mosquitoes—Bête rouges—Chigoes—Cockroaches—Hardbacks—Lizards —Ants—Plague of ants in 1770 — Centipedes—Scorpions—Serpents 72


Lovely scenery in the West Indies—A trouvaille n—Carib implements—The Caribs of the Windward Islands—A fading race—A dream 80


Marvellous occurrences—Miraculous shower of stones— Wonderful shower of water in St. Lucia—The electric girl—Medicine-men and rain-producers . . 93



Erroneous ideas current on the West Indies—Climate— Hurricanes—Description of great hurricane—Decadence of sugar industry—Cocoa—A profitable product —Queer notions of West Indian planters—Effect of the moon 104


Jumbies—Ghosts—Silk-cotton-trees—Vandalism of Scotch planter — Palmistes — Inhabitants of Grenada— Coloured people — Quashie — Happy country!— Grenada houses—Bijou villa—A tropical garden-Negro wedding—Wedding feast—Quashie as a letter-writer—Parochial boards—Unruly members—^Government of Grenada * . . . . .121


Private cemeteries—Quashie's funerals—Bush doctors-Mortality among children—Negro races • • • 144


Servants!—A cook's qualifications—The cook's stock— " Boys99 — Servants' wages—" Diablesses ! " — Cursing! . . . . . . . . .—-.in


Vampires and Loupsgarou—Wide-spread superstition— The curse in the " Giaour"—'Vampirism—Loogaroot in Grenada — Loogaroo traps — Loogaroo sucking animals—Horses in Grenada 161


West Indian veranda—Peaceful scene—Tbe captain*» yarn—Smuggling in the Caribbces—P^re LabaV» Isoogaroo • . T * 176


The last which should have been first—Emm com idea* on the climate of the West Indies—"The white tniin'» grave"—Low death rate in Grenada—Origin and came of bad reputation—Drink!—Scenery in Grenada— Fronde on the West Indies—Coloured people—Representative institutions—Hope for the West Indies! . 188



Dressing a garden—Potent spells—Guardian serpent*—Superstition and credulity of West Indian negroes—Obeah— Serpent worship—Qbeah men—Poison—Defective lawi relating to registration of deaths in Grenada.

"It's really too bad," quoth my planter friend, as we sat dawdling over the remains of a copious West Indian breakfast. " Last year we planted oyer two thousand plantains, and yet, now, have to buy three or four bunches every week for the kitchen ! Not a bunch will the wretched niggers allow me to cut, for long before they are even half ripe, they disappear from the field, as by magic—I've tried everything, from constantly changing the watchmen, to setting spring guns; but still the thieving goes on. I'm going to have r the garden dressed/ as a last resort 1"

"The garden dressed," said I; " what on earth do you mean?"

"Well, perhaps you are going to laugh at the

tree, and on the top of it put a saucer, contain* r h Utile water and a common hen's egg floating in Then after walking right round the field, mutter-- tvI waving his arms continually, Mokombo finally mo up and declared that he had put an effectual p to the robbery, and that not another bunch of t in would be missed, w \le let go plenty cribo, Masss, and now, if any one i % iid tief dem plantains, he must go swell up and 1*11'"

Having received the price of his spells» Mokombo 4 departure,

H iiut uhat on earth does all this mean; do you jpliy consider you have had full value for the five U - t saw you give that old humbug ?19

** T thin* so/' returned my friend, "but let me tell . ,11 about it,"

Cuing to one of the trees, he untied one of the j% uous bottles and opened it, "Just look I this J contains nothing but sea-water, with a little Of] i v blue in it, and, as you see, a dead cockroach »ting on the top. They nearly all contain almost inijr.ly the eame things, some may have besides the -_\r >ucli, a few rusty nails and a bit of red flannel imch like rubbish. Well, I assure you, that not u' negro in ten would dare to steal or come near ki'Ati plantains, knowing that one of these bottles are i.ip in the place, and nothing would ever dissuade i from believing that if any one of them wer$

Guardian Serpents.

foolhardy enough to disregard the potent spell cast on these trees by the Obeah man, the unfortunate thief would inevitably come to a bad end, very shortly; in fact,(swell up and bust/ as Mokombo told us.'

" You heard him say that he had let go plenty «criboes' in the field. Criboes are large black serpents, very common in the island, and notwithstanding their size, quite harmless: in fact, we planters protect them as much as we can, as they wage continual war on our worst enemies, the rats. Somehow or other, these criboes are supposed to be powerful instruments in the hands of an Obeah man, and the blacks firmly believe that when one of these sorcerers ' dresses9 a garden or field, he lets go in it, by means of his spells and incantations, a large number of most ferocious criboes, which would infallibly destroy any one venturing into the place for the purpose of stealing. Although well knowing that no venomous serpents exist in the island, the blacks hold anything like a snake in the greatest dread; this fear and veneration I dare say is owing to a remnant of the ideas inculcated into them by the serpent worship of their fathers and mothers in Africa. —

" As you are fresh from England and consequently know but little of the character of the negro, you can hardly realize the depth and extent of their superstition, or their unreasoning belief and dread of any thing -coming under the head of what they call 'Obeah9 or 'Wanga.' All these dark superstitions and beliefs

6 Obeah.

^y/ in the occult power were undoubtedly brought oyer from Africa by the cargoes of slaves formerly imported into the West Indies, and it is astonishing to see how firm a hold these same superstitions have over the minds of these people, notwithstanding the teaching and influence of Christian clergymen constantly brought to bear on the subject for the last fifty years.

The term ' Obeah9 is most probably derived from the substantive ' Obi/ a word used on the East coast of Africa to denote witchcraft, sorcery and fetishism in general. The etymology of Obi has been traced to a very antique source, stretching far back into Egyptian mythology. A serpent in the Egyptian language was called 1 Ob* or ' Aub'—' Obion ' is still the Egyptian name for a serpent. Moses, in the "name of God, forbade the Israelites ever to enquire of the demon ' Ob/ which is translated in our Bible: charmer or wizard, divinator or sorcerer. The witch of Endor is called (Oub9 or ' Ob/ translated Pythonissa; and * Oubois9 was the name of the basilisk or royal serpent, emblem of the Sun and an ancient oracular deity of Africa. In a very old and interesting work on the West Indies, written by a French dominican, nearly two hundred years ago, there is a curious account of a ceremony of serpent worship in Africa. He relates how:—

" ' The Chevalier Damon was once at Juda (a town on the coast of Guinea) during the season appointed

Serpent Worship.

for a great ceremony connected with serpent worship, and was invited by the king to be present at the ceremony, together with some of his officers. The place set apart for it was about three or four leagues distant from the town where the king generally resided. It was a spacious field around which numerous thatched huts had been erected to shelter the king and suite. A large space in the centre was enclosed by a palisade.

"1 The king and his household set out about mid-day —in fact, you might say, his " house," for all his women carried with them every article of furniture and piece of goods belonging to him, leaving nothing but the bare walls behind. Loaded in this manner, they set out two by two, escorted by the king's guards; next came his children, then his favourite wives, and lastly the king himself, borne along in a sort of palanquin. It was rather late when they arrived at their destination, so it was resolved to postpone the ceremony until the next day. Accordingly, on the morrow, the Chevalier Damon and his suite were led to places near the palisade; the rest of the people kneeling down all round. The king and the priest alone entered the enclosure, and after numerous prostrations, prayers and " ceremonies, the priest advanced towards a hole in a tree, where a serpent was supposed to be lying. He then began to address it on the part of the king, asking how many slave-ships might be expected to call during the ensuing year—whether they should have war or good crops, The priest would then convey each of the serpent's answers to the king, and this business having lasted a good time and the answers being all considered satisfactory, the ceremony ended amid great rejoicing of the people and much noise/

"Naturally the hundreds of thousands of African slaves imported during two centuries into the West Indies, brought with them, into their new homes, the same superstitions as were rife in Guinea and on the Congo, and although receiving every discouragement at the hands of the white planters and clergymen, the negroes clung desperately to their deeply-rooted notions and, no doubt, many years must still elapse before the last traces of Obeah and Wanga disappear from these islands,

-u Of late years, with the progress of education among the negroes, they have become a little ashamed of their belief in Obeah, but still cling tenaciously in secret to the mysteries they were taught in their youth to dread and venerate, and any man with the reputation of 'working Obeah' is looked on by all with the greatest fear and treated with the utmost deference. The lower classes, all over the w;orld, are fascinated by anything wrapped up in mystery, and negroes especially endue with terrible powers anything which they fail to understand and which appeals to their imagination.

" Before the emancipation, however, the practice of remedy," returned by frieod; "but 1*11 tell you that dressing a garden means setting Obeah for the thieves, and you will see what that means in a few minutes, as I see the Obeah man has arrived and is out there waiting for ua,1'

Going out into the verandah, we found a wizened-up old African, attended by a email black boy carrying a large covered basket, u Well, Mokombo," began the planter, " are you quite ready to work Obeah properly for me, this morning P31

** Oh, yes, Maasa, me hear all de people tell how dey tiefing all your plantain, but me go set strong strong

Obeah for dem and dey nebber go tief your plantain

" That's right, Mokombo, and you had better set about it at once," said my friend, as he led the way down towards the plantain field.

Taking up his basket, the old sorcerer followed us out of the courtyard, apparently much to the relief of the black servants, who kept dodging about out of sight of the old man, so long as he remained in the yard. Picking our way along a muddy little path, through a cocoa piece, we soon arrived at the scene of operations and found ourselves in a large field, well planted out in long rows of plantain trees. There were tremendous numbers of them and all seemed bearing remarkably welL The plantain is almost exactly like a banana and the fruit grows in enormous

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