SOCIAL SCIENCES RUU .
VOLUME 3 : N u
1 t .-61
R. BRIDGENS-"Negro Dances"
Reprinted from a copy in the collections of the
University of Florida Librairies
Reprinted by permission of
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, Kingston, Jamaica
A Division of
KRAUS-THOMSON ORGANIZATION LIMITED
Printed in Germany
VOL. 3. No. 1
EDITORIAL NOTE 3
LANGUAGE AND FOLKLORE
Frederic G. Cassidy 4
Frank Mayhew 13
CREOLE-A FOLK LANGUAGE
Elodie Jourdain 24
CARRIACOU DANCES 31
A RADA COMMUNITY IN TRINIDAD
Andrew T. Carr 35
A NOTE ON BEQUIA
Rev. C. Jesse 55
EXTRA-MURAL NOTES 57
CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY, VOL. I, Nos. 1-2
The Editors received numerous requests for Nos. 1 and 2 of Vol. I of
Caribbean Quarterly, and would be most grateful if any readers who have either
of these to spare would be willing to return them. Forty-eight cents will be paid
for each copy. It will be understood that many libraries are anxious to get them
in order to have a complete series of Caribbean Quarterly.
PHILIP SHERLOCK, University College, Jamaica, B.W.I.
ANDREW PEARSE, Old Post Office, St. Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. B.W.I.
MSS. AND COMMUNICATIONS TO THE EDITOR should be addressed to the Editor of the
Caribbean Quarterly, and not to an individual. Unsolicited MSS. which are not accepted
for publication will be returned if accompanied by a stamped addressed envelope.
HOW TO OBTAIN CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY
Caribbean Quarterly may be obtained from booksellers in the Caribbean area
from 40c. or Is. 8d. per copy.
Persons living in the British West Indies who wish to become subscribers should
send $1,50 (B.W.I.) or 6s. 3d. to the Resident Tutor of their particular Colony, or
else to the Editor in Trinidad. This will entitle them to four successive issues.
All persons abroad should subscribe through the Editor in Trinidad.
Jamaica The Resident Tutor, Extra Mural Department, Univer-
sity College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
Trinidad and Tobago,
Subscribers in United
Kingdom or Abroad
...Rawle Farley, Regent Street, Belize, British Honduras.
...Stanley Sharp, Extra Mural Department, St. John's,
...B. H. Easter, 68, Micoud Street, Castries, St. Lucia.
...A. Douglas Smith, Boy Scout Headquarters, Beckles
Road, St. Michael, Barbados.
...Adolph Thompson, 78, Carmichael Street, Georgetown,
A. C. Pearse, Extra Mural Department, Old Post
Office Building, St. Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain,
THE Editors wish to apologise for certain errors in Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 4, and
particularly the omission of acknowledgments to Mr. B. de Verteuil for the loan of a book
containing the engraving used on the cover. Unfortunately arrangements for checking proofs,
ec., made by the Editor broke down during his absence on leave.
THE articles in this issue of Caribbean Quarterly are devoted to different phases of
popular life in the West Indies. Our contributors include Professor F. Cassidy of
Wisconsin, who was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to study the language
of Jamaica, Mme. Elodie Jourdain who, after spending a large part of her life in
France, has now returned to work in the West Indies where she was born and passed
her early years; Mr. Andrew Carr of Port-of-Spain, who has consistently associated
himself with scientific studies, particularly in natural history, and Mr. Frank
Mayhew, whose contribution is unique in that he writes about popular life from
We are most grateful to our contributors, and it is fitting to remind them that
the dominant theme of these articles may be regretted by considerable numbers of
West Indians who may feel that they have illuminated those dark corners of West
Indian life which were best forgotten, i.e. "bad" English and French, crude
superstitions, a past linked with Africa, and charismatic leadership. These
doubters pose the question whether an attempt to reassess the achievements of the
"common man" in the West Indies during the past 120 years is compatible with a
relentless drive towards enlightenment and progress in science, technique and
politics. To this we must answer that progress is not merely compatible with a study
of the backward past, but that our thinking and planning for tomorrow will lead us
astray if it is not based on a realistic study of yesterday. Enlightenment is not the
process of "keeping things dark"
We do not need to look far into the history of the rural communities of the
West Indies to realise that they have pursued a species of underground life based
on a system of relationships, practices and beliefs cut off from that which was
socially accepted and constantly under fire from the official quarter. A sympathetic
yet objective approach to an understanding of popular life is a necessary step
toward drawing our society more closely together and healing the cleavage between
that which has prestige and recognition on the one hand, and popular life on the
But whilst knowledge of popular life helps us to understand the conflicts and
cross-currents which make up the general movement forward in which we all hope
to participate, it does not provide the only incentive to study. In the words, music
and dance of West Indian folklore there is much that is of great value not only to
West Indians but to the world at large, and unless an increasing number of people
takes an interest in studying, documenting and recording it, it will disappear for
ever into oblivion, and with it will perish the strange and absorbing story of how,
out of the social rubble inherited in 1837 a resilient people began to create its own
Language and Folklore
With Some Illustrations from Jamaican Folk Speech
FREDERIC G. CASSIDY
SINCE language is the vehicle by means of which almost every human thought,
attitude, and activity is expressed and transmitted, from man to man and from
generation to generation, there is a connection between language and folklore. Yet
to the student of linguistics it is an incidental connection; properly speaking, the
point at which language and folklore meet lies rather in the sphere of psychology.
Nevertheless, in at least three ways language does give a glimpse of the
workings of the folk mind: through lore inherited from the past, which survives
in words even after it may have died out of belief or custom; through changes in
the forms of words that may reflect folk attitudes or patterns of behaviour; and
through the processes of giving names-especially new names-to a variety of things.
Folk language differs from the language of the educated by being almost wholly
of the ear. There is little or no influence through the eye, no standard of writing
or spelling-the correct language of the printed page-to guide or restrain. Each
person hears as well as he can, and repeats as well as he can, a reasonable
approximation being all that communication demands. This means that changes
in some aspects of folk speech, while not erratic, are likely to be more varied than
those in cultivated speech. At the same time, the general traditionalism of simpler
cultures may be seen also in language. The interest of dialect study is often that of
the antiquarian, who finds still flourishing in it words, meanings, pronunciations,
and turns of phrase that long since have disappeared from the educated speech.
Poets know this and frequently return to dialect and to older stages of the language,
to seek at that ever-fresh source the bubblings of waters under the earth.
The word folk is taken here to mean the mass of people both rural and urban
(but by the nature of things, chiefly rural) who have a minimum of formal
education, who remain illiterate or subliterate, and who therefore depend very
much on inherited knowledge and beliefs, skills passed on within the family or the
home community, customs learnt directly by participation in day-to-day living. In
Jamaica this folk is very largely descended from African slaves, with inconsiderable
admixtures of American Indian, and more recently of East Indian.
As early as the end of the eighteenth century, Edward Long informs us in his
History of Jamaica that the creole or Jamaican-born blacks hold the Africans in
the utmost contempt, styling them "salt-water Negroes" and "Guiney birds" And
less than a century ago (as we are told in The Etymology of Jamaican Grammar)
the mountain people sought to dissociate themselves firmly from the plantation
folk, who still used such barbarous Africanisms as the exclamation Babwa and
accented particular words and syllables in the harsh Guinea manner. Yet the
African folklore and customs were often all that the slaves had to keep up their
spirits in a new land; they were given no schooling, and for the first century there
was not even any serious attempt to Christianize them. The mixed bloods, unable
to attain equality in white society, were thrown back in some measure upon the
world of the servants. The role of the nana or nurse in preserving folk songs, tales,
riddles, superstitions, and herb lore is not to be under-estimated. In short, while
the Jamaican folk has become ever more Europeanized, it has tenaciously kept up
a strong element of Africanism.
Some words still widely used are recollections of past superstitions-no longer
actively believed in perhaps, but not forgotten, and occasionally resorted to when
the white man's civilization or an individual's own powers fail to cope with his
problem. Thus Obeah has long been prohibited by law, and is always spoken of
with a laugh; but the laughter is apologetic, never sneering, and the belief in magic
powers, in visible and active spirits (duppies), and in preternatural explanations of
anything out of the ordinary, persist deep within the folk consciousness.
The word overlook, for example, has such suggestions in at least two respects.
It used to be the custom for slaves to protect their grounds from praedial thieves by
setting up in them what they called watchmen. De la Beche, in his Notes on the
Present Condition of the Negroes in Jamaica, describes these watchmen as being
commonly composed of pieces of the wood-ant's nest, the roots of a particular grass,
grave dirt, bunches of feathers small boxes, resembling the coffins of infants
and so on-objects associated with Obeah and therefore sources of dread. By 1825,
however, this magic was no longer effective: thieves were laughing at such scarecrow
practices. Thus the watchman became a thing of the past; yet a similar practice
persists to the present time-that of planting a type of coarse beans, called overlook
beans, as the highest row on a hillside patch, or by the fence along a road. This
may not be effective against thieves, but it will in a much subtler way overlook and
protect the cultivation against less tangible enemies-which are, of course, the most
Overlook has another meaning. This time it is a verb, and it suggests the belief
in something analogous to the evil eye. Each person has a sort of magnetic power
within, a power which expresses itself through the eye. If a baby is too much
looked at, even to be admired, the magnet of the lookers may be too strong for the
baby and do it harm. A baby that has been overlooked will begin to pine away,
and must be given certain herb remedies-among others, tea made from the
The belief in spirits is a part of all folklore, though these supernatural creatures
take many forms and their properties and propensities differ from land to land. In
Jamaica, the duppy is the spirit of a departed person which often returns in a
visible form. Some people have the faculty for seeing duppies-an enviable thing,
since it opens a window into another world filled with wonders and strange powers.
The duppy may appear in the form of the departed person, and if not beneficent
may at least be neutral. But some duppies are maleficent, and some assume frightful
or brutish forms: they throw gravel at houses or into trees, making them rattle
suddenly; they gallop about by night with glaring eyes, bellowing and clanking
chains. Even when less dramatic, they are present in the background, putting
forth a finger here or there-in the vegetable world particularly. Duppy callalu.
unlike the many other kinds, has prickles; so has the duppy tomato, also known as
cockroach poison. There are duppy pumpkins, duppy cucumbers, duppy soursops,
all imitating in a smaller form the good vegetables or fruits-but even when they
have no prickles and may look as appetizing as the fruits of Christina Rossetti's
Goblin Market, birds, whose sight is often keener than that of man, will not
It has been pointed out that as belief in fairies begins to wane the
fairies themselves dwindle in size. By Shakespeare's day fairies which two
centuries before had been the same size as human beings, and had often
intermarried with mankind, have shrunk until Queen Mab herself comes In shape
no bigger than an agate-stone On the fore-finger of an Alderman. The quality of
diminutiveness is present, too, in many of the duppy plants, and associated with it
a feeling that these spirits are more playful in their mischief than harmful. Thus
the duppy fiddle (more often called monkey fiddle) makes a grotesque squeaking
when two sticks of it are rubbed together; and the duppy gun, a tiny cigar-shaped
seed pod, bursts with surprising force a moment after it has been wetted.
Obeah, mentioned before, enters into a few names, for example that of the
fish obeahman drummer, also called the round drummer. Fishermen say that if the
obeahman is the first to swim into a pot, no other fish will enter it-so much,
presumably, do they hold him in awe. The long-tailed humming-bird, known
everywhere in Jamaica as the doctor-bird, may be named similarly in allusion to
its special cleverness. The Maroons say, Doctor-bird a cunny bird, and its cunning
is proved by the way it will creep off and hide if you succeed in knocking it down.
It is a tricky bird, hard to kill. Nor is it the only one which hints of superstition.
The gimme-me-bit (a name applied usually to the nighthawk, sometimes to the
sandpiper) is best left alone; it tells us plainly, Pick up me egg and you pick up
trouble; put down me egg and you put down luck.
There is no proof that all this lore has been brought from Africa. Some of it
may be of Jamaican origin; some suggests a European source: the mingled
ingredients would be difficult indeed to separate! What are we to think, for
example, of god-bush, a common name for mistletoe? From Druidical times the
evergreen properties of this plant, and the fact that it always grows aloft, have
made it an object of worship. On the face of it god-bush looks like a word from the
countryside of Britain--yet Wright's English Dialect Dictionary does not list it,
nor does the Oxford Dictionary. Is it a local invention, a translation, or what? At
least it attests a mode of thought, as does too spirit weed (also known as fit weed,
snake weed, and stinking weed). The first record of this name was made in 1699
by Sir Hans Sloane, who reported having seen the plant in Jamaica.
Other bits of lore, partly from observation and partly from surmise or
invention, may be mentioned briefly. Various bright-coloured small fish, blue,
mauve, and green, are called by Jamaican fishermen the barracouta waiting-boy.
They are said to swim about whenever a barracuda is in the offing. They do not
appear to do any actual service for the larger fish, nor it for them; yet the fact of
their association, and the contrast between the dangerous, masterly barracuda and
the liveried smaller fish, has been remarked in this name.
Two more fish that are believed to serve others are the pilot fish, which
supposedly guides a shark to its prey, and the nurse fish, itself a small shark,
which is said to care for smaller fish. But these tales are clearly European-
Jamaican only by adoption.
Folklore is usually inherited, therefore usually old; yet legends must start
somewhere. Two names that seem more recent, and perhaps represent lore for the
future, are lucky lily and money-fly. About the first it is said that when you plant
it you must put a bit of money at the root. Money will then come to you-and
proportionately to the amount you bury. The man of faith will bury a goodly
sum! The money-fly, too, will enrich you if you see it fly out of the rotten wood
in which it has bored its hole.
The second means by which words may reveal the workings of the folk mind
is by the explanations or reinterpretations given for changed forms. When a word
is unfamiliar or hard to pronounce, the natural tendency is to simplify and
familiarize it. Difficult or foreign sounds are replaced by easier native ones, and
analogies are made with existing words.
This process is the same the world over. A new vegetable, for example, is
brought to England from Italy, where its name was girasole. After a short time,
English tongues have altered this: the vegetable becomes a Jerusalem artichoke.
Then if somebody wonders what the name means, the natural inference is that the
vegetable comes from Jerusalem. Indeed, so obvious does this seem that in the
absence of historical fact nobody questions further. The linguist calls this process
folk-etymology, for the new form implies at least an unconscious attempt to make
sense out of meaningless sounds. The sense that is made (Jerusalem), though
actually wrong, is better than no sense girasolee). Like nature in general, human
nature abhors a vacuum.
The processes of folk-etymology are not characteristically Jamaican. Some
words that exhibit it, however, are sufficiently surprising, grotesque, or quaint to
deserve notice. A perfect if simple example is in the conversion of Jew plum and
Jew fish to June plum and June fish, the word Jew having little tangible meaning
to the Jamaican peasant, but June being familiar and meaningful-even though
the fruit ripens long before June, and the fish does nothing noteworthy in
Similarly, the common woodland tree at first called bitter damson because of
its small fruits which would remind any Englishman of the damson plum, has
become in Jamaica bitter dandison sometimes, but usually bitter damsel. Dandison
may hint of the word dandy, but heaven knows what thoughts (if any) lie behind
bitter damsel the possibilities, like Cleopatra, are infinitely various! The sober
phonetician, however, will cut off such speculations by pointing out that a simple
and very common substitution of 1 for n is all that we may really have here.
The pear called avocado in Standard English and alligator by Jamaicans is a
double example of folk etymology. Both names come ultimately from Aztec
ahuacatl. But this collocation of syllables proved too much for the Spaniards'
tongues, which altered it in a variety of ways, finally settling on avocado, lawyer
(English advocate). This word could certainly be said with ease; to complete the
process it was only necessary to wrench out an analogy between the man of law
and the fruit: the pear is so delicious that it pleads eloquently to the palate of
the most fastidious judge!
It would be pleasant to toy further with analogies between lawyers and
alligators, but the linguistic facts lead us elsewhere. One of the earlier Spanish
versions of ahuacatl is known to have been aguacate, and another earlier English
form (perhaps influenced by French avocat) was avigato. From this last, by an
easy metamorphosis, comes alligator pear, and people who ask questions are told
that the fruit has a long neck, like an alligator. (Indeed, it is also called long-neck
and bottle-neck pear.)
Other examples of folk-etymology may be seen when gar-fish (which in Anglo-
Saxon meant spear-fish, in allusion to its sharp, prolonged jaw) becomes guard-fish.
The addition of the d may be a mere phonetic accommodation, but the fact is that
it produces a meaningful word, one more meaningful than gar-fish. If, then, the
change in form is purely accidental, the establishment of the new form results from
its making better sense.
A fruit long known in parts of Jamaica, but rather coarse and not much
valued, is the mammee-sapota. This, too, is clearly a Spanish name; but the latter
word has been reinterpreted as supporter, and it is explained that this fruit is a
support to the people, like a mammy. A similar fruit, American-Spanish chirimaya,
has become in Jamaica cherry-moya, and Jeremiah. The first of these keeps the
suggestion of a fruit (though the cherry-moya has little resemblance to a cherry),
but moya is meaningless. Jeremiah is therefore an improvement, since the entire
word is rationalized.
In the names of insects we also find these alterations. The word bungo (from
some African source) means big, clumsy, or coarse. The bumble-bee has become in
Jamaica a bungo-bee; and the newsmonger, a large beetle that flies with a loud
buzz or hum, the news-bunga. The macaca worm, which used to be considered a
most delicate article of food, is now the macongo-a word also suggesting African
The aloes plant, or sempervive, growing widely in Jamaica, is known variously
as sintle-bible, sinkle-bible, single-bible, and so on. Folk-etymology may have a
less obvious influence here, yet these new forms are all attempts to familiarize a
most unfamiliar sort of word. The four syllables are preserved, with the accentuation
on the first and third; the nasal-plus-stop-consonant group is preserved (though its
original members mp are displaced by other combinations); the syllabic r yields
(as it often does) to the similar syllabic 1; the v's become b's; and last, a final 1 is
added, probably in iteration of the first 1. These may all be purely phonetic
changes; however, the product is two real words, single and bible, not perhaps
making any clear sense, yet avoiding the senselessness of sempervive to the folk ear.
As a last example we may look at what has happened to the poinsiana tree.
Though not native to Jamaica, it has long been grown here, and is familiar to most
people. Yet the name has proved a hard one for the folk; one hears panchilana,
pansilanna, and other such attempts. Then folk-etymology steps in, and the folk
tendency to personalize or personify non-human things; the result is Fancy Anna !
Anyone who has seen a poinsiana tree covered with its splendid red blooms must
admit that this name is a most apt and fortunate discovery, exhibiting the folk
mind at its best.
It is probably through the giving of new names, however, that the folk mind
is most clearly revealed. Objects of every day can easily become dull; familiarity
defeats the eye; recognition cancels fresh observation. It says something for the
liveliness of folk perception, then, that we find a host of distinctions made in such
common things as foodstuffs, plants, and animal life. From the names given-and
not given-to these things we can safely infer that the Jamaican folk enjoy the
poetic, the grotesque, the satiric, the broadly humorous; that they are thoroughly
practical, never sentimental; that their enjoyment of the beauty of nature is seldom
abstract-the usefulness of a thing is what gives it consequence, and beauty without
utility must be striking indeed to earn a designation.
The names of wild flowers will illustrate this point. Apart from the white man's
names, some of which have been learned though as often as not applied to very
different plants (clary, dandelion, buttercup, marigold, &c.), there are a good many
plants, chiefly small ones, which simply remain without folk names. They have no
known value as food or medicine; you cannot tie bundles with them, weave them,
or thatch your house with them. Thus while their beauty is acknowledged, they
remain just wild flowers, or else you use them for roses. They have no individuality
beyond this. The Jamaican shamrock is so named by Europeans. It is known every-
where in Jamaica, but one asks in vain for a folk name. And so with a dozen or
On the other hand, useful things have many names, descriptive of their
appearance or of some important property they possess. Brass-cannon describes the
shape and outer colour of one sweet-potato; pigeon-neck refers to the stem of
another that bends as it enters the earth; dog-blood describes the bright red flesh of
a third; still another is called flour-barrel, partly by description and partly because
it is a very large potato and gives a plentiful provision. Other vegetables and fruits
receive similar descriptive names-many of them exhibiting a touch of humour, a
smack of the dramatic, an eye for the characteristic detail: horse-foot coco, curl-
finger pepper, goat-horn okra, smoky banana, frog plantain (short, squat, and
green), crawfish cane (from the colour) and goat-knee cane (from the shape),
rat-ears callalu (from the shape of the leaf), coolie-foot sugar (from the colour),
lift-coat pepper (because it looks like a lady lifting her coat), puss-head tree (from
the appearance of the seed pod), toad-trash (wild pines in which the tree toads live).
The properties of things are alluded to in the provision sweet-potato (which,
like the flour-barrel, provides plentifully), the flog-all potato (which beats every
other for size), the seven-months coco (which comes in sooner than others), the
drop-trash cane (which drops its dry leaves by itself), the garden-gate mango (which
is very tough) and the today-and-tomorrow mango (which ripens on one side today
and on the other tomorrow), the shoe-black flower (common hibiscus, used to polish
shoes), tie-teeth (candy, sweets, or other very sticky food), and many more.
One striking tendency in naming is to personalize, to grant a certain vitality to
non-human things, drawing them closer to the name-giver. Vegetables having
superior qualities deserve titles of respect. Thus the old English story of the
knighting of good beef as Sir Loin, though quite erroneous, has real counterparts
in Jamaican folk names: the Marshal sweet-potato, the Commander coco and the
Duke coco. Other vegetables or fruits are personalized by being given the names of
those who introduced them to a community: Bobby Brown, John Barnett, Mother
Thomas sweet-potatoes. One kind of yam is called renter because it rents (that is,
rends) a hole for itself; other yams require that the earth be thoroughly loosened
for them, but with the renter you just tease up the surface and it does the rest.
Another name for the Commander coco is Left-man, because, being very hard, it
does not disintegrate when cooked. (Another explanation is that it is difficult to
start growing, and may therefore leave a man in the lurch!) Direct humanization
may be seen in the Sally coco and perhaps Minty coco. The water thrush is called
Bessy Kick-up or Mary Shakewell, and the smaller pechary is the Little Tom Fool.
The sensitive mimosa, that closes its leaves when touched, is variously Shamer,
Shamy, Shame-lady, Shame-old-lady, Shame-me-darlin, and Shame-me-dog. An
unwanted shoot on an orange limb is a rider, and wood that will not hold fire
lazy. The difference between men and women is recognized in male and female
varieties of milkweed, dandelions, and other plants (not botanically male and
female, but having coarser or finer leaves, or the like). Man beefwood makes a
good timber; woman beefwood is too soft.
But the crowning piece of personification is seen in the name of a rat.
Sir Charles Price, Speaker of the Assembly and a prominent planter, introduced a
large brown rat to the island two hundred years ago to kill off the black rats which
infested the cane fields. The black rats continually nibbled small bits out of many
canes, while the brown rats would bite and blow-eat only a few canes, then rest
awhile. When first brought in, the brown rat was thankfully called the Sir Charles
Price rat, but in the passage of years the gentleman has been forgotten, and today
the rat is Charlie Price himself!
Time and its passage, in the absence of clocks, must be marked in other ways.
Ten o'clock is a kind of portulaca which blooms in mid morning; four o'clock is
not only the familiar garden flower but a young guango tree, and five o'clock a
kind of bauhinia, which reputedly fold their leaves together at those hours of the
afternoon. The seven-months coco has already been mentioned; six-months is one
of the names of poinsettia. During slavery days the biggest holiday of the year-
a time of special privileges and unbridled merrymaking-was Christmas. Though
considerably moderated today, the tradition lasts, and perhaps it explains the
attention paid to this season in the names of Christmas bush, Christmas vine,
Christmas bean, Christmas okra, Christmas mango, Christmas fish, and doubtless
other things that become prominent at this time.
The sphere in which names are most practical, directly telling their use,
probably that of the herbs. This is not surprising; we find the same in herb lore
everywhere. One has but to leaf through Dodoneus or Gerard to find such names
as feverfew (which drives away fevers), sneezewort (a sternutative), fleabane (to
kill vermin), hearts-ease (to medicine an aching heart), eye-bright, all-heal, boneset,
and many more. Such herb lore flourishes in Jamaica; fit-weed (used against
convulsions) has already been mentioned; there are two or three kinds of strong-
back (to make strengthening tea), at least two kinds of fresh-cut (to heal new
wounds); stone-bruise, consumption bush, asthma bush, ringworm weed, headache
weed, chigger-nit weed, fever grass, Maroon blister, and so on.
We may add a few of the names that show the derisive, ebullient, or simply
broad humour of the folk. Susumber berries, which grow wild everywhere and
are a sort of coarse seasoning for fish or meat, are known as gully-beans; one very
hot country-pepper is called devil-damnation or burn-to-hell; a red morel mushroom
is John-crow nose-hole; and the locust bean, on grounds of shape, colour, and
odour is called the stinking-toe. A type of mimosa tree whose very numerous dry
beans hiss and rattle in the wind, signifying nothing, is called woman's-tongue.
Consciously exaggerated are the names stagger-back (a kind of coconut-and-sugar
cake so tough that it makes you stagger back when you bite it), stamp-and-go (a
kind of codfish fritter that is quickly made), stop-it-a-pass (a kind of peppery fish
sauce which, when being cooked, must be stopped from passing to the boiling
point), dip-and-come-back (another fish condiment used to flavour starchy foods).
Finally there is the poetic touch which accounts for a number of names. It has
appeared already in Fancy Anna, lift-coat, and Shame-lady, but we may notice
also the fish called Nancy Pretty, the butterfly tree, the tea bush search-me-heart,
and the mistletoe called scorn-the-ground. Not only in names, but in turns of
phrase which, if sometimes accidents, are at least happy ones-the Jamaican folk
exhibit sharp perception, lively imagination, and a sense of the immanent vitality
of earthly things.
It may seem ungracious in the linguist to turn a coldly scrutinizing eye upon
these words-like the horrid man in Wordsworth's A Poet's Epitaph who would
botanize upon his mother's grave. Yet something like this he must do; it is his role
to find the truth even though it be less exciting, less stirring than what often passes
for it. The linguist cannot forget that whatever conscious process may be present
in language changes, there is also a large element of the purely mechanical and
unconscious. Care must therefore be exercised in seeing manifestations of the folk
mind; at least, the linguistic situation must be examined before mentalistic inter-
pretations are indulged.
This particularly applies to changes in the forms of words. Each language has
a limited number of distinctive sounds, and the tongue can make only these with
sureness. Foreign words entering a language are subject to these Procrustean
limitations, and will be lopped or stretched until they fit. Even native words, when
combined in some ways or when pronounced in the easy modes of every day,
undergo abbreviation or other simplification. And this is just as true of folk speech
as it is of cultivated speech, for dialects have their own sound-laws and rules
If the number of sounds is limited, and the number of possible alterations is
limited, and there are already in existence certain meaningful combinations of
sounds ("words")-the thing is almost mathematical: many unconscious alterations
of words will inevitably blunder into sense-that is, they will accidentally coincide
with other words. Homonymy is then mistaken for identity, imagination supplying
the link: so folk-etymologies come about. When such formations are used as
evidence of folk mentality, however, it must be recognized that the rational or
conscious part of the process came after the fact; the word had already changed
before the explanation was discovered. If several variant forms, equally easy to
say, are produced-as with sintle-bible, sinkle-bible, and single-bible-then some
element of conscious choice may influence the survival of one rather than the
others. But we dare not assume a teleogy, as if the speaker had consciously aimed
at a meaning, and changed a word to reach it. Our most sobering example is bitter-
damsel, in which the simplest possible phonetic change opens enormous possibilities
of explanation-all unfounded.
But if we cast doubt on folk-etymology as a window into the folk mind, there
still remain the words of the first and third classes. When a word from the past
ceases to have any present meaning, it is on the way to extinction. The continued
use of words referring to duppies, obeah, superstitions and so on, do therefore give
evidence of the persistence of certain beliefs among the Jamaican peasantry. And,
best of all, the fact that a great many new names are constantly being created all
over the island, and quite often gaining currency beyond the locality of their origin,
gives proof of the poetry, humour, perception and practicality which have been
illustrated, and of the mental vigour of the Jamaican folk.
The author is pastor of a Church
'., '. -. .... .'."' of t h e so-called Shouters or
.-" "'' I Spiritual Baptists. The practice of
this cult, which is widespread in
Trinidad and St. Vincent, was
S until recently prohibited, but is
Snow permitted in the former
Colony. Apart from an extensive
revision of spelling, the intro-
duction of punctuation, and the
deletion of one or two repetitions,
the manuscript has been printed
as written. The illustrations are
by Huie of Jamaica.
The Editor asked Mr. Mayhew
to write his story and took down
the songs from him. We sincerely
hope that none will find oftence
in some of the strange conceptions
l, which find voice in the story,
S_3 which we commend as moving
'literature and as a record of
4t genuine experience.
MY name is Frank Aubrey McDonald Mayhew, I was born at Friendship's Tenant,
St. Michael, on 30th April, 1884, christened in May by Reverend Clinket at
St. Matthews Church. My mother name is Ella Devenish, my father name James
My mother told me when I born that she had no one to take care of me so she
had to put me under a tree on a bag to stay and she would come and look at me
but when the rain fall she had to leave me at home; then she told me when I begin
to creep she put a table in the middle of the house and then measure the length of
the string at both doors and tie my foot so I could not fall. She told me when
I could eat she get a puppy to stay with me; what I eat, the puppy eat and that
was my friend, so that the way I was reared from my birth. Then when I began
to walk she put me at a lady call Miss Sobers to take care of me. I can remember
how I used to cry to go there. I can remember how I was bad when I began to
grow. When my mother want to get breakfast she had to send me to the shop at
night and when she want dinner she had to send me in the morning after tea. I can
remember I had a stick call Jackderipper; it had a big head. I put two eyes to it
and when I am going out at night I used to carry it with me and every crapaud
I see in my way I used to take them and make ball. I was a child never afraid
nothing. At night when I am on my way home and the wind blow my neighbour
cane I use to say it is spirit. I would take my stick and lick it flat to the ground;
if it is a cassava tree I would pull it up. I can remember that when any of my
neighbours make me get flog for anything in the day I used to go in the night and
pull up whatso they plant. I can remember that I was so bad that my mother
had to beat me every day. She beat me till she lick off all the skin I born with;
the only part remain was the palm of my hands and the sole of my foot.
By this time I never know what is school because my mother was making
children so fast that she could not send me to school, so I had to stay at home
when she was at work to cook and wash for the small ones. Mother had her first
child when 14 years old. Mother had ten children, I the biggest. You can judge
for yourself my state. I remember one day I heard my mother say 0 God, my child
is fourteen years today and he does not even know A B C. Tomorrow, if I has to
cut up my clothes I have to send him to school. So she came home and cut up one
of her bodice and make a shirt for me. Then she had a sofa with a piece of white
duck and she rip it off, make a pants for me and put a string in the waist. Think!
a boy of fourteen years old at school with a pants on with a string round his waist
How I was look among the boys! How they laugh at me at the time! but I did
not mind that, I want to learn. When I reach in the school the school master took
me for his pet boy and instead of leaving me in the class he always keep me near
the side of him, and as I learn a sum he gave me another and when I had six
months I could challenge any boy both in arithmetic and many other subjects.
He Reads the Bible
Then I remember that I began to learn the Bible and a change came into my
life. My mother never had to beat me any more. I would do all I had to do without
she being talking to me. One day she ask me: How you made so great a change?
And I say to her Because I am reading my Bible. Had you taught me the Bible
you would never had to beat me so much. During the time at school I had no time
to play. On morning before going to school I had to get up at five o'clock. Six
o'clock I had to go and help my mother. She had ten acres of land the estate give
her to keep in order as a farm, so I had to help her in the morning before going
to school and in the evening as school over I had to make race home to help her.
One day when we got holidays from school the school master tell me to come for
the two weeks to get lessons and my mother and father gave me a hoe and a basket
to go in the field to work. One day I met the master and he say You vagabond I
I tell you to come to school and you rather work. I began to cry and tell him I has
to do what my mother say. So I went home and told her that I was to go to school
one week and work the other. It better I work.
I remember in my school days I only once had to ask a boy one question.
When my school master put on the board: The word was made flesh and dwell
among us I had to ask what the meaning Christ been born of a woman might be.
I was working with a woman who was a Christian and on the Monday she ask me
if I does say my praise at night. I say Yes. She ask me what I does say. I told
her I does say the Our Father praise. She tell me to hand the Bible to her and
when I gave it to her she open John, Ch. VIII, v. 44 and read it to me. It read
thus: Ye are of your father the devil. He is a murderer from the beginning and a
liar. He never speak the truth because there is no truth in him, because he is a liar
and the father of it. When I heard these word I say to myself: That is the reason
I always say I am not going to cut the white man cane and after two days I would
still go and cut it again because I am led by the devil and has to do as he leads me.
So I make up my mind to change him as my father and to take God as my father.
But I did not know how to pray, so I went to bed pondering on what the woman
had told me: the devil was my father, a man who hate. It beat me but I did not
know how to get rid of him. The same night while I was laying down I felt and
see some people operating on me. I see they were cutting my heart and there was
finish. I got up from my bed and kneel down on my knees. I utter these words:
Lord save me that the devil be no longer my father and I then read a chapter in
the Bible and a song came in my mouth-
Precious promise God has given
To the weary passer-by,
All the way from earth to heaven
I will guide thee with mine eyes.
He Continues to Study
When I went to work at Waterford's Estate the overseer call the woman asking
her where I came from and she told him. He say my parent was a beast to put
me in the field to work. Then he take me and made me a pantry boy to carry out
milk. After, I went home sick and when I return I did not get that work again.
Then I start to mind cattle because I had time to study so I got a Testament, and
a copy book and at nine o'clock when I put up I used to get under a tree and
study. I could not write well so wherever I see a piece of prayer with a writing
hand I use to try to take pattern until I could write a letter. I remember one night
I was walking in the street, I heard a singing and when I reach, it was a Salvation
Army service. I heard the man say that the people who are standing here and does
not expect Jesus in the Day of Judgment, these words will stand a witness against
them. So I ask him: So I am responsible for what I hear? He say Yea so I turn
away saying I am not going back to hear anybody preach again.
At nineteen years old I began to preach to all my friends and to tell them that
the Iord had save me. Then I went and was baptise among the Brethren at a place
they had in the River Road. I got married at twenty years of age. My first child
was a girl. I gave her name Irene Catherine. After I was married I lose my work
at Waierford's Estate because myself and the madam could not agree, so she told
the husband if he keep me she would leave.
I came to Trinidad in 1905. You must think in a strange land how I had life.
In 1916 I had the first experience about the Shango.x One night in my sleep
I feel someone sitting on
singing was this:
CI- o I .0"
my head, and I heard a singing in my ears, and the
^,H A MA- .
Sir% 10r M rrT
.1 ,F-M" IV, i l I"on-r. AL K P2. 0 3
I.. . I . I 3
And the next morning I ask a woman call Josephine who used to keep Shango
dance what the meaning of the singing, and she told me that is what they call a
litany, where they sing and call all the saints one after another, and she invite me
to come to a dance she had and when they sing for Saint Peter in Shango it is:
BE' Ji Lo Bo DE-
" ji tLo ~ de, Bt, Ii
lo, I bt de' b6ji
a bo d be t lo, be de'
St. Peter came in me and I began to preach, and the next day when they sing for
Saint Catherine (name in Shango, Mama Oyo) she dance with a hatchet in hti
hands made out of wood; the next day they sing for Saint Michael who name i;
Ogun, and they sing for him. He dance with a wooden sword in his hands. One
day they had a feast at Pointe-a-Pierre and they tell me to come to it and I told
them that I had to go to work, and the next day when I reach where I was going
I Shango-a Yoruban cult still practised in the West Indies.
to land the load of wood, the boat got punch so I could not go back to work that
day. I went to Pointe-a-Pierre to meet the rest and when I reach, before I could
tell them what happen to me, they could tell me that my boat had got damage.
The next night when we were dancing we saw a man came in the yard and he
say he want something to eat because he was hungry travelling from Toco and he was
looking for work. They gave him some of what they had in the place and he takes
it, and there was another man with him and they both did eat. After that he went
upstairs and lie down in a woman name Josephine arms, and she call out to him
and say this man is a fast man. He come out from where he come from and lay
down in my arms and he roll away and went in another woman name Florence
bed, and when she came and saw him lying she say, this long long man come and
lie in my bed, and the man got up and say, you call me a long long man three
times and he disappear. We never knew who it was, but when the morning was
come a woman came in the yard and told us that she had a dream that a man
told her to tell us that the man was there last night was Saint I see all these
thing for myself.
He struggles for Bread and Salvation and is Baptised a Shouter
One of my disappointment was I had a brother here who could help me, and
when I came to him he did not help me so I had to turn to make my own friends.
The first job I get I was forty miles from home, but I was glad for it because
I had leave my wife and child at home so I had to scramble for some money to
send for them. After she came I left that work and for some time could not get
anything to do. I went to the Usine factory to work to see after the boilers and
before I could make a pay-day the boiler door blew open one morning about
four o'clock and caught me afire. My two hands and face was disfigured. I spent
two months in the hospital. At that time there were no Compensation Act for
anyone so they only gave me fourteen shillings a fortnight. During this time we
had another baby but my wife had to go to work to help keep the house because
it was a time before I could use my hands; whensoever I bend my fist the back of
my hands use to bleed. After I could work I had to walk four miles morning and
the same evening. At the same time there were no conveyance. 1923-24-25 the pay
was thirty-five cents a day from nine o'clock to five p.m. I had to leave that and
go to work on the sea. I had no time to go to church but before that I used to go
to all the churches, Salvation Army, Seven Days, Anglican, Catholic, but I did
always praying to God to show me the right one. I did not like the Baptist people
because they used to jump and I thought it was a false thing.
One night a man come and dream me and tell me I has to baptise, and I told
him I was baptise already and he was pleading with me about half-an-hour and lie
tell me if you are going to do it you need not talk, only touch this wall. I find that
I was keeping him back, so I touch the wall, and as I touch the wall it had a long
piece of iron in it and it had twelve bolts in it, eleven was taken out and only one
remain, and as I touch the wall the whole weight of the iron fell on me and the
man told me I has to be responsible for all. In the same dream he told me I has
to drink parafin oil before I came for the baptism. So I did so as I had promise
in the dream. I went and tell it to some people and they carry me to a pastor call
C-esar and he baptise me. I did not see but I heard a Mother call Mother Franklin
hail that she saw a star in the South and then eleven stars gather round it and
she call out, and everyone that was on the river bank began to shout.
He is Called to Build a Church but Ill Fortune Bars Him
After that I had a dream. A man told me that he want me to preach. I reply
to him: You see all the men that preaching seeing so much trouble and you want
me to see the same. I can work for my living without preaching. When I begin to
preach a penny a day can't mind me. You all right with your preaching. Again
I dream. I saw the form of the church drawn out with the letter E 1002 and when
I told it to some they say, it is impossible to build a church. So best I insist in the
order of the spirit. Then they show me: take the top plate, cut it twelve foot six
inches, and it will give me one hundred feet. Then I began to ask the question:
0 my God, you mean to say you put so great a burden on me to build a church
and David had money and you reject him from building? You prefer my back for
the burden? And as I began to build everywhere the people worry me, so I did
not intend to worry again. One night I heard a voice in my sleep telling me, Good
Friday. That was two weeks before Good Friday, 1926, but I did not give any
heed. I had decide that after the Easter I was going to look for a spot and begin
2 The church as it stands today is a regular octagonal building, with a perimeter of
100 feet, each of the eight sides measuring 121 feet.
to build. But the week before Good Friday one morning I went to work, but before
going something worrying my mind, that I had a wife who had leave me in
San Fernando and was living in Port-of-Spain, and she used to come only to draw
money. When she come she came the Saturday and I draw $15 and gave her $14
and as that was no satisfaction to her I gave her 50 cents out of what I had. I then
remain with 50 cents so when I got up in the morning and find myself with that
amount I went and buy a quart of bread, coffee and sugar to go out to make a
trip of wood in the swamp to get some money in my hands. And when I enter the
boat and set sail I heard the clock struck two; the moon was shining bright and
I look towards the heaven and call out to God, I say Oh God, you has not got
eyes, you can't see that I had $15 last night neither eat nor drink a cent and this
morn I has not got a cent in my hands. This is a thing that is against me. If you
got eye I am asking you to divide the spoil. I went to work and anchor the boat
at the side of the river and began to cut wood. While cutting the wood I was singing
and praying all the time. About twelve o'clock more or less I went to make some
tea. I drink and then take a walk through the woods. I saw some wood the size of
a full grown coconut tree and when I watch them I began to laugh and say look,
money in my hands! and began to cut them down because that size of wood
would give me quick sale, I was sure that at nine o'clock I would have about $12
in my hand; but sad morning for me! when I had cut an amount I raise the axe
in the air to bring it down and I feel someone hold the axe and instead of coming
into the wood it came down on my foot. When I look at the right great toe three
parts of it was off. I look to the East, North, I thought to run but there was
nowhere to run to. It put me in remembrance of the Judgment MIjrning, that there
will be no hiding place. Then I drew out my merino and cut off a piece of the tail
to tie the toe, and I saw the next toe to it cut also and the two white strings looking
at me. Then I say, I know I am going to die, the great toe cut and the other also.
I am going to bleed to death.
But God move in a mysterious way: as I was about to go from the spot and
make a step the foot went down in the soft mud to the knee. I had to kneel down
and take my two hands and raise it up and when I raise it up there was no more
bleeding. I gave God the praise for stopping the bleeding, and as the blood stop
there was no more fear of death. I still went on singing and praying and while
singing I was loading the boat with the wood and in all the pain I brought the boat
to a place that someone could take care of it; then I walk and sat down in the
middle of the road that whatsoever pass first would take me to the hospital. Why I
sat in the middle of the road? If I had sit at the side everything wou'd pass me but
when I sit in the midst they could not pass me. I reach the hospital about half past
five and no one at home knew that I was there for five days be .; u-e it was my custom
to go out for two or three days. I remain for ten days there. I had a horrible time.
The more I pray the more the pain came on me. Then I say, The Lord has lay his
hands upon me and he refused to hear my pray so I am not going to worry him
any more. There was no rest for me day or night, no sleep, neither day or by night.
Then I say like Saul, The Lord has clean gone from me because he refuse to hear
Then one night I got a little sleep; I dream I saw they took me to hospital and
told the nurse to give me one hour sleep and from that night there was one hour
sleep for me. The sad part of it was when the night come I used to be sorry I had
to sleep, for at that hour in the night, in the midst of sleep, someone would come
and hold the same sick toe and give it a severe tug and from then I had to be up
and around the hospital hopping until day clean. That was my trouble every night
until I came home. After I came home it was worst with me. I had pains in the back,
in the side, in the stomach. When I turn on either side there was no ease for me,
nor sleep, and for one year no sleep came to my eyes until I make up in my mind
to take up my work.
His Mission Clearly Revealed
One night I had a dream that I saw a number of people working in the South
and they was without water and someone came and give me twelve keys on a
bunch and tell me to go and give those people water to drink, and after I had done
so they told me to go to the East and when I look to the East I saw a parcel of land
cut and clean, waiting for me to plant, so I went and met some men standing and
when I ask them what they are waiting for, they told me they are awaiting me to
set them to work, so in the dream I went and set them to work. So when I awake
in the morning I say I am studying how much money I want to save every week,
and the master is laying out his plan for me. I had a boat cost me $150 and I had
owe a man call Mr. Martin some money so I call him and told him to take the boat
because I don't know if I will ever return again to work it. I gave away everything
save one suit on my back, and a pair of shoes and I take a rice bag and tie it on
my back, and a cutlass which I had love and went on my journey not knowing
where I was going, and start to hop because the foot was still sick, roaming all
through Chaguanas to Tunapuna hungry and thirsty, no money, and when I came
to Tunapuna to meet a brother that I had know to rescue me, he had die a month
ago, so you can think of my state at that time. There I saw a sister in the faith
who I knew at San Fernando and she told me that her house was too small for me
to get a lodging and she carry me to a brother. He gave me a lodging in the night,
but in the morning when he is going out to work he would shut the door, so I had
to walk up and down the whole time and sit under people gallery. By this time the
foot was swollen to a size because I had nowhere to rest. All this came upon me
because I would not obey the Lord voice. One morning I was more than hungry
and I remember a brother call Brown. I say I am going to his home to get some
of his tea, and I met him sitting in the yard. I never told him I was hungry but
he see me, a stranger, sick and a-footed far from my home, and I thought he
would give me some of his tea and when his wife call him to take tea he left me
and go. When I saw that I got up and went away and sat under a gallery of a
Mom who was selling, and while I was there another woman came to buy something
and began to speak to me and ask me my whereabout and I told her I am a
stranger here, that I was from San Fernando and that I had no where to rest myself
during the day, which cause my foot to swell more; and she told me to come with
her and she take me home and made provigences for me and allow me to rest there
every day until the brother come home. So I say unto her May the blessing of God
ever be with you, for she saw me a stranger and took me in. I had to leave
Tunapuna and never saw her again, but I has promised to be kind to every woman
anywhere I go. During this time still I could not help myself. I could not put my
hands into my sleeves neither could I go up a step as I want.
His Spiritual Pilgrimage
Then I was sent to a teacher for to point me to Zion School and as she did
so I went to Zion Hospital and they attend to me. It is there I got my learning.
In Zion School the first thing I learn is the meaning of the word "born again",
that is, I saw myself dead and placed in the coffin. I follow my funeral as they
carry me to the church, place the corpse at the western door and then they perform
the funeral rites. After, I follow my funeral and see that I was bury in China.
I number the graves that was there before. There was eleven graves. I made the
twelfth travelling south-east in China on the right hand. That was the Thursday.
Saturday, while walking, they hand me a baby boy. Then I get to know to be
born again you has to be dead and bury and become a child. There I began to
walk through the spiritual world. When I reach Calvary I saw the nailing of a
man to a cross. The cross was laying on the ground. I saw some men stretch the
man hands out on the cross and began to nail it. I raise my hands to cuff the man
but I could not. Then I cry out aloud, Teacher, look, I see they are nailing a man
to a cross I left there and began to walk. I went in Doption School3 and they
start to teach me:-
., --- E-F -P -- Oc. %. --p
and that is the first note they taught me in Zion School. Then I began to walk
again. I got on a camel and began to sing, and the camel went through the desert
with a song, Come to the Jordan Valley. There I had to cross the river. I count
the twelve stones that the Israelites step on. Then I say, if the Israelites passed here
that mountain before me is where Moses was buried on, and I took my flight to the
mountain. I say I would like to see where Moses bury and when I reach the top
of the mountain I saw where the grave lie and the grave, it hadn't a grass on it yet,
clean! the next journey then was going through the valley. Then leaving the valley
I went to India and I get an elephant. Then leaving India coming back to Africa I
caught myself at the Bay of Biscay. There I get an aeroplane and I launch out with
a hymn. Leaving the Bay of Biscay for Africa I had to pass through the drill
pasture, then to the drill hall, then to the Holy City. leaving the two Solomon pillars,
then from there to the Queen of Sheba home. There I had to set up my telephone,
attach it from one part to another, and when I met her I did not know her at first.
3. Doption School-A adoption is a mode of spiritual experience, taking the form of
one of fourteen stereotyped journeys in the spirit world, to each of which a particular type of
song is fitting. The teaching of the options forms a part of initiation in the "mourning ground"
She send me to get a drink of water for her and when I went in the house I saw
everything was gold all over the house and I say, this is the Queen of Sheba place.
She is a good height woman, well-built, a brown-skin woman, and after giving her
the water I left there and later when I return they had a dance and call upon me
to bring the children to play music for that dance. Back to Jerusalem and met
David in the gate and hear they sing:-
KrlN DAVIOD rMouRir 1a i
st u Sn apbaoo (,l t vr d r2,zour.-,Im, |. I;, .,s olb so -Aoloaz:"Oh,Ab.o- lora
leaving there travelling to the north-east of the valley I reach the land of Canaan,
and come to a hill where I saw a lot of sheep, some wild, some tame, and they told
me how to call them, so I began to sing: -
k. ,-v 6& s....-.- r tE 6.-O u- -
hI, I_ /
After leaving that part of the mountain I reach where I saw Moses and Elijah
sitting under a palm tree. Leaving them, I met with old Abraham, and they spread
carpet on the steps that was cut out in the mountain for myself and him to walk
on, and while he was climbing the mountain the Messiah was playing:--
J Job*,1, A:'^.t.-A,. ,tLc ,-,. de l-ra3 dor* -. Ply-,n d* ,ld oC-
and after reaching the mountain I take my flight for Celestial and I reach a large
place paint in red, and when I ask what that place was they told me that was the
Thunder-House. By permission of the gatekeeper I went in the house and see how
thunder is like. It is like a big cannon and it is on rails. There are both male and
female thunder. Who knows the difference of the two when they roar? The male
thunder roar with a gross voice while the female voice is more clear. Then I went
to the Lightning-House and they show me how the lightning is made. A man sat
in a wheel chair, and wheresoever he want to flash he press the button and flash
it. The lightning is electric. I also see how the rain is operated through a funnel
and by a wheel and when the wheel turn, the wind comes through. I also learn
that the lightning is male and female, the rainbow also. It appears there is nothing
single as far as I see. Returning from there I was going eastward and when I got
to a four-cross-road I was on the west side, one man on the south, one to the north,
one to the east, and, when I reach, the one to the south took my hands and shake
it and hand me to the one on the north and the one on the north hand me to the
one on the east and when he took my hands he ask me if I know who he is. I told
him No and he told me that he was Mr. Moore, the Past Noble Grand and he gave
me a pass and a parting shake-hand that I will remember a friend when I am far
away. After that I went in a house and they show me a lamp with three burners.
They told me, that is the G6dhead, with three spirits, wind, water and fire. Then
they put on a scale, put a square in my hands, put a compass and square on a
stand in front of a looking glass, and tell me to watch it, and when I watch into
the glass I saw the needle direct east and they tell me that is to square my life.
After that I went in a house at the west door and saw the elders sitting around a
table and there was a chair at the east end. They tell me to sit in it and told me,
You are a Past Worthy Father. This is my knowledge I have in the School of Zion.
Creole-A Folk Language
The author of this article, Mme. Pierre Jourdain, is a translator at the
Caribbean Commission headquarters, Kent House, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Mme. Jourdain presented a thesis on Creole as it is found in the West
Indies, Louisiana, Mauritius, and Rdunion Island to the Faculty of
literature of the University of Paris (Sorbonne) in January, 1945, for a
THE variety of questions which Caribbean Quarterly has dealt with in its two years
of existence might lead one to believe that it's motto is a slight modification of the
famous dictum of Terence's hero "Anything which deals with the Caribbean is my
concern" It may not then be out of place to bring to the attention of its readers a
linguistic survival which might interest them, that of the hybrid dialects of French
origin which in philology come under the heading Creole. In Trinidad the word used
to denote these dialects is Patois, but since they are not to be confused with the
French patois, I shall stick to Creole as the name of the language which came into
being in all the old French possessions in the New World and in the islands of the
Indian Ocean through the colonists' need to make themselves understood by
We shall not spend much time on the following facts nor attempt a moral
judgment of them. It is well known that the discoverers of these new lands, no
matter what their nationality, sought in Africa the labour necessary for exploiting
them when it was discovered that the indigenous population was unfit for this
purpose. We shall consider the language alone and attempt to show how the various
dialects came into being.
Something which is not always thought about is the great diversity of languages
spoken in countries which do not have a uniform culture. For example the Roman
conquest of the Mediterranean basin caused the disappearance of all, or nearly all
the native tongues by casting the thought and language of the conquered peoples in
the same Latin mould. This is seen in France, where only Basque and bas-Breton
remain to give some idea of the language spoken before the conquest of Gaul. This
is certainly not the case in Africa, where in spite of European settlement-or shall
we say, progressive invasion-all the native tongues have remained alive, and may
even be considered numerous when one realises the area which they serve. What
then must have been the position three or four centuries ago when, to obtain labour
for making their possessions more valuable, the Portuguese, Spanish, English,
French and Dutch organised the slave trade. In Africa, the great reservoir of labour,
the trade was carried on along the coast from the Gulf of Guinea to Angola. As far
as the French colonies were concerned there were two principal centres, the Slave
Coast, as it was then called, which is comprised of Togoland, Dahomec and a part
of Nigeria, and the Congo. Even today this area is served by a large number of well
differentiated languages. Consequently it was difficult for the slaves from different
tribes who found themselves thrown together in a strange land, not only to make
themselves understood by their masters, but also to understand one another. Creole
came into being through the necessity for a common language between the occupants
of land which belonged neither to the white man nor the negro. The inhabitants of
these lands before the arrival of the Europeans were of a race as little inclined to
bondage as to field labour and destined to disappear rapidly, but not so rapidly that
the missionaries had not the time to assimilate their language and give us some
idea of it.
Fr. Raymond Breton, one of the first four French missionaries in the Antilles
did thus: living with the Caribs in Guadeloupe and Dominica for 18 years, he was
able to compile a dictionary which contained a manual of conversational phrases and
a grammar of their language. In this work I have found about fifty words which are
still used in Martinique. The vocabulary is made up of concrete words names of
plants and animals which have no European counterparts, and place names. It is
evident that in each island there must exist words of Amerindian origin, but it
remains to be established to which American dialect they belong, and this I am not
competent to do. And the question of orthography intervenes, complicating the
differences inherent in translation into English and French. Fortunately however,
I am able to escape that difficulty for the vocabulary of Carib origin is negligible and
the Carib grammar, having had little effect on Creole, may be omitted in a study
of the latter. There remained, therefore, the negro and the white man, the latter
having the dire need to be understood by the former, and as quickly as possible.
The master therefore taught only the simplest of things and in the simplest language
possible. To get some idea of what happened, one need only observe the method
used between foreigners, which is to reduce the phrase to its indispensable parts,
these being the noun, or subject-pronoun, the verb in its infinitive form, and the
complements in the order in which they are most easily grasped: Vous prendre
chemin iglise-tourner a droite, &c. This is what is still known in France as speaking
petite ntgre, but this is not Creole, it is only its origin. Creole such as has been
evolved in all the French possessions is quite another thing, and all who have studied
it have discovered that it has not only its own local colour but also its own fine
By and large the various Creoles can be divided into two geographically deter-
mined groups the American group and that of the islands of the Indian Ocean. In
spite of resemblances which show that phonetically all the Creoles have obeyed the
same rules, we can say that the American group interests us more directly, and
that our cursory study will be limited thereto. It is of enough importance in itself,
since four varieties which resemble one another closely but are nevertheless distinct
can be recognized. There are the Creole of Louisiana, that of Haiti, that of French
Guiana and that of the Lesser Antilles. In the last group, Guadeloupe offers a slight
peculiarity in the use of the possessive case, where the complement is joined to the
possessive noun by the preposition "A", whereas in the other islands this case is not
denoted by any preposition. This peculiarity of language tends to substantiate what
can be recognized elsewhere, that it is the Creole of Martinique which has been
carried to St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica and Trinidad and which has remained more
or less intact in those islands which have become British. The Creole of Martinique
is therefore of particular interest to readers of Caribbean Quarterly. We shall rely
on it in our study of the syntactical formation of the Creole of the Lesser Antilles.
If as we have said above, the syntax was reduced to a minimum by the white
man who was anxious only to get the most out of his servants, and if at the same
time the abstract vocabulary is singularly poor, it is not the same with the vocabulary
of concrete words. Without being over rich, the Creole vocabulary is ample, and its
medley offers the philologist many happy discoveries. The colonists came from all
the provinces of France (and a list of their surnames would be sufficient to prove
this); but it was the coastal regions which provided the first settlers. These came
from various social levels. Along with younger sons, the majority of whom were
sailors or soldiers, or colonists themselves, there were the artisans, those whom we
call today skilled workmen and finally, the trente-six mois or white indentured
labourers who, unable to stand their own expenses, engaged to serve for
three years the colonists who paid their passages to the Antilles. At the
end of their contract, they themselves became colonists or returned home.
Normandy was the chief of these coastal regions which supplied the Antilles
during most of the colonising period, and the fact that Creole is still spoken
there is proof of this. Among the dialect words which are extant in the
French Antilles, Norman words are the most numerous. Some Provencal is also
to be found: words such as cani, poban, &c. Finally trade between them and changes
in the nationality of their possessors sometimes made a new language necessary in
the islands. This was the case in Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada and
Tobago where English was substituted for French. Trinidad is the strangest case
of all, for this island was never French and the fact that Creole is spoken there today
in certain parts of the island bears witness only to that time when the French
colonists brought there by the Spanish possessors had to make use of its lowly off-
spring Creole along with their own language. It is not surprising, therefore, that the
Trinidadian patois has retained some Spanish words, although these are more or
less distorted. Thus we have lagoisi for l'alguazil, escalin; la gnape, &c. In
Martinique we find English words such as dead, saibote meaning side-board,
chasspagne meaning saucepan, &c., since this island was twice or three times
occupied by the British for reasonably long periods,
But all these borrowings did not occur simultaneously. First, as I have said
above, there were two elements present, the white man and the black. But how iv
one to be sure that the latter adopted at the i:ut,et all that the former wished t3
t'ach him? One can imagine meetings bet ween men of the same tribe and secret bonds
which their language created between them, allowing them to escape, if only for a
littlee time, the constant control exercised over their actions. Then one may certainly
hold that, in the beginning at least, an African vocabulary must have been added
to the French vocabulary and to those Carib words which everyone used to designate
native plants, fruits, animals, and articles of everyday use. But it is difficult to
discover with any degree of certainty the origin of these African words, for they
have certainly been distorted phonetically by the West Indian descendants of the
original Dahomeans and Congos. I have personally been able to check on this by
submitting to two young Africans all the words which I could not identify as being
of European or Carib origin. One of these young men is the grandson of the last
king of Dahomey, Behanzin, speaking Fon, and the other is from Togoland, and
speaks Ewe. They were able, in spite of the distortions which the words have
suffered, to resolve certain enigmas, but not all, which makes it possible that some
of the incomprehensible words may belong to another African tongue. Be that as it
may, in Martinique this African vocabulary is hardly greater than the Carib.
But in a language one does not have only the vocabulary to consider, there is
also syntax, which in certain cases may not be of the same origin as the vocabulary.
For example, this is the case with Rumanian, which, as far as syntax is concerned,
is considered a Latin language, though its vocabulary for the greate-t part
Beginning with the fact that languages are classed according to their syntax and
not their vocabulary a Haitian author states that "Creole" since it obeys an African
syntax, should be considered as belonging to the Ewe linguistic group. Although we
know that it is in Africa that we must seek certain elements of the Creole grammar,
and particularly the auxiliaries used in conversation, I would not dare be so
peremptory, for my knowledge of the African tongues does not permit me to settle the
question so easily. It is certain that in the two French departments of the Antilles with
which I am familiar, Martinique and Guadeloupe, Creole tends to incorporate, little
by little, the elements of French syntax which is taught in the schools. Consequently,
to have some exact idea as to what this dialect was before the compulsory teaching
of French was able to modify it, it would be better to study some old Creole texts
which are available in these two islands, or preferably to study the dialect in certain
islands which, since they have become English, have been able to keep intact the
syntactical usage of the 17th and 18th Centuries. In this respect Trinidad offers an
interesting field for research. Having the good fortune of two years stay there, I was
able to note the ways in which the Creole spoken there differed from that of
Martinique, which has had of necessity a greater opportunity to approximate to
Only the initiated are aware of the existence of the Creole Grammar compiled
almost a century ago by a Trinidadian, Mr. J. J. Thomas, and published in 1869.
It is a conscientious piece of work and its author has the rare merit of treating
seriously a question which is both interesting and important, although few people
realized this. At that time, philological studies and moreover phonetics were less
scientific than now, since it seemed that dialects such as Papiamento and Pidgin-
English were unworthy of the grammarians' labour. Mr. Thomas is therefore to be
complimented for recognizing the interest provided by the passage of a language as
well constructed as 17th century French, into a distorted but living language which
obeys its own laws. I would like to say here however that he does not appear always
to have perceived the reasons underlying the phenomena he points out. In phonetics
particularly his work would not be of great use to anyone who wished to make a
thorough study of Creole. It is too difficult to attempt to prove this here for it
would entail the citing of numerous examples and the drawing up of a list of those
rules which, it seems to me, have escaped him. From the point of view of syntax,
his work seems to rest on more solid foundations, and, I think, reflects modes of
speech current a century ago which the population still makes use of. The modes
of speech differ little from those which were then current in Martinique and which
one finds in the contest, fables and songs preserved in written form by colonists
who loved their island and everything about it. With this in mind one might com-
pare those burlesques in Creole, after the fashion of the fables of La Fontaine, by
one "Vieux Commandeur" (a pseudonym which concealed the identity of a high
official of the time, M. Marbot.) with the proverbs and examples cited by Mr. Thomas
in his grammar. It will be seen that the vocabulary is almost the same and that the
most striking difference in syntax is that which marks the possessive pronoun.
I cannot state categorically, however, that the Trinidadian form of this pronoun did
not exist at some other time in Martinique for I do not have Marbot's "Les
Bambous" on hand. The possessive pronoun in Martiniquan Creole is ta moin,
ta ou, ta li (often reduced to ta i), ta nous, ta zautes, ta yo. One sees immediately
that this form is a reduction of the French phrase c'est a moi with the phonetic
liaison of t and a. In Trinidadian Creole the form given by Thomas which is still
extant is cela moin, celd ou, cela li, celd nous, celd zautes, cela yo which is without
doubt a contraction of cela d moi or some other phrase where the phonetic liaison
ta, mentioned above, is absent. Putting aside this slight difference, and it is not
yet quite definite that Martinique never had that form, one might say that 100 pr
150 years ago the languages were identical. What are the changes which they have
undergone? To sense them one must be on the lookout for them. First from the
point of view of accent, the difference is that in Trinidad the delivery is slower and
the articulation is further away from French. In the vocabulary it is evident that
the introduction of English words occurs more often in Trinidad and that the
Trinidadian patois has more faithfully retained truly Creole words which the
Martiniquan has lost; but at the same time the syntax of the French Antilles benefits
from French. Moreover there exists in both languages as in all living languages, a
disposition to create new words, a sort of slang which changes continually. On this
point one notices several slight divergences between the two languages. But putting
that aside, the two Creoles are so much alike that a Martiniquan has little difficulty
in making himself perfectly understood in Trinidad and he finds a certain pleasure
in hearing a Trinidadian speak what appears to recall memories of the language of
another day. On the whole less striking but comparable is the case of the Norman
who disembarks at Quebec and finds there the accent of his great grandfather and
grandmother. Whatever traces of Carib, African or other foreign words there may
be in vocabulary it cannot be denied that the construction of phrases is French and
it is difficult to say, as Mlle. Sylvain has done of the Creole of Haiti, that its syntax
derives from the African tongues.
Of what value is this dialect, such as it is, as a vehicle for thought or as an
arti-;tic instrument? In other words, can Creole claim to be a literary language?
The list question which is posed is that of orthography and it is not easily
an.wered. Should one profit from the quasi-exceptional opportunity of representing
in written characters the exact sounds of this language which is almost entirely
oral? If this is done the benefit of its being derived from French will be lost, and
reading would be made difficult, at least for all those (and there are many) who
have not been taught to read the phonetic alphabet. At a time when there was no
question of the use of phonetics, this problem was resolved in a different fashion
by those who tackled it. Generally speaking they were the white colonists, familiar
from infancy with Creole and knowing all its fine points, or crews of ships who,
amused that this language was pleasing although infantile, wished to remember it.
Without exception they all sought to retain the French orthography, or at least
conformed to hereditary customs in rendering the sounds. For example the sound
o was written eau or au. M. de Saint Quentin alone in studying the Creole of French
Guiana has bravely adopted phonetic representation. The question is of importance,
and has for a long time held the attention of the Government of Haiti, which wished
to get rid of illiteracy. The official language of the country is French, but the whole
of the peasant population speaks Creole. It was thought that children would learn
to read more quickly if instead of being taught to read French they were taught to
read in Creole. An American mission of experts came to this conclusion and advised
the adoption of a phonetic spelling; but professors and other Haitian authorities
have judged that if this solution is adopted, it will be more difficult later on to teach
the children the orthography of French, their official language. But let us suppose
this problem resolved. What then are the qualities which Creole can offer?
It can be stated that it is very expressive, using a large number of exact images,
that it is quite musical, for rhythm and intonation play an important part in it, and
it cannot be denied that these two important qualities are a direct heritage of Africa
where certain tongues are made up of monosyllabic roots which have different
meanings according to the intonation they are given. But if this concrete vocabulary
is sufficiently rich and picturesque, bringing together words of very diverse origin:
English, Spanish, Carib, African not to mention words of French dialect, trade
words (notably marine), one cannot say the same of the abstract vocabulary, which
is almost non-existent. It is evident that with progress in primary education this
vocabulary has the chance of infiltrating little by little into Creole. But these would
only be words adopted from French, and not truly Creole formations.
I have found an example of what I am stating when studying certain reasonably
old texts. For expressing simple feelings such as love, grief at the loss of a friend
or having to leave one's country, or when satirizing or ridiculing a person, as in
the satirical songs of Carnival, the use of Creole reaches perfection by virtue of its
poetic quality of speaking directly through images and its peculiar humour which
is as inimitable as it is untranslatable.
For example a Frenchman who knew English well would not understand all
the reasons that make an Englishman, a Scotsman and above all, an American
burst out laughing at a page of cartoons. In the same way, I imagine that that
which amuses the French does not always amuse the foreigner. But I am certain
that Creole humour escapes Europeans unless they have lived long enough in the
Antilles for their nationality not to matter. An English Trinidadian who knows
Creole perfectly, like Mr. Fortune for example, is sure to lose nothing of the
Guadeloupian humour of M. de Chambertrand, or the Martiniquan humour of
M. Gratiant, for it is not a matter of French or English but simply the same Creole
humour, practical joking in the guise of bonhomie, the same simulated niivet6 and
finally that something which the readers of Caribbean Quarterly know only too well
but which is, however, difficult to express.
In citing authors who have used Creole as a means of expression, I would like
to assert without hesitation that Creole does have poetic and satirical qualities; but
is literature no more than this? In a word, is folk literature real literature? Can
one truly speak of literary works, in describing tales, contest, songs and short poems,
in a word, folk literature? The answer may be supplied by the other works
of these authors who amuse themselves by writing Creole. Talented poets,
M. de Chambertrand, and M. Gratiant, like any number of Martiniquans,
Guadeloupians or Haitians, make a point of writing in French, and their works
have greater significance, since they have at their disposal the riches of the language
of a great civilization which for centuries has been capable of expressing all shades
of thought and all human knowledge. To compete in the field of literature with true
languages, such as English or French, Creole would have to create a suitable
vocabulary, something which cannot be realized, since it is surrounded in all the
old French possessions by English, and in those departments which are our oldest
colonies by French itself. It is therefore likely to lose itself in one of these two
languages if it risks adopting their abstract vocabulary, or to say the same thing
more simply, it will disappear with the progress of education. This may take a
long time even in the French Antilles, where the young generation have more and
more to learn to speak French correctly.
As for Trinidad, apart from some linguistic islands scattered here and there,
she has totally forgotten the easy language which has served as interpreter between
peoples of very diverse races, Negroes, East Indians, Chinese, a linguistic
phenomenon which I myself noticed a little before the first World War. Trinidadians
have not altogether given up Patois, and some embarrassment in the use of English
has only to be noted for one to discover immediately that the speaker smilingly
offers to remedy that by speaking Patois to you. The author of this article wishes
to take this opportunity to thank publicly all those who in coming to her aid have
given her the pleasure of stating that even in its lowly form of Creole, the memory
of the French tongue remains alive in an island which has never belonged to France.
(Translated by Cecil Herbert)
while carriacou. .
Carriacou is a sunny windy island lying in the Grenadines between St. Vincent
and Grenada, its anchorages protected by coral reefs like the one marked by a line
of surf in the picture above. .... And the ruined tower was once a windmill for
grinding cane in the days when sugar, grown on large estates, was the island's
Most of the land which was once
estates now belongs to peasant families,
owning 4-5 acres each, cultivating
corn and cotton, and raising stock.
The picture opposite shows the houses
of the people . and the dryness of
the soil. It also shows two of a party
of seven visitors from Trinidad who
went to Carriacou to study its traditional
music and dancing in August, 1952.
makes music ..
The picture above shows a "Bass and Tambourine Band", consisting of fiddle,
drum, tambourine and triangle. This band plays quadrilles, reels and meringues,
to which have been set words of local significance, in Creole. Bands similar to this
are still to be found in most parts of the West Indies, and it was not this type of
music and dance which attracted the extra-mural study excursion but ...
the "Big Drum Dance". Opposite is 'j '
Sugar Adams, the leading drummer
of the island, "beating goatskin".
Accompanied by two other drums, he
would play the whole night through,
and the people would dance in a style "
which has come down to them through
and dances ..
At a Big Drum Dance you can see
as many as 25 different dances, of
three main types. There are archaic
African dances, carrying the names
of some of the "nations" of West
Africa Ibo, Cromantee, Temnee
and others. The illustration shows
the Arrada nation dance, done to a
slow 6/8 beat, with antiphonic
singing in the Pentatonic mode.
The second type are Old
Creole dances, carrying
names like Bongo and
Hallecord, and the y
appear to have reached
their present, form in the
West Indies. They are
danced with grace and
verve, usually by two
women. In this picture
one of the dancers is
sucking a pipe, almost
out of the picture ....
and smoking a cigarette
while he writes notes is
J. D. Elder, one of our
The third type of dance
1 we can call New Creole,
and it is marked by
Strong European influ-
ence. Grand Bel, the
dance illustrated, is for
two couples, and runs
through a series of
figures after the manner
of the Quadrille, to a
fast exhilarating eight-
Percy Borde is one of the leading dancers of the Little Carib Dance Group in
Trinidad. After watching the old experts dance, he entered the ring to show what
he had learnt. Spectators' faces show what they are thinking.
The purpose of our trip was to study the music and dances of the Big Drum
Dance of the people of Carriacou. We noted over 150 songs with their words, often
enigmatic, and learnt at least some of the dances. We propose to return this year
to carry our studies further ...
S. before the old heads go to
their resting places.
Photographs by Eugene Beard
. . before the young forsake the
old tunes for the latest hits.
Notes by Andrew Pearse
IN BELMONT VALLEY ROAD
RADA MANDINGO IBO C
Houses in the order erected......... Asco
Voddnkwe or Chapelle 8
Sokpoto Kwe or shrine
Private Cemetery ....
....... ... ......
SKETCH OF COMPOUND
Map of Belmont Valley Road showing the Rada Compound, and the distribution of African
families around 1890 from data obtained from Henry Antoine.
Sketch of the Rada Compound at Belmont Valley Road indicating the positions of
buildings, shrines and private cemetery (A) Main House; (a) The Convent; (c) Resi-
dence of the Head of the Compound; (D) The last building erected. See Reference for
A Rada Community in Trinidad
ANDREW T. CARR
Photographs by Eugene Beard
AT the north-eastern corner of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Belmont Valley Road runs
between two verdant ridges and trails its way in an easterly direction to the
perimeter of the Town and into the hills beyond. Today it serves an over-built
area with the congestion of houses peculiar to outskirts into which the poorer
classes, through pressure of circumstances, have been driven to find living space.
Forty years ago there was greater evidence of poverty ; there were smaller and
fewer houses with hardly any fences around them, and a kindly neighbourliness.
This pattern of life was even more emphasized in the earlier years around 1870 when
groups of Africans and their descendants were almost the only settlers in the area,
comprising Rada, Ibo, Congo and Mandingo peoples. The community of
Mandingoes, including some ex-soldiers and their families, lived half a mile away on
the hillside outside the boundary of the Town.
In this general setting lived a people whose means of livelihood was in the main
agriculture with a sprinkling of the trades, mostly carpentry. Their centre of soci al
activity lay about a quarter of a mile along the Valley Road, and about forty yards
from the boundary of the Town. It was, and still is, a Compound' where the leading
group of Africans and their descendants met to follow the religious cult of their
1. Ever since my childhood days I have had the privilege of fairly close association with the
Rada group under review. My maternal grandmother was of Mandingo parentage, and
the Rock family to which she belonged owned property in the hills of Belmont (now
north-east Port-of-Spain, Trinidad), and also the Mandingo parcel of land shown on the
chart near the entrance to the Valley Road. Behamie Lane which runs through it was
named to commemorate my grandparents, whose people were old settlers, my grandmother
having been born in the area in 1844. As a boy, I frequently accompanied her to the
compound on ceremonial occasions, for although she was not intimately connected with the
rites, she was held in high regard by the community.
All the people associated with the compound were Roman Catholics by religious persuasion.
They nevertheless did not and could not be expected to break away entirely from the
culture and traditions of their forbears. This condition still prevails subject, however, to
the gradual changes which time inexorably brings.
This has no pretensions to being a comprehensive study. Mainly descriptive, it is an
attempt to record one aspect of the Island's colorful folk-lore which is little studied,
thereby laying a foundation for further study and amplification.
I am much indebted to Mr. Henry Antoine, the present head of the Compound, for
information concerning his father, its founder ; for details on the distribution of families
as shown on the chart, as he remembered them as a youth, and for much valuable
information ; also to Mr. Andrew George, and his wife who is co-head of the Compound,
for the readiness with which they put their knowledge at my disposal.
THE FOUNDER AND HIS BACKGROUND
Henry Antoine, present head of the Rada Compound, Belmont Valley
Road; Huto or Father of the Drums.
The founder of the Compound was Abojevi Zihwenu,2 who in Trinidad
adopted the French name of Robert Antoine, and was more popularly known as
Papa Nanee. He was a Rada-the term used to denote a native of the French
West African Protectorate of Dahomey. According to Prof. Herskovits, the term
itself derives from Allada, an early capital of the Dahomean Kingdom. The old
2. The orthography is adopted in part from Dr. Geoffrey Parrinder's note on the subject in his
thesis West African Religion ", which was itself adopted in simplified form from the
Practical Orthography of African Languages (revised edition 1930), published by the
International Institute of African Languages and Cultures.
g is always hard.
x represents the German ach sound, the Scottish ch as in loch. It has been used in
Xevioso. In x'rra and x'rr? it is otherwise attempted thus: h'rra and h'rri, for the
sake of simplicity.
j, dj, is voiced as j in judge.
y is consonantal as in you ".
a, e, i, o, u, have the Italian values.
F is used for the open e, as in met ".
o is used for the open o, as au in author.
Nasalized vowels are represented by the sign placed over the vowel letter, thus Ogu
instead of the French rendering Ogoun, but in some cases the "n" has been retained,
as in vodinsi (French: vodounsi). Such an n is not pronounced after the nasalized
vowel. Tones are not marked.
Kingdom was built up by conquest, and in 1724 it embraced the Kingdom of Ardra,
the capital of which was what is now known as Allada. Ardra itself seems to have
enjoyed some power and prestige, for it is recorded3 that an ambassador from that
Kingdom was received at the Court of King Louis XIV in 1670.
Abojevi was born in Hweda4 in Dahomey about the year 1800 and was a child
when wicked King Adanzan5 sat on the throne, having usurped power from his
minor brother Ghezo who was named to succeed to the kingship.
He was a youth of about 18 years when Ghezo ascended the throne ; he saw
service under this monarch in the Dahomean Army, and narrow ly escaped death or
capture when his people raided the Adja territory to the north-west.
It is said that very many years after the abolition of negro slavery in the West
Indies in 1833 and the abolition of the apprenticeship system which followed it
in 1838, Abojevi was among the last group of African immigrants who came to
settle in Trinidad. About 5 ft. 10 ins. in height and well built, he arrived here a
full-grown man leaving a wife and children in Dahomey. This group arrived
shortly after the great Cholera epidemic which swept the island in 1854. It is
presumed therefore, that he came about 1855 at the approximate age of 55. He
worked for some time on an estate near Champ Fleurs by the town of St. Joseph
about 6 miles from the city, and after this period he took up residence in Belmont
Valley Road some distance farther up the valley from the site of the compound he
Abojevi was not a hubons, or member of the priestly caste. He was a bokoni
or diviner in his native land and practised the art of reading the future in the
manner of the astrologer. He was held in great respect by those around him, and
was credited with a great store of knowledge concerning herbs and things
supernatural.6 Abojevi was sometimes referred to as Dokpwega, who in his native
land is the officiating head of a group in the community having to do with burial
ceremonies and funeral rites.
THE OLD COMPOUND
In the year 1868 Abojevi acquired from a builder, Abraham Benjamin Warner,
a parcel of land in the Valley Road about 3/5ths of an acre in size. Belmont was
then in the district of Laventille and for $135.00 the land was conveyed to him.7
On this site he proceeded to form his compound. He had again entered domestic
life with a reputed wife, and was father of a son. Being born in Whydah where
serpent worship is a strongly established cult, he was devoted to the worship of
3. Melville J. Herskovits : Dahomey Vol. 1, p. 5 with reference to Edouard Fot (pp. 269-270)
from whom the record was taken.
4. Presumably the surviving pronunciation here of Whydah or Ouidah. Captured by Dahomey
in 1726, (Herskovits: Dahomey Vol. 1, p. 5), the City became its most important seaport.
5. Abojevi spoke to his children of this monarch as Adadoza, whom as a child, he knew.
6. "A bokono is a student, a man learned in Dahomean culture and possessing a specialized
body of knowledge concerning the supernatural."
M. J. Herskovits : Dahomey. Vol. 2, p. 214.
7. The land consisting of 36,138 superficial feet wau conveyed uider a deed dated 13th July,
1868, and registered as No. 423 of 1868 at the Port-of-Spain Registry.
the deity Dangbwe (Serpent God)8 who was his patron saint and after whom his
compound took its name as the Dangbwe Comme (House or place of Dangbwe) in
contradistinction to the Sakpata Comme of another Rada community situated a
couple of miles to the south-east.
The compound began with one
house built on the land to accom-
modate the small family; a chapel
or vodunkwe (house of the gods),
and a tent or covered shed adjoin-
ing the house on its southern side,
and facing the road. Here dancing
to the drums took place. In
addition to the recognition given
to Dangbwe, two shrines were
erected which, according to Daho-
mean lore, are compulsory no
matter which group of gods is
worshipped, be they of the Sky,
Earth, or Thunder group. One of
the shrines, customarily at the
entrance of the compound, was
to Xlegba, who is regarded as the
devil, but is also a guardian
against evil. In keeping with the
Dahomean pattern, there was at
this shrine in the early days, an
effigy of the deity in clay-small,
Sakpata kwe ugly, and complete with dispropor-
tionate phallus. The other was
to Ogii, god of iron, and a deity enjoying a very high place in the African pantheon.
After the lapse of a few years, Abojevi, having a great love for the Sakpata or Earth
group of gods, sought and obtained the permission of the Big People--as the
gods are called by the Rada-to instal a shrine to these deities. With him had come
from Africa Padonu, a trained hubona or high priest, and two male vodansi,9 Alokasu
and Kunu, and these men took their respective places in the ceremonial activities
of the compound. The compound flourished for many years with a vibrancy and
fervour glimpses of which survive in many a tale which a few of the oldest
devotees can still recall, but which are almost unknown to the present generation
and may entirely disappear with the next. Remembered today as Papa Nanee, the
founder has left behind him a reputation as a great and selfless medicine man, but
8. M. J. Herskovits : Dahomey. Vol. 1, p. 182 relating to Sib Organisation of Dahomey :
Dangbevi Hwedanu (Serpent-children Peda-people). The members of the Sib are today
found principally in the region of Whydah. Their tohwiyo (as the ancestor held to be the
founder of each sib is called) is the dangbe serpent."
Dahomey. Vol. II, p. 248. Dangbe, then is the supernatural parent of the founder of a
Dahomean sib which has the City of Whydah as its primary locale."
9. Vodansi : wife of the god-a dancer who enters into a state of possession by the deity.
Could be male or female.
in his time his wisdom and kindness, and his service to his people made his name a
household word among them. Death came to the founder in July of 1899 at the
approximate age of 991, but the doctor who tended him before his death gave a
suggested age of 108 years. He was buried in the private burial ground which
occupies about two lots of land on the rear eastern boundary of the compound.
He left a widow and twelve children, and another six, of whom he was the
putative father, but who did not live at the compound. After Abojevi's death
his other property was sold, but the house standing upon it was removed to the
present site and set up for the use of the eldest daughter. About the year 1903
his son Dewendo built his home at its south-eastern end, and some years after, the
eldest son Hodanu erected his near to the main house. For many years before
the death of the old man many Rada families settled in the area, and during the
ceremonial occasions of those early days it is said that so large were the
gatherings at the compound that there was hardly room in which to accommodate
THE COMPOUND TODAY Y
Poverty and privation have had their effects upon the compound during the
eighty-five years of its existence. The original house now containing four rooms
instead of six, holds a grandson and his family of five, and his ailing brother. The
second house in the compound, erected soon after the death of the founder for his
eldest daughter, contains two rooms. Today, it is called the Convent and affords
temporary accommodation to the dancers when occasion arises. Dewendo's house
was entirely rebuilt in 1942. In the small fourth building which was put up by the
eldest son, and deceased father of fourteen children, now live two of his daughters,
and a son of one of them.
Aged seventy-five, Dewendo is head of the compound and sharing the duties
of this office with him is his niece, who lives with her husband a short distance
away. He has been head drummer for twenty-seven years, having been ordained by
special ceremony in 1926 to that position of h it o or father of the drums. He is the
fourth member to succeed to this post since his father founded the compound
in 1868, the line of succession being z isu, Gangwede, Hodonu and Dewendo. He
is the father of ten children, seven of whom are alive, and grandfather of twenty-two.
With him and his wife live two children, a daughter-in-law and nine grandchildren.
His second son Sedley, a young man of serious mien, inherited the position of huboni
or high priest in 1948. Hle also is fourth in line since 1868, those before him being
Padonu, Achovi, and Soobo.
The occupiers of the compound have been prolific in progeny, but not all have
lived on the site. In relation to the founder there have been over the years
since 1868, eighteen children, about fifty grandchildren and over seventy great
The private cemetery situated at the back portion of the compound is used to
this day, the last burial having occurred in 1952. It is said that the original owner
of the land was buried here. No records are available to indicate the date of its
registration and the earliest record to hand included it in a list of private
10. This age was arrived at by computation with the nelp of the only surviving son Dewendo
cemeteries published as Legislative Council Paper No. 119 of 1903. It receives
noticeably good care and contains at the present day many well kept surface graves.
About 65 burials have taken place there to date, twelve of which have been of
Adjoining the cemetery and occupying the other and western end of the back
portion of the land is a more or less thickly wooded area with a large variety of
fruit trees. Many years ago there was here a small spring which has long since
ceased to flow. Seven years after Abojevi's death the property was forfeit to the
Crown for non-payment of taxes, but his widow moved in the matter and a re-grant
was effected in her favour in 1908." To this day there are neither walls nor fences
surrounding or dividing the property but it may soon lose its character as an open
compound and be divided into units to satisfy those who have inherited parts of it.
No longer does the Zlegba shrine exist as earth mound and effigy. The impact of
western ideas, and misunderstanding by a growing population alien to African
customs have been responsible for its disappearance from the scene. Today, it is
merely a spot at the entrance with its position marked by a stone in the ground.
The shrines of Ogf and Sakpata are there in their original positions freshened by
the re-building of the earth mounds, each about one foot in height and about three
feet square. Both stand uncovered and in the open as they always did, that to
Ogii being under African lore never covered. In the old days, according to African
custom, a euphorbia plant stood at the head of the Sakpata kwe or shrine.
Some years ago the milky fluid of the plant got into the eyes of a child with
harmful effects, and it was replaced by a dragon-blood plant (Dracaena species).
The dances now take place near the shrines, in an open shed about sixteen
feet by twelve feet, covered with galvanized iron, with a semi-circular fence
obstructing the view from the road. The vodunkwe or house of the gods, nearly
always referred to as the chapelle, still stands near and opposite to the northern
part of the main house. A small house about thirteen feet long and ten feet
wide, it is divided into two sections. Drums, accoutrements and symbols are
stored in the back portion, and an altar stands at the western end of the front
room upon which are sacred objects-crucifix and statuettes of Christian saints.
On the ground at the foot of the altar are the scared goblets, plates for offerings
of food at sacrificial ceremonies, and a dish with thunderstones-sosiyovi-
(neolithic celts recognized here as Carib or Arawak stone implements). Pictures
of Christian saints adorn its walls. Two benches provide seating accommodation
and its two doors, on the east and south sides, are covered by light curtains.
Aziin," a sparse girdle of palm fronds, hangs over the doors on ceremonial
occasions as a spiritual guard against evil ; it is also to be seen at the shrines
and over the entrance to the dancing place. If something occurs to annoy
and anger a deity, azin may be put about his shoulders to induce a calmness
Time has served to bring about a change also in the names of the descendants,
indicating a moving away from the old tradition. The children of former times
11. The re-grant to Eleanor Robert Antoine was made on 8th February 1907, and registered on
24th March 1908, as No. 809 of 1908 at the Port-of-Spain Registry.
12. M. J. Herskovits Dahomey Vol. 1, p. 214. "The function of the azan, in Dahomey as in
all West Africa, is to act as a supernatural prophylaxis against evil reaching a sacred place."
were popularly known by their African names: Hodonu, Sedande, Soobo, Wov5nde
Yewenu, Boko, whilst their children are called by such names as Anthony, Dennis,
Sedley, Evelyn, Hilda and the like.
In spite of the impact of western culture and religion over so many years, the
community has retained as a living force a large measure of ancestral religious
beliefs and rites, distinguished by a high degree of reserve and control, the absence
of abandon and sensationalism, and a deep respect for the significance of the rites
and ceremonies. There is a high moral code which follows the pattern common to
most religions in emphasizing the virtues of goodness in thought and deed.
Forgiveness is accepted as a practical philosophy rewarding with spiritual grace
those who practise it, w while evil-doing is considered in the long run to do more harm
to its perpetrator. In recent conversation with an old member of the compound
he wound up our talk with these words If you walk with the saints you never fall-
all you need is a good heart. The gods ("saints") are closely connected with the
immediacy of life and are consulted constantly in matters of ill-health and mundane
troubles of every kind, with a deep-seated belief in the efficacy of their guidance
and the force of their influence. Such communion is believed to take place through
the medium of the possessed devotee. Christianity is accepted and practised in
conjunction with the recognition given to the African deities, so that it has come
to pass, through the interesting evolutionary process of syncretism'3 that the
African gods have with few exceptions their Christian saintly counterparts and
are so regarded in this dual aspect. The question put to an old member of the
compound How did the African saints come to acquire their Christian names?
brought forth the reply It was always so. But I asked, did not early missionaries
in Africa introduce the teachings of Christianity, and translate them into the African
languages, so that the Africans themselves, apart from the missionaries, may have
formed associations in an effort to reconcile the two beliefs ? No, he replied, we had
Christianity before the missionaries came. It was always so. It is the same thing.
I find this an interesting comment, indicating, it would appear, an absence of
conflict in fundamental religious principles.
It is said that Dr. Aggrey always thought of God as Father-Mother, or rather
Mother-Father'4 and this is how those Dahomeans see it who look upon Mawu-Lisa
(Mother-Father) as the Creator. The Rada community under study know Mawu-
Lisa, but only as the cardinal points east and west (beginning with a mystic east)
which, according to the mythology surrounding these deities, correspond to their
spheres of rule. For them-east, west, north and south are Mawu-Lisa-
Hwehfi-Hwese. Their name for the Creator is Dada Segbo, who is the Supreme
Being for Dahomeans who worship the Earth pantheon or Sakpata group of gods.
13. M. J. & F. S. Herakovits : Trinidad Village p. 330 (Pub. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.) ..
"The phenomenon ..... is the one called syncretism, observed and reported upon from
many parts of the New World, where Africans have translated their aboriginal religious
structure into the patterns of worship of their new environment. Such renderings of belief
and worship have proved both simplest and most felicitous when the accommodation was
made to a pattern of Catholicism, since its multiplicity of saints made feasible parallelisms
to a multiplicity of nature deities. But though syncretism occurs in many parts of the
VNw World where Negroes live, the same identifications are not always made."
14. Rev. Dr. Edwin W. Smith : See foreword to West African Religion by Dr. Geoffrey
The Pantheon-The Big People-given recognition at the compound is a mixed
one embracing African deities of the Earth group, the Thunder group and others.
While some grouping is recognized no worthwhile distinction is made among them.
Some of the deities or saints manifest themselves to this day; others have not
done so for some time. Manifestation is believed to take place through the medium
of the possessed dancer, who loses her normal consciousness during the period of
possession, and remembers nothing afterwards of what has occurred. The group
of gods of the past and of the present day are :-
*DANGBWE Serpent god. Symbol : Ornamental stick with ribbon streamers. Colour :
1940 Green, Red and Brown. Christian oounterpart : The Eternal father. Accepting
the Christian counterpart on its face value one is apt to be confused by this
African conception, for the Supreme Being for this cult group is not Dangbwels,
but Dada Segbo, while for the Christian the Eternal Father and the Supreme
Being are synonymous. In West Africa a devotee of the Serpent Cult regards
the python (the only snake considered sacred) as ancestral father, and upon
encountering one of the sacred snakes from the cult-house he will salute it by
kissing the ground, calling it 'my father because is considered an ancestor, and
asking its blessing.16
OG God of Iron and War; Patron of iron-workers. Regarded as the chief inter-
mediary between man and the godsBe. Symbol : a woods sword.
Colour : Red. Christian counterpart : St. Michael.
ELERBA Believed to be the Devil; elegba,18 nevertheless, is not a demonic personage,
but a mischievous one. He is also a guard and protector. He has no manifes-
tation, and is given only a propitiatory offering.
Sakpat or Earth Group
These deities, four in number, are considered to have control over illness,
mainly epidemics, particularly small-pox.
DA ZODJI No. I of the group. Symbol : the H'rn-a switch made by tying together a
bundle of ribs from coconut palm leaves, locally called ocoy e. Colour : Green
and Brown. Christian counterpart : S. Anthony.
No manifestation since the year mentioned.
16. Prof. Herekovits in his Dahomey Vol. 2, p. 248 quotes a description given to him by a
Dahomean distinguishing the difference between Dangbwe and the vodi (or god) Da. For
its poetic beauty and philosophic content, it is well worth re-quoting : An snakes are
called Di, but al snakes are not respected. The nodf Di is more tan a snake. It is a living
quality depressed in all thing that are flexible, sinuous and moist ; al things that fold and
re-fold and coil, and do not more on feet, though sometimes those things that are Da go through
the air. The rainbow has these qalities, and smoke, and so has the umbilical cord, and some
soy he nerves too.
Also, see M. J. Herekovits : Life in a Haitian Valey. p. 31 (pub. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.)
for a simplified summation of D&-often spoken of as a serpent-as the principle of
mobility ....." the principle of movement, of energy, of life itself, and by extension,
16. Geoffrey Parrinder : West African Religion. p. 62.
17. M. J. Herskovits in Life in a Haitian Valley p. 31 (pub. Alfred A. Knopf, Ino.) sums up
Legba as "the interlocutor between man and the gods," but this Dahomean conception
seems to have lost this significance here, for it is Ogr who appears to fill that role,
propitiating Legba being held to be sufficient.
18. M. J. Herskovits: Dahomey. Vol. 2,p. 223: The usual translation of the name of this god,
found above all in missionary literature is the Devil, and in consequence, the native when
asked by a European for an explanation of the nature of this deity contents himself with
this characterization. Yet enough has been described of Dahomean religion to make it
obvious that a concept such ae that of the Devil of Christian theology, who represents the
forces of evil in contradistinction to those of good, represented by God, is entirely foreign
to Dahomean thought. The confusion has perhaps arisen through the emphasis that has
been placed on that aspect of the character of Legba, or Elegba, which has to do with the
trickery indulged in by this god.
OBO ZUON No. 2. Symbol : the H'rra or a hammer. Colours : Green and Brown.
or BO ZUON Believed to have great power over evil spirits and evil magic. Christian
counterpart : St. Jerome.
PARADA No. 3. Symbol : the H'rra, also wooden models of saw, plane and hammer.
Colour : Green and Brown. Christian counterpart : St. Joseph
ABOBODJI No. 4. Symbol: the H'ra. Colour Green and Brown. Christian counter-
part : St. Francis.
Xevioso or Thunder Group
SOBO The head of the group, and having three manifestations. Symbol : Wooden
Hatchet. Colour : Red. His Christian counterparts are three in number :
St. John the Baptist ; St. John the Evangelist and St. John of the Cross. He is
the equivalent of the Yoruba thunder deity, Shango.
AVLEKETE A goddess associated with lightning and the wind. Symbol: A wooden
model of a book tied with red and green ribbons. Colours Red and Green.
Christian counterpart St. Catherine.
At the Compound, it is not clear now to which of the groups these gods belong.
DA LUA A deity held in high regard, and one of the few who perform the Desunu or
initiation rites over a noviciate. Symbol : the H'rra. Colour Pale Green.
Christian counterpart The Sacred Heart of Jesus, but the elders give it as St.
Vincent de Paul. From symbol and colour it would seem that this deity belongs
to the Sakpata group.19
Aae God of the Bush, hunter and lover of dogs. Symbol Bow and Arrow and red
haversack. Colours Red and White. Christian counterpart St. Bernard.
OLOKO God of Trees. A deity which has had no manifestation and may have none.
As in Dahomey the sacred tree is the Iroka or African Oak (Chlorophora exceesa),
so locally the Sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) is regarded with corresponding
reverence. A special ceremony has to be performed before it can be felled.
*DA MORU Symbol Not known. Colour Pale Brown. Christian counterpart: Noah.
AGBE20 Goddess of the Sea and Water. Symbol Miniature oar. Colour Blue.
or AGBWE Christian counterpart St. Ann.
NAUTC20 A Water Goddess. Symbol: Last (horse hair switch). Colour Blue.
Christian counterpart : St. Philomen.
E'MINONA Water Goddess. Symbol Iai. Colour : Blue. Christian counterpart: The
*U'DEWANU Symbol : Lasi.
*AHOSU' Symbol : Believed to be the H'rra.
*DAMBALLA Colours Black and White. Christian counterpart St. Dominic.
* AWiNGA20 Aido Hwedo or the Rainbow.
*No manifestation since the year mentioned.
19. Prof. Herekovits in his Dahomey Vol. 2, p. 142 mentions Da Lua as included in one list of
the Earth pantheon. He is given as a deity who remains at home with the chief and
eldest member of the group, Dada Zodji.
20. See M. J. Herskovits : Dahomey. Vol. 2, pp. 151-152 for these deities as belonging to the
Thunder group of Dahomean gods, with Axwigs listed as the second child of the god Agbe
and the goddess Naete. (Peculiarly, Agbe has undergone a transformation in this
community, and is conceived to be a goddess).
The last four deities mentioned on the list and also Da Morn possessed native
Africans, and after the death of these Africans these deities have not since been
manifest. Particulars omitted are unknown.
The religious ceremony or voddnu (sacrifice to the gods) may be seasonal or
non-seasonal. The seasonal sacrifices are :-
The January Sacrifice
This takes place on the first Thursday of each year, and no African name
survives for it, if ever there was any. It is given for the young people of the
community and they comprise the principal subscribers towards its cost.
Hwetanu or the Easter-tide Sacrifice
Held on the first Thursday after Lent, this is a sacrifice for the household and
it is obligatory on every member of each home to make a contribution according to
his means. Such contribution may range from six cents (3d.) upwards per
individual, and no distinction is made between the modest donation and the
generous. Much of the sacred azIn is used at this post-lenten sacrifice. In
addition to the usual places, festoons of it span overhead from the main house to
the shrine of Ogii and from the vod nkwe to the Sakpata shrine.
The August Sacrifice
No African name survives for this, and it is an anniversary for all the saints.
The principal contributors are the vod iin sis. It is a grand affair at which
animals for the sacrifice consist of a calf, goats, land turtle or morocoy, and fowls.
Sheep and pigs are never sacrificed. The dancers wear white clothes for the
morning sacrifice. In the evening, they wear clothes of the symbolic colours
and the symbols themselves are generally used. In earlier times distinctive dress
was worn, but the practice has since retreated into oblivion because of intolerance
and scoffing. Very little is now remembered of this type of dress.
The Feast of E'minona
This sacrifice takes place in September of each year. It is held for the children
especially, and a Mass at the local church precedes it by a few days. Pigeons are
prominent at the sacrifice, and so are guinea fowls. Preceded by a vigil on the
Wednesday night, the ceremony runs for two days. On the Thursday, the day of
the first sacrifice, the children, the vodunsis and the drummers wear white
clothing, and on the Friday all of them wear blue. Numerous small baskets are
made from cardboard, some in blue, others in white. They are filled with bits of
cake, sweets, and preserved fruit, all of which are home-made, and each child
present receives one of them. But, before this is done, two of the Sobo deities
*No manifestation since the year mentioned.
Note : Where Christian counterpart is not known, it is probable that these deities may
never have had any.
must appear,22 and each taking a pair of baskets, they dance to the drums.
After the dance they retire to the vodinkwe and the distribution is begun.
The youngsters queue up, enter by the eastern door to receive their baskets, and
pass out through the other. Azin appears in profusion as at the Easter-tide
festival. An arch decorated with it spans the space between the Sakpata shrine,
and the vodinkwe under which the children pass in going for their baskets
and the drummers sit beneath another in the dancing place.
This takes place in November, and is given for the souls of the departed. A
Mass for the Souls in Purgatory is commissioned at the church prior to the
sacrifice, and is attended by all who are able to do so, thus linking Christian and
During the interval between the seasonal ceremonies, any member of the
compound may supply the necessary requirements for holding a sacrifice. The
purpose may be that of thanksgiving, enlisting the assistance of the gods in some
worthy cause, or a celebration in honour of a patron saint. Sometimes, a v od un si
will hold a sacrifice for the deity by whom she becomes possessed, and she will
apprise you of this, saying: I am giving my father (or mother) food. The deity
speaking through her speaks of hie wife if he is a god. A goddess refers to her
devotee as her child.
This is a small private ceremony held at the home without the accompaniment
of the drums. It is done to bless the home, to ask for grace, for thanksgiving, or to
obtain a clearance in times of trouble. Invited are a few friends, the vodinsis
the hobon5 or high priest, and probably the heads of the compound.
Possession usually takes place, or in other words : one or two of the saints usually
In times of illness and particularly in the case of an epidemic, this type of
sacrificial ceremony is held. Sometimes, the warning of impending illness is given
by the Big People themselves, with appropriate instructions, or the need for a
V5 is implied from the interpretation of dreams. The special part of the
ceremony is carried out during the Wednesday night's vigil, when a parcel of
secret ingredients called the vw, is made up and sent away by messengers during
the early hours of the morning. Usually two, they must be back for the morning
sacrifice at 6 o'clock. The v5 is sent to the cross-roads if it is a small affair. On
occasions, it may be merely a live fowl which is liberated, symbolically taking
the ill-luck to the four winds. On more important occasions, the v5 has to be
sent to the forest, to the sea, or to some large open space.
That is to say : two voduneis or dancers in a state of possession by the deity.
Kimou or Sihi
The Kionu is a ritual for the dead held nine days after death, and it is performed
only for highly considered or highly placed members of the community. It is
held throughout the night and none of the usual drums are beaten. Taking the
place of the main drum is an earthenware jar, which is beaten by the hand with
the aid of a round flat fan-like frame covered with deer-skin. It produces a muffled
and mournful sound. Two wooden tubs filled with water, in each of which float
two large calabashes (or gourds) turned downwards, take the place of the side drums.
The calabashes are beaten with sticks and a special repertoire of songs for the dead is
sung. Coins are thrown into the water in the tubs, periodically, throughout the
night, which offerings are the perquisite of the drummers. Sometimes, a gun is
fired at mid-night and again at dawn, but this is now seldom done due to regulations
governing the use of firearms. As morning approaches and the ceremony comes
to an end, some of the water from the tubs is poured over the grave if it is nearby,
and the calabashes and sticks are broken and strewn over it. A special rite
called the Hoyo is performed at this stage, which consists of singing and beating
the grave with the hands. If the grave is distant, the water and broken things
are thrown away in the road. A few of the deities are usually manifest during
the ceremony. The Kionu has become more and more infrequent. However, it
was last held in 1951 for a very old member.
The Ajohi is a festival of pleasure at which all who wish to do so may dance.
No possession takes place. Four special drums are used, which are not consecrated
instruments like those for the sacrifices. Any evening during the week, except
Sunday, may do for this occasion, and special pleasure songs are sung which are
entirely dissimilar to those used in other ceremonies.
The Gozgn23 is a special and very infrequent ceremony which consists of a
procession of goblet-bearers. It takes its place as an additional feature to a
sacrificial ceremony and may also form part of the ceremony of initiation of a
neophyte. The controlling factor is the necessary expense involved. A group of
girls is chosen who have not yet reached the age of puberty, and they enter into
retreat in the convent on the day before the ceremony. In the procession they
wear white clothes, go barefoot and each carries a clay goblet on her head resting
on a small silk-covered pad. The procession is led by the saint Agbe (a
possessed devotee of the goddess) with symbol in hand, and to the accompaniment
of the drums it proceeds to a nearby spring. The goblets are filled with water,
coins are thrown into the pool, and the procession returns to the compound for the
morning sacrifices. The goblet-bearers may not speak during this ceremony, to
ensure which each girl is given a leaf to carry between her lips. Gifts of silver coins
are made to the girls after the ceremony. The water, considered blessed, is
preserved in their goblets in the vodilnkwe.
23. See Parrinder: West African Religion, p. 132. Go'en is here described as a special annual
rite for the royal ancestors of Porto Novo-a coastal town in Dahomey near the Nigerian
The last Gozen occurred in 1948, and that which preceded it was held some
60 years before about the year 1888. The founder of the compound was then alive
and on that occasion he invited the Yorubas whose settlement lay about a mile
away.24 Around five o'clock in the morning the procession left the compound
with Agbe in the lead, in dress of her symbolic colours and with oar in hand. The
Rada drummers came next followed by the goblet-bearers. Behind them came the
Yoruba drummers using large round calabashes or gourds as drums, each of which
was covered with a net of fine twine with buttons affixed, which produced a rattling
sound. The combined followers of the two groups brought up the rear. They
proceeded slowly up the Valley Road to a spring about a quarter of a mile beyond,
where a ceremony took place. It is said that it was a thrilling sight to see them
with Agbe herself at the head advancing with graceful deliberation to the resounding
accompaniment of the drums, and in steps suggestive of the dance. So great was
the crowd that many were unable to get near the pool. On their return to the
compound, the old man was there to receive them with a hat-full of silver coins in
his hands. After the gathering-in of the leaves, he presented each of the goblet-
bearers with several shillings. It was his last Gozen.
In 1948 this ceremony, on a modified scale, was revived in honour of a daughter
of the present head ; it formed part of her initiation rites as a new devotee of the
goddess Agbe. Fourteen young girls were selected as goblet-bearers. But
conditions had vastly changed since 1888 and the colour and pageantry of the past
did not fit in with the more or less alien atmosphere of the present day and the old
spring was no more. So the heads of the compound organised a private ceremony
at which the saints were asked to help them in their predicament. The story told
to me is that at the site of the old spring at the north-western portion of the
compound, which had long ceased to flow, a hole was dug in the ground about three
feet square and about the same footage in depth. A little water began to ooze,
and on the next day it was flowing crystal clear. It continued to flow during the
GozC n and for some three to four weeks afterwards, but has since petered out again,
save for a slight dampness at the spot.
THE DRUMS AND OTHER INSTRUMENTS
Drums for the sacrifices
are three in number, are
consecrated, and have spon-
sors and special names.
The main drum, beaten by
the head drummer, and
occupying the central po-
sition is called Towonde. It is
beaten with a 14-inch stick
crooked at the tip, and the
palm of the hand. It cuts
into the rhythm with a sort
Chae-chaecs; drum sticks and gin
24. The area forms part of the East Dry River section of Port-of-Spain in the vicinity
Observatory Street, Harpe Place and Quarry Street.
Drums used for the Ajohu feast of the Radas
of sharp syncopated movement. On the right of this drum is Wyande, operated
with two sticks, 11i inches long, and angled at the tip like the head drummer's.
Its beat has a rolling sound. These two drums are made from the trunk
of the Zabaca or Avocado tree (Persea
americana). Other woods sometimes
used are Breadfruit and Cedar. To the
left of the central drum is Hwen'do-
Smasu, a drum made from a small barrel
i and which is beaten with a pair of thin
sticks about 27 inches long. It has a
steady rhythmic action providing solid-
ity to the rhythm. This one, and the
other side-drum are covered with goat-
skin, but deerskin is used on the main
drum because of its greater durability
and better resonance.
q In addition to the drums are the
3hac-chacs or maracas-small round
calabashes with wooden handles put
through them and containing a quantity
of small seeds--and the gin, which is
The sacred drum- Towonde-held in a round bar of steel about 13 inches
position by the head drummer long, a shallow are in shape, and beaten
out flat at the ends to resemble a double hoe. It is beaten with a round thin rod of
the same material and of nearly the same length.
Beating the drums looks intricate and it takes many years of training to produce
a good drummer. The music, with the singing which gives way considerably to
the drumming, has an urgency and excitement about it, can at times be gay, and
when properly synchronised, enjoyable.
For the pleasure feast or Ajohi, different drums are used. Four in number,
they are unblessed and bear no names nor sponsors. Three of them at the compound
are made from the trunk of the Breadfruit tree (Artocarpus incisa), and the other
from a small barrel. Two of them are covered with goatskin and two with deer-
Only devotees who enter into a state of possession dance at the sacrificial
ceremonies. Such a dancer is nearly always a woman and is possessed by one deity
only. She is called a vodinsi or wife of the god, and as many as two or three women
may be possessed simultaneously by the same deity. Such a devotee takes the
name of the god by whom she is possessed, and the suffix-si--(Dahomean for
wife ") is added to give her a specific designation. Thus, one possessed by Ogu
would be an ogiisi ; by Agbe, an agbesi, and so on. No attempt is made by the
possessed vodinsi to induce possession in others. Possession appears to be
spontaneous and subject to no control or selectivity by the hubon5 or high priest,
as obtains under indigenous Dahomean conditions. Nevertheless, the hubon5
tries to induce possession in the vodlnsi through the employment of the specific
song and drum-rhythm her deity is believed to favour. A voduinsi may be male or
female. The only male vodiinsis in the history of the compound were Alokasu
and Kunu, the two companions of the founder, who had travelled with him from
Africa and were such in their native land. Alokasu, 5 ft. 10 ins. in height and
slim, died about 1903 and it is said that his eyes became very red and blood-shot
when he was in a state of possession. He was an Agesi: that is to say a wife or
devotee of the god Age. Kunu, ex-soldier and pensioner of the old West Indian
Regiment, some 6 ft. 2 ins. tall and well-built, used to be possessed by the god,
Awanga, but since his death about 1902 that deity has never manifested himself.
There have been no male vodiinsis since these two men died, or to use the current
parlance-no saint has come in the head of a man since then. Possession does not
appear to be voluntarily induced, and has occurred with or without the influence
of the drums. None of the women I know wished to be subject to it. But once
it does occur, as a rule, it is accepted willingly, not with regretful resignation.
Still, in one case opposition was nurtured over a period of many years against
this thing that happens to her but it proved of no avail. Her saint comes "
whenever he wills ; at home, at the compound, and on one occasion at a city church
where she went to pray for deliverance." However, from her many experiences
she now acknowledges the beneficience and protective influences of her father "
(the god) in her everyday life. Initial possession is nearly always violent in the
sense that the new devotee usually falls to the ground and rolls. When, for the
first time, a person falls," as it is called, a special ceremony, the Desunu, has to be
performed about three months after, followed by a thanksgiving one year hence.
Without this rite, she is uncertain on her feet in the dance, she may not dance with
symbols, and cannot properly perform her functions as a vodiinsi. Formerly, such
a neophyte occupied the convent for eight days before her initiation rites, but
today the period is at most two days. It is a period devoted to learning matters
in connection with her new position in the compound, to prayer and abstinence.
At the time of her initiation, she does not take part in any of the pre-sacrificial
rituals, but attends the morning sacrifice. After this, she retires to the convent,
and re-appears at 3 o'clock in the afternoon for the Desunu, provided with new
clothes, new comb, towel, goblet and basin. The ceremony is held in secret in the
vodufnkwe, and ends with the washing of the head in a special ablution with water
in which a variety of leaves have been crushed. She must be in a state of
possession when this is going to be done, and a saint performs the rites. The deity
Dangbwe officiated in his time, and now that he no longer comes it is done by
Da Lua or Da Zodji. The personal effects of the new devotee may not be used by
anyone else. In earlier times, the identity of the deity possessing a new devotee
was recognized by the type of song sung by Dangbwe-head deity manifest at
the compound-and in her absence, by Da Lua. Today, the custom no longer
obtains ; firstly, because the dangbwesi died twelve years ago and this deity has not
been manifest since, and secondly, the devotee of Da Lua is a very old woman to
whom possession comes infrequently. The neophyte, when she goes into the
vodinkwe, is now asked the identity of the god by whom she is possessed and is
made to undergo tests of a secret nature by the head of the compound and the
Occasionally, the vodunsis dance with the symbols, but always they use a
hat-band or sometimes a sash of the appropriate symbolic colours. If the conduct
of the devotee in her personal life is not what it should be, or if instructions from
her father are not carried out, or perhaps taboos are violated, the wrath of the
saint is in consequence brought upon her by her own actions, with resultant
punishment of some kind. Very many years ago, a possessed devotee who is quite
an old woman now, uprooted a plait of hair from her head. It left a large raw
wound, 1 am told, and the deity speaking through her, gave instructions for treating
it. Possessed by their respective saints, as the gods are always referred to, the
dancers have no after-consciousness of anything which may have transpired during
the period of possession. In that state they seem to have oracular powers and a
wisdom and moral philosophy unobservable in their normal selves. When
possession is nearly over, there is a period in the transitional stage towards complete
consciousness when the vodiinsi may act childishly or mischievously. Such an
impish influence is the stage called Nubioduto, or Were.
THE SACRIFICIAL CEREMONY
The sacrificial ceremony called a Vodinu or Saraka follows a regular pattern.
It begins on a Wednesday night about 9 o'clock, and the vigil which is held until
the following morning is called the Drozan. An old name is Zandrodro, which is
hardly ever used today. The opening act is a small offering to ilegba, consisting
of cornmeal and water and olive oil, and the opening song is sung to him. For
ilegba has to be propitiated lest neglect anger him and cause evil influences to mar
the sanctity of the rites. Recognition enlists him as custodian at the gates, and
guardian against evil. Three songs to all the gods, each called a Ytvalu, then
follow, and after this formal opening any of the other religious songs may be sung.
Usually, the only accompanying instruments are the chac-chacs and the gan, but on
special occasions, depending upon the sumptuousness of the feast, the drums are
used, but this is rare. During the period of singing without the drums it is usual
for possession to occur, but not for any long duration. After a few dances, during
which time no unpossessed person dances, the saint bids adieu, the vodunsi retiring
to the vodankwe or to the convent where possession quickly passes away. When
no saint is present, however, anyone who wishes to do so may participate in the
dancing, and the vigil can be quite a happy occasion, although free from abandon.
Between 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning the singing ceases and preparations for the
sacrifice at 6 o'clock are finalized. About that hour the huboni prepares his shrines.
Lighted candles replace those which have burnt out on the shrines of Ogi and
Sakpata, as well as on the altar in the vodinkwe. It is daylight now, and the hubon5
makes his offering to Ogu-olive oil, rum and water-and everyone gathers around
the shrine for the most important part of the ceremony.
The hubono salutes the east and west-Mawu-Lisa-and begins with a prayer
to Ogu, intermediary of the Big People, that the sacrifice about to be offered be
found acceptable to them. The kola-nut or obi assumes an important role at this
stage, for it provides the means through which the gathering will know how
quickly the sacrifice will meet with the gracious acceptance of the gods. Four
halves of the nut are in his closed hands. With prayer and supplication he throws
them gently to the ground towards the earth-mound shrine of Ogi. With intense
interest everyone looks on to see the will of the gods. Sometimes, the half-nuts
rest with one face up and three turned downwards or all four rest in the latter
position, and all know that there has been no answer. Another throw by the
hubon5 accompanied by further prayer may result in still no acknowledgment by
the gods, and the gathering become troubled in spirit. It is a tense and anxious
moment for the hubona, for it is usually felt that he has come to his work without
that purity of body and soul required of him for the performance of the sacrifice,
for he must cultivate purity of thought and be in a state of abstention from all
pleasures of the flesh for at least five days before this, and in former years it used
to be eight. A secondary thought is that ill-will pervades the community and
this is displeasing to the gods. When delay of this nature occurs, the hubonb asks
everyone to kneel, and praying again, he asks for the pardon of the gods for
anything untoward amongst them. He tries again, and if the obi fall with all
their faces turned upward, the road is now clear if they come three up and one
down it is Age who answers and it is a propitious sign. But, when the obi falls
with two faces up and two turned don n, there is relief and pleasure for the
sacrifice has been accepted by the gods, and the pa'obobo24 is given. The habono
then seeks confirmation of the acceptance of the gods with the deka-a small
round calabash. It is filled with water from Ogui's goblet and rests in the palm
of his right hand. With a tremor of the hand, he lets the calabash fall to the
ground. Acceptance is signified if it finally rests upturned. The hubon5 then
hurries off to the shrine of ilegba and makes a small offering of food. As he
returns, he places food on the shrine of Ogi, and, raising a chant to this deity, the
sacrificing of the animals begins to the accompaniment on the drums. The feet of
24The pa'obobo is an audible expression of gratitude, done by making ahigh-pitched monotone
with the mouth, and moving the closed fingers to and away from it in quick successive move-
ments to produce a staccato effect.
the feathered animals have by this time been washed in preparation for the sacrifice
by a daughter of the goddess Naete; that is to say, a woman born at the time of
year ruled by the saint, similar to the saintly influences of the Christian calendar.
While the ablution was in progress anyone able to do so dropped a coin in the
washing receptacle. Theoretically, it is the perquisite of the privileged washer, but
in effect the collection is usually spent on extra needs for the feast if the occasion
arises. Only cocks are killed before the Ogfl kwe; hens are killed near the
voddnkwe, and the larger animals before the shrine of Sakpata.
The food on the shrines of Ogii and Sakpata is cooked with salt, and the food
in the vodfinkwe or chapelle without. At Ogiu, there are dishes of parched corn,
black-eye peas cooked in whole grains with olive oil called abobo ; and accras-
fried vegetable batter. Some of the foods rest on mats of leaves of the Hog Plum
tree (Spondias monbin). The sacred goblet of the deity filled with water and a
couple of drinking vessels rest on the shrine, and a bottle of rum on the ground leans
against it for use by anyone in the congregation. After the sacrifice proper anyone
may help himself to bits of food from the shrines, as well as a drink at Ogii, the only
deity for whom rum is used. Apart from other food, plates of boiled corn in whole
grains and, boiled white rice with olive oil are put on the Sakpata kwe and in the
chapelle where there is also a special dish of crushed bananas mixed with ground
parched corn and made into balls. It is d.i'nududu or'Dangbwe's food. In the
chapelle on sacrificial occasions is a basin with amisi, a special medicine of water
and leaves which is sometimes used for sprinkling as a preventive against evil and
for purposes of sanctification. The devout put the palms of their hands to it, to
rub hands and face with the liquid for spiritual cleanliness.
The morning drums continue for about three hours. In the tent, singing or
chatting casually, a vodunsi may be taken by a sudden spasm which shakes her
forcibly. Sometimes a quiet manner and a somewhat lost expression precedes the
spasm. Thus taken, a vodunsi sways to and fro and rises laboriously to stand on
uncertain legs before going into the dance. Many pa'obobo are given as the
saints come. The dancing is reserved, at times ecstatic, and there is a dignity
of poise which never seems to be absent even as they dance in ecstasy to the height-
ened crescendo of the drums. The drums cease shortly after nine o'clock in the
morning and the saints retire to the vodiinkwe where they are consulted by
members of the compound who wish to do so. In due course the possessed vodiinsi
will retire to a bed in the convent or sit quietly there and her state of possession
passes away unobtrusively.
Meanwhile, the compound is a busy place with the preparation of various
meals for the day. A delectable dish called H'rri is prepared for the midday meal.
Some of it must first be served at the shrines before or after twelve noon, and after
a short ceremony is performed, anyone may help himself to some of it. To prepare
this dish, a cock and hen are boiled separately in large pots in much water. Inner
parts as well as pieces of the meat of the larger animals are also similarly cooked.
The meat is taken out, and corn meal with olive oil is boiled in the respective liquids
to a congealed mass known as cookoo. This, together with the meat, is served as
the midday meal. In the evening, a heavier meal is served, consisting of
vegetables, bread, stewed meat, cookoo, ochroes and leaves boiled to a thick liquid
and well known to West Indian palates as callaloo.
Before the general ceremony of the evening begins, the drums, led by the head
drummer himself, have to beat out three drum movements, three times, without
the singing and dancing. This is called the Xlegba'hi, and is a gesture of
recognition and respect to ilegba. The hubon6 then leads the singing of two or
three Yanvalus-songs to the saints and all the past hubonns. After this formal
opening, the general singing of the sacred songs proceeds with the beating of the
drums and the dancing until ten o'clock.
If the feast is a sumptuous one, it will begin again on Friday morning with a
sacrifice, when the remaining animals are killed. All the remaining food must be
consumed on this day and h'rri is made also with the feet and head of the larger
animals which had been put to boil the night before. The first sacrifice always
takes place on a Thursday, a sacred day5.
The end of the sacrificial feast, which may be of one or two days' duration,
is marked by the singing of the Kwemi-a song of thanksgiving. It is accompanied
by chac-chacs and gtn, but not by the drums, and all members of the congregation,
in and outside the dancing tent, kneel for it. Then, the pa'obobo is given and the
tent is completely vacated, leaving behind quiet and an air of solemnity.
A study of Dahomean customs and beliefs reveals that the Rada community
at Belmont have succeeded in preserving a remarkable purity of strain.
25 Parrinder ; West African Betigion, p. 52. One of the days of the ancient Dahomeml
four-day week (miaxi) is sacred to Sakpata. No earth is tilled on that day, hence it is market
day ; or Thursday where there is a seven-day week."
A Note on Bequia
CRADLE OF THE BLACK CARIB
Rev. C. JESSE
BE uIA is the largest island of the Grenadines and lies 9 miles below Saint Vincent.
It is a queerly shaped, hilly mass of smne four thousand acres. In the year A.D. 1675
it was the scene of a shipwreck that became historic. A ship laden with African
Negroes destined for the West Indian slave market foundered on reefs to windward
of the island. The captives who succeeded in getting ashore were received kindly
by the Amerindians who then occupied Bequia, and eventually intermarried with
them. Their descendants, who retained more of the African pigmentation than of
the Amerindian, came to be known as the Black Carib. At times they proved to
be a source of trouble to their fairer-skinned relatives, the Yellow Carib, also to
the English and French. During the disorders that followed the French Revolution
of 1789, the Carib of St. Vincent revolted against the English'. They were eventually
quelled in 1796, when many of them were sent as prisoners to Balliceaux, a small
island to the East of Bequia. On 11th March, 1797, English naval transports collected
the rebels in Bequia, and it was from there that the Black Carib set out for the
island of Rattan, off British Honduras, their new home. Today there are neither
Yellow Carib nor Black Carib in Bequia, but high cheek-bones met with occasionally
revive the souvenir of a race that has disappeared.
As I was in Bequia for a fortnight this year, I made an attempt to gather some
information on the Carib and other possible early inhabitants of the island. Nobody
apparently had ever seen or heard of middens or ancient ceramics there. Several
people had come across stone artifacts. There, as elsewhere in the Lesser Antilles,
these are called "thunderstones" No importance had been attached to these relics.
A foreign yacht had once called, and children had gone around collecting stone
axes, presumably for sale. In one place the artifacts had been broken up to make
concrete. However, Ddon van der Plas, the Vicar-General for St. Vincent, took
me to see some rocks on the windward coast that proved to be highly interesting.
These rocks are situated on the right hand side of the bay which local legend
associates with the wreck of the slave-ship in 1675. The bay faces eastward and
has an islet and reefs at its entrance. A nearby estate called "Spring" appears to
have given its name to the district. There is no river running into the bay, in
fact there is no river at all in Bequia. But a swamp spreads out around the shore
of the bay, and there was a little water in it on 1st April, towards the end of
the dry season. It is impossible to say at present if the sea has encroached upon
the shore at this spot, but the rocks in question are all now more or less washed
by the waves, especially when the tide is in.
Now, on 7 at least of these rocks, regularly cut basins or depressions are to be
found. I counted 20 of them. They are mostly on the flattish, upper surface of the
I It would seem that the Black Carib had spread from Bequia to the neighboring islands,
and so had taken part in the revolt.
rocks. With the exception of one round basin and 2 plate-like depressions, they are
lenticular in shape. The latter, i.e. the lenticular, vary from 8" to 17" in length,
from 2" to 3" in width, and from I" to (" in depth. The round basin is 8" in
diameter and 24" in depth. The plate-like depressions are about 12" in diameter
and J" in depth. But all these measurements are subject to correction, as waves
were dashing over the rocks and myself as I took them. On one rock the lenticular
depressions form a kind of triptych, on another a kind of diptych, on a third a
pair of these diptyches.
The rocks are of a very hard, blackish stone, perhaps basalt, small rather than
big. In spite of sea and sun, the basins or depressions are well preserved. One
lenticular depression has obviously been broken in two by fractioning of the rock.
It would be impossible to say at present when, by whom and why these rocks
were so worked. I believe one may safely rule out the colonisation period and the
Negro slaves, as similar artifacts elsewhere seem definitely to belong to the
Amerindian occupation. Knowing that the Carib were in Bequia from at least 1675
to 1797, it may be supposed that they themselves used the rocks in question for
fashioning their celts. The place would have been in this case a kind of workshop.2
The fact that no middens with shells or ceramics have so far been found in
Bequia is perhaps worthy of note. There are two spots in the island which seem to
suggest a former Amerindian dwelling-place, but they have never been excavated,
so far as is known. If no such middens really exist on the island, one may ask
whether the Carib occupation does not date only from historic times, to the exclusion
of any anterior occupation by the Arawak. In other words, Bequia may possibly
be a purely Carib site of relatively recent date.
2 On returning to St. Vincent from Beqiiia I was shown a portable stone that had bc.n
found at the mouth of the Yanbo River on the windward coast. It offered a very fine
specimen of rock-cut basins. The lenticular form was again in evidence.
University Education In Labour-Management
A. A. THOMPSON
With the rapid growth of trade union membership and strength in recent
years, universities have taken more and more interest in the educational
opportunities and needs which have resulted from this growth. The fifty-year-
old University of Puerto Rico maintains an Institute of Labour Relations, and
the four-year-old Univeisity College in Jamaica has friendly working relations
with the University of Puerto Rico in programmes of research in the social
sciences and in adult education. Its Institute of Social and Economic Research
initiated a study of Labour-Productivity in Jamaica in 1949-50 which has
involved re-examination of the methods of the study of productivity and may
lead to co-operation with the University College Department of Pathology in
studying the effects of sub-acute diseases on working capacity.
PIONEER UNIVERSITY-TYPE RESIDENTIAL TRAINING COURSES OF THE COLONIAL
DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE ORGANISATION IN THE WEST INDIES
Anticipating the future work of the University College of the West Indies in
the field of education in labour-management relations, the United Kingdom Colonial
Development and Welfare Organisation in the West Indies organised and conducted
university-type residential training courses in Barbados in 1948 and 1952 for two
groups of twenty trade union officers from the seven territories now participating
in the University College scheme. They were four-months' and three-month courses
The subjects studied at the first course, with the aid of experts, included Trade
Union Principles and Organisation, Industrial Relations and Labour Legislation.
as well as West Indian Economic History and the Social Problems of the region.
The course was financed with the assistance of aver 4,000 from Colonial Develop-
ment and Welfare funds. The second course was financed from a similar grant
of 5,000 and a special goodwill donation of 50 from the Trade Union Congress
in the United Kingdom. The Labour Advisor to the Comptroller fcr Development
and Welfare in the West Indies was Dean of the course, while Mr. J. D. M. Bell,
Lecturer in Industrial Relations and Modern Economic History at Glasgow
University, attended from the United Kingdom to take the major part in the
lecturing and training.
UNIVERSITY TRAINING COURSES IN TRADE UNIONISM AND
(a) British Guiana
The British Guiana trade union movement is the earliest of the British Colonial
trade union movements. In March, 1952, its Trades Union Council was composed
of sixty delegates from fifteen unions, with an aggregate membership of 11,203.
The Federation of Unions of Government Employees, which was not then affiliated
to the Cduncil, comprised an additional six unions with an aggregate membership
The Trades Union Council's initiative in the field of workers' education which
began in 1943 with the co-operation of the Department of Labour, is strongly
supported by all unions, whether affiliated to it or not. The driving force in the
programme of courses, which the Department of Extra-Mural Studies conducted
for the Council in 1951-52, is a leadership-team composed of union officers who
have been trained in the United Kingdom and Barbados under Colonial Develop-
ment and Welfare schemes and the Department of Labour. This team has also
provided the major part of the lecturing and tutorial panels.
The first activity was a ten-day residential course for forty-six union officers
held in Georgetown. This was followed by a sixteen-day residential course in
Georgetown for thirty-two union officers. Two additional week-end non-residential
courses were conducted in Georgetown for thirty-four union officers in February
and March, 1952; and at Bartica, Skeldonn and New Amsterdam three rural
week-end courses were conducted for groups of rank-and-file union members
numbering 44, 65 and 41 persons, respectively, in November and December, 1951,
and January, 1952. Operational costs of the residential courses, additional to
administrative and office expenses of the Department of Extra-Mural Studies, were
met by contributions from the Trade Union Movement, the Government of
British Guiana and two large employer groups, amounting to $865, $480 and $515
In 1949-50, Miss Edith Bornn, of the Caribbean Commission, conducted a
twenty-session course under the title Labour in Society for the Extra-Mural
Department. Its regular students numbered eighteen, most of whom were trade
union members. In October, 1951, after a meeting representing twelve different
unions, two one-year courses with weekly sessions were opened in Trade Unionism,
one in Port-of-Spain, and the other in San Fernando, in which about thirty-five
members stayed the course which included History of the Working Class Movement,
Trade Union Structure and Practice, Labour-Management Relations and Labour
Legislation. On the completion of these two one-year study courses, committees
representing the interested unions were established to advise the Extra-Mural
Department on further educational programmes of value to trade unionists.
In Jamaica the Department of Extra-Mural Studies conducted a non-residential
course in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from October, 1951 to
March, 1952 for one hundred and ten top and middle management men and union
officers from twenty-four key industries, fourteen Government Departments, the
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Sugar Manufacturers' Association, the
All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association, the Jamaica Civil Service Associa-
tion, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the Trade Union Congress.
Dr. Simon Rottenburg, Director of the Institute of Labour Relations at the
University of Puerto Rico, was visiting Lecturer to the course during January,
and members of the staff of the University College Institute of Social and Economic
Research provided valuable services. The cost of the programme was met by
contributions from some of the industrial concerns of the island.
(d) Puerto Rico
Similarly, the University of Puerto Rico has now established a residential
training school for Latin American trade union officers under the joint auspices
of the Inter-American Regional Organisation of the International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions and the University. The purpose of the school is to provide
technical and background knowledge for the administration of democratic trade
unions. The first course, which ended in December, 1952, had students in residence
from Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Salvador, Colombia and Haiti.
UNIVERSITY OBJECTIVES IN EDUCATION IN LABOUR-MANAGEMENT
What are the proper objectives of the University in the field of education
in labour-management relations? With adults there can be no external compulsions
for education as there are for children. Inner compulsions and social compulsions,
however, can be very strong. Without these compulsions there can be no adult
education. The purposes of adults grow out of inner and social compulsions,
emerging from the stream of experience by way of those problems of daily living
which adults are unable to solve without help through educational experience. These
purposes tend to fall into four categories, although in actual situations they seldom
occur in simple or single form. The first is to acquire skills. The second is to
acquire knowledge. The third is to develop understanding. The fourth is to
organise for co-operative action.
The majority of educators would probably agree that the basic objective of all
true education is to produce more mature and intelligent action by stimulating clear,
open-minded thinking after the truth-the type of thinking which expands horizons,
causes the re-examination of previously-held conclusions, and eliminates prejudices
and superstitions. Upon the basis of such thinking, education may help to develop
the skills of democratic deliberation, planning and decision-making. As a university
achieves these objectives it truly serves the interests of labour and management
as well as the public interest.
CENTRAL OBJECTIVES OF TRAINING UNION LEADERSHIP AND
RANK-AND-FILE UNION MEMBERS
It is my personal opinion that university activities in the field of labour-
management relations should have as their ultimate aim the development of better
relations between the parties. Major questions arise, however, as to how directly
this aim should be approached, and by what means. It would seem to be the
better part of wisdom to concentrate university activities in this field primarily
along the lines of promoting understanding, and letting co-operation develop, for the
most part, during the normal relations between the parties.
Accordingly, the central objectives of the British Guiana programme of union
leadership training are (1) to develop capable, knowledgeable, intelligent and
critical officers and to create confidence and ability to interpret and present the
desires and aspirations of union members in matters relating to their economic,
industrial and social welfare; (2) to help leaders appreciate the necessity of obtain-
ing and marshalling all the information and all the facts necessary for the successful
operation of union activities; and (3) to assist in building understanding of and
loyalty to the trade union and allied labour interests.
The central objectives in the courses for rank-and-file union members is to
improve the participation of union citizens (1) in all matters with which they are
concerned as voters or public officials and all matters on which co-operative action
is required to care for the welfare of the community as a whole or of groups within
it; (2) not only in matters which are thought to be of concern to the organised public
-voters and officials-but also in matters on which individuals and groups can
work together in non-political ways.
METHODS OF EDUCATION IN LABOUR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS: APPOINTMENT
OF A SPECIALIST UNIVERSITY COLLEGE TUTOR
Having determined the proper sphere of activity of the university, a number
of other technical questions arise. What are the methods by which a university
may seek to achieve its objectives? Should instructions be given to labour and
management groups separately or together? In what specific subjects should
instruction be given? How should the tutors be selected? What materials should
be used as teaching aids? These questions require a great deal of thought and
discussion among university administrators and public officials, as well as among
leaders of labour and management. The University College of the West Indies
and the Colonial Development and Welfare Organisation are now convinced of
the need for a specialist tutor in the Department of Extra-Mural Studies to
co-ordinate and direct the activities of those agencies in British Guiana and the
British West Indies. They have taken joint action to meet this need. An
allocation of $36,000 to the University College to finance the appointment of a
tutor in labour-management relations for three years has now been announced by
the Comptroller for Development and Welfare in the West Indies.
A BRIGHTER SUN. By Samuel Selvon;
pub. Wingate 11/6.
"You should buy this", said the book-
seller, "it's a touching human story. I'll
give you your money back if you don't
think so!" So I bought A Brighter Sun,
and I have not asked for my money back.
It is about the little-known East Indian
rural life of Trinidad: how it neighbours
with the Negro majority, and is served by
the same Chinaman's shop. The events of
the human lives depicted are placed in time
by a few remarks at the beginning of each
chapter about the war-time background-
some naif, some drily ironic. The central
figures are Tiger and Urmilla, a boy and
girl of sixteen, married as strangers according
to the custom of their race, thrown into
life as a separate household without any of
the glamour of romantic love, and left to
grow on together into manhood and woman-
hood. They are befriended by their Creole
neighbours, Joe and Rita, who have them-
selves grown up the hard way in the slums
of Port-of-Spain without losing human
goodness Rita has the character and
realism of the women of her race; natural
decency and unbounded generosity. Tiger
is no hero; without, as it seems, religious or
moral training, he behaves selfishly enough,
and even brutally, to his submissive wife;
but he has a seeking after knowledge and
after God which promises to lift him. Both
Tiger and Joe are unschooled: Tiger learns
PERSONALITY AND CONFLICT IN
JAMAICA. By Madeleine Kerr,
University of Liverpool Press 15/-
West Indian sociology has hitherto largely
been a field of American scholarship.
Miss Madeleine Kerr's book "Personality
and Conflict in Jamaica" is a British con-
tribution to this field of studies.
The author acknowledges her debt to
Professor Herskovits a n d Dr. Abram
Kardiner. The first has apparently been her
main source of material of the Negro in the
New World, and the other has provided her
with a theoretical framework. Miss Kerr in
to read from an old Indian: Joe thinks it
foolishness and is happy without. When,
at the end of the book, Tiger, wanting to
share experience, is trying to write his own
story, and feels the sameness of his life
where day by day the same remarks are
made and the same greetings passed, we are
able to believe that he might grow to play
his part in a larger scene.
The characters speak Trinidad dialect,
which has verve and charm. They live in a
world where children grow up, as it would
seem, without tenderness around them, and
are saved from callousness only by inherent
goodness. This state of things is accepted:
the simple objectivity of the narrative, its
absence of analysis, comment or moralizing,
leaves the reader to observe the life
described as if through clear glass, and is
singularly moving to the sympathies and
imagination. The book is written without
racial self-consciousness, sensitive to the
good and evil of all races and quick with
unspoken pity for the children who mas-
querade as men and women.
I doubt whether the author can repeat
this study in living: it has the stamp of
the one book which everyone can write
with his own blood. But let us hope that,
even if this is so, we shall have other work
from Samuel Selvon's pen instinct with that
wisdom which lifts A Brighter Sun above
the sordidness and violence of individual
lives and gives it a touch of universality.
a sense is breaking new ground in that her
study is concerned with the personality
structure of the Jamaican. Kardiner has
utilised the fieldwork material of trained
anthropologists (Linton, Du Bois, &c.) in
developing his theories of the basic person-
ality. Miss Kerr has however relied on her
own field material collected in the course
of her work as social psychologist with the
West Indian Social Survey (1947-49). It
is unfortunate that this material is not as
full as it might be. For example the reader
is left with only a vague suggestion as to
the type or types of family structure exist-
ing in Jamaican society. In regard to the
role of colour in the society the author does
not relate this to the class system nor to
the family structure. Again the literature of
comparative areas such as the U.S.A. or
Brazil (Dollard, Myrdal, Davis, Gardner,
Pierson, Freyre, &c.), is not mentioned. The
impression given is that Jamaican problems
are of an unique nature, which indeed they
may be, but not quite in the way suggested.
Miss Kerr's main thesis is that there is
a conflict or clash between two cultures.
the African and the European, the result
being an insecure type of personality.
Examples of this clashing of cultures do
not always ring true. That the peasant
represents one type of culture and the
middle class another is not borne out by
the facts given. Transition from one group
to another in any class society poses certain
problems. Jamaica is no exception-but the
successful individual manages in time to
achieve stability within his new class. It
is possible that the author has allowed the
evidence of insecurity undue prominence
in her estimate of Jamaican personality
structure. The fact of the matter is that
the latter has evolved and developed in
particular conditions and for those con-
ditions exhibits a definite stability.
But the whole thesis under review
depends upon the corroboration or otherwise
of the psychological test material. Un-
fortunately Miss Kerr has not seen fit to
include more than a brief survey of the
techniques used and the result-detailed
analysis, is reserved for a further volume.
It is therefore somewhat difficult to judge
the validity of a correlation between field
and test material.
Miss Kerr at the beginning of her book
writes of the emergence of a specific
Jamaican culture compounded of diverse
elements-with this one is in complete
agreement-but the main part of the book
overemphasises the conflict a n d clash
between the European and African streams.
The result is to obscure the importance of
the synthesis first stated. Evidence from a
variety of fields suggests that where
different cultures are in contact the result-
ing symbiotic relationship is of equal
importance with the conflict inherent in the
But the main criticism remains that
owing to the inadequacy of the field
material the book does entirely justify the
hypotheses used nor the conclusions reached.
Despite this "Personality and Conflict in
Jamaica" as a pioneer study is a definite
addition to the somewhat meagre sociology
of the Caribbean.
Designed and printed at the Government Printing Office, Trinidad. B.W.I.