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Deadly Jamaican Superstitions

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We know the history of Jamaica's people includes a lot of conflict, oppression and slavery. Those people who were enslaved, and forced into spirit-breaking drudgery generally fell back on the skills, beliefs and spiritual traditions from their African homeland. Amid other things, one of the most prevalent aspects of these traditions was superstition. Just as songs and folktales have been passed down through the generations, so have ethereal beliefs on death.

Jamaican folk customs and beliefs among a large part of the population include specific signs that death is present or imminent. For example, if a rooster begins to crow while inside the home, then a death will occur. If animals or birds cry or become loud for no reason at all, then death is present. If, on a sunny clear day there is a sudden rain shower that ends just as abruptly as it started, then death is said to occur soon. The same is true if there is a knock on the door or roof for no clear reason. It is also said that if two people utter the same words at exactly the same time to each other, they will expire together. Superstitions are also present when preventing death. If renovations are taking place in a home, then the homeowner must slaughter a chicken or goat and shed its blood. The same ritual is recommended when an ancient tree is slated to be cut down.

There are several traditions and superstitions surrounding the care of the dead and burial rituals. Typically, when a person dies in the home a collection of ten coffee beans is placed in the 'death room'. According to legend, ghosts of the dead can only count to nine, so the placement of ten beans prevents ghosts from entering the room. Any mirrors in the room are covered up to prevent reflections of the living being felt by the dead. In doing so the living are prevented from excessive mourning for the dead.

To avert the spirit of the dead from remaining in the home, each family member must say farewell to the dead. Likewise, any children must be passed over the body three times. No tears are to fall on the body, as it is believed the dead will come back to haunt the person whose tears were shed. No one is to kiss the body either, or their teeth will rot. When the body is carried out of the home, it must be carried feet first out the front door and with all clothes void of buttons or zippers. As soon as the body is removed, the room is swept to remove latent bits of death.

Some may laugh at the above rituals, but they are deeply ingrained in the Jamaican culture. Respect for culture is extremely important, no matter how silly it may seem at first glance. Just as some may find wearing white at a wedding to be odd, others perceive it as completely normal. Every cultural difference deserves reverence and respect.
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