So I think it’s about time for me to elaborate on the mysterious Duppy, something I’ve been rambling about on this here blog. This is only the start of your education, a continuing guide to Duppy awareness so you too can warn off the restless spirits, or if needed hone them to do your own evil bidding.
“According to Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bob Marley wrote the song “My Cup,” Marley was complaining to Lee that he was too “successful” and was being plagued by hangers-on and leeches, referring to them as duppies in the context of ‘human vampires’ (as in scroungers). Lee apparently consoled him by saying, “Look, we’ll sort this out- we are duppy conquerors.”
-from the Wikipedia entry for Duppy
From drinking the alcohol used to clean the tape machines, to both burning down and flooding the remains of the studio, tales of a young Lee Perry at the Black Art are always full of strange bouts of eclecticism. Not so out of the ordinary were the times when Perry would blow weed smoke on the reels to expel the demons from the recordings. Duppies are of great importance to Jamaican folklore, the original source steaming from the West African Bantu language. Duppies are thought to the the restless spirits of the dead, who remain unhappy and unnamed in the afterlife. These aren’t the ghosts of relatives coming back to visit their living loved ones, just restless spirits capable of doing harm. An Obeah man or woman may summon a Duppy with bribes of food or drink, specifically rum, and some claim methods of expelling these spirits from peoples lives.
Joseph (pictured above), an Obeah man of Manchester is one of those that claim to possess powers strong enough to expel a Duppy. “Well you know I will take out duppy and demon out anybody because I am also an exorcist. Well, one day dem tell me that a duppy was in a young boy up the road so I take up my crystal ball and go up there. Well, when I reach I see about 70 people gather around and tell them to move. I look at the boy with the demon and realise that is the duppy of a Indian stillborn baby was in him. Anyway, I chant it out of him and when the people who gather around see what I do dem nearly faint! Dem know dat anybody who conquer a coolie duppy must powerful!“
There are several kinds of Duppies, including the Ol’ Higue (a witch of sorts) and the Rollin Calf, a demon in animal form…
Me deh pon has’e me kean tap now,
For Tahta John a-dead,
De oda nite one rolllin’-calf
Lick him eena him head.
It is a long story me chile,
Me really kean tap now.
Yuh musa hear sey Tahta los’
Him black an wite bull cow?
T’ree nite an day him sarch fe it,
Couldn’ fine it noan tall,
Soh tell nite-afore-las’ him sey
Him hear one cow a-bawl.
Him meck fe Figgins’ open-lan;
Doah him an dem noh gree,
An see de bull dah-lie dung under-
Neat’ one gwangu tree.
Him teck a rope an tie de bull,
An dem him bruck a stick
An him layba de po’ cow back, me
Tan a-yard an hear de lick.
Him start fe lead i home, but wen
Him tun roun fe goh call,
Him see de sinting two y’eye dem
A roll like tunda-ball
Him goh fe halla, but same time
Him feel a funny pain,
An wen him look eena him han,
De rope tun eena chain
Massa, him fling i wey an run,
Him hear de sinting laugh,
It wasn’ fe him cow at all,
It was a rollin’ calf!
Him jump Bra Caleb wire fence,
Him faint as him ketch home,
An since him come back to himself
Him dis a-twis an foam.
Mek kean tap, is a obeah man
Dem sen’ me fe goh ketch,
Me feel me y’eye a-jump him mighta
Dead long before me ketch.
-Louise Bennett “Rollin Calf“
There are warning signs to be aware of the presence of a Duppy. If your dog howls at night for no apparent reason, a spirit could be lurking. Getting a spiderweb across the face while walking though a forest is a general sign of Duppies, so be careful wandering around at night. Nailing a horseshoe to ones house is one way to warn them off, as is cursing “Jesus Christ!” when these signs occur.
Do not go wandering around the graveyard with a bottle of Captain Morgans looking for Duppies, leave that up to the professionals. It is very easy to be injured by a Duppy.
Go here for more info on Duppies and Jamaican folklore