As you should already know, this blog doubles as the Chicago division for The International Center of Duppy Research. Our team is hard at work digging deep into Jamaican folklore through dusty newspapers, microfilm, children’s books, and documents that we can still access through our alumni JSTOR accounts. Dedicated to finding every piece of the puzzle, we have stumbled upon a missing link from the Caribbean brought to our attention by Soca legend Michel Montano’s Trinidadian Thriller video Jumbie. A Jumbie, or Jumbee, in some ways follows the story of the Duppy but with transformations across the Black Atlantic that resulted in different demons than the Jamaican version. Mermaids, possessed animals, and witches are some common themes among Caribbean folklore, but in other places such as Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, the spirit of a dead person not yet descended into the afterlife by way of minibus* takes on different forms. In some ways, the Jumbee has a more mysterious and complex history, with more rules laid out as far as what form the demons will take. In Guyana, a Backoo is the spirit of a baby who died before being named which are known to look like short men with large eyes, long limbs, and who are absent of kneecaps. The spirit feeds off bananas and milk, and is stuck inside a glass bottle until released. Overall, the main factor separating the Duppy from the Jumbee are the influence of both Amerindian and European folklore which have altered things especially in places like the Dutch Antilles and Montserrat. While our resources are still being pulled (see picture above), our anonymous informants at Wikipedia tell us a few tips for living a Jumbee-free life:
- leaving a pair of shoes outside your door; jumbies don’t have feet and would spend the entire night trying on the shoes to get them to fit before moving onto you.
- leaving a heap of sand or salt or rice outside your door; jumbies are compelled to count every grain before the sun rises.
- when coming home late at night, walk backwards so that the jumbie would be unable to follow you inside.
- if one is being chased by a jumbie, cross a river, as they cannot follow over water
- Leave a rope with many knots by your door step. Jumbies love to try to untie knots, so they will forget about you while trying to untie the knots.
Our people are being sent all over the world and the internet in search of more information for our readers to raise Jumbee awareness so you don’t end up victim of ruckus. To those who dare confront ether a Duppy or a Jumbee, make sure you bring plenty of rum for both enjoy the sweet taste of fermented sugar cane.
* Winkler, Anthony C. “The Duppy”. Akashic Books, 2008.