Celebration of Jamaica's heritage
We continue our journey down the history lane. today, we highlight Shut or Shet Pan.
The Shet pan also known as the shut pan, is a traditional container made of tin. Traditionally, farmers and workers, in general, used the shet or shut pan to carry food to their farms, plots, and other places of work. The shet pan has two compartments one for stews and meat and the other for, 'food' (yam, banana, etc).
Author Olive Senior, in her book Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage, defined the shet pan as a "cylindrical vessel of tin, with a tight-fitting cover made with a handle for lifting. It was formerly used for carrying food but also employed by Myalists and Obeahmen to capture spirits". Linguist and Lexicographer Frederic G. Cassidy, in his book Jamaica Talk Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica, expounds on the use of the Shet pan in the ritual of catching shadows or spirits. Cassidy explains that "the person suspected of having lost his shadow was taken to the cotton tree, where their shadow was tapped by Myal men and a large following of people".
The Myal men, along with the crowd of persons, would sing and dance all night, while pelting the tree with eggs and the decapitated bodies of fowls. Eventually when the shadow showed signs of leaving the tree, a shet pan or white basin was filled with water and used to capture the shadow.
The victim of the stolen shadow would then be carried home. A cloth was then wet in the water and applied to the head of the patient, and the shadow was said to be restored. The Myal men usually charged around six dollars for their services.