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Wey go so, an' wey nuh go so

SUPERSTITIONS, OLD customs, beliefs and myths exist all over the world. But modern ways of living have progressively phased out the importance of many of the perceptions and values that existed in Jamaica of old.
While we greet many of these primitive folklore with skepticism enough of the old beliefs have nevertheless survived over decades, even centuries, perhaps because they continue to provide seeming answers to the curiosities of those who are influenced by such beliefs.

The following folklore and old-time remedies are excerpts from the book, 'Bush Doctor' written by Sylvester Ayre (profiled in the Lifestyle section of The Gleaner, Saturday, August 2). Mr. Ayre was born in 1936 in Sligoville, St. Catherine, the first village to be freed from slavery.


The old folk ritual in which it is believed that the Bible and a key can be used to prove guilt or innocence of any person or persons suspected of stealing something from someone else, is an old practice which has survived to this day in Jamaica.

A victim of theft is usually angry and desperate to know who is the thief.

In order to expose the thief, the victim of the theft, reaches for a Bible and turns its pages to find the verse in Exodus chapter 20, which commands, "thou shalt not steal".

On the page bearing those words she places a house door key and closes the bible over it.

The knob of the key protrudes from the bible. In order to secure this she ties the bible around with a length of cord.

In the presence of the suspects she utters the following words while holding the protruding end of the key.

"By Saint Peter, By Saint Paul, By the true and living God, Mary is the thief."

Everyone tensely waits to see what is going to happen. But if nothing happens. Mary is innocent.

She repeats the same incantation and calls the name of Jane, the second suspect of theft. Again, nothing happens. Jane too is innocent, so the rite is again repeated after which she calls the name of the third suspect - "Harry is the thief".

Now comes action. The bible spins over and over again, using the key as its axis.

This phenomenon is thought to be an infallible indication that Harry is indeed the guilty thief.


Perhaps everyone has experienced a situation wherein one finds it difficult to collect money too long owing by someone.

From folk soothsayers has come the advice to get an old nail. Next, find a black coco plant of the wild variety. Push the old nail through the stalk of a leaf growing near to the heart of the plant, while having your objective fixed in mind. By doing so it is believed that your money will be repaid soon.


Complaints are heard from time to time especially from widows, that their recently departed spouses visit them at times with habits of wanting to do the things they did while in life.

These women tell convincing tales about obvious attempts, by the spirits of their dead husbands, to stimulate sexual acts.

They consistently maintain that they actually experience mysterious fondling in efforts to sexually arouse them.

Folklore has it that if a spouse dies leaving the bereaved partner fearful of possible visits by his or her ghost, the fearful bereaved one should go out and buy a handkerchief that thereafter should be cut in halves.

Put one half of the 'kerchief' into the hand of the departed one as he or she lies in the coffin just preceding interment.

The other half of the handkerchief must be taken home and subsequently burnt.

Belief holds that the spirit of the dear departed will spend all its time searching for the other half of the handkerchief that has not been given to him or her, thus leaving no time whatever to visit the living spouse.


Given as a remedy to expel worms from the bowels of children, is a bush known as semicontrac that is famous in folk circles. Those suffering with ordinary gastric discomforts also have traditionally been referred to the possible use of semicontrac.

In both cases -- worms in children and gastric problems -- semicontrac must be boiled in water to make a so-called tea that should be taken by a patient of either ailment.

An adult person should imbibe at least two cupfuls daily until relief comes.

In the case of a child one cupful should be taken each evening until worms are expelled from the bowels.


Dig out from underground the solid part of a chocho plant's root base, that is sometimes similar in appearance to a small ill-formed yam. Once procured it should be washed clean and cooked alone. This aphrodisiac may be eaten alone or with gravy, tomato sauce, etc. The process may be repeated, if necessary until sexually prowess is experienced.


Whenever the process of childbirth lasted longer than the normal length of time, a nanny in the old days would boil in water a half a handful of thyme in a pint of water. The resulting aromatic brew was fed to the lady in waiting, after which, birth, it is said, would soon materialize. Another bush known as penny-royal was used in the same manner with equal effect.


Chigger, said to have been of African origin, was "a sixlegged insect (mite larva) that sucked the blood of vertebrates and caused irritation to its victims in past decades, it burrowed into one's flesh, and fed there. If initially undetected the chigger remained hidden in the flesh until fully developed and evolved, over time, to become dozens of tiny eggs that were later expelled to the ground.

Those eggs, later still, hatched to become many young chiggers that infested humans and animals alike. Folk treatment for chigger varied but a frequently used remedy was a mixture of butter and jeyes used to smear parts of a person affected by chigger, for temporary relief. Modern medication eventually eradicated chigger in Jamaica.


Collect, each time, a handful of low-crimson coloured water-grass (many folks call it "red water grass"). Employ the common method of boiling it to become a "tea" that needs only to be sweetened, if desired. When taken by patients of diabetes a cupful in the morning and another in late evening it is said to control blood sugar effectively.


See Also A Tribute To Miss Lou

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