Recently, my friend Loni Flowers took a Caribbean cruise and came across a print periodical that included an article about island folklore. Given she was enjoying crystal clear water, sparkling beaches, recreation and fun, I was thrilled she thought of me and my Mythical Monday posts (thanks, Loni!). When she sent me the magazine, I was hooked by the tidbits of native folklore, and knew I had to take a closer look at island spirits. Let me introduce a few:
As might be suggested by its name, the chickcarnie is a birdlike creature but resembles an owl more than a chicken. Like an owl, they have the ability to swivel their head completely around for a glimpse of anything lurking nearby. Chickcarnies have three fingers, three toes, red eyes and a prehensile tail which they employ as a handy hook when hanging from the tops of tall trees (a favored chickcarnie pastime). If you see two pine trees joined together, there’s a good chance you’ll find a chickarnie nest at the top. Treat this island dweller well and you’ll be blessed with good fortune, but laugh at the chickcarnie or malign it in anyway, and misery will follow you for a lifetime. These guys wrote the book on holding a grudge.
In the folk religion Obeah, considered a harmless form of voodoo, it’s believed each person has two souls – a good soul and earthly soul. When someone dies the good soul ascends to heaven but the earthly soul hangs around in the burial coffin for three days. If the coffin isn’t sealed tightly, the earthly soul can escape and become a “duppy.” This is a malevolent spirit that usually appears at night to wreak mischief.
You can tell when a duppy is nearby because you’ll likely become extremely warm and your head will feel as though it’s growing larger. Chase the duppy off by eating salt or wearing your clothes inside out. Apparently neither salt nor clothing worn in reverse rate favorably in the duppy’s eyes. It makes you wonder if they had an aversion to salt while living. Hmm.
The Rolling Calf
Finally we come to the Rolling Calf. Yes, it literally rolls around on the ground in chains. Rolling Calves are always male and are believed to be spirits of men who led a wicked life. For some reason many Rolling Calves were butchers during their lifetime. Perhaps being a Rolling Calf in the afterlife is an ironic sentence for having slaughtered cattle as an occupation. Whatever the case, this troublesome spirit also favors the night for roaming.
It searches for souls, wicked like itself, and molds them into its image. To escape a Rolling Calf, drop any number of objects in its path forcing it to stop and count them, or run to a crossroads and insert a pen knife in the ground.
So what do you think? Could you see yourself encountering one of these creatures while on an island vacation? If you had to choose between the three, which would you pick as the island spirit you’d risk encountering on a dark night?
As always, I love hearing from you, so please share your thoughts!