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Customs of long ago – pt 1

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I am diverting a bit from the more serious side of things to make this article one of a lighter nature and to delve into some “Barrouallie traditions of yesteryear.” Do you remember article one mentioned Hacatus, Rounce and Jack-O-Lantern? Do you know what they were?{{more}}

Okay here goes. Storytelling time was a must for children of yore here in Barrouallie. At those times, we gathered at our grandparents feet, listening to fictitious tales. Of course, at the time, we didn’t know they were fictitious. We swallowed everything, hook, line, sinker and fought for the space which was closest to our foreparents, just in case one of those characters was to turn up.

Hacatus, I recall, was that long-footed giant, who was taller than the average man and who our foreparents said could stretch his legs from one corner of St Vincent to the other corner. Frightening isn’t it? Thus he was able to stay in Fancy, for example, and extend his legs all the way to Richmond. Well, you wouldn’t want to be caught under his legs, as your fate would not be too good.

Then, there was Mr Rounce. If you were outdoors and got caught by a Rounce, be careful how you counted. Some attempted to beat it and, while beating, they counted the lashes; big mistake! That’s what our foreparents said, because if you hit it and say one, one more Rounce will appear, two and two more will appear…Do you get the picture? So, by the time you realized it, you were surrounded by more of that creature than you could handle. I was told that if you were confronted by one Rounce, then you should run seaward. I asked why and was told that Mr Rounce will have to count every grain of sand and by that time you will be long gone…laughable isn’t it? Well, now I can laugh, but back then those tales were not amusing at all.

Jack-O-Lantern was that ball of fire or light which appeared over the mountain tops in the dead of night. There are some elders who believe that Jack-O-Lantern was real. Back then, street lights were non-existent and these balls of light just appeared out of the blue, then disappeared, especially if they sensed that humans were around…hhhmm.

Of course, in addition to these tales, there were the jumbie stories which we enjoyed and the many sayings which became very much a part of our culture long ago. It was an offence to tell others “yo’ lie”, instead you had to say “yo’ story”. Of course you couldn’t put up umbrellas at night or jumbie would follow you. Whenever you went home late, you had to walk backward when you got to the door, in order to avoid jumbie following you inside. You were not allowed to sweep at night. If you found money in the cemetery, buy kerosene oil, nothing else! That’s what the elderly said. Long ago, if you pointed toward a cemetery, your finger would “rotten off”, they said. Also, if a woman was having her monthly period and attended a funeral, she was advised not to go into the cemetery, especially touching that fresh grave dirt. If she did then that monthly flow would be uncontrollable.

Then, school days were fun. Books were carried by hand or in plastic bags, so our foreparents had “Handsport”, not Jansport. Of course, the privileged ones had plastic bags and no one complained! Barefoot rivaled Nike and all the other name brands and many of our elders “wore barefoot” in style. Estate children coming from distances like Wallilabou had their own invention; banana body carved in the shape of their feet and with strings to fasten made nice ‘slippers’. Half ah book and half ah pencil were the “in thing”. Discipline was the order of the day and lashes for ill-discipline were a must. A word of caution: back then, you couldn’t tell your parents that you were indisciplined or if they ever got to hear, then you were guaranteed a second set of licking, no questions asked!

Holidays were fun days, until it was time to return to school; then it was purging and de-worming time. I remember the dreaded Castor Oil, Epsom salts and worm medicine, when we cried and ran around, but had to take it anyway. Once we were caught, we fought kicking like crazy, but we were manually held down. Might as well open your mouth, otherwise noses will be corked, thus forcing those mouths wide open and down went the liquid, followed by a spoonful of sugar. You didn’t have those days? Okay, we’ll hook up next week, God’s willing, for more traditions before plunging into the sea.

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