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Jamaican Folklore Exposed!
53 Surprisingly Common  Beliefs & Practices

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An Exposé Of Jamaican Folklore beliefs and practices

A few days ago I was listening to the 'Two Live Crew' afternoon program on RJR FM radio, with Dahlia and Burgherman (yes, it is one of my favourite radio programs here).

They had brought in a special guest from Portland to speak about, yes, Traditional Jamaican folklore and beliefs!

Of course, you know my interest is peaked now! :-) And I was astounded from what I learned!


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But that just got me started. I was now inspired to do some additional research!

And now I present to you....

53 Suprising CommonTraditional Jamaican Beliefs and Folktales

It's a one of it's kind if you asked me, a great reference for those looking for documentation of our old belief system, especially since many of our beliefs were hardly written; they were passed down orally.

And may I add that many, if not most of these are still practised today in some shape or form?

But to you I say...

  • "Belief kills & beliefs Cure"- so they say, &
  • "Jack Mandora, mi nuh choose none" (So I get it, I share it)

Now to keep this exciting, lets start with...

Spirits, Death & Duppy

  1. If you wash your face in unprocessed (not white) rice, you will see get the ability to see duppy.

  2. If you feel you are targeted by evil, turn, wear your clothes on wrong side.

  3. If you believe that you are followed by a duppy, light three match sticks, thrown one, throw two, but don't throw the third, they will stop and try to find the third while you make your way, and...

  4. If coming from outside, walk back-way to go into your house.

  5. When putting away your shoes, turn them 'head and tail' (alternate), it will confuse them, OR, turn them outwards pointing outwards the door, that way, they might get excited and wear them out.

  6. When you spit, say "tek mi spit but nuh tek mi blood", make a cross (x) over the spit.

  7. You may also, use dog matter to wipe your eye if you want to see the duppy.

  8. It is believe that when someone dies, the spirit leaves the body and lingers around, but return to the home on the ninth night. 

    See: What is a Nine Night in Jamaica? 

    In between those days, the mirrors are covered but everything else left the same. Water is placed and thrown out each night and morning respectively though.  

    On the ninth  (9)night, to send the spirit on its way, change around the room, as they are not welcome their anymore.

    In some cases, those spirits are marched out of the house and community. Today candles are light on the roads to show direction away from the house to the spirit.

  9. When digging the earth to build a house, to appease the spirits, the blood of a bird (fowl or pigeon) AND white rum is sprinkled at the four corners.

    A goat's blood is typically used again just about when ready for occupying.

  10. At grave digging, an odd number of persons should did, and each time one finishes, he should have a drink of the rum.

  11. During drumming, white rum (alcohol) is used to wet the drum to invite spirits to come.

  12. On the death of a parent of a baby, the baby is passed over casket at the funeral.

  13. On the death of a partner, a kerchief is cut in two, one half placed in the coffin and the statement, 'keep your half and stay away' is said by the surviving partner. The other is pinned on and worn for four months.

  14. Never throw water outside at nights either, as you might throw it on a ghost.

  15. If you point at a grave but don't bite your 10 fingers they will rot off.

  16. If you attend a funeral, put your head between your legs then look at the coffin, you will see the dead person sitting on top of it.

    Back to top of Jamaican Folklore


    And now that you are scared enough, let's move on to...

    Luck & Success


  17. When a child's teeth fall out, he says "ratta ratta, tek mi ole teeth and give me new teeth", and new one will grow.

  18. Spilling salt is bad luck, so throw some over your shoulder back-way to correct/reverse that.

  19. If you peel an orange without the peel getting broken,you will get a new suit.

  20. Sewing/mending clothes on someone is considered bad luck so you should stick them with pin to reverse that.

  21. Women should never leave or place their handbags on the ground, it will make them poor.

  22. Don't sweep debris or dust from inside your house to outside at nights, you will sweep out your good luck.

  23. Never keep broken glass in your house; it will bring bad luck.

  24. A boy baby who resembles his mother will have great fortune. It's the same for girl baby who resembles her father.

  25. If a leaf falls from a tree on you, you will be getting money. 

  26. You will also get money if your right palm itches but spend or lose money if it is the left hand.

  27. If a bird fly passes and poops on you, it is good luck.

  28. If a news bug comes your way, catch/hit it down, then throw it in the air. If it continue to fly, good luck or fortune is coming.However, it if falls to the ground you will have bad luck.

    Back to top of Jamaican Folklore


    General & Lifestyle

  29. Don't leave underwear on the clothes line over night.

  30. If someone is spending too much time (or unwanted) at your house, take a broom, turn it upside down or throw some salt on it and but behind the front door. They will leave soon.

  31. Dig a hole and plant the navel-string (umblical cord) of a newborn with a tree. The tree will grown with the person. 

  32. The Bible and Key Procedure (an old time key) is used to find out persons who are guilty of an offense. A reference to the procedure is mentioned here.

  33. If a young boys to beat his “manhood” on a papaya tree, it will make it bigger.

  34. After eating all the meat out of a crab’s shell, it is believed that you can surprising replenish the meat by knocking the shell on your knee and forehead, and repeat, 'Come fat, Come fat'.

  35. If your cooking knife falls to the floor, you will have a male visitor soon. If it is a big spoon an older woman is going to visit. 

  36. When putting it down if the knife lands with blade up, you are going to travel!

  37.  If a man has a papaya tree in his yard, he will be impotent.

  38. To get rid of stiffed neck, ask a left-handed person to turn it for you. It is believed that a cockroach might have walked over it.

  39. If rain is falling while the sun is shining, it is said that the devil and his wife is fighting for food (red herring, fish bone or salted fish)

    Back to top of Jamaican Folklore


    Love and Relationships

  40. To check the strength of your love, get a piece of thread and tie several knots along it, light one end, if it burns up and over the knots the love it deep. If not, well..

  41. To check if someone loves you, take a piece of the yellow 'love bush', spit on it and and throw it on the fence  of your lover (or nearest bush to his/her house), it if grows love is in the air!

  42. If a lady opens an umbrella in a house, she will not get married.

  43. Men should not turn their hat on a table, or else won't get married. (Solution: hang it up or keep in the lap)

  44. Young men, don't eat directly out of a cooking pot, you won't get any beard when you grow up.

  45. You won't get married, if you wear a ring on your wedding ring finger before getting married.

    Back to top of Jamaican Folklore


    Baby & Pregnancy


  46. If a lizard falls on a lady, or if she dreams of fish, she is pregnant.

  47. Pregnant women should not sew (use needle and thread). It is believed that the umbilical cord of the baby will respond in similar way (moving like the cord) and tie/ hurt baby.

  48.  Pregnant women should not step over barbed wire, it will harm baby, rather, step on it.

  49. Pregnant women should not stare up a fruit tree, baby will born will crossed eye.

  50. Pregnant women should not climb over a fence, if she does, the child will be a thief.

  51. If a pregnant woman scratch a part of the body, after yearning for something, usually food, the baby will show that mark at the same place, if she didn't get what you wanted.

  52. To protect young baby from Ol' Hige, put a red cloth/ thread on the forehead or a red string on its hand.

    and to complete this list. 

  53. When leaving baby by self, put the open bible over baby's head, usually the 23rd psalm. 

    And after all this, you might need this last one as well :-)

    Back to top of Jamaican Folklore

So did you know any of these? 
If you did, how many did you remember? 

I'd love to hear (comment below)

For Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora, be sure to run these by your children. Share the feedback  :-)





References To Jamaican Folklore

  1. "Jamaican Folklore", http://digjamaica.com/m/blog/jamaican-folklore/

  2. "BIBLE AND KEY CATCH PHONE THIEF", http://old.jamaica-star.com/thestar/20121030/news/news2.html"

  3. "Myths & realities", http://mobile.jamaicagleaner.com/20090105/flair/flair9.php

  4. "Jamaican Folklore/culture Quiz", https://twitter.com/KemziLinzi/status/1198379112152420352

  5. "The Two Live Crew", Dahlia and Burgherman, RJR, Published January 9, 2020

  6. "Jamaican Customs", https://www.real-jamaica-vacations.com/jamaican-customs.html

  7. VisitJamaica, https://www.facebook.com/visitjamaica/posts/do-you-know-what-the-phrase-jack-mandora-mi-nuh-choose-nun-means/10150341670275360/

See Also: Jamaican Folk Tales - Its Genesis & Purpose

You might be curious about these as well

Other Pages Related To Jamaican Folklore

Return to Jamaica Culture from Jamaican Folklore
Return to My Island Jamaica Homepage from Jamaican Folklore

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A patriotic Jamaican who adores his culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' since April 2007.  

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