Tag Archives: Jamaican folklore

Green Lizard Guards Ackee Tree

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One late afternoon, I ventured out to the backyard to pick some Ackees that had opened on the tree. Our housekeeper who unfailingly kept a sharp eye on any and every crop which was ready for harvesting, for some reason kept omitting to clear the tree of the precious fruit. I was curious to know why?

Armed with a long, tapered, picking stick, fashioned with a metal hook on the end, I began my sojourn.

Six or seven ackees later, the housekeeper appeared through the kitchen door, amazed that I had found so many of the fruit.

I took the liberty then, to ask why she had not already stripped the tree? Her answer was simple:

“A hell of a green lizard live on dat tree an me an ‘im a nuh fren.”  “Look ef yu nuh see ‘im?”

Sure enough, a quick search of the tree revealed the presence of the lime green watchman who allegedly lorded over the ackee tree.

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I must admit, the lizard did look a bit intimidating. It lay still, observing my movements as if deciding whether to act on it or simply ignore me.

Historically, lizards found in Jamaica are all said to be harmless.  Personally, I feel that is a questionable matter, especially after being chased at the age of ten by a serious-looking ground lizard.

However, on this occasion, history was not going to be put to the test as just then, the groundskeeper who had quietly come up on the scene, without a word, made a quick, jerking lunge towards the Ackee tree.

The movement was so fast, my brain cells were still actively processing it when the groundskeeper came towards me, machete outstretched.  Hanging hap-hazardly over the sharpened blade was none other than the  mangled corpse of the green, ackee tree watchman.

Before I could register my distress upon the innocent killing, the groundskeeper blurted out, while pointing to the dead lizard:

“Ah one a di worse py-son (poision) dis yu nuh. Ah it dem tek kill one a mi girlfren dem, wha’ day.”

I wasn’t sure which was more curious. Exactly how his girlfriend was poisoned? Or exactly how many girlfriends this tiny, aging wisp of a man boasted?

I was about to pose the question when he spared me the banter:

“Yu know how dem dweet?”

Not waiting on any particular answer the groundskeeper continued.

“Ef yu put it out inna di sun and mek it completely dry out it cyan shred up like powder.  Ah it dem tek sprinkle inna anyting an gi’ yu. All inna cornmeal.”

“Ah so dem py-son mi girl.  Gi’ har inna cornmeal porridge. Stone dead!”

With that the groundskeeper walked away with his trophy, stopping only momentarily to hurl the green reptile over the fence into the bushes beyond, before resuming his duties.

As I watched him in the distance, I could not help but wonder, who actually felt the need to conduct an experiment of this kind to discover its use? And how do others find out?

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Needless to say, my ackee dinner was divine and the helper was extremely relieved the green guard of the ackee tree was gone forever. However, cornmeal porridge for me will never be the same.

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Hauntings At Skull Point, Jamaica – Part 2

Previously, I related a story contributed by a popular writer, to the Jamaican Gleaner. It involved a ghostly legend surrounding some strange-looking trees in an area known as Skull Point in Mile Gully, Jamaica.

Well, as it would happen, our heroic writer encountered yet another mystery, not too far away from what he termed “the whispering trees.”

Personally, the name of the area alone – Skull Point – would be enough to keep me at bay. Our writer, however, had a nose for news. A talent that placed him, once again, on the chilling scent of mystery and ghoulish hearsay.

According to an old shopkeeper in the Mile Gully area, legend had it that long ago, a slave named James Knight from the Lyndhurst Estate in the parish, became a Christian and started preaching to fellow slaves. This angered his owner who ordered Knight beheaded. The slave’s killers carried out the order, placing Knight’s skull on a pole, then planting it in the community as a warning to all other slaves. It is said that because of Knight’s violent death, coupled with  the fact that he wasn’t given a proper burial, his spirit has since been roaming the community and in particular, an old abandoned church.

Intrigued by the alleged ghostly sounds witnessed by parishioners, our roving reporter set off on a trek to the haunted site. There had been numerous recounts of unexplained noises coming from within the crumbled ruins of the old church.

The Plot thickens:

The reporter stood hesitantly on the steps leading up to the church, shrouded in a deathly silence, broken only momentarily by a passing vehicle. An emphatic shout whistled from the motorist, “Mind di duppy dem run out pon yu!” (translated: Be careful of ghosts coming out at you).  Then the car was gone.

Wrapped in the eerie stillness surrounding, the reporter slowly made his way to the entrance of the church. As he stood poised in the entrance way of the gutted ruins, he suddenly became motionless.

Coming from inside was a crescendo of high-pitched squeals, unlike anything the writer had ever heard.  He resembled it to that of a maniacal symphony. Rooted to the spot, the writer took a few moments to regain his composure, forcing himself to continue inside, despite the obvious sounds of doom awaiting.

Several moments later, he breathed a deep sigh of relief, realizing the origin of the legendary nemeses to be caused by a huge swarm of bats, disturbed from rest and now frantically flying to and fro. Confident he had dispelled yet another mystery, the curious reporter began taking a series of photos to prove to the Community and readers alike, that the flying mammals were the only inhabitants of the old church and clearly, the guilty noisemakers .

What’s your take on this?

Completing his descriptive report, the proud writer began assembling his photos to add to the Copy.  Wide-eyed, he quickly scanned through each of the targeted shots he had taken.  He could not believe his eyes. Each and every photo he had taken had a clear view of the church from all angles.  The only details missing – were the bats.

“Where are the bats?”