Rollin’ Calf: part 2

Whilst there are plenty of Jamaican plants which have been utilised over the years to keep duppies at bay, I haven’t been able to find any plant remedies specifically used to prevent a Rollin’ Calf attack. However here some other tips on how to keep the fearsome Calf from molesting you.

1.) If you have to go out in the evening, make sure it is a moonlit night as the Rollin’ Calf is afraid of the moon. Frank Cundall was told by informants for a collection of African-Jamaican folklore, that the Calf will sit looking at the moon asking it not to:

“fal dun pa me, no go wak under me, a de holy night. If you fal dun pa me nancy me kin.”

However, in “Folklore of Jamaica: A Survey” MacEdward Leach noted an exception to this rule. If the moon is directly above you then you are still vulnerable to a burst of Rollin’ Calf’s toxic breath.

Picture 704.JPG

2.) Make the sign of the cross ten times with a knife. Leach noted that people can ward off the Calf:

by ‘cutting ten’ (making the sign of the cross ten times with a knife). The calf must go ten times around the place where its intended victim cut ten, thus giving him [the victim] time to escape.”

3.) Avoid rural areas. According to Zora Neale Hurston the Rollin’ Calf “keeps chiefly to the country parts”.

4.) Beat the Calf. Thomas Banbury wrote that using a whip held in the left hand or a “tarred whip” would scare the creature away.

5.) Keep a dog. Banbury also wrote that dogs are the “bitter enemies of Rollin’ Calves… and will compel it to retreat when they encounter it.”

6.) Run away. Martha Warren Beckwith  was warned by her informant George Parkes that if you do manage to frighten the Calf away, then “you must instantly leave the spot, for the creature will gallop away, then return to the same spot, and if it finds you there will blow ‘bad breath upon you’.”

 

Next time…. I return to my search for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Sources (in order of appearance in text)

Frank Cundall, “Folklore of the Negroes of Jamaica”, Folklore, Vol. 15, No. 1. (Mar. 25, 1904), pp. 87-94, p. 91.

MacEdward Leach, “Folklore of Jamaica: A Survey”, Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde = Archives suisses des traditions populaires, vol. 59, (1963), pp. 59-81, p. 69.

Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (reprint, with a new foreword by Ishmael Reed, New York: Harper & Row, 1990, of orig. edn, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincourt Inc., 1938), 27.

Rev. Thomas Banbury, Jamaica Superstitions; or the Obeah Book: A Complete Treatise of the Absurdities Believed in by the People of the Island (Kingston: Mortimer Co. De Souza, 1894), p. 17.

Martha Warren Beckwith, Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaica Folk Life (reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969, of orig. edn, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929), p. 100.

Image credits: moon photograph by Simon Noel

 

 

 

Next time…. I return to my search for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

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Rollin’ Calf (part 1): “a very bad duppy indeed”

Time for some Halloween spookiness. This month’s post features a duppy  which Martha Beckwith described as an “especially dangerous duppy”. According to Beckwith, the Rollin’ Calves live in:

“the roots of cottonwood trees and in clumps of bamboo but also in caves and deserted houses.”

They leave these abodes at night to “follow sugar wains because of their love of molasses, or to break into cattle pens.”

Beckwith was told that, as well as Obeah practitioners,

“[m]urderers and butchers and I know not how many other reprobates become Rolling-calves when they die.”

Folklorist MacEdward Leach also noted that butchers were likely to become Calves after death, especially those who “give short weight”.

cropped calf

Beckwith described the Calf as looking like a black and white goat with blazing red eyes. Its back feet are those of a goat whilst the front pair consist of one human foot and one horse’s hoof. It has a collar round its neck with a chain attached which drags along the ground. Writing in the early twentieth century, Frank Cundall  quoted an informant who said that Satan gave the Calf the chain to warn people of its approach.

When it came to the other forms that the Rolling Calf may take, Beckwith cited Thomas Banbury. According to Banbury Rollin’ Calves may appear as a:

 “cat, dog, hog, goat, horse or bull, but the most dangerous is the brindled cat [see picture below], and… it [the Calf] has the power to grow from the size of a cat or dog to that of a horse or bull.”

millie - cropped

Unwary travellers are most likely to encounter Rollin’ Calves at night. MacEdward Leach noted how Calves will try to kill their victims by breathing their “hot breath” on them.

As to the Calf’s name. Martha Beckwith believed that rollin’ meant roaming. However Leach said she had got this wrong. In his view, rollin’ means roaring.

Next time… How to prevent a Rollin’ Calf breathing its hot breath on you. Then back to things arboreal with more on the Tree of Good and Evil.

 

Sources (in order of first appearances in text)

Title quote from Black Roadways, p. 100.

Martha Warren Beckwith, Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaica Folk Life (reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969, of orig. edn, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1929), pp. 100-101.

MacEdward Leach, “Folklore of Jamaica: A Survey”, Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde = Archives suisses des traditions populaires, vol. 59, (1963), pp. 59-81, p. 69.

Frank Cundall, “Folklore of the Negroes of Jamaica”, Folklore, Vol. 15, No. 1. (Mar. 25, 1904), pp. 87-94, p. 91.

Rev. Thomas Banbury, Jamaica Superstitions; or the Obeah Book: A Complete Treatise of the Absurdities Believed in by the People of the Island (Kingston: Mortimer Co. De Souza, 1894), in Black Roadways, p. 100.

Image credits: Rollin’ Calf illustration by abookofcreatures (© A Book Of Creatures) – https://abookofcreatures.com/2017/05/29/rolling-calf/

Photograph of brindled cat by Simon Noel. Brindled cat posed by Millie.

 

 

 

 

Guinea weed (Petiveria alliacea L.)

The plant Martha Warren Beckwith described as Guinea Weed, more commonly known as Guinea Hen Weed or Strong Man’s Weed (Petiveria alliacea L.), is yet another plant with a strong odour used for its anti-duppy properties. Two of her African-Jamaican informants, Forbes and Wilfred, told Beckwith that Guinea Hen Weed leaves should be rubbed over the body and scattered about rooms to keep duppies at bay. She was also told that Guinea Hen Weed was used in this way to get rid of headaches and fever. Peart, another of Beckwith’s informants, said that it could be sniffed when one had a cold.

 

Petiveria_alliacea_(9367401848)

 

In “Medicinal Plants of Jamaica”, the authors note that Guinea Hen Weed has “a strong smell of garlic and… contains mustard oil” which would explain why it was used to clear head colds.

 Next time…. why the physic nut tree bleeds on Good Friday.

 

Sources

Martha Warren Beckwith, “Jamaica Ethnobotany” in Martha Warren Beckwith, with music recorded in the field by Helen H. Roberts, Jamaica Folklore (New York: The American Folk-Lore Society, 1928), p. 18.

G.F. Asprey and Phyllis Thornton, “Medicinal Plants of Jamaica”, pt 2, West Indian Medical Journal, vol. 3, no. 1 (1954) accessed via http://www.herbalstudies.net.

Picture credits: Petiveria alliacaea by Dick Culbert – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Petiveria_alliacea_(9367401848).jpg