News

People were afraid of 'duppy' and obeah, not gunmen

Memories of Jamaica

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 07, 2014    

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Oni Agatha Peart Ellis, who will mark her 100th birthday this Saturday, has very vivid memories of the fear that many people had in her early years growing up in Jamaica. But that fear, she said, was rooted in belief in ghosts, rather than apprehension about crime.

"People used to 'fraid to walk at nights, but not because they 'fraid of gunman like now, but because they were afraid of duppy," Ellis told the Jamaica Observer in an interview at her Point Hill home in St Catherine last week. "Is just duppy people 'fraid for. But I never come in contact with any duppy."

She said because of the lack of belief in God many people turned to obeah.

"Anybody who did that never worshipped God. I believe in God, for I believe the scriptures," she said.

In fact, Ellis explained that she experienced first-hand what obeah was all about.

"I never used to sick with my stomach, but it come to a time when my stomach sick. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. I was so sick. And I go to the doctor and the doctor told me that is gas. He gave me some tablets almost big like my finger. And I came home and took one of the tablets and it cause the sickness to get worse. So I throw away the balance and I don't take anymore," she said.

Ellis recalled one day walking on the road with her daughter and passing out from her stomach condition. That night, after drinking water that was prayed over and consecrated, she felt like vomiting, only to be told by her spirit-filled daughter that there was something in her stomach and if it came out through her mouth it would kill her.

"But she said it not going to come out like that. She said the Lord tell her that how it want to come out, Him not going to let it come out like that because if it come out like that I was going to faint and die," Ellis recounted. "And she step back in the bedroom and take a big towel and she wet it up with consecrated water -- people call it consecrated water but I call it consecrated medicine, because that is what cure me. And she wet it up and wrap it right around me and I felt when something go up to my throat and drop back down and I hear when she say 'yes, you dead, never to rise again'. But I didn't know what she was talking. And that night I sleep for the rest of the night."

Ellis said two days later, while on her way from the post office, she again felt ill and was told by a lady in the community to tell her daughter to get a sweet orange, slice it in three pieces, boil it with a bit of frankincense and myrrh or nutmeg and give her to drink.

"And when mi come and tell her (daughter) she say 'yes, I know mom that there was something for you to drink but I was waiting on the Lord to tell me what to do'. And she did as the lady told me because it was a message that the lady get from God. But my daughter knew before, so when I told her she just smiled. And after she give me that to drink she say anytime you want to go to the bathroom don't go in the toilet. And I do as what she said because the Lord told her to tell me what to do."

That evening when she felt like going, Ellis said she passed out a green lizard cut into three pieces.

"It was a green lizard that was in the stomach and I didn't know, because the doctor told me it was gas -- doctor don't know anything himself," she said and smiled. "And it was black, black, cut in three pieces. Remember, the Lord had told my daughter He could not let it pass the way it wanted to pass or I would faint and die. And the lady had said to cut the orange in three pieces. And from that day until this day my stomach don't hurt me. I got my healing," she said. "But the thing that was in my stomach must have been from obeah -- the enemy."

Ellis also explained that back then women never wore pants as they do today but would instead be dressed in long skirts.

"Dress used to be down here," she said, touching her ankle. "No sleeveless and no tight clothes. And I see women wearing pants now but that never used to happen."

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