THE Reverend William James Gardner, a Congregational Minister, came to Jamaica in 1849, and after nearly a quarter of a century of observation and research published in 1873 A History of Jamaica, which is characterized by its scholarly and dispassionate treatment of the domestic affairs of the island.
We are told in the Preface: "In writing the history of the colony during the days of slavery, the author has availed himself of the labours of those who have preceded him, but the sources from which they derived their information have been carefully investigated. The public records of the colony have been searched, and a great mass of books and pamphlets, published from time to time, examined. In fact, no source of information to which it was possible to gain access has been neglected. Whether the writer has succeeded in eliciting the truth, so often obscured by party strife, his reader must determine. He can honestly say that such has been his endeavour." (1)[*]
[*. Numerals in the text indicate references to be found in the Documentation towards the end of the volume.]
Writing of the period that led up to the Anti-Slavery struggle of 1782, in his chapter on "Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants," Gardner describes what he calls the "social life of the slaves", and tells us: "Little can be said with confidence as to the religious beliefs of these people. The influence of the Koromantyns seems to have modified, if not entirely obliterated, whatever was introduced by other tribes. They recognized, in a being called Accompong, the creator and preserver of mankind; to him praise, but never sacrifice, was offered." (2)
Edward Long, the first historian of Jamaica to go into such details, writing in 1774, expresses uncertainty concerning the source of these Koromantyns. Unquestionably they came from the Gold Coast but he finds it impossible to determine whether their tribal habitat was some distance inland or not. Their classification as Akims, Fantis and Ashantis raises a doubt in his mind. It may signify the town of origin or the market where they were bought. (3) However, he insists that the entire group are effectively banded together by their obeah-men who administer the oath or fetish. (4) From our later knowledge, this fact alone would be sufficient to identify their leading spirits with the Ashanti. Long further informs us concerning these Koromantyns: "Their language is copious, and more regular than any other Negro dialects; their music too is livelier, and their dances entirely martial." (5) And again: "Their persons are well made and their features very different from the rest of the African Negroes, being smaller, and more of the European turn." (6)
And finally: "On many estates, they do not mix at all with the other slaves, but build their houses distinct from the rest." (7)
Concerning these same Koromantyn slaves Sir Harry Johnston wrote in 1910: "They were probably derived from the Ashanti and the warlike tribes of the Black and White Volta. The Koromantyn slaves were always the prominent or the sole fighters in the great slave revolts of the West Indies and Guiana during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries." (8) He adds in a note: "They were also called 'Koffies' from Kofi, a common Ashanti name." (9) As we shall see shortly, Kofi is the Ashanti name given to a male child who is born on a Friday.
Later Sir Harry remarks: "Koromantin was the first and greatest of the British slave-trade depots on the Gold Coast. It was situated about sixteen miles to the east of Cape Coast Castle. Either the larger proportion of the slaves was drawn from the Gold Coast, where the principal slave-trading depots of the British were established between 1680 and 1807, or this ethnic type (Fanti, Ashanti, and their kindred) prevailed over the others. This is shown by the greater part of Jamaica folklore being traceable to the Gold Coast and its hinterland, and by the fact that the fragments of African speech still lingering in the Negro-English dialect of Jamaica are derived from the Chwi (Twi) language of Ashanti-Fanti. The popular 'Nancy' stories are so called from their taking 'Anansi' the spider, as the chief figure. Anansi is spider in Ashanti." (10)
Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Burton Ellis, of the lately disbanded West India Regiment, who spent many years in Jamaica and on the Gold Coast, adds his testimony as follows: "The Gold Coast Negroes are termed Koromantees or Koromantyns, in the jargon of the slave-traders, this name being a corruption of Koromantine, whence the British had first exported slaves. They were distinguished from all other slaves by their courage, firmness, and impatience of control; characteristics which caused numerous mutinies on board the slavers, and several rebellions in the West Indies. In fact every rebellion of slaves in Jamaica originated with, and was generally confined to, the Koromantyns; and their independence of character became so generally recognized that at one time the legislature of Jamaica proposed that a bill should be brought in for laying an additional duty on the 'Fanti, Akan and Ashanti Negroes, and all others, commonly called Koromantyns,' that should be imported. The superior physique of the Gold Coast Negroes, however, rendered them very valuable as labourers, and this bill met with such opposition that it was withdrawn; and, notwithstanding their dangerous character, large numbers continued to be introduced to the island." (11)
This agrees with the opinion of Gardner who declares: "The Negroes from the Gold Coast were known generally as Koromantyns. The Ashanti and the Fans described by Chaillu were included in the term. They were strong and active, and on this account valued by planters. The Spanish and French
colonists shunned them on account of their ferocious tendencies; but attempts to prohibit their importation into Jamaica failed, though they were the instigators and leaders of every rebellion." (12)
While promiscuous intercourse during the past century has effectively obliterated all physical characteristics which may have been preserved more or less during slavery by the Koromantyn exclusiveness, still there have come down to us certain cultural traits, even now prevalent throughout the island, that were unquestionably of Ashanti origin and which must have been impressed upon the Negro population as a whole by the tyrannical domination of the so-called Koromantyns.
Long assures us that in his day it was customary among the plantation Negroes in Jamaica "to call their children by the African name of the day of the week on which they were born." (13) And he forthwith furnishes us with a list wherein we find the following names for males: "Monday, Cudjoe; Tuesday, Cubbenah; Wednesday, Quaco; Thursday, Quao; Friday, Cuffee; Saturday, Quamin; and Sunday, Quashee."
Captain Rattray, in turn, informs us that "Every Ashanti child born has, as one of its names, a name derived from the particular day on which he or she was born." (14) And J. B. Danquah, a native of the Gold Coast, confirms this statement and gives us a set of Akan names closely corresponding to those met with in Jamaica. Thus we have: "Monday, Kwadjo; Tuesday, Kwabena; Wednesday, Kwaku; Thursday, Yao; Friday, Kofi; Saturday, Kwame;
and Sunday, Kwasi." (15) The Ashanti, of course, belong to the Akan group, and these Akan names in the Ashanti dialect become Kojo, Kobina, Kwaku, Yao, Kofi, Kwame and Kwesi. That this list is substantially identical with that given by Long for Jamaica need not be pointed out. What should be noted, however, is the fact that while the custom was general among the Jamaica slaves and not confined to the descendants of the Ashanti alone, it is the Ashanti terminology that is uniformly followed in the day-names, indicating how complete the ascendancy of the Ashanti became over the entire slave population.
Moreover, the generic term for the black man in Jamaica, in contradistinction to the Bockra, or white man, is even now Quashie, the designation of a male Sunday-child, and I could not help noticing on more than one occasion, that Quaco was a common nickname, and one that was not at all relished by the recipient. But why a Wednesday-child should be a term of reproach, I could not determine, and the more I questioned, the more embarrassed the victim became and the more his tormentors enjoyed his discomfiture. They themselves simply did not know the origin or real signification of the term. Captain Rattray now calls my attention to the fact that in Ashanti folklore, Anansi, the spider, is usually referred to as Kwaku Anansi. He is a roguish sort of a fellow who is constantly overreaching himself and guilty of endless sharp practice. But despite it all, he is a likeable chap of a most amusing character.
Hence one Ashanti will twit another: "O you Kwaku Anansi!" or simply: "O you Kwaku!"
Before leaving the subject, it may be well to call attention to the real significance of this day-name among the Ashanti themselves, and consequently among their descendants in Jamaica. According to Ashanti custom, each day of the week is named after a subordinate deity or bosom to whom it is dedicated. Thus Wukuda, Wednesday, is compounded of the name of the bosom Wuku and the word eda, a day. Children, in turn, receive a "soul-name" according to the day of the week on which they are born, pretty much after the custom of many Catholics whereby the name of the child is determined by the Calendar of the Saints. Thus an Ashanti boy receives as a patronymic the name of the bosom of the day of his birth with Kwo, from akoa, a man or slave, prefixed; e.g. a boy born on Wednesday is named Kwaku, literally the man or slave of Wuku, implying that he is dedicated to this bosom. The idea of bosom, plural abosom, is not unlike the Catholic concept of Saint or Angel. For the abosom are tutelary or guardian spirits subordinate to God. (16) They are intermediaries between the Supreme Being and man and in practical life receive veneration though not the formal worship due to the Supreme Being alone. Writers commonly confuse these abosom or spirits with fetishes, a term which should be reserved for charms or amulets, material objects associated in popular belief with preternatural influences.
The Maroons, or fugitive slaves of the Jamaica
Mountains, who so long disturbed the peace of the island and who defied even the regular troops that were sent against them, were composed in great part and actively led by Gold Coast Negroes, whether we call them Ashanti or Koromantyns.
On February 1, 1866, Commander Bedford Pim, R. N. read a paper before the Royal Anthropological Society on the Negro and Jamaica, in connexion with the rebellion that had taken place there during the previous year. In the discussion that followed, a Mr. Harris who was speaking from personal observation said in reference to the Maroons of Sierra Leone who had been transported from Jamaica by way of Halifax: "The Maroons are principally descendants of the Gold Coast tribes; and still retain amongst them the same religious superstitions, customs, and common names, as, for instance, the naming of their children after the days of the week upon which they were born, such as Quamin (Monday), the son of Quacco (Thursday), each day being denoted by the masculine and feminine gender. They boast of being directly descended, or having been concerned in the Jamaica rebellion at the end of the eighteenth century, as partisans of King Cudjoe, their leader." ( 17)
According to the generally accepted theory, the Jamaica Maroons are to be traced to the Negro slaves of the Spaniards who fled to the mountains when their old masters were driven from the island by the English in the days of Cromwell. ( 18) The first chief among them who has been recorded in history was Juan de Bolas.
With the importation of slaves by the English, almost from the start irrepressible spirits among the Koromantyn fled to the mountains and found refuge with the Maroons in such numbers that they soon gained control of the entire body. Thus as early as 1693 we find a Cudjoe chosen as a general leader of all the Maroons. (19)
In 1730, another Cudjoe led an uprising in the central part of the island, (20) and Dallas in his History of the Maroons asserts: "The original body of Negroes under Cudjoe was distinguished by the appellation of Kincuffies, in which line the succession of their chiefs continues." (21) This is probably the same as the term Cuffees which according to Sir Harry Johnston, as we have seen, was applied to the Ashanti.
Dallas makes the further statement that while the Negroes of other tribes joined the Maroons, "the Koromantyn language, however, superseded the others and became in time the general one in use." (22) Moreover, it is clear that Cudjoe's domineering influence over the slaves on the plantations was due in great part to the practice of obeah. (23)
It is not surprising, then, to find Dallas recording: "The Maroons continued to believe, like their forefathers, that Accompong was the God of the Heavens, the Creator of all things, and a deity of infinite goodness." (24)
The Supreme Being among the Ashanti is Nyame, and his primary title is Nyankopon, meaning Nyame, alone, great one. (2S) Accompong is the white man's effort to transliterate the spoken Nyankopon
as heard from the early slaves. As a matter of interest, during the Ashanti War of 1872, one of the Ashanti Chiefs was reported by the English as Akjampong. (26)
When Governor Trelawney of Jamaica concluded a treaty with the Maroons on March 1, 1738, the Articles of Pacification were ratified with Captains Cudjoe, Accompong, Johnny, Cuffee and Quaco. (27) With the exception of Johnny, these are all clearly Ashanti names and as we actually find in the course of the Articles that Johnny was a brother of Cudjoe and Accompong, his appellation must have been only a nickname. (28)
It should be remarked in passing that this use of the name of the Supreme Being by Accompong might look like arrogance. But in the first place, his position was subordinate to that of his brother Cudjoe and we are assured by Christaller that among the Ashanti the Divine Name was frequently given to a slave in acknowledgment of the help of God enabling the owner to buy the slave. (29)
At the very time when Governor Trelawney made peace with Cudjoe, the leader of the Eastern Maroons was Quao, another Ashanti name. (30) However, these distinctively Ashanti names now begin to disappear among the Maroons who after their pacification took up the plan of "adopting the names of gentlemen of the island." A usage which we are told "was universally practised among them." (30) Thus we find among the Scot's Hall Maroons in 1774, Captain Davy, Sam Grant who later became Major of Maroons at Charles Town, and a personage
of the name of Mac Guire. (32) Nevertheless, Ashanti names do turn up at times. Thus when Governor Littleton was attended by a party of Maroons at Montego Bay in 1764, the leader was named Cudjoe. (33) Again, one of the Maroons who stirred up the slaves in 1755 was Quaco, (34) and J. B. Moreton writing in 1793 mentions another Cudjoe as Chief of the Central Maroons at the time of his visit to them. (35)
Finally in the rebellion of 1760, according to Bryan Edwards who was personally familiar with every detail of the uprising, the real leader was "a Koromantyn Negro of the name of Tacky, who had been a Chief in Guiney." (36) This name is also Ashanti where it is written with a final i, Takyi. (37) All this goes to show that the real leaders among the Koromantyns, whether met with as slaves or Maroons, were none other than Ashanti as Gardner and Ellis maintained.
This is further confirmed by an observation made by Sir William Butler who took part in the Ashanti Campaign of 1873, to the effect that in the slave trade "the protected tribes of the coast were the prime brokers. They bought from the black interior kingdoms of Dahomey and Ashanti, and they sold to the white merchant traders of Europe." (38) This statement indicates that the so-called Koromantyn or Gold Coast slaves were not natives of the Coast itself but were brought from the interior; and secondly, it clearly specifies the Ashanti as one of the chief sources of supply.
Consequently, it is not to be wondered at, as Sir
Harry Johnston has already assured us, that the vestiges of such words, etc., to be found to-day in Jamaica, as can be traced back to African sources, are almost invariably of Ashanti origin. Let me cite just a few examples that came under my own observation while I was in Jamaica.
Throughout the "bush" there is a peculiar type of fowl with ruffled feathers and half-naked neck as if they had been partially plucked. The "picnies" call them peel-neck, i.e. bald-neck, since peel-head means bald. These are technically known as senseh fowl. Now a writer in Chambers's Journal for January 11, 1902, (39) suggests as an indication of obeah "a few senseh feathers; in one's soup-plate," and mentions in connexion with a particular case of obeah that among the ingredients required were "two white senseh fowls." (40) Moreover, May Robinson, in a contribution to the Folk-Lore Quarterly in 1893 further associates the senseh fowl with the working of obeah especially in the process of "duppy catching" as a cure. (41) Now this Jamaica senseh fowl which is thus closely connected with obeah is identical with the asense fowl of Ashanti,
[1. Sir Hans Sloane who came to Jamaica in 1687 as Physician to the Governor, Christopher, Duke of Albemarle, in his Voyage to the Islands, London, 1707, Vol. 1, Introduction, p. lii, gives Pequenos Ninnos (little tots) as the origin of piganinnies. This in turn has been transformed into piccaninnies or as we have it in the "bush" picknies. The word however is not of Jamaica origin. Ligon shows that it was in common use in Barbados before the seizure of Jamaica by the English. It was probably brought to the island by the Barbadians who accompanied the army of invasion in 1655.]
whence, as we shall see later, the Jamaica obeah was derived. (42)
As it is peculiar to the Ashanti to use as a sobriquet of the Supreme Being or Creator Ananse kokroko, the Great Spider, (43) it is significant to find Isabel Cranstoun Maclean in her Children of Jamaica (44) making the complaint: "Most of their beliefs are very depressing, and very degrading. It could not, for instance, help the children to grow into good men and women when they are told the Creator of man was a spider." Both in Jamaica and Ashanti the utterance is connected with fables illustrative of wisdom, and nothing else.
The Jamaica peasant habitually makes use of words that are to him simply meaningless, and yet they are not only pure Ashanti but their signification has been faithfully preserved during the century and a quarter since the importation of slaves was stopped. Thus the staple food of the Ashanti is fufu which consists of mashed yam or plantain, (45) while in Jamaica mashed yam retains the same identical name, fufu. This word fufu is itself the reduplicated form of the Ashanti fu, meaning white, and in the Jamaica "bush" a very superior species of white yam is called fufu yam. While none of the peasants apparently know the origin of the term, this particular usage is clearly distinguished from that already mentioned where it signified yam that had been mashed. Again, the name of the common yellow yam in Jamaica is afu which is presumably a simplified form of nkamfo, the Ashanti name for
the same yellow yam. So too, in Jamaica, a yam that has developed spherically, and not in the usual elongated form, is known as pumpun yam, a reduplicated form of the Ashanti word pun, primarily meaning to become swelled or distended.
The fabulous duckano or dumpling-tree which is so frequently met with in Jamaica Anansi stories is derived directly from the Ashanti word dokono, boiled maize-bread.
The Ashanti name of odum for the silk-cotton tree perseveres in Jamaica both as regards its name and its characteristic association in popular superstition with duppies or ghosts who are supposed to make the odum tree their usual abode. The Ashanti word for owl, patu, is still preserved in Jamaica and the Ashanti apakyi, a broad calabash and apakyim, a small calabash recur in the Jamaica name for a small calabash, packy. So too, the Ashanti bonkara, a travelling basket, is the Jamaica bonkra, or as it is sometimes spelt bankra, just as the Ashanti kotokuwo, a small bag or sack, is the Jamaica cutacoo, which is associated with the obeah-man.
The Ashanti nyam, to move quickly, has the reduplicated form nyinnyam, agony pangs of death, and the derivative gyam, to be in the agonies or pangs of death. This is seemingly the origin of the Jamaica nyam, to eat greedily or devour, as we find it in the proverb "darg nyam darg," or as we would express it, "dog eat dog."
Concerning the Koromantyns, Bryan Edwards tells us: "Assarci is the god of earth" who receives the offering of first fruits besides a libation poured
out of what they drink. (46) According to Captain Rattray, Asase is the Ashanti earth goddess to whom Thursday is dedicated. "Even now," he declares, "the Ashanti farmer will not till or break the soil on this day." He is of opinion, however, that "when the Ashanti, before partaking of wine or spirits, pours a little on the ground from the cup, he does so, not to the Earth Goddess, but for the shades of his ancestors." (47)
The Ashanti Sasabonsam is well described by Captain Rattray as "a devil or evil spirit" in league with the obayifo or witch who is its servant. (48) That this Ashanti Sasabonsam exercised great influence among Jamaica slaves is evidenced by Herbert G. DeLisser, a native Jamaican, who records their belief that "Sasabonsam's favorite residence is the ceiba, the great silk-cotton tree." (49) True it is, that Bryan Edwards speaks of the Koromantyn Sasabonsam as Obboney. (So) But this is probably due to the fact that the obayifo was confused with its master, Sasabonsam, and Obboney became the object of the obeah cult in the white man's effort to clarify and express the black man's witchcraft. But we shall see more of this in a later chapter.
Finally, there is a tropical skin disease known as yaws, which is characterized by ulcerated tumors of a most contagious form. The Oxford Dictionary regards the derivation of the word as of unknown origin although the earliest reference connects it with Jamaica, where the distemper is very prevalent. Now it is at least suggestive that the Ashanti word
for the same disease is gyato or gyatowa, and that its signification is given as yaws.
As noticed in Hebrewisms of West Africa, a visitor to Jamaica from the States is immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the native peasant in his habits and in his fondness for bathing--a striking contrast with our Southern Negro, who too frequently seems to have a horror of water. In Jamaica coastal towns, the entire male population as a rule devotes a great part of every Sunday morning to swimming, so much so, that it frequently interferes with divine service, and even on weekdays, wherever water is plentiful, the morning bath is the rule rather than the exception.
In this connexion it is interesting to find A. W. Cardinall writing: "The Ashanti are remarkable for their extreme cleanliness; and they take a pride in themselves, their clothing and their houses, which some of the other tribes do not, and many of the non-African population completely ignore." (51) Bowditch too, had noted the same characteristic of the Ashanti more than a century before: "Both men and women are particularly cleanly in their persons," he wrote of them, and adds that they washed "daily on rising, from head to foot, with warm water and Portuguese soap, using afterwards the vegetable grease or butter, which is a fine cosmetic." (52) Is it a consequence of this use of Portuguese soap that in Jamaica to-day, perhaps no gift is more highly prized, even by the better class of the peasantry, than a cake or two of scented soap? On the occasion of my first Christmas in Jamaica, I was astonished
by the number of gifts of soap, which almost seemed a reflexion until I became better acquainted with the native customs. (53)
1 was also long puzzled by a custom associated with the "bush" funeral in Jamaica. Before setting out for the burial ground, the coffin was raised and lowered three times. No one could give me any explanation for the practice nor did any local superstition seem to be associated with it in the public mind. It was always done in that way from time immemorial, and that was all there was about it. No one was willing even to make a conjecture regarding its origin or purpose. Strange as it may seem, a similar practice has been in vogue among the Ashanti from prehistoric times. It is thus described by Captain Rattray: "The coffin is now closed, and a hole is knocked in the wall; through this the coffin is carried by the asokwafo: on its arrival outside it is placed on the ground, but not without a pretence being made to set it down twice before it finally comes to rest. The reason for this curious custom is undoubtedly to give Asase Ya (the Earth Goddess) due notice and warning." (54) Then, after a brief ceremony, he continues: "The sextons now raise the coffin to carry it away to burial; the same courtesies are paid to the Earth Goddess as when the corpse was set down." (55) A striking parallel to this formality was concomitant with the enthroning, or rather enstooling, of a new paramount chief among the Ashanti, in comparatively recent times, whereby he was required to feign three times to sit upon the Golden Stool, though
actually he might not rest upon it, raising and lowering his body three times to put him in mind that it would be raised and lowered after death. (56)
The Jamaica Anancy Tales, as was remarked by Sir Harry Johnston, bear the impress of Ashanti influence. Not only is the central figure in the stories the Ashanti Anansi or spider, but while in the folklore of the Gold Coast generally the spider's son is called Kweku Tsin, (57) among the Ashanti the name is Ntikuma, (58) and the same individual is never styled anything but Tacooma in the Jamaica "bush".
Incidentally, the Jamaica Anansi stories have been handed down in living tradition by the old Nanas, a word that is pure Ashanti both in form and usage, meaning Granny in general and applicable to grandparents and grandchildren alike with proper qualifications.
Here we may call attention to an account, as it appeared in Voodoos and Obeahs, of the making of an amulet or charm by a Jamaica myal-man which might well have been a description of a similar process as practised among the Ashanti.
"My first experience with an obeah-man in Jamaica was as follows. Accompanied by a native of the district I was returning late one night to my residence high up in the mountains, when suddenly my companion who was leading the way shrank back and pointing a trembling finger through an opening of the coffee walk where we happened to be passing, whispered almost inaudibly: 'Obi, Sah!'
"It was a bright moonlight night, and a short
distance off the path might be seen a filthy-looking bedraggled fellow plying his art of obeah for weal or woe. I drew my reluctant companion behind a shrub to watch the process which is so seldom vouchsafed to the eye of a white man.
"The obeah-man had placed on the ground some sticks, feathers, egg-shells and other objects that could not clearly be distinguished. A piece of string was placed on top of the little heap. He then retreated for a short distance and began a mumbling incantation which was accompanied by a rhythmic swaying of the body. With hands behind the back he next approached, crossing one leg over the other as he slowly advanced and drew near the incongruous ingredients of what was evidently intended for a fetish. With legs still stiffly crossed and swaying body he stooped and breathed upon and spat at it, and then gathered up the articles one by one, still mumbling some weird incantation as he placed the sticks together and crushed the egg-shells and other ingredients within them and finally bound all together with the piece of string.
"When the task was accomplished a cringing woman advanced from the shadow of a tree where her presence had not previously been noted. The obeah-man passed her the fetish charm and with fierce injunction charged her to hasten on her way without looking back or speaking to a living soul. She was especially warned to guard her fetish from every moisture. Should river or rain or dew, or even the perspiration of her own body chance to wet it, not only would all efficacy be lost but it would inevitably
turn against herself. I could not follow all the words despite my knowledge of the language of the 'bush', but I had been able to gather the general gist of the instructions which were almost in the form of an invocation or curse.
"Strictly speaking what I had been watching was not really the practice of obeah but rather the making of a protective fetish or good luck charm, our friend was working in the rôle of myal-man and cared nothing if he was observed. Had he been really making obi he would have been surer of his privacy and would have squatted on the ground by his paraphernalia." (59)
Compare this with Captain Rattray's account of the making of a nkabere, or good luck charm, among the Ashanti. After specifying the three particular trees that must be represented by twig or root, he says: "These three sticks are placed upon the ground, or sometimes upon an inverted pot, along with some pieces of a sweeping broom. A piece of string is placed on top of all. The medicine man or priest now retires a few paces and then advances towards the charm with his hands behind his back, and stooping down sprays pepper and guinea grain--which he had in his mouth--over the charm, saying: 'My entwining charm Nkadomako, who seizes strong men, mosquito that trips up the great silk-cotton tree, shooting stars that live with the Supreme Being, I have to tell you that so-and-so are coming here about some matter.' Here he takes his arms from behind his back and, stooping down, picks up the sticks and twine. Making a little bundle
of the sticks he begins to bind them along with the broom sticks, saying as he does so: 'I bind up their mouth. I bind up their souls, and their gods. I begin with Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.' As he repeats each day he gives a twist to the string round the sticks till he has bound them all together, when he knots the string to keep them from unravelling, ending by saying: 'Whoever comes may this be a match for them.'" (60)
If this enumeration of the days of the week, which is really an invocation of the various abosom, was an essential in the making of the suman or charm, the practice might explain how the Ashanti terminology alone remains in the day-names of Jamaica, since the myal-man who monopolized the making of amulets even as the obeah-man who "made obi" were exclusively of Ashanti origin.
Incidentally, this account of Captain Rattray is given in connexion with a description of a gold weight which represents a medicine man sacrificing a fowl to a nkabere charm, and he adds: "From time to time a fowl will be offered to this suman. The medicine man or priest will advance upon it with crossed legs and hands behind the back and perhaps with a whistle in his mouth, to call up the spirits, and will stand over the charm with legs crossed. He then holds the fowl by the neck and blows the whistle. This is what is shown in this weight." (61)
A Jamaica exile, whether he be Jamaican by birth or like myself by adoption, needs only to
read Ashanti Proverbs by Captain Rattray to be straightway carried back in spirit to his "Isle of Springs." (62)
Thus the Ashanti "It is the Supreme Being who pounds the fufu for the one without arms," (63) has found its counterpart in the Jamaican "When cow lose him tail, Goramighty brush fly." In both cases the care of Providence is implied.
The Ashanti "The white-tailed one (the black colubus monkey) says: 'What is in my cheek is not mine, but what has gone into my belly that is my very own,'" (64) has become in Jamaica, where incidentally monkeys are not known; "Monkey say, wha' in a him mout' no fe him, but wha' in a him belly a fe him." (6S) A variation is even closer, "Monkey say wha' da in him jaw-bone no fe him, but wha' da in him belly a fe him." (66)
The Ashanti "When rain beats on a leopard it wets him, but it does not wash out its spots," (67) becomes paraphrased in Jamaica as "Seben years no 'nough fe wash freckle off a guinea-hen back." (68) The saying usually implies the harbouring of revenge.
The Ashanti "When you have quite crossed the river, you say that the crocodile has a lump on its snout," (69) is the Jamaica "No cuss alligator long mout' till you cross riber." (70)
The Ashanti "When a fowl drinks water, it (first) takes it and shows it to the Supreme Being," (71) is usually amplified in Jamaica into "When fowl drink water him say 'tank God,' when man drink water him say nuttin." (72) Sometimes,
however, the Jamaican merely remarks: "Chicken member God when him drink." (73)
The Ashanti "The hen's foot does not kill her chicken," (74) has become in Jamaica "Fowl tread 'pon him chicken, but him no tread too hard," (75) or again, "Hen neber mash him chicken too hot." (76)
The Ashanti "If you are too wise a man, you say 'Good Morning' to a fowl," (77) is explained by Captain Rattray as being said in a sarcastic sense and with the implication that "you will find yourself committing some supreme folly." The Jamaican with like intent observes: "Man lib too well, him tell fowl howdy."
The Ashanti "When the cat dies, the mice rejoice," (78) is the same as the Jamaican "Cat dead, mus-mus fat."
The Ashanti "A sheep does not give birth to a goat," (79) is rendered in Jamaica "Sheep and goat no all one." (80)
The Ashanti "Where the sheep stands its kid stands," (81) has become in Jamaica "Goat and him kid 'tand one place."
The Ashanti "If the horse does not go to war, its tail does," (82) is adapted in Jamaica "Goat no go a war, but him send him 'kin." (83)
The Ashanti "When a great number of mice dig a hole, it does not become deep," (84) is the Jamaican "Too much ratta nebber dig good hole." (85)
The Ashanti "No one begins to twist creepers into a rope in front of an animal (he hopes to catch)," (86) is rendered in Jamaica as "Set tie-tie,
no mek bud see you," i.e., in setting a snare don't let the bird see you.
The Ashanti "All animals sweat, but the hair on them causes us not to notice it," (87) is particularized in Jamaica "Darg sweat, but long hair cober i'." (88)
The Ashanti "'Good morning, good morning,' kills an old woman" (89) is explained by Captain Rattray as meaning "The old woman who sitting by the house all day, and having nothing to do but return salutations, is said to be killed eventually by them." The same sentiment is expressed tersely in Jamaica by "Too much si'down bruk breeches." (90)
The Ashanti "When two slaves look after (your) cow, hunger kills it," (91) finds this adaptation in' Jamaica "Too much busher, darg crawney."
The Ashanti "A stranger does not carry the head of the corpse," (92) is clarified by the Jamaican "'Trainger hab no right fe carry coffin if him no know wha de burying grung dey." (93)
The Ashanti "It is the fool's sheep that breaks loose twice," (94) has as a variant in Jamaica "One time fool no fool, but two time fool him de fool." (9s)
The Ashanti "The poor man does not get in a rage," (96) is rendered in Jamaica "Poor man nebber bex," which Gardner the Historian explains by saying "he is humble, and cannot afford to take offence." (97)
The Ashanti "Wood already touched with fire is not hard to set alight," (98) is practically unchanged in Jamaica "Ole fire 'tick no hard fe ketch." (99)
The Ashanti "It is the water which stands there calm and silent that drowns a man," (100) appears in the negative form in Jamaica as "Braggin' riber nebber drown s'mody." (101)
The Ashanti "There is nothing that hurts like shame," (102) is found in Jamaica as "Shame no load, but it bruk neck." ( 103)
The Ashanti "A path has ears," (104) has the Jamaica paraphrase "A bush hab yeye." (105)
The Ashanti "When you do not know how to dance, then you say, 'The drum is not sounding sweetly,'" (106) finds a two-fold expression in Jamaica. "If a man can' dance him say de music no good," (107) and also "If a man can' dance him say de fiddle no good." (08)
The Ashanti folkstory "How it came about that Ananse, the Spider, went up on the Rafters," (109) is referred to by the Jamaica proverb "A fas' mek Anancy dey a house-top," (110) which signifies "An impertinence makes Anancy stay in the house-top."
Admittedly, similar proverbs are to be found throughout Africa. But, since so much of the Jamaica culture is clearly of Ashanti origin and practically nothing can be definitely traced to other tribes, it is but reasonable to conclude that here also the actual introduction to Jamaica is to be ascribed to the Ashanti.
A study of the records of slave arrivals in Jamaica leads to the conclusion that at no time did the Ashanti compose more than 15% of the whole slave population in the island. (111) How this small minority quickly asserted and continuously maintained
a mastery over the more numerous and normally antagonistic tribes would be inexplicable were it not for the fact that there is clear evidence that the machinations of obeah terrified all into submission and effectively eliminated those who might otherwise have oppossed the dominance of the autocratic Ashanti.
Summing up the present chapter, we may safely accept it as a fact that the Ashanti exercised a paramount influence in the development of the present cultural complex in Jamaica. In consequence we are justified in assuming, that when there is no evidence to the contrary, in the case of Jamaican traits and practices that are not in themselves fully intelligible, in all probability the true explanation is to be sought among the manners and customs of the Ashanti.
When culture diffuses from a centre, it usually radiates in successive waves in ever-widening circles which here and there become retarded. As a consequence subsequent culture-cycles emanating from the same centre occasionally overtake and become confused with those that preceded.
Simultaneously other culture-cycles from vastly divergent sources are spreading out independently, and as the various fields of influence overlap, there is necessarily a coalescing or modification of culture-complexes in constant process of development, until it becomes an extremely difficult task to trace back particular cultural-traits to their true origins.
However, in the case of the Ashanti culture in Jamaica, it reached its new field of influence, thousands
of miles from its place of origin, not by a gradual diffusion but by a violent transfer over sea, and its proponents were in sufficient strength and numbers not only to resist all encroachments of other cultural-systems, but to violently suppress whatever Negro trait went counter to their own cultural-complex.
Thus it has come to pass that we have in Jamaica to-day so many of the old-time Ashanti customs as well as Ashanti terminology as little changed in usage as they are in the homeland despite the years that have intervened since their transplanting to new surroundings and conditions.