Ten, Ten The Bible Ten : Obeah in the Bahamas

Dr. Timothy McCartney
Nassau: Timpaul Publishing (1976)



Stories, superstitions and beliefs abound in the Bahamas and like all countries where there is human habitation, the traditions and stories, either by word of mouth, passed on from generation to generation or written, make up the colourful expression of people everywhere. This chapter compiles some of the popular lore of the Bahamas and by no means covers the totality of the Bahamian experience. Many of these stories are found in other parts of the world although there may be many variations on the themes. This is not unusual because the 'lore' of Africa counted with the Euro-American influence portrays the acculturation of the many ethnic groups found in the islands.

Because of the change of life style of Bahamians, unless these stories are written down, they will soon be lost forever. In the 'old days', most families did not have television or radio, and they were self entertaining.

"As night set in there would be gradual change of positions with more adults joining in as the chillen fell into the background and slowly edged towards a step or fallen branch on which they sit while they defied sleep." 1

Many tales were told to me by my Paternal Grandmother either when we visited Eleuthera or when she would visit Nassau. My Mother also told many tales of the islands to me as she used to rock me to sleep—of course when the seven other children came I couldn't enjoy my private 'rocking' any more and had to content myself to lie on the bed, 'scared like hell' at the ghost stories that she vividly related.

"The ghost tales told to us as children would comprise the world's largest collection as these were told in conjunction with the etiological tales, all children. believed that ghosts, spirits, and chiccharneys existed, they were evil, and they got you if you were naughty. Nobody took chances by daring their parents or the ghosts. It never entered one's head to prove whether they existed or not because there was no hope of returning from wherever you were taken as a result of naughtiness. Life was simple but good to children of that era and no one wanted to go to any place of no return." 2

The boggaman * was often used to get us to do what our parents wanted us to do or "he'll catch you." Also 'Jack-mi-Lantern', with glowing eyes and teeth caused many a fright!

Various aspects of life therefore, will be explored, with the many tales, superstitions and beliefs surrounding them.


The Bahamian people believe in dreams, and are not hesitant to place an interpretation on their dream content. The most popular interpretations of Bahamian dreams are death,

1. Ford, Dorothy "New World Groups: Bahamians" 1971. Nassau Guardian, page 17.
2 Ford, Dorothy Ibid page 17.
* Boogey man, that mythical individual, used to frighten children into doing chores, behaving or being put to bed. From a psychological point of view, it installs fear and apprehension in children at an early age.


marriage, forebodings of evil things or to win money especially in playing numbers or during the race track season when interpretation of numbers are important for winning. Dream manuals can be brought anywhere and people take their dreams very seriously.

Since one cannot dream without sleeping, there are also many superstitions about sleeping. For example, if a man finds himself suddenly and constantly sleeping during the day, and there is no sickness, his relatives and friends conclude that his wife and/or sweetheart is pregnant.

Dreams have influenced the history of the world. The Bible is rich with the influence of dreams. Joseph was called "The Dreamer". Jacob dreamed about a ladder going into Heaven. Joel II verse 28 claims that "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions."

Then, too, many dreams are found in literature. "A Mid Summer Night's Dream" by Shakespeare is well known in the Bahamas, and John Bunyan's dream that perpetuated "The Pilgrims' Progress" has been recognized as one of the world's great masterpieces.

Finally, dreams became part of the rehabilitative process in the exciting field of Psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud formulated the theory of dreams being the manifestation of the unconscious desires beliefs, etc., and play an important role in the technique of psychoanalysis where dreams symbolism aids in the interpretation and diagnosis of the individual's problem.

The following dream material are commonly used in the Bahamas:

To dream that you are an angel or that you see angels is a very good sign. To dream that you see angels flying over you or your house, means that you will receive good news and have joy.

White. If you dream of a white man or someone wearing white clothes or robes is a good sign. To dream of someone dressed in white and getting married, signifies that someone will soon die. To see white meat is good luck but also your teeth could fall out.
Blue. Peaceful and harmonious family relationships.
Black. To wear: a black drew or dream of a black man may mean marriage, bad luck or evil to one's children.
Brown. Accusations of dishonesty.
Purple. To dream of something painted purple or a purple dress means sickness or a long illness.
Orange. You will own your own home.
Green. A green dress, house or green grass means that someone is envious of you.
Red. To dream of anything red signifies hostility, fights, or a long life.
Blood or Bleeding. If you dream of blind or bleeding it signifies death, especially if when a tooth is extracted it bleeds a lot. For people that are naturally happy, bleeding means joy and health. For people that are constantly depressed, it signifies the loss of property and money.

CARDS. To dream about cards or one playing cards or gambling signifies that he is in danger of losing his property. If he can recognize who he is playing cards with then he is his enemy.
CONCH. If one dreams about conch it means that he will soon make love to a stranger. If a man dreams about eating conch, he will soon not be able to maintain an "erection" (to raise). If a woman dreams about eating conch she will be barren.


CAT. Dreams of cats, signify a thief. If a cat has scratched him, then he will have sickness. For women to dream of cats signifies a person of loose morals.
CHICKENS. Chickens signify loss of property or damage to property.
CORN. To dream of ears of corn means to have plenty children or the individual will grow rich and gain as much money as the number of corn on the cob.
DEVIL. Dreams of the devil signify a guilty conscience and is usually a bad sign.
DRINKS OR BEING DRUNK. Means that the individual will be prosecuted by law. To drink clear water is bad. To drink muddy water is very bad. To drink white wine or milk is a good sign. To drink vinegar is a sign of discomfort.
EATING. To eat human flesh is a very bad sign even death. To eat meat also is a bad sign. To eat salt means somebody is talking or spreading rumours about you. To eat cheese signifies making money. To eat apples means anger. To eat fish means virility and or someone will get pregnant. To eat crab means that you will go crazy. To eat crab and rice means stomach troubles. To eat avocado pear means stomach troubles (actually pear is fart food anyhow). To eat beans is also stomach problems (fart food also!). To eat eggs means gain and profit. To eat fried eggs means illness.
GOD. To dream of God means a guilty conscience or goodness. Manifestations of God mean good health and happiness.
GOLD. Gold and silver signifies loss of money and deceit.
GRAVE. If you dream that you are put in a grave, you will 'die bad.'
HELL. God is talking to you because of your sins, better 'repent and be saved.'
HAIR. Means sexual potency. Hair falling out means death.
JOCKEY. To dream that you're riding a horse means that you will catch V.D. (gonorrhea, (the claps) or syphillis).
KILL. To dream that you killed a man signifies success in business.
LIZARDS. Signifies pregnancy or bad luck.
MOUSTACHE. If a woman dreams of feeling a moustache while kissing, she should be careful because she can be easily seduced.
MANURE. Is a very lucky dream and one will become rich.
MATCHES. Will receive money. If you strike a match, you will win money either in a raffle or by gambling.
MONEY. To give, lend or pay bills is a good omen that you will receive a large sum in a surprising manner. If you dream of handling other people's money and don't steal it, you will inherit something valuable from somebody.
NUNS (SISTERS). If a woman dreams of a religious sister, she is liable to be separated from her husband or sweetheart.
ORANGES. The loss of her sweetheart is predicted for a young lady who dreams of eating oranges or drinking orange juice.
ORGAN. A woman who dreams that she is playing an organ must beware of being too exacting in her demands upon her lover. It also shows that she is a jealous woman.


PAPER. This means a quarrel especially with husband or wife.
PENCILS. If a woman dreams of pencils or a pencil she is very sexy or has lesbian ('sissy') tendencies.
PEPPER. You will soon find a sexual partner; indicates sexual potency.
PIGS. Dreaming of pigs indicates jealousy primarily, but it also indicates greed and being 'begrudgeful' *
PUMP Means a broken love affair. Pumping water means future success in love and business.
RIBBON. If a young girl dreams of putting ribbons on her dress, underwear or in her hair, she will have an offer of marriage from a nice young man. If, however, she is putting ribbons in someone else's hair, beware of that person because they want to take your boyfriend or husband from you.
RAPE. That the individual is under extreme pressure—sexual, financial, etc.
ROCKING CHAIR. Happiness and health.
ROPES. Poor love life.
ROSES. Point to an early marriage and a wide circle of friends.
RINGS. Happiness. If the ring is taken off the finger or broken, love life will be unhappy with lots of quarrels and fighting.
SNAKE. The snake is very significant in dreams. Psychoanalytically it is the typical phallic symbol, but it could mean success if it lives in your house. If you kill a snake it means that you can successfully fight temptation. It can also mean that you are sneaky, and cannot be trusted. If you are bitten by a snake it is a prediction of misfortune.
SPIDER. If you dream of a spider in the house, you will be having a guest in the house or a visitor. To kill a spider, there will be constant lover's quarrels. To destroy a spider's web is a sign that someone will spread rumours about you.
SUITCASE. or a purse, bag, box, often symbolize female sexuality. If you travel and open your suitcase and there are no clothes in it, then you're worried about your sexual performance.
TELEPHONE. If the individual dreams about receiving a telephone call or talking over the telephone, then they are having strong competition with a good friend for the love of their loved one. If the telephone keeps ringing, you pick it up and no one answers, this is a sign of isolation and can be also a sign of an inferiority complex.
TEA. + If one dreams about drinking tea, then it is a sign of sickness. Love difficulties are foretold by a dream of seeing dregs at the bottom of the tea cup.
TOBACCO. To dream of women smoking cigarettes is a good sign of happiness in the home. To dream of women smoking pipes indicates quarrels and disappointments. To dream of men smoking (cigarettes, pipes, or cigars) predicts the solution to problems pertaining to someone you love.
TOOTHBRUSH. If you dream of brushing your teeth, it is a good sign of coming to grips with one's problems. If the bristles of the toothbrush come off in your mouth, it is a good sign. To an unmarried woman, it predicts success in a love affairs, followed by a happy marriage and a large family. For a married woman it predicts serious mental problems.

* Bahamian for being envious.
+ There are some younger obeah practitioners that are now reading 'tea leaves'. This is a recent practice, no doubt learned from European or American persons (or books).


TWINS (OR MORE THAN TWO CHILDREN). To dream of having twins or more than two children is a sign to a woman that she will be pleasantly surprised by good news. Often it is from a former boyfriend that she used to love very much.
For a single woman to dream of twins indicates sexual anxieties and probable sickness.
UMBRELLA * Walking in the rain with a leaky umbrella and you are getting wet indicates a lot of quarrels between you, your spouse or sweetheart.
UNDERWEAR ** Dreams about dirty underwear indicates fears and guilt feelings. Dreams about going without underwear show anxiety about the individual's ability to make friends or project warmth.
UGLINESS. Dreaming of ugly or grotesque features (according to the individual's ugly-value indication) indicates problems for lovers. For a married person, quarrels.
VEGETABLES. For the Bahamian to be preparing pumpkins or cutting up tomatoes or okras, means that they are proud, 'biggety' and have a 'stand-offish' attitude toward people. It is a self-protection type dream to really protect from fears of being inadequate or inferior.
VERANDA (PORCH). To dream that one is sitting on a porch with a lover is to be able to look forward to happiness through an early marriage. If one is already married, it is an indication of happiness.
VOYAGE. To sail on a ship from one island to another is an indication of bad news—if someone visits you and you go to the ship or plane to pick them up, bad luck in business or a love affair.
WAR. To dream of war indicates that the person is experiencing mental problems—if a spouse dreams of the other spouse going off to war, then it is bad news.
WEDDING. Unmarried girls with no immediate plans for marriage dream about weddings because they want one. A young woman who dreams of having a secret or very quiet wedding will experience very bad luck in a love affair. Dreaming of a church marriage is a good indication of a happy married life. If the dreamer is already married, then to dream of getting married means news about the death of a loved one. To dream of a boy or girl friend getting married to another person is an indication of an early marriage. To dream of a wedding guest dressed in black is an indication of unhappiness in marriage. If a man dreams of a wedding ring, then his wife has a sweetheart ("putting roach on his bread" + or "horning" him). If a woman dreams that her wedding ring is bright and untarnished, it is a sign of happiness in marriage.
WEEPING (CRYING) If a young woman dreams of crying, she will have a quarrel with her lover. If the individual is crying at a funeral or at some unhappiness, then good luck is predicted.
WETNESS. If a woman dreams that she is wet from rain or is soaking wet with perspiration, then she is likely to be implicated in a big scandal.
WINDOW. Shuttered or closed windows mean that the individual is narrow minded. Dreams of many open windows indicate optimism and an outgoing personality. Dreams of broken or cracked windows indicate unhappiness and is bad luck

* Opening an umbrella inside a house is a sign of bad luck. Oftimes someone who lives in the house can die because of this.
** Many Bahamians wear underwear on the wrong side in order to protect them from being fixed, especially if they have been threatened by someone.
+The Jamaicans say, "give him a jacket" if a wife has a child that does not belong to her husband.


WINGS. Dreaming about wings or flying means that the person wants to escape from responsibilities.

There are also good luck dreams, and bad luck dreams (many of these have already been mentioned) and many love dreams. Some Good Luck Dreams are dreams about abdomen (stomach), adultery, advice, adding machines, accordion (or concertina), anchor, angels, apples, the month of April, asparagus, babies, bananas, bathing, beating, bees, books, butter, butterflies, cars, candy, carrots, castle, cattle, celery, cemetery, cheques, children, Christmas, chocolate, clock, clouds, coins, concert, copper, cotton, coughing, crowd, crying, &, dancing, deafness, dew ('draft'), dirt, disappointment, dishes, diving, doctor, donkey, dress, driving, drugstore (pharmacy), drums, drawer, earrings, eating, eggs, election, elephant, elevator, emerald, entertainment, escape, eyes, face, failure, family, fan, farm, fat, feathers, fence, fight, fire, flags, friends, frogs, fruit, gale (storm), games, garlic, gloves, goats, golf, grapes, grass, guitar, guineps, herds, harvest, hat, home, hominy (grits), hymns, ice cream, incense, itch, jewels, jockey, jumping, kettle, kick, kissing, kite, knife, knitting, lace, ladder, lamps, love, lard, leaves, legs, license, light, linen, lobster, manure, matches, milk, mangoes, moon, mosquitoes, mustard, napkins, next, newspapers, nuts, oars, onions, oranges, orchestra, organ, pain, parents, paint, plums (hog plums or scarlet plums), pearls (especially conch pearls), peas, pencil, pepper (especially goat pepper), perfume, piano, picnic, pigeon, pills, pipe, play, postage stamp, purse, quarrel, rainbow, rake, rat, ring, rosary, roses, sadness, sailing, sausage, saw, scald, school, sea, sheep, shirt, shy, soup, spear, spider, stamps, starch, sugar, sunrise and sunset, soursop, sugar apple, swimming, table, tangerine, tears, tent, thimble, thread, tobacco, tomatoes, tamarind, toys, trees, trunk, uniforms, vase, village, virgin, voyage, wages, waist, warts, weeping, well, wreath, wine, yacht, yolk (of an egg.)

Some Bad Luck Dreams are dreams about abandonment, accounts, acid, aches, airplane, altar, ankle, ants, apes, arch, archbishops, arm, arrest, aunt, axe, baby, back, bag, baldness, ball, baptism, barroom, baseball, bathing, bats, beans, bread, bed, beer, beggar, belly, bench, betting, birth, biscuits, bishops, bite, bleeding, blotting, bones, boom, brandy, breasts, breath, bridge, broom, burglar, buying, cabbage, camera, candy, cards, cars, castor oil, cemetery, chair, chalk, chase, christening, church, cigar, coffin, corkscrew, cradle, cripple, crossroads, curtains, cut, cymbals, dagger, debt, dentist, desk, dessert, detective, dictionary, digging, disease, disguise, dominoes, drums, drunkenness, dummy, dwarf, dying, eating, echo, eclipse, election, elevator, execution, fainting, falling, father, feet, fever, fingernails, fire engine, fish net, fits, golf, groceries, guns, hammer, handcuffs, hat, hatchet, hate, hearse, horns, hospital, hurricane, hypocrisy, idol, incest, indigestion, infant, injury, ink, insects, intestines, invalid, iron, itch, jam, jelly, jewellery, judge, June, joy, keyhole, kitchen, knitting, knocking, lamp, lard, laundry, lawsuit, lawyer, leather, lettuce, lice, limes, liquor (or liqueur), lumber, luxury, lying, macaroni, magician, magistrate, map, market, mat, measles, medicine, mice, minister, morgue, mother-in-law, mud, murder, museum, nagging, neighbour, newspaper, noise, nose, nutmegs, olives, omelet, organ, owl, pail, paint, parsley, peas, peppermint, pigpen, pills, pot, powder, procession, pudding, pulpit, pushing, puzzle, quilt, raccoon, raisins, rape, razor, ribbons, ringworm, rubber, running, rust, sand, shaving, sieve, sapodilla, skull, smallpox, sneezing, soap, sodawater, soda, biscuits, sponge, spots, stammering, seaweed, shark (Jaws!), steak, switch, syringe, tailor, tapeworm, taxicab, thatched roof, thumb, toast, trousers, turtle, twine, uncle, undressed, varnish, vomit, wedding, writing, wasp, yawning.


It is useful to note that an individual dreams every night, whether it is remembered or not. There has been a lot of research done with regard to dreaming and dream researchers can now accurately map dream trips, tell when we dream, how often, why some dreams are remembered and why many are forgotten.

To the Bahamian, dreams take on an almost religious aura, and even the most sophisticated Bahamian still feels uneasy if he dreams something that is supposed to be a bad omen.

Other aspects of Bahamian beliefs and interpretations are found under the following:


(a) Pregnancy and Birth
Before the more sophisticated prenatal care and clinics, Bahamian women had their babies at home assisted by a midwife who was either formally trained or had experience and knowledge passed down or by being apprenticed to an older midwife. There are many beliefs to prevent pregnancy—if a woman eats a whole sweet pepper before intercourse, then she shouldn't conceive—if a man puts a lima bean under his tongue before intercourse, then he can't make the person pregnant—don't make love when the moon is young if you don't want the girl to get pregnant.

When a woman is pregnant many things indicate this:

If the woman has a child and the child bends forward and looks between his legs, then a baby is on the way—the pregnant woman suddenly "craves" unusual things, e.g. somethings like tamarinds, guineps or gooseberries; gritty things like sand, chalk, limestone, charcoal, etc—if a lizard jumps on a woman and doesn't run off, she is pregnant—when a woman's mouth begins to have an unusual amount of saliva and she begins to spit often are good signs. When a woman is pregnant, and she knows that there are certain people that don't like her, she should be careful that they don't cross the baby on her stomach. If she feels that someone has crossed her or is working obeah on her during pregnancy, she must get some bird pepper and cask rum, mix the two together and drink it. She should also use this mixture and rub it on her stomach after each bath.

While pregnant, a woman must be careful not to look at ugly things (e.g. warts, hunchbacks, etc.) or else the child will come out like what she has seen. She should by all means touch beautiful things, especially "good" (long, straight) hair (implications of negative values!)

If a young girl gets pregnant for a married man and his wife threatens to "cross" the baby and so either stop its birth or cause the baby to become deformed:.

  • go to the graveyard
  • obtain a handful of dirt from an old grave after digging six inches down
  • go to a crossroad and get a handful of soil from there
  • boil these two dirts in a little rum and give it to the pregnant girl to drink.

The effects of this mixture are twofold:

(i) the deleterious effects on the baby will be removed and


(ii) if the mother is experiencing a difficult pregnancy or in a long labour, it will help the pregnancy and speed the delivery.

To tell the sex of the baby is to look at the pregnant woman's stomach. A nice rounded stomach, fairly high up toward the chest is a sure indication of a boy. If the stomach is pointed (sharp) and is way down towards the cervix, then it is supposed to be a girl. No matter how her stomach is shaped, if she walks over a vine (pumpkin or watermelon) the baby will be healthy. "If you want to know if your first child will be a boy or girl, you can try one of the practices of Mangrove Cay, Andros. It has worked for many people living there so try it! First you write down your name and your wife's name, e.g.

Dick Rolle
May Rolle

if your Christian name ends with an s or your surname, you add an s. e.g.

James Dames
Jamess Damess

you now pair the letters of your names with the first people in the Bible, Adam and Eve

A = Adam, E = Eve

for example: Aeae Aeaea
  Dick Rolle
  Aea Aeaea
  May Rolle

this ends in 'A', therefore it is a boy. If the pairing or matching ends in A the child is a boy, E the child is a girl” 3

There is also taboo with children conceived by brother and sister or first cousin marriages. Children born of these unions are bound to go crazy (mentally ill) or go blind. After a child is born, it is customary to bury the navel string in the parents' yard so that the children will always have a strong home base. Bahamian women who have babies in hospital request that they be given the 'naval string' so that they can bury it in their yard when they leave the hospital. When the baby has been weaned, for a woman to suppress lactation, she should squeeze milk from the breast with a container, and bum it on a fire. The milk will dry from the breast and the breast will shrink. When the woman wants to ensure that she is healthy and to test for sugar in the urine, she should urinate outside in the yard and leave it overnight. If ants are around her urine the next day, then she has sugar in the urine.

When a woman is pregnant and suspects that she will have a dangerous confinement or a premature delivery, she may consult an obeah practitioner for advice. One common obeah practice as told to me by one of my obeah consultants is the following:

  • Turn to Psalm No. 1 and the pregnant woman should write the 3 full verses of this psalm on a piece of goatskin. She should also write together with the hidden holy name (which is Eel Chad) the appropriate power.
  • Place this skin with the writing in a bag that has never been used before and that has been specially prepared for the goatskin.

3. WHYLLY, H.C. "Superstitions of the Bahamas" San Salvador Teachers' College July 1972. Ministry of Education and Culture, Nassau, Bahamas).


  • Suspend this bag with a string around the neck so that it will rest against her naked body.

The prayer that the obeah practitioner will say is as follows:

"May it please thee, O Eel Chad, to grant unto this woman (name) daughter of -------- that she may not at this time or at any other time have a premature confinement; much more grant unto her a truly fortunate delivery and keep her and the fruit of her body in good health. Amen. Salah"

To determine the number and the sex of children, a woman may have, —take a threaded needle and rub it up and down on the clenched outer palm of hand, then open hand and hold needle in centre of palm. If the needle moves in a circle, it is a girl, if it moves in a crosswide position or up and down, it's a boy. Do this until the needle stops, then you'll know the number and the sex of children. *

Probably the most common way to determine how many children a woman is a capable of having is to look at the left hand clenched and look at the number of lines running down the side from the little finger.

The number of moles on a woman's face will indicate her potential for children.
To deal with problems of childhood, the Bahamian follows many practices. For example, when a baby is born with a thin membrane* * over its face, the child will be haunted and see spirrid. This membrane should be removed and burnt if the spell is to be broken and the child is to lead a normal life.

A restless child or a "crybaby" child can be calmed if an open Bible turned to Psalm XXVIII is placed on the bed under a pillow. If a black string were tied around a baby's waist, it would protect them from sperrids. If a child is 'plagued with worms,' pick some shepherds' needle, boil and steep it, then them give about 1/4 of a glass of this mixture to drink. This will get rid of the worms.

I can remember a cure that my Grandmother used for pains in the stomach. She used to lay me flat on my back, then smoke a pipe and take some spittle and put around the navel and blow the pipe's smoke around the navel while rubbing the stomach slowly. I swear, this used to work for me every time. When I had a high fever one time, she bathed me in stale pee, then warmed some lard in rum, then rubbed me down with this mixture. It broke the fever even though I was smelling like a urinal!

When a baby (or young child) has the hiccups, spit on a wet brown piece of paper, then place it on the forehead of the child.

If a child is having problems teething, get a piece of a cock's (rooster's) comb, rub it around the child's gums, then give it back to the cock to eat, the pain will soon disappear.

When a child has sores or gets chicken pox, the leaves of the white elder or the sage bush is boiled. The child when bathed in this mixture will soon have the sores dried up.

It is not good to tickle a child too much because it would grow up with a stammer.

If a child's hair is cut too soon his speech will never be clear and he will suffer from this impediment all his

* We have played this game many times and one Sunday with three women, the results were consistent and accurate.
** Called a "caul" in the Bahamas or "veil" in Jamaica.


life. And if the child is experiencing difficulty in walking, the Mother can carry the baby to the seashore, dig two holes in the sand, place the baby's feet into the two holes and start to walk away. The baby will follow and have no more problems walking.

(b) Childhood.

Bahamian children's superstitions are many and revolve mainly around punishment, sperrids and death, e.g.

  • Walking backwards resulted in the death of one's parents.
  • If the left eye began 'jumping' (twitching) for most of the day, the. child would cry before the day was done.
  • To avoid punishment, pull out an 'eye winker' (eye lash), throw it over your shoulders after spinning around three times.
  • Before 'going to the line',* rub some garlic on the palm of the hands and you won't feel the cuts of the cane when applied by the headmaster.
  • If you can kiss your elbow, you can change your sex (e.g. from a male to a female).
  • When children are seen walking with their hands on their heads, it is a sign that they are "mourning their parents away. "
  • If your big toe is shorter than your second toe your Father will die before your Mother.
  • If you point a finger at the dead or at a graveyard, your finger will rot off very shortly.
  • If you want children to sleep soundly, tie a black string on their big toe while they are sleeping and they will stay asleep until you loosen the string.
  • When a girl just begins to menstruate, she must not climb a fruit tree or else all the fruits would spoil.
  • Children must never pick or eat fruit from a tree where a bottle is hanging. If the fruit is eaten, the individual will eventually swell up and die.
  • When a child has to sleep in a haunted room, to keep the sperrids away, open the Bible at the 27th Psalm and place it under the child's pillow.
  • Anytime an individual has walked through a cemetery, when returning to their own home, wipe and brush very carefully the dust off your shoes; if this is not done, sperrids from the graves will enter your house and haunt you.
  • Children should never sleep across two doors as this offends sperrids, and they will give you nightmares.

The roles of Bahamian males and females are still clearly defined, although because of education, more exposure and the need for Bahamian manpower, roles, (especially the females) are slowly becoming neutralized. Beliefs and superstitions with regard to male-female relationships naturally resolve around sexuality, love and marriage.

* Children in school are usually sent to the headmaster for punishment and this is called 'going to the line.


Most obeah practitioners claim that the majority of referred problems are the type of male-female relationships especially in keeping one's partner, placing evil on a rival, sexual potency and protecting one's interests.

The following sections will explain some of the more common superstitions:

(a) Love, Sex and Marriage

The love vine that is found in abundance in the Bahamas can indicate whether the love that you have for a person is genuine. Take the roots and a piece of this vine, plant it and place it on another tree. It will continue to grow healthy as a parasite on this tree if your love is strong. If it dies or is "stunted" in growth, your love is false.

Bahamian mothers warn their sons from eating and drinking from everybody especially from the home of a woman that has available daughters. Bahamian mothers may brew a special drink for their sons to give them life long protection. They can also wear their underclothes on the wrong side; put herbs in their hatbands or if salt is put in your shoes, no one can put anything down for you, so if you walk on it, you'll be protected.

For a girl to 'catch' a young man, she can take a bath during her period, then take the dirty water and make a pot of peas and rice. If the boyfriend eats this, he is 'caught' for life.

An extremely obnoxious superstition is for a girl to take her sanitary pads, 'soak them in some warm water, then take the water for use in preparing food for her boyfriend. If he eats this, then he is 'caught' for life.

There is a story of the grandmother of a family of beautiful girls. Any time she saw a young man that she thought 'just right' for one of her grand daughters, she would invite the young man to her home and invite him to sit down in a special chair. Once he did this, he couldn't help but marry the girl.*

One way of finding out about the character of a young woman is to watch certain things that may happen to her, e.g.
- if she perspires on her nose, she can't be trusted.
- if she has 'open teeth', then she is a liar (this holds for the male also.)
- if she has a mole on her mouth, she will be a grouchy (fussy) woman.
- if the gap between her big toe and her second toe is wider than his (the male's) then she is the bossy type.
- if a woman resembles her mother she will be lucky. If she resembles her father, then she will be unlucky.
- if a girl, loses her engagement ring, she will have bad luck.

There are also certain things that individuals must not do if they want to get married, e.g.
- they must never eat food directly from a pot.
- girls should never wear their mother's wedding rings.

Virility and potency are extremely important to Bahamian males and females. Our food (e.g. conch) and drink (e.g. buckfast tonic wine and carnation cream) enhance this virility.

*Two of the husbands of these girls "swear" that this happened to them. A cousin d mine, however, was invited to do so, but the he never sat down and was the only one that 'got away'!


Bahamians are also very sensitive about being "roached" and there are many ways to keep one's spouse happy and prevent "roaching".

To keep a man, (a) after intercourse, take some of his sperm, put it on a piece of meat (preferably salt pork), and give this to a lady dog (bitch) in heat to eat. The man will always be true to the woman. (b) Measure a man's waist with a string; take this same string and measure the man's penis; tie a knot at the length of the man's penis. The woman must keep this string in her possession and the man will never go with another woman.

  • To 'fix' a husband if it is found out that he is having a sweetheart:
    - get an onion
    - place a razor blade inside the onion
    - place (tie) a silver piece on the onion and razor.
    - bury this at the man's sweetheart's door.
    - if the man has sex that night with her, his penis will be cut by the woman's vaginal hair ('haircut') and it will never get well.
  • An obeah practitioner can cure the man by:
    - getting an onion, placing razor blade in onion
    - taping a silver coin around onion and razor blade
    - burying it for three days.
    - dig up onion, take razor blade out and let it dry.
    - as the razor blade dries, the man's cut will heal.
    As long as the razorblade is "moist", the cut will never heal.
  • To hold on to a wife so that she will never have sex with another man:
    - buy a lock and key.
    - take this to an obeah person so that a 'set' can be placed on the lock. *
    - take lock and key home and place under wife's pillow.
    - while making love, place lock and key in the hand and as soon as the wife is having her orgasm ("coming"). close the lock and lock it with the key.

The woman is fixed and no matter how much she may want to go with another man, her vagina would never accept another man. It is "locked" to everybody except her husband who has "fixed" her.

If a man leaves his girlfriend, she can have someone fix him by getting a ball of thread and 'set' it and bury it. This will make the man sick until she digs it up. If it remains in the earth for a long time, the man may die.

For Bahamian males to ensure that a woman's love will grow for him, he should:
- take a strand of hair from his woman's head
- thread this hair through a needle
- stick this needle with the hair into a growing tree
- as the tree grows, the woman's love will grow for the man.

A practice that young Bahamians utilize to tell whether someone loves you is to scratch a match and hold it up straight. Call your love's name. If the match burns down to your hand your love and lover's love, is strong and true.

* This is done with 12 needles and other methods that unfortunately was not revealed to me.



To get your spouse (husband or wife) from their sweetheart:
- get your old foot of a shoe
- obtain one handful of crabgrass
- one tablespoonful of sulphur powder
- one teaspoonful of incense
- place all of this in a crocus snack and burn this slowly either under the floor of your home, or near the window of your bedroom.

The spouse is bound to come back, never to stray again.

If a wife is having problems with her husband and a foreign woman (e.g. watergate) + she can banish her from the island for good.

When the woman is visiting just before she is returning (one will have to find this out)
- write her name on a piece of paper to form a double "X"
- fold the paper in one direction, then mark X's around the name.
- stitch nine (9) new sewing pins to form an X in the paper
- place this (hidden) in a place where the woman will pass or if possible, place it in a bag or container that the woman has. As she travels back to her country either by boat or plane, she will never return to the Bahamas!

If a man wants to keep out of a woman's power when he gives her a picture of him, he should always clip off one end. No matter what she may do to fix him, he is protected.

If a married woman is constantly itching between her toes for no apparent reason, a new sweetheart will enter her life.

When your ears are ringing, it means that your lover is talking about you.
To fix a house so that couples may quarrel and have marital problems, throw some guinea pepper and salt on the roof of the house and the couple will quarrel until this mixture is blown away by the wind or washed away by the rain.

When couples are married, if their wedding day is very rainy, then the couple will never be happy.

If a bride sees the groom on the wedding day before they reach the church, it is a sign that the marriage will not prosper.

If the bride tears her stocking on her wedding day she will have bad luck with her marriage.

It is bad luck for a bride (virgin or not) to wear black. Bad luck will follow her.

For a man or a woman to maintain a happy married life, and prevent either of them from straying, cross a knife and fork and place under the mattress. He or she will not stray.

(b) Illness and Death
Bush medicine cures are the 'rule of the day' to cure 'normal' illness, and are also used in conjunction with "clearing" a fix when manifestations are of an 'abnormal' or obeah nature.

As previously mentioned, being fixed is indicated by many physical and mental ailments.

The most common physical sign of obeah fixing is the swelling of parts of the body, usually the stomach or the limbs, especially the legs. There are many ways to fix a person to swell.

* Local term for American women


Here are a few told to me by a Cat Island obeah person.

- get the stem of a tree that grows in the person's yard.
- find a gamaleme tree, bore a hole in this tree, then stuff the stem (that has come from the person's yard) into this hole.
- get a lock and key.
- close the lock and lock it with the key
- the person to be fixed will become "stall' (constipated and without any appetite) and the belly will swell.

Now two things can happen:

(i) if he is not cleared by easing out the key and stem slowly so that his body can return to normal functioning, the person will die.
(ii) if you want the person to die quickly, after three days of swelling, go to the tree and pull key and stem out of the hole quickly. The person will die very quickly, shitting himself to death (i.e. "non stoppable diarrhea").

A very common superstition about hurting a man sexually is for the woman to suck a copper during sexual intercourse. Eventually the man's penis will begin to rotten away.

A woman can also take the measurement of a man's sexual organ while he is asleep and have it fixed and buried. The man-will never be able to "raise" (achieve an erection) again if he has sex with someone' else. Equally, a woman can take the measurement of a man's waist and carry it with her everywhere she goes, and the man will never stop following her.

Perhaps the most dangerous way of fixing a person is to do it through his yard (property).
- get a live conch in the shell
- get some graveyard earth
- get a silver threepence
- put conch and shell in the sun so the conch can let out its 'lip'.
- drop a silver threepence in shell so conch can feed (suck) on it.

'Now if you want to kill the whole family.
- find a small barrel and bore a very small hole in it so there could be a slow leak.
- place the prepared conch in a small bit of water in the barrel.
- every nine days there will be a death in the family. Also the fact that the liquid leaks on the ground of the victims, nobody will live there again.

It should be noted that everything the family will eat will turn to sand, and an autopsy of these "fixed" victims will reveal their whole system full of sand.

There are many ways of protection from being fixed.

If you feel that someone has "fixed" you and you have an unusual ache or swelling and don't know who fixed you.
- obtain a wedding band
- get 3 copper nails
- cut a small piece of oak or pine
- Now, place ring in the centre of the board, drive nails inside ring making sure that it's tight and then bend nails outward over the ring.
- Place ring under your pillow for three nights.


Another simple form of getting "cleared" is to wear 3 links of chain around your neck or waist. This can protect or put out any obeah man's candle.

If a part of the body is affected by fixing and it really hurts and doesn't respond to traditional medication, wash the affected part in sea water when the tide is ebbing for three days. That should effectuate a cure. One has to be very careful with this "cure", because if the affected part is washed in a flood tide, you will get the same ailment again "what goes up (or rise) must come down".

If you suspect that your house has been fixed. You can know this by a strange odour in the house or noises especially at night:

- some rock salt
- turpentine
- dried okra seeds
- a sixpence (or a silver 10 cents piece will do)

Mix all these things together and scatter over the roof of the house and in the four comers of the house. Take out the sixpence from the mixture and place or bury it in your walkway. No more house problems!

Much lore surrounds death—the signs of death, if someone has had a "good" or "bad" death and protection from sperrids.

Some common signs of death are:
- Crows. Whenever crows (or blackbirds) are continually around your home or if one alights
on a Church this is a sign that a member of the family will die.
- If a Banana Bird or a Tobacco Dove flies through a house it is regarded as a sign of death and a family member will die shortly.
- Whenever there is a screeching cricket in the comer of a house, this is a sign of death.
- Whenever a Black Bee buzzes around you and won't go away, there will be a death of a distant relative by obeah.
- It is a custom for a Church bell to be rung as soon as possible after the person dies. If a death bell makes a double toll by itself while someone is ringing it, a death will soon follow the one for whom the bell is tolling.

There is great activity, custom and ceremony surrounding death and funerals in the Bahamas. Some of these traditions have already been described. Some common beliefs with regard to the dead body itself are:

When a person just dies, relatives can talk to the dead body and ask for favours. Some of these requests are - giving them numbers (for gambling purposes) to play; removing sickness, asking for a sign of good luck; rubbing the hands over certain parts of the body to protect one's self from sickness to that particular part, etc.

There is a strong belief that some people have the gifts of catching the spirit of a dying person and utilizing this spirit to work for them. The person remains alone with the dying person and has a special bottle of quicksilver. When the dying person exhales, the bottle is held near the nostrils


and when moisture is seen inside the bottle, it is quickly corked (or the cap is screwed on). The person who keeps the bottle is said to own the dying person's spirit.

Other beliefs are:

- If you see the ghost of a dead person before they are buried, you must follow the funeral procession behind the coffin. Turn around and look at the coffin between your legs and you will see the sperrid riding astride the coffin. As soon as this is seen, close the eyes, repeat "Ten, Ten, the Bible Ten," and the sperrid will never bother you again. One very important rule is to never answer when you hear a sperrid call you three times or else you will die shortly to join them in the sperrid world.

There are literally thousands of ghost (or sperrid) stories, and only a few will be cited here.

The Bahamian sperrid physically conforms to the images of those found in other parts of the world. They look like white sheets draped over a body, and either float, fly, or walk. They make noise and may or may not be seen. They like to live in attics, the upper floor of houses or in haunted (or hagged) houses. The favourite Bahamian abode is the silk cotton tree. Some sperrids go into different forms and have a predilection for animals, especially pigs, snakes, or goats. Sperrids do not necessarily appear in white; they can appear in black and infrequently in grotesque physical shapes, e.g., dressed in black with fire coming out of the eyes, or dressed in white with nothing else than a big mouth with long teeth and no eyes, ears or nose. Sperrids tend to be sometimes ignorant. They can't count to ten, i.e., they count up to nine, but always skip ten.

They can move very quickly (travel faster than the concorde jet!) go through locked doors, solid partitions and walk on the water. To protect one's self from sperrids: —

- sleep with an open Bible at the 27th Psalm under your pillow.
- wear your underclothes on the wrong side.
- sprinkle benny around the house, and also place twelve benny seeds on the headboard of the bed. When a sperrid sees benny seeds, it has an uncontrollable urge to count. Since sperrids can only count to nine, they became confused with twelve seeds and if they persist on counting they, will keep going to nine then counting over again until the next morning when they have to get back to their resting place.
- cross a pair of black shoes at the entrance of your bedroom door. No sperrid will dare enter.
- cross windows or doors with an "X" on all entrances to the house. No sperrid can pass.
- to keep a wicked person's spirit from roaming, during the funeral service, when the Minister commends the body to the earth, especially when the words "Dust to dust, ashes to ashes" are said, a white sheet should be spread over the coffin and the spirit cannot escape.
- keep a basin of water in a haunted room at all times and no sperrid will dare enter.

Whenever a hen crows twice, it is an indication that a sperrid is around; the preceding precautions should be taken.

To make doubly sure, that you are fully protected, always remember to stick a match in your hair, keep in your memory the 23rd Psalm and of course speak "Ten, Ten the Bible Ten".


Return to Table of Contents