Writing these pages on Jamaican customs, traditions and beliefs, has been a learning experience for me, and I'm a Jamaican!
Talking to friends of different ages and backgrounds has allowed me to discover many practices and beliefs outside my immediate experience.
Christmas and Easter traditions , as well as customs dealing with birth and death are explored on other pages. This page will share Jamaican customs and beliefs that touch other aspects of life.
Jamaican Customs - Pardner
One of our most widespread customs is "Pardner" (partner), an established method of saving outside the formal banking system. It works like this:
A group of individuals agree that each will save a set amount (called a hand) at regular intervals, usually weekly or monthly. This money is collected by one member of the group who has been designated as banker. So, for example, if 8 pardners throw a hand of $1000 weekly, over the next 8 weeks the banker will pay $8000 (the draw) to one pardner each week until every pardner has gotten a draw.
Jamaican Customs - Cash Pot
It may seem strange for a formal lottery game to be included in Jamaican customs, but Cash Pot has become an institution among working class Jamaicans since its introduction a few years ago.
Cash Pot is based on Drop Pan, a game brought to Jamaica by Chinese immigrants.Tickets numbered 1 to 36 are sold islandwide. There is a minimum price per ticket, but no maximum. A number is randomly drawn by the operators of the lottery, and the holders of that number win multiples of whatever price they paid for the ticket.
Each number has at least one meaning (mark). e.g. lizard is 31, ripe is 32. Buyers use these marks, as well as guesses, dreams, and other signs (called rakes) to help them decide which number to buy. Many participants believe that the numbers are not randomly chosen, but are picked by a "Chineyman" who is constantly trying to outsmart them.
Miscellaneous Jamaican Customs and Beliefs
- When a house is newly built, it is customary to have a 'House Blessing' performed by a priest or pastor. Prayers are said in all the main rooms of the house. This may be a private event, or may include friends who are invited to share in a meal.
- When constructing a building, it is considered unsafe to break ground unless white rum has been poured as a libation to the spirits. Some workmen may also require a rooster to be killed and its blood sprinkled on the site before work begins.
- If you have a guest in your house who has stayed too long, turn a broom up in a corner and the visitor will soon leave.
- It's good luck if a bird messes on you.
- If you wash your face with rice water (the water that rice has been washed in before cooking), you will be able to see duppies (ghosts). I don't believe it, but I've never tried, and don't intend to!
- If something has been stolen and the thief is known to be in the room, a key may be placed in an open Bible. The names of the people in the room are called one at a time. When the name of the thief is called, the key is supposed to spin. Many consider this to be a dangerous practice as the key may open up doors for evil spirits to gain access to our world.
- If you want to get rid of a crick (stiff) neck, get a left handed person to turn it for you.
- To cure a child of asthma, mark (measure) him against a pawpaw (papaya) tree. For boy children there's a problem with this remedy, as pawpaw trees are supposed to make men sterile!
- Ladies should not place their handbags on the floor, as this will make them poor. Explains my condition.
I hope you've enjoyed this look at a few of our traditions and beliefs. People say a lot of things about us, but one thing for sure - we're not boring!
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