Jamaicans are some of the most intriguing and amazing people on the planet—and I’m not just saying that because I’m Jamaican. I mean, really, we’re pretty awesome! Anyone who denies this is just downright jealous, and that’s okay: we understand.
One of the most intriguing aspects of our culture is how much of the old superstitions still live on in contemporary circles, even if we don’t give as much credit to them as our grandparents once did. Because of how widespread these beliefs are in Jamaican society, or at the very least, knowledge of them, it’s almost like we all passed an “Obeah & Myal 101” class, fresh out of the womb.
So, here are sixteen signs Jamaicans use to predict the future, uncover your darkest secrets, and commune with the great unknown.
1. Itchy Soles
Have the soles of your feet been itching recently? Well, this could mean good news or bad news. Most Jamaicans would rush to tell you, it means you’re about to get new shoes. But a more morbid set will warn that it means someone in your family is about to die. Which one of these is true? Well, only time can tell.
2. Itchy Palms
Thankfully, there is no ambiguity with the itching of palms as this is almost always good news! What does it mean, exactly? Why, that you’re about to get some money, of course! Who couldn’t use some extra money—especially in a Third World country? May my palms itch forever!
3. Bird Takes a Poo on You
No one likes to be pooed on. Okay, never mind. In this day and age, some really weird people like really weird things. So, let’s say most people don’t like to be pooed on, and certainly not by that cute little birdie you were just watching five minutes ago. But if it happens, the good news is that even a little bit of bird poo could mean a big payoff in cash, later on!
4. Burning Earlobes or Ringing in the Ears
Jamaicans love to gossip. In a culture not as overrun with the distractions of digital billboard signs, TVs in every restaurant, and unlimited smart phone data, we still know how to amuse ourselves without technology. [Un]fortunately, this often takes the form of discussing other people and passing along the neighbourhood
This is all fun and games, of course, until it’s your turn to be “discussed”. So, how do you know if people are talking about you behind your back? The ears are the giveaway. They either start to burn or a ringing sound develops.
5. Freudian Slip of a Name
If you made it through a social science class in college, you likely already know what a Freudian slip is. For everyone else, it’s Sigmund Freud’s belief that when we say something in error, it is often a revelation of our subconscious thoughts.
In Jamaica, when that Freudian slip is someone else’s name, especially if that person is nowhere near you, it is safe to assume they are gossiping about you and should be violently confronted at the earliest opportunity! Obviously.
6. Sneezing Three Times or More in a Row
In our very first set of Jamaican lessons—14 ENGLISH WORDS & PHRASES THAT MEAN SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT IN JAMAICAN PATOIS— I taught you the Jamaican meaning of the word bun. If you’ve never seen that post, or have simply forgotten, to give bun is to cheat and to get bun is to be cheated on. If you sneezed three or more times in a row, I truly regret to inform you that there is a 99.99 percent chance, you are getting bun.
7. Missing a Belt Loop in Your Pants or Shorts
As if constantly sneezing isn’t inconvenient enough, when you’re getting bun, you will likely also walk around looking as though a four-year-old dressed you. Missing a loop in the belt of your clothes is just another way you know your partner is being unfaithful. And even worse, now everyone else knows it, too!
8. Bird or Bat Flies into the House
There is a saying in Jamaica that only two things in life are certain: death and bun. So naturally, even though we have already mentioned one sign of death, we must now mention several more relating to it. A common sign that death will strike out against a family or friend is a bird or bat flying into your home, so if one comes in through an open window or door, or just magically appears, brace yourself!
9. Dreams About Teeth Falling Out
Losing a tooth as a child is just another sign of growing up. Losing a tooth as an adult, unless it’s a wisdom tooth, is a mar upon our beauty! Losing teeth in a dream, regardless of your age, is a sign of death coming yet again to claim someone close to you.
10. Head Starting to Swell at Night
The thing about death, however, is that not everything stays dead. Some spirits get to thinking they have unfinished business and linger around to forewarn family and friends, seek revenge, or cause mischief.
Jamaicans refer to these lingering spirits as duppies, and whatever their purpose, none of us are ever delighted to come in close contact with one. If you are walking at night, especially alone, and you begin to feel heavy-headed for no good reason, it is possible there is a duppy, nearby. Run for your life!
11. Random Black and Blue Marks on the Body
As I mentioned, duppies hang around for different reasons, and some are more mischievous than others. If you wake up with random black and blue marks on your skin that you cannot otherwise account for, one of these mischievous duppies have been pinching you in your sleep. You may want to move house before he or she tries something even worse.
12. Twitching or Jumping Eyes
Naturally, signs of death and undead things are not always as clear as day. Some are more like a vague sign of bad things to come, which may or may not include the death of a loved-one. If your left eye twitches, it is a sign that you will have cause to cry in the near future. On the upside, if your right eye twitches, you will find reason to laugh, soon.
13. Mongoose Crossing the Street
As vague as a sense of general happiness or sadness is the workings of luck; even more confusing is when it’s caused by a mongoose! In the mid to late 1800s, the colonial government imported mongooses from India to control the rat and snake population in Jamaica.
Now, they are harbingers of luck, it seems! If you see a mongoose run across the road, it means good luck. If it runs halfway across the road and turns back, it means bad luck! You better make sure that mongoose crosses the road. Chase him across, if you have to! 😅
14. Food Falls Out of the Plate
The fact that we were willing to import a foreign species of animals from halfway around the world to protect our crops should tell you Jamaicans don’t play when it comes to our food. So, imagine our disappointment (and anger!) when some of the food we are sharing onto a plate, or are already eating, suddenly falls onto the floor. Worse—the whole plate goes plop. Well, now we know someone in the room wanted that plate. It can also mean that someone close to you is hungry.
15. Lizard Jumps on You
The lizard is a natural prey of the mongoose, but they are one of the most common animals you will come across in Jamaica. Since we like to leave our doors and windows open, you can count on those little critters coming in. This makes it totally possible that a lizard can jump or fall on you. If this happens, especially if they land on your chest, either you or someone you are close with is pregnant. Congratulations!
16. Dreaming of Fish
While the lizard test is a fairly common one, I only heard of it as a teen, suggesting it is perhaps more popular in the millennial generation. When I was growing up, however, the tried-and-true test for predicting pregnancies in the family was when someone dreamed of fish.
While millennials don’t really take the lizard-hopping seriously, my aunts were ridiculously excited whenever someone dreamed of fish, and would not stop until they had found the pregnant woman in the family. Believe it or not, whether by coincidence, luck, or the self-fulfilling prophecy, this test was always right.
Now that I have imparted yet another dose of Jamaican wisdom, you will never have to be shocked or surprised by pregnancy, death, infidelity or gossiping in your circle of family and friends, ever again! And yes, I know: YOU’RE WELCOME!
I would like to thank my high school friend, Kaye Lyn, who suggested the idea for this post on June 8th 2018. I hope you enjoy it!
Are you curious to see how Jamaicans and other West Indians put their clairvoyance to work? In my upcoming novel, The Moreau Witches, there is a Jamaican Myal woman by the name of Esther who plays the part of spy, healer, and witch in 1800s France. Be one of the first to get your hands on the book this October [hopefully!], by purchasing any of these items from my online store. Thanks for dropping by!
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