Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The gift....

Note: a fellow blogger, Nana Yaw, has been writing on the paranormal this week, and it's interesting to see the parallels to our own Jamaican beliefs in the spirit world. His last post inspired me to write this account of my own experiences.

The events surrounding my birth were such that my mother still marvels that I am around. The first was the sign that the doctor made to the nurse as he held me snugly in the palm of one hand after delivery. My mother took this as I sign that I would not survive and burst into tears fearing the worse. At two months premature I was so small and frail that they kept me in an incubator for a week and a half before sending me home. The second was more important for my grandmother. It was the fact that I was born with a caul, a sure sign in Jamaica that you were born with the gift i.e. the ability to see ghosts. My grandmother would remind me at various times through my childhood about this special gift, however I thought little about it until the summer of my twelfth year.

As was usual in the summer, my siblings and I would be sent to our grandmother's home in the Jamaican countryside. Set in a village established in the aftermath of slavery, the house sat atop a hill flanked on one side by an old grave yard and a spectacular view of hills and valleys on the other. Summers would be spent going to the fields, baiting the cantankerous old mule that acted like a sentinel in the front yard, catching caterpillars and waiting for them to emerge as butterflies - assuming we didn't kill the first, and catching peeny-wallies and watching them flicker in the darkness of the country night, competing with the old ' home sweet home lamps' as there was no electricity.

We were all in one of the bedrooms and I was lying on the bed, looking out into the living room. Having left the luxury of black and white TV behind in 'town', as usual we were telling jokes and stories. I saw a man walk across the living room. I can see him in my minds eye even now. He was dressed rather shabbily in an old red shirt, and a pair of dark blue scruffy pants that were much too old, much too big and much too short. He had a hoe slung over one shoulder and looked as if he had just come from a hard day's work in the fields. He ignored us and walked straight across the living room and into the kitchen. I asked my aunt '
who is that?'. She wanted to know who I was referring to. ' The man that just walked through the living room' I replied. By now everyone thought I was joking. I insisted I wasn't - he was there, I had seen him. I described what he wore and how he looked. My uncle checked, but the doors were all locked, and there was no one apart from us in the house. My siblings, cousins and I went to sleep that night, huddled closer than before.

On returning home, I told my grandmother what I had seen. She nodded knowingly, recalling the events of my birth and my special gift. She told me never to be afraid, and if I ever was just to say the
Lord's Prayer and all would be well.

Alas, alas my grandmother died, the year I was sixteen. I still miss her. I knew she died before I was told. She was in the countryside with my aunt and the night she died I was home asleep and I kept waking up because I heard her calling my name. I told my Mom who sent me back to bed several times, annoyed that I was waking her up to tell her this 'foolishness'. When I finally managed to sleep, I dreamt there was a huge fire and everyone was safe, expect for my grandma whom no one could find. I finally found her watching the inferno from a distance and when she saw me she smiled, and told me to tell everyone she was okay, and there was no need to worry. I woke up from my sleep and crawled into my mothers bed and told her what I dreamt. The following morning, my Aunt arrived with the news that my Grandma had died during the night. My mother looked at me, not knowing what to say.

Gift? Coincidence? At this ripe old age I am still not sure, but somewhere, deep within me, I like to think that I do have the gift.

Caul : a search on wikipedia on the term 'caul' and 'caul bearer'
turned up some interesting facts with both positive and negative omens:
  1. An intact amniotic sac surrounding the fetus at birth. When it remains intact, it must be torn or cut to allow the baby to breathe.
  2. It was widely believed by African slaves in the Americas that infants born with this would have the the gift of being able to communicate with ghosts, as well as see into the future.
  3. In several European countries a child being born with a caul was a sign that the child may become a vampire. As a preventative measure, the caul was removed before the child was able to eat any of it, and then it was destroyed.
  4. The most common portent of good luck in recent centuries is that the baby born with a caul will never drown, the second most common myth is from Scotland and that believes the child will be fey, or psychic. Another British meaning is that the child will travel its entire life and never tire.
  5. Notable persons born with a caul : Libarace, Sigmund Freud, Pontious Pilate, Napoleon Bonaparte

4 comments:

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Thanks for the mention, Denise.

I find your story remarkable. And I believe you saw this man. If you had investigated, you may even have found out who he was. Maybe an old slave or farmer whose hut used to stand in the same place a century before.

I admit I did not even know a caul before today, so thanks for the education.

Now let me tell you a story. My twin brother (yes I have a twin) and I used to wake up at different times at night to see an old woman clothed all in white (complete with a head scarf) sitting on a chair at the foot of our respective beds. She would just look in your direction, but she had not face at all. Just a dark void. After what seemed like an eternity (but was probably 5 to 10 seconds) she would disappear. She never threatened to harm us, but her presence was scary. I remember my mother saying it sounded like an old grand-ma figure (Maame Kailey) who lived in their house when she (my mother) was a little village girl. When we became teenagers, Maame Kailey stopped visiting us.

Denise said...

Wow - thanks for sharing that Nana. I think there are many things we don't necessarily understand, or are even receptive to, especially as we get older. Its just one those things that can't be explained. Looking forward to the paranormal tidbit you have to share tomorrow!

posekyere said...

Interesting!
Most people do not believe such stories because they have not had these supernatural experiences.
I have had a few of such experiences. I will try to blog about them one day.
I believe what you guys saw were ghosts.

Denise said...

Hi Posekyere - curious to read about your encounters too! Nana, see what you started!