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Friday, July 1, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesMore Than a Hundred Join Search for Jumbies

More Than a Hundred Join Search for Jumbies

Before going to seek out jumbies, Veronica Gordon, smiling and holding calabash, has every member of the group pass through a low gate as a precaution.More than a hundred folks took a night time walk down Creque Road Saturday, hearing about ancient native trees inhabited by jumbies or spirits, then returning to Camp Mt. Victory for a feast, quelbe music and jumbie stories around the fire.
"It’s a way of showcasing the old storytelling tradition and at the same time being aware of the spiritual realm and mindful of the munificence of our ancestors," said Onaje Jackson of Crucian History and Nature Tourism, who has been putting on the fun fundraising festivity for the past three years now. "It’s also a very comedic gathering, there are always a lot of funny stories."
Jumbie stories are scary ghost stories. Jumbies are not exactly ghosts, but spirits, part of a Caribbean tradition with deep roots in West Africa. They are the spirit of a departed person, and can be associated with places where death and tragedy occurred. Or they can be protective spirits or guardian angels.
The crowd began gathering at Camp Mt. Victory before dusk, milling about the grassy grounds while Frederiksted’s Asche Akoma female African drummers, clad in head wraps and skirts of gorgeous African fabrics, beat out a complex rhythm. After a bit, Bully and the Kafooners took to the stage, playing old style quelbe tunes while some of the Crucian folks danced in the traditional way.
Later, there would be Bully and the Kafooners playing the old time tunes.an open mike, with Wayne "Bully" Petersen, Asta Williams, Abdul Ali and others telling their favorite, scariest jumbie stories. But first, after the sun was fully set and the woods covered in impenetrable shadow, St. Croix’s bush woman, Veronica Gordon, took more than 100 children and adults from age 10 to 70 on an eerie walk down the road to Creque dam, to seek out jumbies.
To keep safe from any spirits, Gordon asked people to turn some article of clothing inside out; a technique that popped up again and again in the stories told later. She had a pile of calabash gourds right of the tree, asking people to each pick one up to use as a "jumbie chaser," demonstrating by shaking the seeds in one like a rattle. Last, before heading down the dark road, everyone had to pass under a low gate.
A few hundred yards down, the tour stopped at a massive, hollow kapok or silk cotton tree, a type native to the island.
Pointing out the distinctive curtain-like buttress roots and sharp spiky thorns on the trunk, Gordon said this breed of tree is regarded as a spirit tree.
"People used to stand among the folds of the roots and wash themselves as part of obeah," Gordon said. Obeah is folk medicine and magic practiced by some Caribbean people of West African descent.
"Jumbies like to live in these trees and down the road is one that is inhabited," she said.
She led the group down the road, with only a hint of moonlight shining between the leaves and the occasional frenetic pointing about of a flashlight beam to cut the velvet blackness of the night.
"There used to be a man living in this tree," Gordon said, pointing to the hollow interior of a huge and ancient kapok dimly visible some few dozen yards off into the woods. In the day, you can see where a sheet of rusty galvanized steel roofing is growing into the tree and being slowly crushed as it gradually grows into the tree. Decades ago, that metal was used as a door to the hollow within, she said.
"He has been dead about 40 years," she said. "But sometimes when cars pass, they will see a man sitting among the roots, then look again and he’s gone."
A bit further along, Gordon stopped at a spot where the gut crosses the road, saying it was inhabited by jumbies because of a long ago tragedy.
"A woman and her daughter were riding in their donkey cart and drowned here when they were caught in a flood in the gut," she said. That happened in the 1940s, but the jumbies remember and live in the gut, she said.
"Not that long ago, a car wrecked in the woods when they passed this corner and swerved to avoid jumbies they thought were people," she said.
The mood was spooky. Some children were vocally letting their parents know they were scared. A man left the hike partway through to walk a friend back to her car and hiked back down to join the group. When he unexpectedly appeared out of the shadows to meet the group heading back up the hill, the woman in front almost jumped out of her skin and shouted with fright and surprise.
Once back at the camp, Bully and the Kafooners played a few more songs and then the storytelling began, with story after spooky story of the troubles caused by jumbies, the ways of keeping them at bay and the consequences of forgetting them.
"This is the third time now we’ve held this," said Jackson. "It’s a great event and this was far and away our best turnout so far."
Ghost stories and ghost tours are very popular money makers in many historical tourism spots, from Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to New Orleans in Louisiana.
More than 100 folks came out to hear stories and go on the hike, and over 80 sprang for a Caribbean buffet feast served up by UCA’s, West End Grill, Pier 69 and others. ThSafety in numbers: Hiking to find the spirits.e story-telling evening is growing to be the best fundraiser for CHANT, said Jackson.
"The money goes to help us support and promote our tradition bearers, our local artists, musicians and story tellers," Jackson said. CHANT wants cultural, historical and natural assets of the Virgin Islands and St. Croix in particular to become a major part of its tourist product, he said.

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Before going to seek out jumbies, Veronica Gordon, smiling and holding calabash, has every member of the group pass through a low gate as a precaution.More than a hundred folks took a night time walk down Creque Road Saturday, hearing about ancient native trees inhabited by jumbies or spirits, then returning to Camp Mt. Victory for a feast, quelbe music and jumbie stories around the fire.
"It's a way of showcasing the old storytelling tradition and at the same time being aware of the spiritual realm and mindful of the munificence of our ancestors," said Onaje Jackson of Crucian History and Nature Tourism, who has been putting on the fun fundraising festivity for the past three years now. "It's also a very comedic gathering, there are always a lot of funny stories."
Jumbie stories are scary ghost stories. Jumbies are not exactly ghosts, but spirits, part of a Caribbean tradition with deep roots in West Africa. They are the spirit of a departed person, and can be associated with places where death and tragedy occurred. Or they can be protective spirits or guardian angels.
The crowd began gathering at Camp Mt. Victory before dusk, milling about the grassy grounds while Frederiksted's Asche Akoma female African drummers, clad in head wraps and skirts of gorgeous African fabrics, beat out a complex rhythm. After a bit, Bully and the Kafooners took to the stage, playing old style quelbe tunes while some of the Crucian folks danced in the traditional way.
Later, there would be Bully and the Kafooners playing the old time tunes.an open mike, with Wayne "Bully" Petersen, Asta Williams, Abdul Ali and others telling their favorite, scariest jumbie stories. But first, after the sun was fully set and the woods covered in impenetrable shadow, St. Croix's bush woman, Veronica Gordon, took more than 100 children and adults from age 10 to 70 on an eerie walk down the road to Creque dam, to seek out jumbies.
To keep safe from any spirits, Gordon asked people to turn some article of clothing inside out; a technique that popped up again and again in the stories told later. She had a pile of calabash gourds right of the tree, asking people to each pick one up to use as a "jumbie chaser," demonstrating by shaking the seeds in one like a rattle. Last, before heading down the dark road, everyone had to pass under a low gate.
A few hundred yards down, the tour stopped at a massive, hollow kapok or silk cotton tree, a type native to the island.
Pointing out the distinctive curtain-like buttress roots and sharp spiky thorns on the trunk, Gordon said this breed of tree is regarded as a spirit tree.
"People used to stand among the folds of the roots and wash themselves as part of obeah," Gordon said. Obeah is folk medicine and magic practiced by some Caribbean people of West African descent.
"Jumbies like to live in these trees and down the road is one that is inhabited," she said.
She led the group down the road, with only a hint of moonlight shining between the leaves and the occasional frenetic pointing about of a flashlight beam to cut the velvet blackness of the night.
"There used to be a man living in this tree," Gordon said, pointing to the hollow interior of a huge and ancient kapok dimly visible some few dozen yards off into the woods. In the day, you can see where a sheet of rusty galvanized steel roofing is growing into the tree and being slowly crushed as it gradually grows into the tree. Decades ago, that metal was used as a door to the hollow within, she said.
"He has been dead about 40 years," she said. "But sometimes when cars pass, they will see a man sitting among the roots, then look again and he's gone."
A bit further along, Gordon stopped at a spot where the gut crosses the road, saying it was inhabited by jumbies because of a long ago tragedy.
"A woman and her daughter were riding in their donkey cart and drowned here when they were caught in a flood in the gut," she said. That happened in the 1940s, but the jumbies remember and live in the gut, she said.
"Not that long ago, a car wrecked in the woods when they passed this corner and swerved to avoid jumbies they thought were people," she said.
The mood was spooky. Some children were vocally letting their parents know they were scared. A man left the hike partway through to walk a friend back to her car and hiked back down to join the group. When he unexpectedly appeared out of the shadows to meet the group heading back up the hill, the woman in front almost jumped out of her skin and shouted with fright and surprise.
Once back at the camp, Bully and the Kafooners played a few more songs and then the storytelling began, with story after spooky story of the troubles caused by jumbies, the ways of keeping them at bay and the consequences of forgetting them.
"This is the third time now we've held this," said Jackson. "It's a great event and this was far and away our best turnout so far."
Ghost stories and ghost tours are very popular money makers in many historical tourism spots, from Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to New Orleans in Louisiana.
More than 100 folks came out to hear stories and go on the hike, and over 80 sprang for a Caribbean buffet feast served up by UCA's, West End Grill, Pier 69 and others. ThSafety in numbers: Hiking to find the spirits.e story-telling evening is growing to be the best fundraiser for CHANT, said Jackson.
"The money goes to help us support and promote our tradition bearers, our local artists, musicians and story tellers," Jackson said. CHANT wants cultural, historical and natural assets of the Virgin Islands and St. Croix in particular to become a major part of its tourist product, he said.