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Silk Cotton Tree and Jumbies

On a recent visit to the Federation of St Christopher and Nevis (better known as St Kitts and Nevis), we took a whirlwind drive around Nevis, where I was impressed by the gardens, greenery and preservation of the old colonial buildings and plantations. More about that in a later post I hope.

We didn’t really stop anywhere, despite the urgings of our driver, because we were short on time and needed to catch the ferry back to St Kitts for an evening appointment. But we did pause briefly at the Golden Rock Inn, one of the former plantations, restored beautifully and run as a luxurious hotel.

The driver parked under this tree, and I stood up taking photos of the cloud and sky, the lovely branches, those interesting tufts of…cotton…silk cotton…I looked at my watch – 12, on the dot.

Me: “uhm, driver? what kind of tree is this?”
Driver: “Silk cotton, ma’am.”
Me, a little louder: “You parked us under a silk cotton tree at NOON?”

Silk Cotton Tree

By this time, the rest of my group was back in the vehicle and looking out at me – what’s the problem?


Now, I am not really superstitious, but still, I thought everyone knew to stay away from silk cotton trees, not just at midnight, but noon too, or jumbie will follow you. I explained this to the Jamaicans and Trinis in the bus and not a one seemed to know about this. What have people been learning??

Jumbies are supposed to live in these trees, which is why people shy away from cutting them down for fear of releasing evil spirits or suffering some supernatural revenge. I can distinctly remember my Ma, my mpaternal grandmother telling us, late at night on her porch, about how a soucouyant becomes a soucouyant by going round a silk cotton tree…and probably some other steps…I am fuzzy on the details.

What superstitions do you know about the silk cotton tree?

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15 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. wow
    mom’s mother? cool

    i think education is seriously going down in this country

    1. Lilandra on June 6th, 2010 at 10:17 pm
  2. no, no, mistake – Ma, dad’s mother.

    2. Chennette on June 6th, 2010 at 10:31 pm
  3. ARGH
    here i was thinking i was getting unknown stories, history, filling in of the gaps
    (and also if i didn’t remember ma telling us about silk cotton tree and other things from the greatest porch EVER! i am sure it is the envy of our neighbours)

    set up

    3. Lilandra on June 6th, 2010 at 11:01 pm
  4. I wasn’t even 2 I think…how would I remember those unknown stories?

    4. Chennette on June 7th, 2010 at 12:40 am
  5. 5. trinimom on June 7th, 2010 at 8:49 am
  6. well i dunno
    i’m not always clear on if she died before my birth or after…

    8. Lilandra on June 7th, 2010 at 8:08 pm
  7. Ok, she died on Feb 16th 1977 ….so work it out….lol.

    9. trinimom on June 7th, 2010 at 9:50 pm
  8. Wasn’t aware that there was a problem at noon thought it was only midnight:-)

    10. Wizzythestick on June 8th, 2010 at 4:57 pm
  9. There’s a story I remember reading…need to remember the name/author, where they talk about 12 noon and midnight being the “magic” times. It’s probably Selvon…the battling washerwomen?
    Of course, knowing my imagination…

    11. Chennette on June 8th, 2010 at 11:07 pm
  10. The only reason people fear the silk cotton tree is because everything you heard about it is true. Honestly, I wouldn’t even take a photo of the tree 😉

    12. aka_lol on June 16th, 2010 at 5:58 am
  11. come to think of it, by posting photos from under a silk cotton tree, I have put everyone visiting this page UNDER a silk cotton tree…hope nobody’s visiting at 12…

    13. Chennette on June 16th, 2010 at 11:06 am
  12. yes, i grew up with all the jumbie stories, especially since my dad was raised by my great grand parents who had a cocao and coffee estate.. so you done know was real jumbie stories for way back in the days. My brother and sisters have all forgotten the stories. maybe I should write some short stories to pass on the superstitions.

    funny enough I use “jumbie” as my handle on many online forums.

    14. Chris @ CaribbeanPot.com on June 17th, 2010 at 12:08 am
  13. Oh GORM, and look it’s nearly midnight! I’ll be hiding under the bed if you want me :)

    15. Nan on June 26th, 2010 at 6:19 pm
  14. run run :-)

    16. Chennette on June 27th, 2010 at 8:35 pm

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  1. […] parked us under a silk cotton tree at NOON?'”: Lifespan of a Chennette reminds us why that's not a particularly good […]

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