Folklore of the Caribbean is as diverse as the people who inhabit the islands. The melting pot of cultures has created a pantheon of supernatural creatures who’re as changeable as the stories that are passed down about them from generation to generation.
Duppy are common in Caribbean folklore, haunting the spirit realm and bringing mischief wherever they go. But what is the story of the duppy and how is it connected to rum?
Duppy is a singular and plural term with an African origin, stemming from Bantu folklore. Meaning ghost or spirit, duppy can take the form of a human and animal.
They are usually the restless souls of people who haunt the living and have the capabilities to be good and bad. Good duppy are the spirits of ancestors who watch over their families, the entities that can’t be seen. The bad kind take joy in harming people, causing pain however possible.
Across the Caribbean, the creation of duppy differs. A popular story comes from Jamaican folklore, in which the soul of a person who’s deemed to be good goes to heaven to be judged by God. But if the earthly spirit lingers in a coffin for three days then it can escape as a malicious duppy and cause havoc.
Habits and precautions
Duppy are said to live in the roots of cotton trees and bamboo thickets. During the day and night they emerge from their hiding places and torment their victims by physically attacking them or possessing a home.
There are certain signs to tell whether a duppy is nearby:
- A spider web falls onto your face at night
- You hear a dog barking at night
- You hear the snapping of sticks in the dark
- You smell food when there isn’t any nearby
Here’s some practical advice for warding off evil spirits:
- Recite the Jamaican proverb ‘Jack Mandora mi nuh choose non.’ This means ‘I have told it the way I received it.’ The idea is that you’re recounting a story that you can’t take back and that the truth will stop the duppy from preying on your fear
- Never sit at the threshold of a door as a spirit might walk in and harm you
- Nail a horseshoe to the door for good luck
- Never throw stones during noon or at night
Spirits with a taste for rum
When not terrorising innocent people, duppy like to indulge their passion for rum. According to legend, they swoop between islands, stealing the best portions of rum for themselves. Who says ghosts can’t be connoisseurs?
UK-based Duppy Share have kept the story of the duppy alive with a fiery blended rum that comes from two of the most prestigious distillers in the game. The first is a tropical three-year-old Jamaican rum from Worthy Park that’s aged in oak bourbon barrels. The second comes Barbados heavyweight Foursquare, aged for five years in bourbon barrels and comes with notes of butter and caramel.
The brand also has a spiced variety that features a badass duppy label and tastes of pineapple and kola nut.
In an interview, Duppy Share’s design partner, Shaun Bowen described how he overcame the challenge of creating a picture of a creature that had no universal form. He wanted to “envisage the duppy as a shapeshifter, continually taking on a multitude of forms and in a moment of transition between different creatures.”
So, next time you crack open a bottle of rum, keep in mind that something supernatural might be watching you. Raise a glass and let the duppy know that you aren’t afraid and are willing to share!
Another Caribbean creature with a connection to rum is La Diablesse. Learn more about her story and how she’s been kept alive in the modern day.