Duppy tek weh Stella

August 02, 2017

Marcia Douglas, acting colonel of the Charles Town Maroons in Portland, has some fascinating stories, like the one about Estella Shuttleford.

Estella was a very short woman who owned a guinep tree that bore sweet and sour guineps. She, who had a speech problem, would go around saying, "Tum are tweet and tum are tower, but all a dem comeaffade tame twee", while selling her guineps. And people would make fun of her.

But, what once happened to her was not funny. It was the 1970s, and people in the Buff Bay River Valley were caught up with the JLP and PNP. One night when Estella should have been preparing to go sell in the market the following day, she disappeared.

For two days, a search for her was unsuccessful. At the end of the third day, a 'Jawbone' was held. It is a deep spiritual Maroon ritual involving drumming and dancing, and communication with ancestral spirits.

In the Jawbone, there were many voices from the other side telling what happened to Stella. They voices were telling the searchers about every move they made. They related how close the searchers came to them, and that every time they got closer to Stella, they moved her to another location.

But, there was one among them who was regarded as the leader, who took Stella to a particular spot. That leader did not speak, and he would have to be consulted because Stella's whereabouts could be revealed. Yet, revelation would come with a price. They would have to get what they wanted before Stella was returned.


Upon enquiring what the spirits wanted, they were told to play the drums, and they wanted rum "because a long time dem not even get the smell", and for three nights the drums echoed from the valley, satisfying the spirits.

On the third night, the duppies told the villagers where to find Stella, at a certain spot on Sambo Hill.

"An dung inna de gully whey dem see Stella. Dem kno say Stella, as a ole woman, couldn't go dung deh suh," Douglas said.

A man went into the gully to get her out. She was full of worm-infested sores.

Stella told them how when they were searching for her she could see them, and she called out, but they could not hear her. She was given food and water by the 'people' who took her.

Upon returning from Sambo Hill, the people carried out another Jawbone to tell the ancestors thanks. From that time, the drums started to play again in the yards, and rum was sprinkled constantly, "so that the ancestors can be pleased".

"So mi always tell people, even though yuh nah see wid yuh two eyes, dem deh here, and yuh no know what can happen."

So, what happened to Stella after her rescue? She was nursed back to good health, but died about seven or eight years later.

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