Lately I find myself thinking about the old ways. A picture, a song or my mothers laughter unearths memories thought long lost to the ages. What I am reminded with those memories is that every day that passes I feel like I am becoming much more distant from my ancestors. Because of this I would like to share with you some of the things they did so that their traditions live on. Even if it is in cyber space.
When I was a kid, I loved to listen the old folks tell their stories. Ok, I wasn’t supposed to be listening. I was eaves dropping. Ok, I was nosey as hell but what else do expect from a bougie black girl.
Anyway, I remember hearing conversations about grave yard dust (goofer dust), people being told they had a veil over their eyes (meaning they could see spirits, were psychic, etc), dream interpretations to play the numbers, gardening according to the cycles of the moon, not going to funerals if you were pregnant, hearing about how to do a love spells, curses, voodoo (vodou) and hoodoo. If you had a problem the church or a doctor couldn’t solve you were always advised to see someone who was gifted (female or male) . I had enough common sense never to ask about it. No switches for me ya’ll. So I asked my siblings. We kind of figured it out but most of the time I stayed in a child’s place.
I remember my Nana’s remedies to cure our ailments or the stuff she gave us just to keep us healthy. She made us drink castor oil. OMG! That was the worst. If we weren’t regular she would make us eat prunes or drink collard green juice. When we were sick, she would make us put an onion in our sock and stick it under our arm to “break” our fever. Or sometimes you would wake up to an egg over the door to your room. When my sister and I were, born our paternal great-grandmother walked us around the house in prayer. She also would rub Jack Daniels on our gums to soothe our teething. You would go to jail for that now but I turned out ok.
Fat back image via Wikipedia
I remember the old recipes. We used to boil our crabs in beer, cook corn bread on the stove (hoe cake) and put fat back in everything. Did ya’ll do that? To this day I still believe chitlins are the devil. Pig feet, pig ears and pig tails are nasty. Black eyed peas suck regardless of how much they are supposed to bring you good luck on New Years. You can’t pay me to eat them.
I remember every New Year Day the man of the house had to walk through the door first for good luck. Yes, it was sexist as hell but that is what they believed.
On my mother’s side of the family, we had family reunions where all the old folks would drink vodka while cursing each other out. All you could hear over the crackling of the barbeque, the loud thrashing of dominos falling on the table, their true Caribbean accents because someone owed somebody money and howling laughter. It seemed at every reunion members of great grandmother’s generation would only get up to dance to the song “Oh Carolina.” After that they went right back to doing other things. All of us children ran around playing or resting our heads on our matriarch’s laps.
I know I have not even scratched the surface about the traditions my family passed on to me. I feel like a piece of me died when my Nana (maternal grandmother) and my Pop-Pop (maternal grandfather) died. When my paternal grandparents died I realized the importance of holding on to these traditions. Quite honestly it hurts to acknowledge that all those things they did we don’t do anymore. We replaced the simple things with stuff. We don’t talk the way they did. I did not speak their language. You can’t talk about hoodoo and voodoo without being labeled evil or the illuminati. I stopped eating meat years ago and I still think black eyed peas suck. As a kid, I thought they were nuts because I was “modern” and they were not. You know, the way most kids think they know more than their elders. The truth is, that they were right. Right in their traditions and right in how they lived life mistakes and all. I miss them and I miss their ways too. If your elders are still around ask them about the old ways. Write down their stories and learn from their wisdom.
Do you have any family traditions?