|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 57 - Monday April 05, 2004|
|Of Myths Folklore and Legend |
In our continuing series on the rich Dominican folklore, in which we relate some of the stories, beliefs and legends passed on from generation to generation, we examine a peculiar story in which the Easter weekend features prominently in making some lucky soul very rich.
No one is quite sure how the stories are started, how believable they are, and even why they persist to this day. You be the judge.
It is at the height of the “Dread Crisis” in the country. This is a period of social unrest and political intrigue. Police patrols unrelentingly search for illicit marijuana plantations, and chase down the hundreds of Rastafarians who choose to make their home in ‘Zion”; the lush, mountainous and expansive regions of the island.
On this Easter Saturday in Dominica, there is nary a cloud in the sky. Gentle sea breezes kiss the verdant coastline, and the towering mountains stand as they always have, as though jealously guarding this beautiful country. From these mountains, hundreds of rivers rush eagerly toward the sea. Nature is alive and on visible display in Dominica.
In the many scattered villages around the country, it is business as usual. Children fetch water, swim in the crystal clear waters, fish, throw stones at birds, and set animal traps. Grown-ups are tending their gardens, plucking weeds, spreading fertilizer, while others harvest the endless variety of fruit and vegetables.
Cocoa and coffee buds are laid out to dry. Green straw is spread out on hot asphalt streets to be used later for making doormats. Smoke rises lazily from dozens of fireplaces as meals are been prepared on open fires.
This is the kind of day for which you are thankful for been born in a country with such natural abundance. In times like these, most of us can even forget that we don’t have lots of money to spend.
That is most, not all. In the frantic search for escape, even from a life so simple and beautiful, some among us go beyond what we see, feel and touch. Dreams are made and just as easily crushed. Yet we hope, we imagine, we dare to believe the unbelievable.
Far away from the hum drum of every day existence, and high in the mountains above Castle Bruce, a peculiar drama is being played out. By the time it is over, the line between folklore and truth, simplicity and a yearning for the rich and fast things of life would be as dim as the fading Dominica sunset.
I grew up with a decided fascination for the countless stories that were related night after night in the villages of Dominica. When the sun went down and the fireflies lit up the otherwise pitch blackness, it was story time.
Tales of lougawoo (male witches), soukouyant (female witches), and dogs becoming human; all dark and foreboding tales that were told and retold. With each telling the stories became more outrageous, more frightening. As for me, I became more scared, more afraid of going to bed, simply terrified of the unknown.
One such tale was that of the many people who had become rich by making a special pact with the devil in combination with an Easter egg. The story went something like this. Over the Easter weekend, for those who were brave enough, if they placed an egg under their armpits and made a pact with the devil, the egg would hatch a creature called a “Moose”. The Moose’s sole purpose was to bring you untold riches. You would be guaranteed such riches as long as you kept your side of the bargain with the devil.
As I grew older, my childhood fascination with these stories was replaced by a healthy skepticism. For one thing, no one I knew was really rich nor appeared to be doing the explicit bidding of the devil. However, on that Easter Saturday when the story was told of what took place in the mountains of Castle Bruce, even I was forced to reexamine my own skepticism.
That morning, the Police forces were on a routine search for marijuana plantations and Rastafarian holdouts. The story is told by one of the cops who took part in the operation. After several hours patrolling the mountainous region, they suddenly came upon a small hut in the middle of the forest.
Suspecting it may be occupied by Rastafarians, they quickly surrounded the hut and began shouting for any inhabitants to come out with their hands raised. After repeated calls and not knowing for sure if the hut was occupied, they eventually knocked the door down and entered the hut.
Nothing prepared them for what happened next. In the middle of the tiny hut was an exceptionally well-dressed gentleman. He wore a dark suit and white shirt. This seemed bizarre since it was in the middle of the forest.
The officers shouted at him repeatedly to raise his hands. He simply stared back refusing to obey. Finally, the officers rushed him, forcing his hands behind him. As his hands were partially raised, two eggs came crashing to the ground. They had found a believer. Someone sufficiently convinced of the egg that lays the golden moose, and who was undoubtedly convinced that he could strike it rich by acting on this oldest of folkloric tales.