Jumbie Dance and Silk Cotton tree lighting Controversy on St. Patrick’s Day memorial celebrations

Justin ‘Hero’ Cassell has been for several years particularly during the MCAP government has been a driving force in the organisation of the festivities marking the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

Leading up to celebrations this year, in the middle of last month he has been speaking being the 250th anniversary of the failed slave rebellion, pointing out that the committee has organized several activities to commemorate the event, among them the lighting of the St. Patrick’s Day torch.

Justin Hero Cassell

He describes: “It is a sort of decoration and lighting of what we call the St. Patrick’s flame; decoration of the silk cotton tree in Cudjoe Head. We’re going to definitely make that a very prominent feature throughout St. Patrick’s and indeed throughout the year, so that when persons come there looking at the tree, they would know that there is some significance to it and some history,” he said speaking on ZJB radio.

He explained further that the tree is going to be well decorated, that there will be installed, “a what we call the St. Patrick’s torch. There’ll be a lighting ceremony,” adding that they are going to a couple dignitaries and persons from Cudjoe Head committee to really appreciate.”

Noting that a large number of people will be visiting for the festival and that “we have to be ready for them,” Hero says the festival has grown and is now a major tourism product for the island, “growing leaps and bounds and that is what we want to make this festival (is called festival tourism these days), a very big, big product. I always say that for an investment of say three hundred thousand dollars, if we could inject the festival I’m referring to here of over six million dollars in the economy. That’s what St. Patrick’s is, we’re happy that more and more persons are coming.

Shirley Osborne

But not everyone is on board with the lighting at silk cotton tree, Shirley Osborne, a local cultural enthusiast, as she was referred, has said that the lighting the torch is taking away from what should be this years’ two hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the failed slave uprising in 1768, and should be set aside for particular recognition.

“I think we’re mixing things up there,” she said. “I think quite frankly they put that in to add some sort of reference, but Cudjoe is not March 17th, they’re two different things…I think they want it to be a sort of nod to history and culture. To my mind it’s not nearly enough.  We’re getting it all confused”

Pointing to her own plans for a drum jam giving relevance to the ‘rebellion’. “…the silk cotton tree and Cudjoe are separate and should be acknowledged, and in fact, when we do the drum jam, when we do relevance and rebellion on the way from Lookout on March 17th they’re going to stop at the silk cotton tree for a little bit to acknowledge Cudjoe.”

“But that’s a separate thing,” she continues, “and I think these people need to get informed about what March 17th really stands for…And if anybody it should be the St. Patrick’s Day Committee who should be clear that people understand what St. Patrick’s Day is all about, what March 17th means where it come from, and what we are acknowledging and we acknowledge and have full reverence and pay homage to Cudjoe but that’s not St. Patrick’s.”

See article by DiscoverMNI in this issue: “1768 Uprising to be remembered with Drums at Montserrat’s St Patrick’s Festival”

The Hero hits back and explains…

“Now you remember in 1768 there was a failed uprising on St. Patrick’s Day but that doesn’t mean that the uprising ended,” he began, showing his historical knowledge of the matter. “It took several years for the uprising to be squashed and what happened after that the white settlers were very vigilant on the slaves watching every move they make and they were prosecuting them and hanging them and there runaway slaves who were hung or were beaten to death. The silk cotton tree happened to be one of these trees the slaves were being hung and so for people to say it has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day,” he hits back, “they don’t understand the whole concept of St. Patrick’s and our connection to St. Patrick’s it’s not understood,” he argued.

Continuing his push to more meaningful commemoration of the significance of the Day, he said: “The significance of this is that we got to teach our young people in Montserrat, let them understand history and the reason why we have these cultural expressions. The lighting of the tree, slated for March 9th at 6.00 p.m.is significant and important,” he said, “because you will highlight the tree. A young child passing and see a torch there burning, a flaming torch, would want to know why. Then their parents who have the knowledge could explain to them. These are symbols in Montserrat that are significant to our heritage, we have to look at them and highlight them during this time of the year, during March.”

‘Drum Jam’ gets rebuke

A ZJB Radio report says that luminary academic Dr. George Irish, a cultural activist himself, and who has written cultural and other books on Montserrat and elsewhere, founder of the folk singers group Emerald Community Singers, back in the very early 70s, wrote to the organizers of the ancestral commemoration on March 17th to reconsider the motive for the celebration and how it is being promoted. The report says, the 250th commemoration ceremony being planned by Shirley Osborne, could degenerate into Spiritism or ancestral worship.

“Reverence and Rebellion”, held in collaboration with the Montserrat Arts Council plans to integrate the energy of the drum into the remembrance of African ancestors here in the early morning hours of March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. The procession will start at midnight in Lookout making its’ way across the island keeping vigil until early in the morning.

According to the organizers, when the procession arrives at Runaway Ghaut, the participants would proceed to walk and dance, making a joyful spirit noise in celebration of the courage of the islands ancestors but it is this concept of Spiritual Noise, Dr. Irish has taken issue with. The cultural advocate believes a spirit dance at midnight is an open invitation to the demonic spirit world to invade Montserrat. He says to attach reverence to such an activity is to dishonor the entitlements of the Supreme God who only is Holy and reverent. Dr. Irish says there is no need to resurrect the jumbie dance. He believes communications with the dead and ancestral spirit possession are arcade practices that should stay buried in the past. The academic activist says although he is in favor of keeping the social and historical messages alive, this is where he draws the line. He articulated his support for honoring the sacrifice of the March seventeenth heroes commenting that it is important for the education of the youth. However; the cultural activist says they have to be careful how Montserrat celebrate and motivate the celebration.

ZJB News contacted Ms. Shirley Osborne who confirmed that she received the letter, she said she’s in conversation with Dr. Irish and would make a public statement on the matter shortly.

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

Archives

Justin ‘Hero’ Cassell has been for several years particularly during the MCAP government has been a driving force in the organisation of the festivities marking the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

Leading up to celebrations this year, in the middle of last month he has been speaking being the 250th anniversary of the failed slave rebellion, pointing out that the committee has organized several activities to commemorate the event, among them the lighting of the St. Patrick’s Day torch.

Justin Hero Cassell

Insert Ads Here

He describes: “It is a sort of decoration and lighting of what we call the St. Patrick’s flame; decoration of the silk cotton tree in Cudjoe Head. We’re going to definitely make that a very prominent feature throughout St. Patrick’s and indeed throughout the year, so that when persons come there looking at the tree, they would know that there is some significance to it and some history,” he said speaking on ZJB radio.

He explained further that the tree is going to be well decorated, that there will be installed, “a what we call the St. Patrick’s torch. There’ll be a lighting ceremony,” adding that they are going to a couple dignitaries and persons from Cudjoe Head committee to really appreciate.”

Noting that a large number of people will be visiting for the festival and that “we have to be ready for them,” Hero says the festival has grown and is now a major tourism product for the island, “growing leaps and bounds and that is what we want to make this festival (is called festival tourism these days), a very big, big product. I always say that for an investment of say three hundred thousand dollars, if we could inject the festival I’m referring to here of over six million dollars in the economy. That’s what St. Patrick’s is, we’re happy that more and more persons are coming.

Shirley Osborne

But not everyone is on board with the lighting at silk cotton tree, Shirley Osborne, a local cultural enthusiast, as she was referred, has said that the lighting the torch is taking away from what should be this years’ two hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the failed slave uprising in 1768, and should be set aside for particular recognition.

“I think we’re mixing things up there,” she said. “I think quite frankly they put that in to add some sort of reference, but Cudjoe is not March 17th, they’re two different things…I think they want it to be a sort of nod to history and culture. To my mind it’s not nearly enough.  We’re getting it all confused”

Pointing to her own plans for a drum jam giving relevance to the ‘rebellion’. “…the silk cotton tree and Cudjoe are separate and should be acknowledged, and in fact, when we do the drum jam, when we do relevance and rebellion on the way from Lookout on March 17th they’re going to stop at the silk cotton tree for a little bit to acknowledge Cudjoe.”

“But that’s a separate thing,” she continues, “and I think these people need to get informed about what March 17th really stands for…And if anybody it should be the St. Patrick’s Day Committee who should be clear that people understand what St. Patrick’s Day is all about, what March 17th means where it come from, and what we are acknowledging and we acknowledge and have full reverence and pay homage to Cudjoe but that’s not St. Patrick’s.”

See article by DiscoverMNI in this issue: “1768 Uprising to be remembered with Drums at Montserrat’s St Patrick’s Festival”

The Hero hits back and explains…

“Now you remember in 1768 there was a failed uprising on St. Patrick’s Day but that doesn’t mean that the uprising ended,” he began, showing his historical knowledge of the matter. “It took several years for the uprising to be squashed and what happened after that the white settlers were very vigilant on the slaves watching every move they make and they were prosecuting them and hanging them and there runaway slaves who were hung or were beaten to death. The silk cotton tree happened to be one of these trees the slaves were being hung and so for people to say it has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day,” he hits back, “they don’t understand the whole concept of St. Patrick’s and our connection to St. Patrick’s it’s not understood,” he argued.

Continuing his push to more meaningful commemoration of the significance of the Day, he said: “The significance of this is that we got to teach our young people in Montserrat, let them understand history and the reason why we have these cultural expressions. The lighting of the tree, slated for March 9th at 6.00 p.m.is significant and important,” he said, “because you will highlight the tree. A young child passing and see a torch there burning, a flaming torch, would want to know why. Then their parents who have the knowledge could explain to them. These are symbols in Montserrat that are significant to our heritage, we have to look at them and highlight them during this time of the year, during March.”

‘Drum Jam’ gets rebuke

A ZJB Radio report says that luminary academic Dr. George Irish, a cultural activist himself, and who has written cultural and other books on Montserrat and elsewhere, founder of the folk singers group Emerald Community Singers, back in the very early 70s, wrote to the organizers of the ancestral commemoration on March 17th to reconsider the motive for the celebration and how it is being promoted. The report says, the 250th commemoration ceremony being planned by Shirley Osborne, could degenerate into Spiritism or ancestral worship.

“Reverence and Rebellion”, held in collaboration with the Montserrat Arts Council plans to integrate the energy of the drum into the remembrance of African ancestors here in the early morning hours of March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. The procession will start at midnight in Lookout making its’ way across the island keeping vigil until early in the morning.

According to the organizers, when the procession arrives at Runaway Ghaut, the participants would proceed to walk and dance, making a joyful spirit noise in celebration of the courage of the islands ancestors but it is this concept of Spiritual Noise, Dr. Irish has taken issue with. The cultural advocate believes a spirit dance at midnight is an open invitation to the demonic spirit world to invade Montserrat. He says to attach reverence to such an activity is to dishonor the entitlements of the Supreme God who only is Holy and reverent. Dr. Irish says there is no need to resurrect the jumbie dance. He believes communications with the dead and ancestral spirit possession are arcade practices that should stay buried in the past. The academic activist says although he is in favor of keeping the social and historical messages alive, this is where he draws the line. He articulated his support for honoring the sacrifice of the March seventeenth heroes commenting that it is important for the education of the youth. However; the cultural activist says they have to be careful how Montserrat celebrate and motivate the celebration.

ZJB News contacted Ms. Shirley Osborne who confirmed that she received the letter, she said she’s in conversation with Dr. Irish and would make a public statement on the matter shortly.