Superstition – Jamaica

Jamaican Superstition- Paper on the Baby

This superstition is one that I have never heard before until my mom brought it up the other evening when we were talking about one of my nanny’s from childhood.  She said when a baby is born, take a small piece of paper and attach it to the baby’s forehead with water.  This will keep the evil spirits away from the baby.  This was told to my mom by this Jamaican nanny I had named Jacqueline.

I asked my mom more about Jacqueline and the superstition so she told me a few more details.  She said Jacqueline put a lot of emphasis on this superstition the first couple months after my first birthday.   Supposedly, Jacqueline always wanted the paper to be white without any slits or creases in it.  The water that was used as an adhesive would be placed directly in the middle of my forehead.  The paper would have to be placed gently and then left there for about five minutes.  My mom didn’t know what to think of this ritual and is still slightly confused by it. “I did not know what to think about the superstition Jacqueline was performing.  She seemed very serious about it, and since it was harmless, I did nothing to stop her.  If anything I wanted to believe it would keep evil spirits away.  Maybe she knew something we all didn’t.  Anyhow, she was a good helper and since that made her happy, I was fine with it.”

I think I was more confused by this than my mother.  I had never heard of this story till she brought it to my attention the other day, but I did have some ideas as to why Jacqueline believes this superstition to be true.  First of all, both water and the white of the paper is known as a sign of purity in many cultures.  Babies are also the supreme object of innocence and purity.  By combining these three aspects into one, it is reasonable to assume that no evil spirits could penetrate such an innocent thing.

I also thought it was interesting that Jacqueline was set on performing this ritual following my first birthday.  In many cultures, the first birthday signifies the beginning rather than the birth itself.  If this superstition is observed with that in mind, it does not seem crazy to want the child to start off life with a clean slate.

The last thing I wanted to cover about this superstition is why my mom was willing to let Jacqueline perform it.  The most obvious reason is that it was something that would not harm me.  The second is that Jacqueline was good help and she probably wanted her to stay happy and do a good job.  The last reason is more complicated in my opinion.  I think she wanted to feel like she really connected with Jacqueline and be a part of the Jamaican identity.  I think the whole ritual intrigued her and made her curious about her own beliefs regarding superstitions.  Although she does not admit she believes it, I think there is a part of her that wants to or does.