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Duppy: A Friendly Introduction

Duppy, a word of African origin, is commonly used in various Caribbean islands, including The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica. It means ghost or spirit and is sometimes spelled duffy. Much of Caribbean folklore revolves around duppy, and it is a significant part of the region’s cultural heritage.

According to Jamaican folklore, duppies are spirits of the dead who have not moved on from the physical world. They are believed to be malevolent and capable of causing harm to the living. Duppies are said to haunt graveyards, old houses, and other abandoned places.

In today’s Jamaica, the word “duppy” is also associated with gunmen and “gunboys” who boast about “making a duppy” after they have killed someone by the bullet. Despite its negative connotation in some contexts, duppy remains an important part of Caribbean culture and folklore, and many people still believe in the existence of these spirits.

Origins of Duppy

African Roots

Duppy is a term that originated in Central Africa and is part of Bantu folklore. The word “duppy” is derived from the Kikongo word “mpundu” which means “spirit of the dead”. In African mythology, a duppy is either the manifestation of the soul of a dead person or a malevolent supernatural being. The belief in duppies was brought to the Caribbean through the transatlantic slave trade, where it was mixed with other cultural beliefs to create a unique form of folklore.

Caribbean Folklore

In the Caribbean, duppies are believed to be spirits of the dead who have not moved on to the afterlife. They are often associated with malevolent acts such as causing illness, misfortune, and even death. According to Jamaican folklore, duppies can take on the form of humans or animals and can possess living beings. The belief in duppies is deeply ingrained in Caribbean culture, with many stories and superstitions surrounding them.

Duppies are often associated with specific locations such as graveyards, abandoned buildings, and crossroads. They are believed to be most active at night and during certain times of the year such as All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween). In some Caribbean countries, there are even annual festivals dedicated to duppies, where people dress up as ghosts and participate in parades and other activities.

In conclusion, the origins of duppy can be traced back to Central Africa, where it was part of Bantu mythology. The belief in duppies was brought to the Caribbean through the transatlantic slave trade, where it was mixed with other cultural beliefs to create a unique form of folklore. Today, duppies remain an important part of Caribbean culture, with many stories and superstitions surrounding them.

Duppy in Jamaican Culture

Duppy is a term that is commonly used in Jamaican culture to refer to a restless spirit or ghost. The concept of duppy is deeply ingrained in Jamaican folklore and is often associated with supernatural occurrences and beliefs.

Language and Expressions

The term duppy has become a part of the Jamaican language and is used in various expressions and phrases. For instance, the phrase “mek duppy” is used to refer to someone who has died. Similarly, the phrase “duppy know who fi frighten” means that a person should know their place and not try to intimidate others.

Music and Art

Duppy has also been a popular theme in Jamaican music and art. Many Jamaican musicians have written songs about duppies and their supernatural powers. For example, the song “Chase Vampire” by Sanjay features lyrics about a man who is being chased by a duppy.

In addition, Jamaican art often depicts duppies in various forms. Some artists create paintings and sculptures of duppies, while others incorporate the concept of duppy into their designs.

Overall, duppy is an integral part of Jamaican culture, and its influence can be seen in various aspects of Jamaican life, including language, music, and art.

Beliefs and Practices

Protection from Duppy

Jamaican culture holds a strong belief in the existence of duppies, restless spirits of the deceased. To protect themselves from the harm caused by these spirits, Jamaicans follow certain practices. One such practice involves placing a broom outside the door of their homes. It is believed that the broom will confuse the duppy and prevent it from entering the house. Another way to protect oneself from the duppy is to sprinkle salt around the perimeter of the house. Salt is believed to have the power to purify and protect against evil spirits.

Summoning Duppy

In Jamaican culture, there are certain practices that can be used to summon a duppy. One such practice is to light a candle and place it in front of a mirror. The person who wishes to summon the duppy must then stare into the mirror while calling out the name of the deceased. It is believed that the duppy will appear in the mirror and communicate with the person. However, this practice is not encouraged as it is considered dangerous and can lead to possession by the duppy.

Another way to summon a duppy is through the use of Obeah, a type of Jamaican witchcraft. Obeah involves the use of various objects such as candles, herbs, and animal parts to perform rituals that are believed to have supernatural powers. It is believed that Obeah can be used to summon and control duppies, but this practice is also considered dangerous and is illegal in Jamaica.

Overall, Jamaican beliefs and practices surrounding duppies are deeply rooted in their culture and history. While some practices are used to protect against the harm caused by duppies, others are used to summon and communicate with them. However, it is important to remember that these practices should be approached with caution and respect for the dead.

Duppy Stories

In Jamaican folklore, duppies are restless spirits or ghosts. They are believed to take many forms such as animals, shadows, or even the dead person. Here are some famous tales and personal accounts of encounters with duppies.

Famous Tales

One of the most famous duppy tales is that of the White Witch of Rose Hall. It is said that Annie Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica, was a cruel and wicked woman who practiced voodoo and killed her husbands. Her spirit is said to haunt the estate to this day.

Another famous tale is that of the Rolling Calf. It is believed to be the spirit of a butcher or farmer who led a devious life while he was alive. The Rolling Calf has the ability to shapeshift and usually appears as a three-legged goat or bull with blazing red eyes and smoke coming from its nostrils.

Personal Accounts

Many Jamaicans have personal accounts of encounters with duppies. One woman reported seeing a shadowy figure in her bedroom that disappeared when she turned on the light. Another man claimed that a duppy appeared to him in the form of a black dog and followed him home.

Some people believe that they have been visited by the spirits of their deceased loved ones. They claim to have received messages or advice from these good duppies in their dreams.

Overall, duppy stories are an integral part of Jamaican folklore and culture. While some may dismiss them as mere superstition, others believe in their power and continue to share their experiences with these restless spirits.

Duppy in Modern Media


In recent years, the concept of Duppy has been popularized in literature. One notable example is Marlon James’ novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings” which features a character named “The Duppy Conqueror.” The character is based on the real-life Jamaican musician Bob Marley, who was known as the “Duppy Conqueror” for his ability to ward off evil spirits. The book won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2015.

Film and Television

Duppy has also made its way to the big and small screens. In the popular TV series “Supernatural,” the main characters encounter a Duppy in one episode. The Duppy is depicted as a malevolent spirit that possesses people and causes them to commit violent acts. In the horror film “The Duppy House,” a family moves into a haunted house and must contend with the vengeful spirit of a former resident.

Overall, Duppy has become a popular and intriguing concept in modern media. Its origins in Jamaican folklore have been adapted and reinterpreted in various forms of media, providing audiences with a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Jamaica.