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Haunted Caribbean: Beware The Mystical Silk Cotton Tree

Haunted Caribbean: Beware The Mystical Silk Cotton Tree

While it’s true that Halloween isn’t much celebrated in the Caribbean, you’d be wise to avoid this tree if you happen to be in the region on October 31st, or any other time for that matter…

This is the legendary silk cotton tree, easily among the most feared and notorious symbols of the spirit world in the West Indies.

The reverence attached to these trees goes all the way back to the slave days, a product of ancient belief systems practiced throughout Western Africa, native home to a great many slaves, as well as the silk cotton trees themselves.

According to folklore, the silk cotton is one of the best places to find spirits, duppies, and other supernatural beings. They live inside the trees, which presents a bit of a problem if you’re ever trying to build something where these bad boys are found.

Tales of folks refusing to cut down silk cotton trees for fear of releasing the spirits inside are not uncommon across the Caribbean. One of the more notable ones I’ve heard concerns the construction of the East Coast Highway in Guyana some years ago.

Near the village of Mahaicony, there apparently once grew a rather large silk cotton tree right smack dab in the middle of the route where the new highway was planned. Naturally, highway planners sought to cut it down.

Bad idea.

It’s said that engineers who dared try remove the tree were struck dead!

Eventually, the highway was completed. However, at Mahaicony, it was split into two lanes, allowing the silk cotton to continue growing (and providing shelter to its spirits) in peace, in the the middle of the road.

Hmmm… I don’t know about you, but if I’m ever lucky enough to be building a house anywhere in the Caribbean and I happen to encounter one of these trees on my property, you can be sure I won’t be disturbing it one bit!

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  • Lynne Sturtevant

    This is so interesting Steve. It reminds me of Irish wariness around certain thorn bushes. The problem in the Emerald Isle isn’t spirits; it’s fairies. There are plenty of reports of plans for major roadways and other construction projects having to be redrawn to accommodate enchanted shrubs. Better safe than sorry where otherworldly creatures are concerned. :)

  • Maureen Falk

    Speaking of Halloween….I will never ever forget being in Sainte-Anne, Martinique, walking along the roadway near the graveyard which faces the ocean, on a hill.. There was a sound, a murmur behind me which seemed closer with each step. I soon saw what the sound was. It was a crowd of people with torches, moving towards me. Their destination was the graveyard which was bedecked with hundreds of candles and lilies.. A sight which I will never forget!

    • Steve Bennett

      Wow! Did this take place on Oct. 31?

  • Jenna Francisco

    Interesting. I haven’t heard about silk cotton trees, but my family in Brazil have superstitions about plenty of other plants and trees. There is one that they pick and wear behind their ear to keep the evil eye away.