Thursday, 5 April 2012

Good Friday and the Judas Bobolee

BOBOLEE - Noun: A stuffed effigy of Judas which was tied by the neck and dragged through the streets on Good Friday, usually followed by youths with sticks, beating it until it fell apart.

The two photos below are of the St Lucian Road (Diego Martin, Trinidad) Good Friday Bobolee. Photo taken Good Friday (April 6th) 2012

There is a lot of talk in Trinidad about what is Catholic Culture. Some people say that our Culture is Carnival and it is not just a Catholic thing, it is a national thing. But what about the EASTER traditions: Flying Kites; Good Friday Bobolees and other things. Catholic children should be encouraged to make Kites with words proclaiming the greatness of Christ. And while many say the violence of the beating of a Good Friday Bobolee is not a good thing, I say it is. We should be allowed to vent our frustrations.... to quote Cheech and Chong... "it is not healthy to suppress natural bodily functions" and keeping stress in is not good. I saw an interesting article in the Trinidad Express Newspaper on April 10th 2011 written by Louis B Homer. He says this about our catholic Traditions in Trinidad:

It (Good Friday) used to be a day when silence ruled, socialising was kept to the minimum, and people went about their business in a solemn manner as if in mourning. Traditional Catholics wore black clothing while attending church services, and kept amusement and distractions subdued. Boys were forbidden to whistle on that day and the singing of calypsoes was frowned on. On Good Friday, it was also customary for Catholics to cover their mirrors, extinguish all candles and lamps lit near pictures of Jesus Christ. Church bells were not rung on that day. Instead there was a wooden noise-maker used to replace the sound of the bells, this was called a rah rah.

As the Church changed its outlook on Good Friday practices, the old legends associated with Good Friday have also dwindled.

BOBOLEE - The only tradition that survived the changes was the creation of the bobolee, a stuffed replica of Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Still in the minds of believers, Judas was a traitor who should be harassed, beaten and despised in the worst way. Effigies of him are hung on light poles and street corners with him wearing rags, and his head covered with a cap. The hanging of the effigies represented the hanging of Judas following his betrayal of his master. The Bible records, "Judas threw the money into the temple and went away. And when he had gone away, he hanged himself." (Matthew 27; 3-10). Children in the old days were encouraged to beat the stuffing out of the effigy.

BLOOD OF JESUS - In Tobago, there is a red physic nut tree (a shrub with toxic seeds) at Golden Lane, the home of Gang Gang Sarah the witch, from which blood would ooze if the branches are cut on Good Friday. "The oil from the fruits of this tree would look like olive oil, and if one decides to uproot the plant they will find coal in the roots instead of soil," said a resident living close to the grave of Sarah.The reality of this century-old legend, according to Penelope Honychurch, is that the seeds from wild physic nut tree (jatropha gossypifolia) resemble olive oil and can be used in the treatment of gripes. The leaves and flowers are a deep purple resembling the colour of blood.

TURNING INTO A FISH - There is also the belief that bathing in the sea at noon on Good Friday is dangerous, because the bather could turn into a fish. This was the belief many years ago. Today, however, sea bathing, whether it be noon or otherwise, is a great pastime among people interested in outdoor life and swimming. On Good Friday, the beaches are packed with people who disregard the legend, calling it "ole talk".

MIDNIGHT GOOD FRIDAY - It was said "if a white sheet was placed against a wall, and with no lights on, viewers would see the image of a coffin with Jesus implanted inside." Another midnight legend has to do with the white of an egg. The egg had to be one laid from a common fowl. The egg must be cracked and the yellow part removed. The white is then placed in a glass of water and, on careful examination, the face of Jesus would be seen. This legend was responsible for an increase in the sale of eggs from home-grown hens.

FOOD - As far as meals were concerned, a traditional meal was devised. It consisted of tinned salmon garnished with olive oil, (then called sweet oil), Cush Cush yam, (no rice) lettuce (no tomatoes) and the meal had to be eaten after noon.

HOT CROSS BUNS - A tradition of serving hot cross buns with a cross at the top emerged. These buns were eaten for breakfast on this day. Those eating the buns had to kiss them before eating and were expected to share one of them with someone, while reciting the "Half for you and half for me. Between us two shall goodwill be."


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