Did you know that in their quest for survival the Maroons in St. Lucia encountered some deadly natural enemies?
The St. Lucian fer-de-lance also called se-pen in Creole (Bothrops caribbaeus) and the scorpion also called eskoupion in Creole were known to deliver fatal bites to the maroons.
About 25 people died every year from the bite of the fer-de-lance while deaths from scorpion stings were estimated at two per year.
While some maroons developed a cure for snake bites, they also wore charms (cham bwa) to prevent being bitten in the first place. The fer-de-lance/se-pen could be found from Roseau to Canaries on the west coast and from Marquis to Micoud on the east coast.
During the 19th and early 20th century, government mounted vigorous campaigns against these venomous creatures. Between 1870 and 1874 alone, 60,784 fer-de-lance were killed. Strangely, after establishing a reward of two shillings and six pence for every five heads of fer-de-lance in 1870, St. Lucia’s legislators did away with this encouragement to the peasants in 1874.
Source: A History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaux – 2012.
This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is written by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]