A well-known natural landmark - the giant silk cotton tree in Willis - has succumbed to years of wear, collapsing onto the roadway last weekend. The ancient silk cotton tree had been a popular wayside rest for visitors and a prominent character in Caribbean folklore. As soon as I saw the news, I messaged a friend of mine who's studying abroad in Washington DC.
Me: I'm going to make a photoblog entry for it.
Alyssa: You have to talk about La Diablesse.
Me: Be a guest writer on my photoblog fuh mi nah. A proper death announcement.
Alyssa: lol ok. What kind of obituary are u looking for?
Me: A playful one! With local folklore or personal experience, if you so wish. :-)
Alyssa: Unfortunately I've never had to run past that tree at night but I know boys who have! I'll sleep on it... and dream up something.
Written by Alyssa Bierzynski:
When I was little Mummy used to tell me stories about La Diablesse, Soucouyant and Loupgarou to keep me in line. When I was rude, she’d tell me that the La Diablesse was going to take me away. If I didn’t wash the dishes or make my bed, La Diablesse again. I didn’t stay outside in the dark in case a Loupgarou was flying around searching for its next victim. I was terrified by them, the Loupgarou and La Diablesse, but I really wanted to set a trap for a Loupgarou. But the thought of lix I would get when Mummy discovered half her bottle of salt in a pile on the floor was more frightening than any Loupgaroud, so I quickly abandoned the idea.
At the centre of all these stories was always a silk cotton tree, and the only silk cotton tree I knew was that huge one on the way to Annandale in Willis. Every time we drove by I held my breath and didn’t move. I wasn’t about to let any loupgarou know I was there.
Staying connected to the whereabouts of families and friends also includes keeping abreast of 'who dead', often through radio broadcast and televised death announcements. All across the Caribbean the bulletin-board style announcements are usually scheduled to air immediately before the evening news begins. A typical death announcement is quite detailed - listing the departed's proper name, their aliases, long lists of surviving family/friends and their geographic locations, who is arranging the funeral, and the date and place of the upcoming burial. In honor of this ancient community member I present to you a proper Grenadian death announcement - also written by Alyssa Bierzynski:
We announce the death of Silk Cotton Tree AKA “Silk and Very Big Tree and Silkie” who resided on the edge of the road at the entrance to Willis, St. George, born 17th September 1781 and died March 5th 2011 at the age of 230. Left to mourn are the spirits and their families who resided in Silk Cotton Tree’s trunk, including the La Diablesse family of Willis, the Loupgarou family of River Road, and the Duppy family. Other relatives and friends include the people of Willis and the surrounding areas who were so afraid they ran past Silk Cotton Tree at night, and anyone else who has gotten stuck in a traffic jam in front of it and thought they were going to fall over the precipice. -- The funeral of the late Silk Cotton Tree will take place on Thursday 17th March at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance Funeral Chapel. A private cremation for the family will follow at midnight. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to La Qua Brothers Funeral Home.
Willis, Grenada (Photo taken November 28, 2009)