The Jamaican Tradition of Nine-Night

by MSO
Nine-Night is the Jamaican form of a wake.

Nine-Night is a lively gathering with music and dance to celebrate the life of a family member or friend. This  screenshot is from the Nine-Night of Jamaican playwright Trevor Dave Rhone.

A mixture of Christian and African traditions, Nine-Night is essentially the Jamaican form of a wake except is it much more a lively celebration of life rather than a time of mourning.

When a person dies it is believed that his or her spirit or “duppy” remains close to the place of death. Furniture is rearranged and the mattress is turned over so the duppy won’t recognize the room which would make him or her want to stay rather than travel to the afterlife.

The most celebrated ritual occurs on the ninth night after death. According to legend it takes nine nights for the spirit to finally rest and find peace from the first night after the person dies to the night before the burial. Some believe that nine nights go back to the times of slavery because it would take nine nights for the person’s duppy to return home to Africa before going on to eternal rest.

During this time and especially on Nine-Night, family and friends gather at the person’s home. They don’t come to mourn but they come with food and white rum to celebrate the life of the deceased with music, hymn singing and dancing. The night begins around 8 p.m. and continues into the wee hours of the morning. Different dances and music are played starting with the Dinki-Mini which is a dance celebrating the creation of life to the Kumina which is an invitation for the spirits of the person’s ancestors to join in to help guide the duppy to rest.

A table is set up with food and drink for the duppy, who is believed to join in the festivities listening to the music and the well wishes of family and friends. No one can eat or drink from that table until after midnight as it is believed that the duppy will have finally passed from this world into the next realm. The following day, after Nine-Night burial will typically take place.

This Nine-Night was in celebration of Jamaican playwright Trevor Dave Rhone who died on September 9, 2009.

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