Blood, throughout human anthropological history, carried tremendous symbolism and unquestioned importance. Blood represented life. Even the most ignorant amongst early man realised that blood outside of the body meant death, and inside, it meant life. The use of blood in ceremonial events represented acts of ritual kinship that went beyond familial ancestry or relationship ties. The shedding, sharing or commingling of blood, especially amongst men, before battle, was hugely symbolic. A blood oath, once taken, involved creating a bond which surpassed that of family or tribe. It symbolised greater purpose.

For the negro slave, the shedding of blood, to make a blood oath, carried with it untold importance and great risk. Deliberately hurting oneself, resulting in an injury, however minor was not something that the slave master or overseer would ignore. Injury meant that the slave’s value was reduced. And, if more than one slave suddenly turned up with a similar damage or injury, then most definitely, the slave master would become suspicious.

If the slave master became suspicious, then the life of the slave wouldn’t even be worth the whip used to punish him.

This is exactly what happened, in Lucca Bay, Jamaica, in the year 1777.


THE BLOOD OATH OF SLAVES Jamaica 1777

Of all the places for a slave to be injured, even in the slightest form, the foot, especially the bottom of the foot, would be the worst place imaginable. The field slave, in particular, wore no shoes. From birth until death, they walked without protective barrier, on the dirt of the plantation.

Slaves worked in the fields, they toiled from sunrise to sunset, they carried heavy loads, all while barefoot. Therefore, it only stands to sound reason that the foot would be the last place a slave would want to be injured.

As extraordinary as it was, a group of slaves, in Jamaica, in 1777 decided to take a blood oath to collectively revolt against their slave masters. They met in secret. They planned meticulously. In the end, they took a blood oath that would bind those slaves who were prepared to revolt for freedom.

The slaves sliced open the bottom of their feet. They cut deep enough to draw blood. Then each slave, took his bleeding foot, pressing on it enough to deposit their blood into a bucket of water. After each slave had performed this ritual act of kinship, each drank from bloody water. This was the blood oath of the slaves in Lucca Bay, Jamaica, in 1777.


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NEGRO SLAVES MAKING BLOOD OATHS

There are few recorded instances of negro African slaves, making blood oaths like the ones attributed to white Europeans. Whenever recorded kinship or religious rituals, involving anything related to slaves and blood, have been mentioned, it is always related to voodoo, witchcraft, obeah or the black arts. White Europeans doing similar things were said to be performing traditional pacts of solidarity, not rituals. The earliest European blood oath is attributed to a pact among the leaders of the seven Hungarian tribes, traditionally held to be the first, unwritten constitution of the Hungarian nation. Blood traditions in Haitian rituals were always explained off as voodoo.

Anthropologists have written that humans first became scientific, when they began to share their experiences. Shared experiences fostered solidarity. Solidarity was essential to creating a consciousness of collective strength.

For the slave, the idea of solidarity, was meticulously thwarted by slave owners, and if all else failed, beaten out of him.

The slaves of Lucca Bay, Jamaica in 1777 were willing to maim themselves, in a place they undoubtedly figured the slave masters would not readily notice. A limping, slothful field slave may have been something overlooked if the jobs were still being done to the overseers satisfaction.

The very idea of planning a slave revolt required a great measure of scientific planning.

Time had to be coordinated.

Materials had to gathered.

Tools had to be fashioned and hid.

Actions had to be synchronised.

Participants had to be motivated.

This all could not have been easy when the consequences of discovery weighed so heavily on the mind of the slave.


GIBBETING THE SLAVES OF LUCCA BAY, JAMAICA

The first slave, who was discovered, to be conspiring to revisit, was gibbetted. He was tortured for nine long days before he talked. Whether he actually gave the names of the other slaves involved in the planned revolt or the British discovered the site on their bodies where the blood was taken for the oath, is unclear. Of course the story of 1777 would say the slave talked on his fellow conspirators. Once this got around, it would undoubtedly make others slaves not trust one another, because if they did, dire consequences awaited them.

The practice of gibbetting was brought to the colonies by the Europeans. Gibbetting refers to the use of a gallows-type structure from which the dead or dying bodies of criminals were hung on public display to deter other existing or potential criminals.


BURNED ALIVE, GIBBETTED AND HANGED – A SLAVE REVOLT DISCOVERED

ROXBURGH, LUCCA BAY, JAMAICA 1777

A letter from a planter at Roxburgh, in Lucca says, “We have had an alarming insurrection which is providentially stopped; a negro that was taken has been hanged in gibbets alive; he lived nine days thereon, and in that time impeached many others.

The confederated villains according to his confession agreed to be marked with a cut on the bottoms of their feet, and each to put his bleeding foot into a pail of water, then they all drank of it, as an oath, or sacramental bond, to be true to each other in this horrid scheme; so many as drank were to kill all the white people in the island; they had calculated their numbers, which was thirty negroes to every white man, and it was to be put in execution in the night; however, thank God, their black design was discovered before it was put into execution, and all the Negroes marked in the foot taken; some have been burnt alive some hanged, some gibbeted, and others transported.

(The Ipswich Journal, England, Saturday, 23 August 1777)


A letter from a planter at Roxburgh, in Lucca Bay, Jamaica, signed J. P. dated May 14. gives the following account.

“We have had an alarming insurrection which is providentially stopped; a negro that was taken has been hanged in gibbets alive; he lived nine days thereon, and in that time impeached many others.

The confederated villains according to his confession agreed to be marked with a cut on the bottoms of their feet, and each to put his bleeding foot into a pail of water, then they all drank of it, as an oath, or sacramental bond, to be true to each other in this horrid scheme; so many as drank were to kill all the white people in the island; they had calculated their numbers, which was thirty negroes to every white man, and it was to be put in execution in the night; however, thank God, their black design was discovered before it was put into execution, and all the Negroes marked in the foot taken; some have been burnt alive some hanged, some gibbeted, and others transported.

Heaven only knows when the revolt will subside; however, there cannot be any harm done now, as it is discovered, and there is always a strong guard of white people at all suspected places.”

(The Scots Magazine, Scotland, England, 1777)
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