Mama Yaya Quotes in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
Mama Yaya taught me about herbs. Those for inducing sleep. Those for healing wounds and ulcers. Those for loosening the tongues of thieves. Those that calm epileptics and plunge them into blissful rest. Those that put words of hope on the lips of the angry, the desperate, and the suicidal.
Mama Yaya taught me to listen to the wind rising and to measure its force as it swirled above the cabins it had the power to crash.
Mama Yaya had taught me the sea, the mountains, and the hills. She taught me that everything lives, has a soul, and breathes. That everything must be respected. That man is not the master riding through his Kingdom on horseback.
The dead only die if they die in our hearts. They live on if we cherish them and honor their memory, if we place their favorite delicacies in life on their graves, and if we kneel down regularly to commune with them. They are all around us, eager for attention, eager for affection. A few words are enough to conjure them back and to have their invisible bodies pressed against ours in their eagerness to make themselves useful.
“Mama Yaya,” I said, panting. “I want this man to love me.”
She shook her head. “Men do not love. They possess. They subjugate.”
What is a witch? I noticed that when he said the word, it was marked with disapproval. Why should that be? Why? Isn't the ability to communicate with the invisible world, to keep constant links with the dead, to care for others and heal, a superior gift of nature that inspires respect, admiration, and gratitude? Consequently, shouldn't the witch […] be cherished and revered rather than feared?
John Indian closed the door with a wooden latch and took me in his arms, whispering: “The duty of a slave is to survive! Do you understand? To survive!”
Lament for my lost child
The moonstone dropped into the water,
Into the waters of the river,
And my fingers couldn’t reach it,
Woe is me!
The moonstone has fallen.
Sitting on a rock on the riverbank,
I wept and I lamented.
Oh, softly shining stone,
Glimmering at the bottom of the water.
The hunter passed that way
With his bow and arrows.
“Why are you crying, my lovely one?”
“I’m crying because my moonstone
Lies at the bottom of the water.”
“If it is but that, my lovely,
I will help you.”
But the hunter died and was drowned.
“I cannot do what your heart dares not disclose. The woman who revealed her science taught me to heal and console rather than to do evil. Once, when, like yourself, I dreamed of doing my worst, she warned: ‘Don't become like them, knowing only how to do evil.’”
[Sarah] shrugged her frail shoulders under her wretched shawl. “Knowledge must adapt itself to society. You are no longer in Barbados among our unfortunate brothers and sisters. You are among monsters who are set on destroying us.”
You may be surprised that I shiver at the idea of death. But that's the ambiguity of people like us. Our body is mortal and we are therefore prey to every torment of the common mortal. Like them, we fear suffering. Like them, we are frightened of the terrible antechamber that ends our life on earth. However certain we are that the doors will open before us onto another form of life, this time eternal, we are nevertheless wracked with anguish.
In order to bring peace back into my heart and mind I had to repeat Mama Yaya’s words: “Out of them all, you'll be the only one to survive.”
The reader may be surprised that at a time when the lash was constantly being used, I managed to enjoy this peace in freedom. Our islands have two sides to them. The side of the masters’ carriages and their constables on horseback, armed with muskets and savage, baying hounds. And the other, mysterious and secret side, composed of passwords, whispers, and a conspiracy of silence. It was on this side that I lived, protected by common collusion. Mama Yaya made a thick vegetation grow up around my cabin and it was as if I lived in a fortified castle. An inexperienced eye could only make out a tangle of guava trees, ferns, frangipani, and acoma trees, specked here and there by the mauve flower of a hibiscus.