Bahamian Myths- The Chiccharney

We’re guessing that the mythical creature from Andros, the Chiccharney, got its name from the word chicanery meaning trickery or foolishness, because that’s what chiccharneys are known for, tricks and foolery.

Chiccharneys are said to live in the pine forests of Andros and build their nests in pine trees by bending two together. People who say they have seen chiccharneys describe them as owl-like creatures, with three toes, three fingers, and beady red eyes. It’s said that their heads can swivel completely around, allowing them to see who might be stalking them.

Supposedly Billy Bowleg, a Seminole medicine man, started the myth of the chiccharney. He said was 14 when he was captured by the chiccharney and instead of coming to harm, he learned the power of healing through lessons they taught him in the Andros pine forest. When he returned to his community five years later, Billy was said to be able to heal any illness or injury. Even today, if you respect the chiccharney it can grant you good luck, but they say if you chase it or try to catch it, it turn your head around!

Whether it’s false, true, or a little bit of both, this mythical creature is a part of Bahamian folklore.

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Conch Festival Spotlight- Andros

The annual Conch Festival is next month on October 7th in Mar’s Bay Park, South Andros. Conch is a local delicacy that we love to eat! It is a staple of Bahamian cuisine and can be made into almost any type of dish.

Some of our favourite conch dishes are:   ceviche style, as in conch salad and scorched conch, fried, in dishes like cracked conch or conch fritters, or cooked in a broth, like conch chowder or stew conch, we even like it curried. All these dishes have their own flavor, and most are best accompanied with our favorite bird pepper, minced and pulverized, then added to lime juice to “season” our finished conch favourite.

At the festival there will be conch dishes and competitions. The highlight of the festival is the conch-cracking contest, where competitors must test their quick abilities to take a conch and make it edible. Three days of island fun and games brings friends and family together, and it’s a great place to enjoy conch, island style.

Festival Page

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The Summer Snack Staple: Guinep Fruit

Guineps are the Bahamian fruit that are best described as a cross between a lychee and a lime. The creamy peach flesh is the twin of a lychee, but the thin green skin that covers the pit and flesh is tangy like an island lime.

Guineps are the “summer snack staple” and every island child, past and present, has a story about where “their” guinep tree was or is how they got the fruit and other misadventures around these marble sized summer fruits. Very common in Nassau and throughout the family islands, guinep trees grow quickly and are found on every corner street and many vacant lots.   In the summer, the guinep tree’s branches are weighed down not only with clusters of the fruit but a child climbing the tree, while watchers below shout out directions to the biggest bunches.

Because they’re perfectly encased in their own thin skin of a container, guineps are easy carry along snacks for the beach, your car, or just out of your pocket when you’re summer strolling.   If you don’t have your own tree yet, no worries.   Vendors sell baggies of these little treats on every corner until the season ends. It is just another reason we love summers in The Bahamas.

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Island Crest: Acklins & Crooked Island

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Acklins and Crooked Island are the far flung twins of the Bahamas archipelago. Separated by the Bight of Acklins, a 500 square mile lagoon, they’ve been grouped together in the Bahamian mind since the “discovery” of the Bahamas in 1492.

Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay (once called Fortune Cay) were once known as the Crooked Island Group and were a major part of trade between New York, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, and even Panama.   These islands were a steamer stop on a busy trade and passenger route (the Crooked Island Passage) so much so that Pittstown once was the location of the Bahamas Post Office.

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When cotton plantations failed on these far flung islands and ships found new routes, these islands began to fall under the spell of the Bahamas endless summer sun and became sleepy island outposts once again.

Because of their surrounding shallow flats, both Acklins and Crooked Island are known for their large schools of bonefish, a sports fishermen’s dream come true.

The island crest combines these two islands, Acklins and Crooked Island, and shows a horse and a fish. The horse likely symbolizes the drays that originally carried cotton and salt to and from ships, and the fish perfectly captures the ocean’s abundance around this island group, in the open Atlantic or the surrounding flats.

For a look into the bustling past of these two sister islands, download from the internet and read for free, starting at page 252,   The Land of the Pink Pearl, a travelling magistrate’s account of his fascinating trip to Fortune Island (Long Cay) , Acklins and Crooked Island.    You’ll definitely want to read the whole book, as it’s a peek into the way things were (including an entrepreneurial and civic minded Bahamian gentleman , who dressed as a woman for over 30 years while carrying out his business and government duties in the Crooked Island Group).

The Land of the Pink Pearl

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Mailboat Must-have: Mango Tree

August signals summer’s end in the Bahamas with back to school, back from vacation, and for many young people, back from the island, where they summered with Granny or Aunty.   Even though it’s the end of summer, we can’t be that sad, because it’s the height of mango season! Yards are now covered with ripe mangoes that have dropped from trees and vendors have set up their wooden tables on roadsides with luscious piles of colourful juicy mangos.  It’s the perfect island fruit to take the sting off our long salty summers end.

Mangoes originally came from India where they have been harvested for thousands of years.   Since then this tropical tree has migrated to warmer locations across the globe that mimic India’s climate and growing season.   We’re happy that they’ve found a permanent home here in the Bahamas, from the stringy yellow “turpy” mangos that leave your lips tingling, to the fat purple and red sweet Thompsons that are like biting into a peach.      Every Bahamian yard once boasted a mango tree or two, flowering in late late spring and producing mangos for weeks throughout the summer.  If you live in the Bahamas and don’t have a mango tree, look around.  It’s likely there’s one in the yard next door.  The sweetest way to eat them is pull an ice cold one from the cooler and jump into the ocean where the juice from these gems is easily washed off in the salt water.

This queen of the fruit family not only tastes like summer, but it’s packed with vitamins and you don’t have to force children to eat it!   Whether it’s coming from your yard, a neighbor, a generous co-worker or one of those vendors under the tree on the side of the road, this month’s Mailboat Must-have is definitely a lush juicy summer mango.

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