Flying Back to Africa or Flying to Heaven? Competing Visions of Afterlife in the Lowcountry and Caribbean Slave Societies
This study presents a new interpretation of the famous folktale about enslaved Africans flying home, including the legend that only those who refrained from eating salt could fly back to Africa. It rejects claims that the tale is rooted in Igbo culture and relates to suicide as a desperate attempt to escape from slavery. Rather, an analysis of historical documents in combination with ethnographic and linguistic research makes it possible to trace the tale back to West-Central Africa. It relates objections to eating salt to the Kikongo expression curia mungua “to eat salt”, meaning baptism, and claims that the tale originated in the context of discussions among the enslaved about the consequences of a Christian baptism for one’s spiritual afterlife.