Jan 122018

by Arida Wright……..

Cayo Hueso is what Key West was named by the Spaniards. It means small island of bones.

Amidst all the folklore of Indians, pirates, wrecks-a-shore, ghost stories, hauntings, Africans in slave ships and Bahamian settlers comes the mystery of how Key West, being just a little dot on the map, sitting in the middle of the ocean where a majority of its residents make their living, survives killer storms.

If I had a dollar for everyone who I’ve heard say, “Key West was lucky,” as they compared the amount of damage from Hurricane Irma to other parts of the Keys…

As much as I’ve heard it said, I’ve never believed it was luck. I believed it was a protective spirit.

We were told the storm was of “catastrophic proportions” and we all had to run for our lives and those of us who evacuated were told nothing was going to be left when we returned.

But the island survived. How?

I began to wonder if the energies of nature that make up hurricanes conspired with the Maker of the Cosmos so that Key West would be minimally affected. Similar to when Charlton Heston, in the movie The Ten Commandments, instructed the Jewish people to cover their doorways with blood so that when the death angel came to take the 1st born of Israel it would pass them by. Thus the Jewish holiday Passover is observed every year and they retell the story of how God showed mercy.

Can prayers and rituals divert a powerful hurricane and keep it from decimating an island? “Yes.” says Chief Alapini Olaitan of Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, SC.

Chief Alapini Olaitan

A few years ago Chief Olaitan came with a delegation from the Oyotunji village and performed Elevation of the Iyo Egungun at the African Cemetery at Higgs Beach. The ceremony venerated the ancestors that are buried there and they were given 2nd burial rites. There were songs and dances to honor the ancestors return to the Earth. This was done in a series of ceremonies. It ended with placing offerings of fruits and flowers on a raft that was set out to sea to honor the unknown dead who had died in the Middle Passage during the Slave Trade. Ceremonies continue on the island of Key West as we conduct “A Day of Remembrance.”

According to the Chief, “Storms form off the West Coast of Africa; angry spirits seeking revenge on the captors of their ancestors. And so the spiritual work done at the cemetery, the bones of those Africans who lie in the graves are honored and the island protected.”

I contacted the National Weather Center on White Street and spoke to Stephen Chesser and asked him what happened as the storm approached Key West? He said, “Irma became a category 2 hurricane as it stayed on the coast of Cuba 24 hours. It emerged and intensified to a category 3 and was a category 4 when it made landfall. As the storm approached Key West, it wobbled from its regular course and turned a little to the west. Key West was twenty miles from the eye wall. They clocked category 1 winds with category 2 gusts at the weather station then. Category 2 winds with category 3 gusts hit the upper Keys. Closer to the storm center category 4 winds with category 5 gusts on the right side of the eye wall hit Big Pine Key and other smaller islands between here and Marathon. Eye-wall meso vortices (circulation embedded in the eye-wall that can cause tornadoes) missed Key West but hit Cudjoe Key, Little Torch, Big Torch, Big Pine Key and No Name Key.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, The Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea, Key West

I was shown Doppler Radar images of the storm coming towards Key West by my friend Leo Curry, a local Conch, and it showed Key West in between the rain bands as the eye-wall went around. It was fascinating! He also told me the reef protects Key West from a really bad tidal surge.

Then famous Key West photographer Vidal, who is a native Conch, told me about the Grotto located on the grounds of St. Mary’s church on Truman Ave. We met there and I learned Sister Louis Gabriel 1879-1948, with the help of the citizens of Key West erected a Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes and Bernadette to commemorate the 25th anniversary of her religious profession.

At the dedication on May 25, 1922, Sister Louis Gabriel, who had experienced the three major hurricanes of 1909, 1910 and 1919, prayed that as long as the Grotto remained standing Key West would be protected from the ravages of major hurricanes.*

Three weeks after her death on September 13, 1948, as if God confirmed her prayer, a powerful hurricane, the most severe since 1919 caused little damage. Since then Key West has been spared from massive destruction from a powerful storm.*


According to Vidal, who attended St. Mary’s school as a child, “This property was used as a hospital during the Civil War when men were dying of yellow fever. They had no way to embalm them so the nuns, out of love, would wrap them in whatever fabric they could find and give them a proper burial. Bones were discovered as the church was building a cafeteria. There is also a graveyard of the nuns on the property. This property is full of caskets so there is something sacred here.”

I had heard that people come to the Grotto when a hurricane is forecast and I asked Vidal what do they do? “When the hurricane is coming there are about a hundred people, (all kinds of people, not just Catholics) who take an action to come to the Grotto to hold hands and pray. They stand in the formation of the Rosary and pray for the city and the people.”  I asked him who they pray to? He answered, “They pray to God and they believe the Virgin Mary protects the Grotto and the island.” I asked if they light candles and bring offerings of flowers to the Virgin Mary? He answered, “Some people do but most people just come to pray.”

I conclude the island is definitely blessed and protected. Higher Powers, “Spirits”, cover it and let the storms pass.

*Reference Keys Sea Heritage Journal


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 January 12, 2018  Posted by at 12:24 am ~ Column ~, Arida Wright, Issue #251  Add comments

  3 Responses to “The Spirits That Protect Key West”

  1. A bit of local white man insider knowledge supplementing what you pretty well nailed.

    When Irma reached northering Cuba, she was Category 5. Passing over that part of Cuba brought her back down to Category 4. From the get go, weather maps showed her headed straight to Key West from northwest Africa.

    While Hurricane Harvey was moving toward Houston, a local white homeless woman, whose many dreams and visions reported to this white angel-trained shaman convinced me she is a prophet, told me that a huge hurricane was going to hit Key West soon, she could feel the barometric pressure falling inside of her. Her name is Kari Dangler.

    Maybe 5 days before Irma would arrive Key West, Kari told me that when she had woken up that morning, she saw what sure looked to her were God’s huge hands and arms come down from heaven and nudge Irma slightly eastward, which proved out when Irma’s eye then shifted about 20 miles eastward.

    Backing up. As Irma was making a beeline for Key West, Arnaud Girard, co-pubisher with wife Naja of the blue paper, asked me if there was anything I could do about Irma? I rent a flat in their home. Have been friends with them for some time.

    I repliled to Arnaud: Like move Irma some place else? Yes, he said. I said I would go into my apartment and see what I might see in the spirit.

    I saw some images and then I fell asleep. On waking, I had the picture, and found Arnaud and told him this:

    African shamans learned of the dog park over the African remains in Key West, which the blue paper exposed. That enraged those shamans and they are steering Irma to Key West.

    Arnaud asked if there was anything that could be done? I said I did not know.

    Then, Kari had her vision of the huge hands and arms coming down and nudging Irma eastward.

    Kari is very important to the angels looking after her. It was because she was in Key West that Irma was nudged eastward by those angels.

    I more briefly described the above in a comment under Rick Bottger’s excellent SPCA vs. the arts lead article in today’s blue paper. In that comment, I wrote of Kari:

    “…the city ought to roll out the red carpet, including paying her well for Key West being spared most of Irma’s fury, including renting her an apartment, utilities paid, for so long as she cares to live in Key West. She happens to be a cat lover. She happens to think she is a cat. By the way. She once caught scabies at the city’s homeless shelter when she was a volunteer client collecting and washing the used sheets and towels. Scabies and other issues at the shelter also will be before the mayor and commissioners this coming Tuesday night.”

  2. P.S. I knew from my dreams last night that I would write about Kari today, but I did not know in what way. I went online, opened the blue paper, saw Rick’s article, made my comment under it. Then, I saw your article …

  3. I try to forget most of my dreams.

    I am grateful to what ever saved Key West. My old thinking was simply blown away.
    Do feel sorry for the people living in KW as it clearly has not recovered financially. First out of work for a month then a very slow turnout for Fantasy Fest and now cold weather. We were down in December 22 nd to celebrate 44 years of marriage (yes married very young) and was shocked at how hard some places were for customers. We have visited every year and lived there about 30 years ago before prices went crazy.

    Lets not forget how badly they missed the path.
    Sadly we must accept the fact that the day will come when KW is not so lucky.
    Had one of the longer bridges got destroyed KW would been hurt a lot worse.

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