The St. Lucian Flag
The flag of St. Lucia was adopted on March 1, 1967. The exact design has varied. The current flag is cerulean blue, with a gold isosceles triangle below a black arrowhead. The upper edges of the arrowhead have a white border. The flag was designed by St. Lucian artist, Dunstan St Omer.
The blue color stands for the blue sky and blue ocean that surround the island, and for fidelity. Gold stands for sunshine and prosperity. The black and white portions symbolize racial harmony, although the majority of black shows the dominant influence of black culture over European culture. The triangle parts of the design are intended to evoke the Pitons, the island’s two large peaks that rise from the ocean and are recognized symbols of the island.
The St. Lucian Coat of Arms
The St. Lucian Coat of Arms was designed by Sydney Bagshaw in 1967 and was adopted during pre-independence at the time of internal self-government. The national motto (the land, the people, the light) is found at the bottom. This symbol represents the official seal of the Government of St. Lucia.
The following is a brief description of the Coat of Arms.
- Tudor Rose – England
- Fleur de lis – France
- Stool – Africa
- Torch – Beacon to light the path
- St. Lucia Parrot – Amazona versicolor, the national bird
The origin and design of the St. Lucia National Dress is said to have been fashioned from a similar one worn by the women of Southern France, since most of our customs were influenced by those who came to the Caribbean when France was the mother country. In St. Lucia, as well as in the French neighboring islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica, many changes were made to the costumes to make them the most colorful and gorgeous to be worn by a native of these Islands.
The national dress is called the Madras and is a three piece outfit consisting of a white blouse known in French creole as (Chemise decoltee) made of cotton or poplin and trimmed with borderie anglaise and red ribbon.
The outer skirt is made of Madras material (made in Madras, India) and can be long or short. This outer skirt is worn over a long white cotton slip which is trimmed at the bottom with rows of insertion lace through which red ribbon is weaved.
The head piece, called the Tête en l’air is also made of Madras material and tied in peaks at the top. (These peaks represent various levels of romantic commitment). One peak means my heart is free, two peaks mean my heart is engaged but you can try, three peaks mean my heart is engaged, and four peaks mean, anyone who tries is welcome.
The foulard, a triangular shaped shoulder scarf (brightly colored satin) pinned on the left shoulder with the ends tucked in the waist of the skirt to the front and back, completes the outfit.
The man’s outfit consists of a white shirt, black trousers, and a colored or madras bow-tie and sash (cummerbund) around the waist.
Another version of the National Dress, the Wob Dwiyet introduced in the 18th century and worn as a formal gown worn on special occasions, e.g. christenings, weddings, processions etc. is still worn today. It is a long one piece dress with a train, made of bright colored fabric, sometimes brocaded satin with floral design. The back is full, with a pleated seam at the waist. A tie extending from the sides and tying in front holds the dress in place.
It is worn over a petticoat (slip) which appears when the dress has been lifted on the right or on the left. The sleeves are always long, and the neck can be round or heart-shaped. The petticoat is made of taffeta, satin or chantilly lace, decorated with insertion lace and ribbon, and superimposed, gathered and pleated flounces and lace.
In order to avoid being hampered by the train, the wearer picks up the folds of the dress and elegantly throws it over the left or right arm allowing the long petticoat to show. The foulard, a triangular scarf made of satin material with the apex at the centre of the back, is worn around the neck and shoulders and is held in place by a brooch.
The head-dress worn with the Wob is the calendeuse one peak head-dress, or tête casé and is a flat version of the headpiece. It is made of the same material as the dress, or of madras. It has a peak called provocacion towards the front, and a gold pin or brooch is attached to the base of the peak. Bracelets, large hoop earrings and necklaces complete the ensemble.
The virulent red of the rose still speaks to many a St. Lucian; so does the simple marguerite flower (gomphrena). Between them spins a tale of more than two centuries, and despite imperialism, domination, and cultural invasion, the twin flower festivals of LA ROSE and LA MARGUERITE still persist, a testament to resilience.
Where, in some countries, the population may be divided into classes and castes, in the context of St. Lucia’s cultural traditions, there exists two “Societies”, ROSES and MARGUERITES (Bachelor’s Button).
The ROSES and MARGUERITES are floral societies into which some members of the St. Lucian community divide themselves. Although these floral societies remain primarily singing associations today, there was a time when they formed important segments of the island’s social structure, and most persons in the community were somehow affiliated to one of the groups.
The structure of the two societies seems to indicate something of their function within colonial society. Both groups are hierarchically structured with a king and queen as head of each society and other dignitaries patterned upon the socio-economic structure of |colonial society. Thus, after the king and queen come princes and princesses, and a number of other pseudo-legal, military and professional personnel, including judges, policemen, soldiers and nurses.
Each has a patron saint on whose feast day the grand fête is held. For the ROSES it is the feast of St. Rose of Lima on the 30th of August, and for the MARGUERITES, it is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque on 17th October.
Each society holds a grand fête – an elaborate and colorful event full of pomp and pageantry, which is preceded by several months of nightly singing rehearsals called “séances”. Strict protocol is observed at those nightly séances with visitors or participating members, upon entering, bowing to the King and Queen present with their court . Soldiers and police in uniform enforce regulations against any disorder or breaches of protocol, or what are considered misdemeanors. Offenders are taken before a magistrate for a mock trial and then fined.
The central figure in the séance is the “shantwel” or lead singer who sustains the spirit and tenor of the evening’s entertainment. The shantwels are mostly female, but there are sometimes a number of male shantwels. The shantwel leads the song with the other members of the group acting as chorus in a call-and-response pattern. Instrumentation includes any combination of violin, banjo, quatro, guitar, shak-shak, baha, and drums. The songs and dances associated with the societies are many, but there is much more variation and spontaneity at “séances” than at the grand fête when the significance of the occasion demands more discipline. At a séance one can witness dances like the mapa, and the gwan won, while grande fête dancing is traditionally limited to quadrilles, belair, mazurka and other figure dancing.
Presiding over the annual festivals are the “King” and “Queen” who are accompanied by their royal entourage of Princes, Princesses, Soldiers, Policemen, Doctors, Nurses, the clerical hierarchy, and supporters of the respective flowers. The grand fête is celebrated, first with church service throughout the island and after with processions throughout the streets, the principal personages magnificently attired. In the evening there is a sumptuous banquet to which dignitaries and leading personalities are invited. The rest of the evening is spent dancing. One can then witness and participate in some of the colorful folk dances, among which are the Quadrille, the Mappa, and the Belair.
The National Bird
The St. Lucia Parrot (Amazona Versicolor) is found only in St. Lucia. It is predominantly green in color, and a typical specimen has a cobalt blue forehead merging through turquoise to green on the cheeks and a scarlet breast. There is no visible differences between the two sexes.
Mating for life and maturing after five years, these long lived birds are cavity nesters, laying two to three white eggs in the hollow of a large tree during the onset of the dry season between February and April. Incubation commences on the appearance of the second egg and lasts 27 days. The young fledge leaves the nest 67 days after hatching.
St. Lucia Parrots are birds of the forest canopy. Despite their large size and bright plumage, they are difficult to detect among the dense foliage as they clamber about in search of fruits, nuts, seeds and berries from a wide variety of trees including Gommier, Chatagnier, Bois Pain Maron and Aralie.
A combination of hunting, habitat destruction and the illegal bird trade resulted in the rapid decline in its numbers, and in the mid 1970′s our parrot faced extinction. Deforestation, however, remains the most serious threat faced by the St. Lucia Parrot.
In 1978 the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture launched a campaign to save this species from extinction. In 1979 the St. Lucia Parrot was declared the island’s National Bird and the Wildlife legislation was revised in 1980. Today the parrot, and most other forms of wildlife are absolutely protected year round and anyone found hunting, keeping or trying to trade in these birds is liable to a fine of $5,000.00 or one year in jail. Forestry laws were also revised to protect watersheds as well as wildlife habitats and illegal clearing of forest are punishable by fines of $2,000.00.
During the last decade, protected areas have been set aside and educational programmes initiated. These are having the desired effect. By 1988 the St. Lucia Parrot was slowly increasing in numbers, and today its population stands at about 300. The Parrot may be seen flying free across the forests of Quilesse, Millet and Edmund Forest, symbolic of the island’s beauty and uniqueness.
In 1982, the first ever successful captive breeding of the St. Lucia Parrot occurred at Jersey in the United Kingdom, and in 1989 two young ones were reunited to St. Lucia, and can be seen at the Union Mini Zoo.
St. Lucia’s National Bird remains an endangered species.