Captain Blood: Searching For Its Origins


“Captain Blood” is the “internal name” of the Wole Soyinka, co-founder and spiritual head, of the Pyrates Confraternity (PC) also known as the National Association of Seadogs (NAS). Soyinka is more affectionately addressed internally as “Capoon Blood” or “CB” (its abbreviation), a name which also well known to the general public. The PC is the internal image of the organisation and NAS is the public image creating some interesting bifurcations within. What is most unusual about the name Capoon Blood is its elusive origins.

Most of the internal names of the early Pyrates (borne by young African anti-colonial men voluntarily) were taken from characters in the imperial novel Treasure Island by R L Stevenson, the book which the founding of the PC in 1953 was based. As such the names that featured most among the early Pyrates were Long John Silver, Billy Bones, Black Dog, Jim Hawkins, Ben Gunn, Morgan, Captain Smollett, Pew, Redruth, Captain Flint, Israel Hands. All these names had regnal numbers (e.g. Morgan I, Morgan II, Morgan III or Morgan the Navigator) to avoid the duplication of internal names and confusing identities. Nowadays and for many years ‘Captain’ or ‘Capoon’ as a permanent name by fierce convention is reserved for Wole Soyinka alone.

As the numbers of Pyrates initiated increased, sources for new names became necessary and existing ones tweaked creatively. Latin / Italian names became the new broad source for new internal names for Pyrates. Be it food, drink, common names, places, notables of the Roman Empire, notables of the Renaissance, if it was Italian it formed part of or the whole name of countless Pyrates. Having names that included Spaghetti, Ravioli, Bruschetta, Vino, Cinzano, Martini, can be humorous to outsiders. What would not be humorous are the internal names derived from real and fictional Mafioso as well as outlaws from the Wild Wild West and elsewhere. This is nowhere near as bad as it seems. There is an “original” reason for it.

In addition to ‘bad guy’ names, the PC also adopted ‘inverse meaning’ names that simply meant the total opposite of their literal meanings to Pyrates. This has to be seen as having both individual and collective motivations. On an individual level, internal names like “Forgotten Corpse” or “Second Death” would actually mean a happy healthy living man; the name “Soft Bones” would be given to a Pyrate who is very strong physically; “Scarface d’ Terrible” would be given to a peaceful, non-smoking, teetotal gifted with consummate tolerance; and “Ebenezer Scrooge” would invariably be given to a generous jolly member. Collectively, the aforementioned names would internally indicate to all Pyrates and remind them that they should always seek to promote each other’s well-being, health and safety; united they are strong; they do not tolerate criminal or decadent activities within their ranks; and that they promote a convivial, sharing and merry spirit in their midst, respectively.

It is most unlikely that the reasons for the introduction of inverse meaning names into the PC are still practiced today in any dimension whatsoever. Inverse meaning names are derived from a cornerstone of the Prates 4-7 Creed, “Against [Moribund] Convention”. Originally, if it was hypocrisy and convention to give good names and good characterisation of people who were actually bad and inimical to the fostering of a just society, it was better to adopt bad reverse meant names but also consistently deliver humane, moral and good services / acts to society. No more days like those! NAS has shiploads of awkward conventions of its own.

Pyrates also got named after major events that were widely reported in the news.  There are also rare names that are truly African in origin. This has been a major surprise to many. NAS looks like a proxy-Western organisation no matter how you look at it. A recent expository book and the very first of its kind on the PC written by Dolapo Sikuade titled The Theatrical Aesthetics of Wole Soyinka & The Pyrates Confraternity portrays PC / NAS as a “post-colonial” entity. Whatever the reservations about the book are, right here it is limited to names. It is evident the Treasure Island is not post-colonial and neither are the names of Pyrates nor their various Chapters.

Nevertheless, where does Capoon Blood come from in the traditions of the PC so far identified? There are exceedingly interesting “theories” proposed about the source and etymology of Capoon Blood, they are not exactly scoops. The origins of Capoon Blood remain a mystery. Such an enduring mystery will give Wole Soyinka untold pleasure since it will keep Pyrates and members of the public who are interested guessing; enigma is good for fame.  Otherwise, one of the theories might just become provable.

Grimot Nane

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