Trini Legends and Folklore: Part 3- La Diablesse

9/24/2005 08:41:00 AM Edit This 1 Comment »

This is one of the most popular Legends of Trinidad and Tobago. The story of the La Diablesse is one of intrigue, sedcution and deception so it is easy to see why

'La Diablesse', the devil woman of Trinidad and Tobago folklore, is sometimes personified as an old crone, who steps forth with her cloven hoof from behind a tree on a lonely road, the sound of chains mingling with the rustle of her petticoat.

La Diablesse appears as a tall, handsome Creole woman who with swinging gait and erect stature.She has eyes like burning coals and a face resembling that of a corpse, but hides it under a beautiful wide-brimmed hat and a veil over her face. She may have a bag of bones, graveyard dirt and shells, she may cast a spell and be perceived as young and desirable, her rich perfume blending with the smell of damp and decaying things. Although she may appear young, she will be dressed in the ancient costume of these islands: a brilliant madras turban, chemise with half sleeves and much embroidery and lace, 'zepingue tremblant' (trembling pins of gold), and all the finery of by-gone days. Or the more modern dress of a blouse with puffy sleeves and long, petticoated skirts.

This creature is one of the most feared of all the legends of T&T as she, unlike other creatures, is not bound to the night.

In the daytime she passes through a cane or cocoa field at noon where her mysterious beauty catches the eye of a man who then proceeds to follow her but is never able to catch up with her because her feet hardly touch the ground. Soon finds himself lost, bewildered, far from home and he is never himself again.

She is even more fearsome when she roams at night. Hiding her cloven foot under her long skirts, she turns up at village dances, where she is immediately disliked by the women present. She utterly charms the men spinning tales of a majestic and refined life. Feigning weariness she asks one of her new suitors to take her home. He follows her obediently, totally under her spell.
She lures him deep into the woods and then suddenly she disappears. Unable to find his way home, the poor fellow stumbles around in the dark wood until he either falls (or is pushed) into a ravine or a river to his death or gets attacked by wild hogs or some other beast.
To discourage the attentions of the La Diablesse, the potential victim should wear his garments inside out. The reasons for this are believed to be a result of her being such a stylish dresser, that she will lose all interest and seek her victim elsewhere.

I assume this story is told often by parents to their sons to caution them of the wiles of women, which quite frankly, could turn out to be deadly.

Next Week: Mama D'Lo.

Credits go to The National Library of Trinidad and Tobago, Best Caribbean Holidays, David James (Colour Image) See more of his amazing art here and The Superstitions of Trinidad and Tobago (illustration).

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Jdid said...

interesting about the clothes turned inside out.