Trini Legends and Folklore

9/10/2005 12:21:00 PM Edit This 3 Comments »

For those of you who do not know, I am a Trinidadian (from Trinidad and Tobago in theCaribbean) and proud of it. Admittedly, I haven't really been giving much information on my country and it's culture, which as rich, beautiful and diverse as the island itself. So I am going to change that. Of course, you shouldn't expect my blog to turn into a Tourist Ad fro T&T. Far from it. In fact, I like talking about myself too much to change.

Anyway, to start I will share some of our local legends and superstitions with you. Actually just one today. If it solicits enough response I will make it a regular thing on Saturdays.

So the first is a legend called the Soucouyant (pronounced soo-coo-yah), or in Jamaica as Ol' Higue. Our version of the Vampire.

She is generally described as an old woman who lives alone at the end of the village road, seldom seen, her house always closed up as she sleeps away the day. She is said to have made a pact with the devil for eternal life. Her daylight exhaustion is well earned, however, for the Soucouyant's nights are sadly spent. In exchange for her longevity, she must shed her human skin each night and change into animal form, or that of her customary ball of fire.

While in her transformed state, she has the power to turn other people into animals, to increase the yield of crops, or make them wither. Before each night is over, though she must target one victim and suck out their life-force (or, blood depending on legends) to refresh her spirit for the next day. She must also slip back into her human skin before the cocks begin to crow the dawn. Should she be unable to return into her skin, she is trapped in her altered state without benefit of her powers during the daylight hours.

Her skin is usually hidden in bushes or trees or deposited into a mortar, and the myth goes on that if one fills the Soucouyant's skin with salt she will be unable to return into her flesh for a number of days, and even then it will cause her great pain and would likely scream "skin, kin, kin, you na no me, you na no me", she sings, crooning softly, pleading to the wrinkled, dreadful thing. "You na no me, old skin" as it (her skin) falls away from her and shrinks. Anyone foolish enough to do such a disservice to the Soucouyant, however is likely to find themselves turned into some manner of creepy, crawling creature before long, or, even more likely, as her meal the following night.

To reveal a Soucouyant, one must empty 100 lbs of rice at the village crossroads where she will be compelled to pick it up one grain at a time or beat her black and blue in her fiery state; the next morning she will be revealed as a severely bruised old woman.

So there you have it, our version of a Vampire with O.C.D.

What are the local legends of your country?

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Abeni said...

Here in St Vincent we also have the soucouyant legend.There is also the jablesse which is a beautiful woman with one of her feet being that of an animal.Apparently she uses her charm to lure unsuspecting men to their death.Another one is a jack-o-lantern,a ball of fire but what it does am never sure.

Jdid said...

sounds similar to what we call a 'hag' in Barbados. although i've never heard that much detail on the story
first time i read about soucoyant was in naol hopkinson's brown girl in the ring a few years ago.
nice site and i think you should continue the local legends and superstitions.

Solace said...

Abeni: We in Trinidad and Tobago also have the legend of the La Diablesse (I assume what you in St. Vincent call the Jablesse) and the Jack o' Lantern which is a lot less well known. Come back in the following weeks to see what others we have in common.

Jdid: Thanks alot and I will.