Did you know the Caribbean has its very own werewolves and vampires? Bet you weren’t expecting that from your Sandals getaway…
Storytelling/folklore in the English-speaking Caribbean has a tradition of being expressed through spoken word, and the mythical creatures have always played a big part in the tales passed down orally through the generations.
The standard practice according to The Caribbean History Archives was to gather around and listen to the village raconteur as he or she waxed lyrical about the old fables brought to the Caribbean by West African slaves hundreds of years before. The stories were flavoured with French patois, and to a lesser extent Spanish. This amalgam, while rooted in its African origins, is indelibly a part of the Caribbean cultural framework.
Like most fables there is a strain of moral instruction throughout. Cheating men sometimes feature consistently in a few versions of the tales where female “monsters” are the punishment. This only perpetuates the common warning that you don’t mess with a Caribbean woman.
Discover five of the most notorious figures from Caribbean folklore below:
The devil woman, as she is often referred, hails from islands like Trinidad and Dominica. She appears as a statuesque, beautiful creole woman who is said to walk through a cane or cocoa field at noon and catch the eye of a man who then follows, never able to catch up with her as her feet hardly touch the ground. He soon finds himself disoriented and confused. If he’s an adulterer–well, she will do her worst.
If you bump into a La Diablesse, take off all your clothes, turn them inside out and put them on again, then high tail it home.
This guy is the most well known of all the characters. He is the old man of the forest and comes in many forms. Sometimes as a deer, other times as a faun with a muscular upper body and cloven hooves. He has a long beard with leaves running through.
Papa Bois protects the forest from wanton destruction and wildlife from poaching. It is said that he transforms into a deer and lures hunters deep into the bowels of the woods, where he soon shifts back to his faun shape and gives them a stern talking to. He vanishes and leaves them lost, unable to find their way back.
If you see Papa Bois on a hike, greet him with these words: “Bonjour, Vieux Papa.” Be on your best behaviour and don’t look at his feet. Ever.
She’s a mean one. Half-anaconda, half-gorgeous woman. Mama Dlo comes from the French word “Maman de l’ Eau” which means “mother of the water.” She is said to be the lover of Papa Bois and hunters tell of hearing her tail smack against the surface of the freshwater pond she resides in, deep in the “high woods” of Trinidad.
If she finds you committing a destructive act against the forest or in some versions adultery, you are married to her for life, and she may do to you what she wants. This could be an array of terrible things.
If you were to meet Mama Dlo in the forest and wish to escape her, take off your left shoe, turn it upside down and immediately leave the scene, walking backwards until you reach home.
A vampire, but not your standard Bela Lugosi or RPatz. This one is much less attractive.
“A ball of flame, along she came flying without a wind” was how the Soucouyant of Saint D’eau island was described. Saint D’eau is in Haiti.
Yes, she’s very hot in the worst way. The soucouyant is usually an old woman or hag that lives alone. As night falls she peels her skin off with a scream and turns into a ball of fire, flying through the air with the greatest of ease. The monster makes her way to a nearby village or apartment complex, if she’s a millennial soucouyant, and looks for blood to suck from sleeping patrons.
Upon finding a victim, she sucks the life from them (yes, we know how that sounds) and goes home to put her skin back on to start the day.
If you want to know who is the Soucouyant in your town, empty 100lbs of rice on the ground and she will be compelled to count each grain, giving you time to hit a poor, old lady over the head.
Duenne or Douen
These are creepy little mofos. Duennes are the spirits of children who died before they were baptized. They are genderless, their feet are turned backwards and they have no faces save for tiny mouths. Upon their massive heads they wear huge straw hats that cover their faces.
Duennes are also evil pranksters who will lure your children into the forest and sometimes push them off a cliff if they feel like it.
To prevent a Duenne-related incident, don’t call your child’s name out in a public place as they are listening and will make a note of it and again, push them off a precipice.
Loaded staff writer Danielle De La Bastide has lived all over the planet and written for BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog as well as print publications throughout the Caribbean.