Written by: Lesandra Scott
It started off as an uneventful night when suddenly the electricity went plunging into complete darkness the entire village. The only thing illuminating my room was the light from the full moon creeping in through the window and casting eerie shadows that danced on the wall opposite as the wind blew. Since it was way too early for bed and with her four teenage children, without any internet and evidently growing restless, Mother who was unperceptive about the fear now building inside us, decided to use this inopportune moment to tell us tales and stories about entities of the night that she was told of when growing up as a child.
After passing mugs of cocoa tea around, she spoke of the mischievous Brer Anansi, of babies who walked the road at night or the famous “Cow Foot Woman”, of Papa Bois, Soucouyant, and other Caribbean Folklore tales. These stories commenced with her exclaiming “Crick!” and we were all asked to reply “Crack!”
Below are some familiar characters that nod to Caribbean Folkore of which she spoke:
Taking the role of trickster, Anansi is also one of the most important characters of West African, African American and Caribbean folklore.
Usually depicted as having a man’s head, chest and arms. Papa Bois has goat-horns on his head and the lower body of a goat. The Father of the forest, he is married to Mama Glo
Known as the spirit of a child who died before baptism, Douens wear large hats, have backward-pointing feet, utter a soft hooting cry, and often lead children to wander off.
Mama D’leau or Mami Wata
This beautiful woman who lives in rivers is sometimes snake-like and is distinguishable by her long hair and a fish-like tail.
In front of you will appear a beautiful woman in a long dress who has one foot like a cow’s, the other a human’s. This “Cow Foot Woman” is known for stalking her prey which is usually a handsome man at night.
Usually, an old woman who at night, sheds her skin and places it in a mortar. In her true form: she travels as a ball of fire searching for victims and once found, sucks people’s blood, leaving a blue mark on their arms and legs.
Lagahoo or Loup -Garou even Ligaroo
A human who shapeshifts and takes the form of an animal, generally a werewolf. This is either done purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction with the transformations occurring on the night of a full moon.
These are malevolent spirits that wreak havoc on humans. There are many and the one pictured above is a Bacoo. It is the mischievous spirit of small stature that pelts stones at houses and moves objects within a house or enclosed structure.
Climbing into bed with the aid of candlelight, I thought of the stories told. Watching the dancing shadow of the mango tree on the wall, I tried gauging how I’d react if I saw a Soucouyant or even Mama Glo, even thinking what I’d do if I was the target of a Duppy. As my eyes grew heavier, the night’s tales continued to play and the last of my thoughts became a question, “was the little baby that I saw walking the road today a Douen?”
Caribbean Folklore video playlist with stories on Papa Bois, Douen, La Diablesse, Soucouyant, and the Lagahoo:
Hashtags: #PapaBois, #Soucouyant, #LaDiablesse, #Douen #Jumbie #Lagahoo #Anansi
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