Trinidad and Tobago Folklore Part 2 of 3

Photo © Anatollias Finest

Part two of the Folklore series starts with my mother in law who is convinced to this day that when her son Jude was a child while on vacation in the country district of Manzanilla that he was almost taken away by Douens. She is very serious and honest when she relates the story but never ever tells her that she imagined it … Now that is another story!

Douens or Duennes are the spirits of children who died before they were christened. In other words, the blessings of Almighty God never washed away their mortal sins. As unfortunate as this may be these spirits roam the country districts at night in search of children who are also not yet christened to take them into the forests where they are abandoned and left to fend for themselves.  The Duennes don’t have any sexual orientation, no facial features, and wear large hats to cover their faces and big heads.  It has also been said that their feet are turned backward and they walk around naked. These Duennes lure the children by making a ‘mesmerizing whooping sound’. My mother-in-law tells the story and makes mention of the Posey (to urinate) that Jude had that was found near the forest’s edge … how did it get there?

The Soucouyant (Sukuya) or Old Hag is an old lady in the village who has made a deal with the devil. He had a ceremony that she performs in the cemetery with the liver of a dead person to get her abilities. Once this is done she had the ability to shed her body of her skin which she places in a mortar until she returns home, turns into a ball of fire, and flies through the air to feed on her next victim. She enters homes and while the women are asleep she sucks their blood. My recollection of this was that she always sucks from the leg of women. “Oh gosh, the neighbor comes and see, de soucouyant suck meh”, would be the cry that spread through the neighborhood like wildfire.  Everyone came to see but I believe the men came simply to look at the woman’s leg. One way to really deal a heavy blow to the soucouyant is to find her skin in the mortar and put salt and pepper in her skin. When she returns and tries to get back into her skin then all hell will break loose. She would talk to her skin and say, “Skin, kin kin, you na no me, old skin” – this usually results in the death of the soucouyant.  If you believe that your village is cursed by the evil spells of a Soucouyant then you should empty one hundred pounds of rice at the village crossroads where she will go to pick up the rice one grain at a time. There is a calypso that goes suck meh soucouyant suck meh.

Mama Malade is the spirit of a woman who died during childbirth. She roams the night looking for victims to take to the ‘other side’.  She lures her victims during the night when it is extremely quiet and only the sounds of crickets may be heard.  She comes to the windows of her victims and cries like a child causing the unsuspecting victim to look out of her window to see where the sound was coming from. It is rumored that anyone who looked out the window will be taken away to the other side never to be seen again.

Moongazers are male and have been reported to be 100 feet tall with the ability to stand over a roadway with one leg on either side of the street.  Their faces are never seen and they terrorize the villagers who try to pass underneath/between their legs by quickly bringing their legs together and crushing the unsuspecting victim. 

Jumbies are evil spirits that are about day and night. They are considered to be mischievous beings and are particularly interested in babies.  Most Trinidadians place ‘jets’ and ‘acifecitur” (a nasty smelling compound) in little cloth wraps that are pinned to the baby’s clothing.  These objects ward off evil and are especially effective against jumbies – so they say!

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