Tag Archives: caribbean

Douens

Description: They are ghosts of children who reside within the forest that lure children by calling out their names and having them follow their footsteps. The children eventually become lost and become Douens themselves.

Background: The informant has a prevalent interest in urban legends and found this story while searching for ghost stories and urban legends.

Transcript: 

DT: One of my favorite ones I’ve looked up cause I like scary urban legend stuff is Douens, which are spirits of kids whose feet are on backwards. They call out other kids’ names if they are in the forest and make them follow in their footsteps, which make the kids become lost and eventually turn into Douens. Basically it’s a story they told kids to stop them from going into the forest alone.

Me: From where did the urban legend come from?

DT: I think it’s Caribbean. From Tobago I believe. They’re basically like imps and fuck with people pretty much, so there’s different versions of them on what they do or stories rather.

My thoughts: 

Ghost children are certainly a common occurrence across many types of folklore. While a terrible reality, children do die. Douens are interesting takes on those that disappear within the forest.   Despite the simplicity, I see a lot of space of nuance. Unlike most monsters, who lure children for the sake of eating them or something similar, Douens are likely searching for companionship, luring children to transform them into one of their own. So while Douens are likely created for children to fear, there could be another perspective where they can be sympathized with as they are likely once children themselves.

The Soucouyant

BACKGROUND: My informant, OR, was born in the US. Her parents are both immigrants from Grenada. OR is always joking about Carribeans being a very superstitious people and this piece is just one story out of the many that OR told me about her family’s beliefs. This story in particular stood out to OR because her parents always jokingly warn her brother to watch out for seductive soucouyants. 

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss the role of superstition in Caribbean culture. 

OR: Okay. So basically, um, the soucouyant is kind of like half vampire, half fireball. 

Me: Fireball?

OR: She’s like a blood-sucking hag, essentially. I think other islands literally just call her the hag. She sucks your blood and… okay, she usually appears like, um, either a woman or like a reeeally sexy woman during the day. And then at night, she peels off her skin and puts it in a mortar and pestle and grinds it up. (laughs) And then she turns into a literal fireball and like runs around the sky at night and she can enter your home through like a keyhole or like any crevices, or if you like leave the windows cracked. So you gotta close the windows. And um, they say, if you want her to not come in your house, you have to drop, um, like rice outside your house and you have to drop a lot because basically, she will be counting the rice until morning. I think the Haitians actually call it the Lougarou, but in Grenada, Lugar is actually a totally different thing.

THOUGHTS: I really like this story for its specificity. The concept of a half-vampire half-hag half-skinless witch creature really says a lot about the specific fears and taboos of this community. The fact that this story was aimed at OR’s brother and not OR points to the fact that the Caribbean community may fear the control that women can possess over men. OR mentioned that the story is a variation of the European version of a vampire so I think the gender swap is notable in examing the significance of this story in Caribbean culture.

For another version of this legend, see: Simpson, George Eaton. “Loup Garou and Loa Tales from Northern Haiti.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 55, no. 218, 1942, pp. 219–227. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/535864.

Sweeping Over Feet

BACKGROUND: My informant, OR, was born in the US. Her parents are both immigrants from Grenada. OR often talks about how superstitious her Caribbean family is and this piece is one example out of our long conversation about how her family’s beliefs dominate how they behave. 

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss the role of superstition in Caribbean culture. 

OR: This other one actually happened the other day. I was sweeping the floor of um, the living room and my mom was sitting on the couch and I accidentally swept over her feet. Like, my family believes that if you sweep over someone’s feet then they’ll never get married. So my mom got really mad at me and said that she’ll never marry —

Me: (laughs) Isn’t your mom married? Like what happened to your dad?

OR: I guess if something happened to my dad (laughs) I guess she would have no plan b.

THOUGHTS: The thing that is the most interesting to me about this superstition is the fact that despite being exempt from the superstition, OR’s mom still abided by it. With nothing to fear from the superstition, having already been married, it gives off the impression that OR’s mom is superstitious just to be superstitious. Or rather that superstition is so ingrained in Caribbean culture that the preservation of its importance is more significant than the meaning itself.

Whistling at night

BACKGROUND: My informant, OR, was born in the US. Her parents are both immigrants from Grenada. OR often talks about how superstitious her Caribbean family is and this piece is one example out of our long conversation about how her family’s beliefs dominate how they behave. 

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss the role of superstition in Caribbean culture.

OR: This one, I don’t really know if there’s a story to this or something but we aren’t supposed to whistle at night.

Me: Or…?

OR: Or I guess a ghost will get mad? Or an evil spirit? Like, this one I don’t know all the details but my mom told me not to do this either.

THOUGHTS: This is interesting to me because throughout my collection I spoke to a few other people who brought up the “don’t whistle at night” belief but with different meanings. In OR’s case, whistling at night disturbs restless spirits whereas when I talked to my friend from Ecuador, whistling at night meant signaling for an evil spirit to follow you home. This seems to be the resounding belief in many cultures, that whistling at night attracts evil.

Lajabless

BACKGROUND: My informant, OR, was born in the US. Her parents are both immigrants from Grenada. OR is always joking about Carribeans being a very superstitious people and this piece is just one story out of the many that OR told me about her family’s beliefs. OR had previously told me about soucouyants and this story is in a similar vein, depicting a seductive, villainous female/creature character.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss the role of superstition in Caribbean culture. 

OR: There’s also, um, Lajabless, which, I don’t even know how this is f-cking spelled. I think it comes from the French, like La Diablesse, like a female devil. She’s got — usually in like depiction the of her she’s got like this wide flopping, brim hat. One of her feet is normal, but I think the other one is like a goat hoof or a horse hoof or like a… 

Me: She’s got a hoof.

OR: (laughs) Yeah she’s got a hoof. And the story is like, it’s mostly like an old wives’ text. The story is like some drunk asshole goes at night and sees this lady with her floppy brim hat and her skirt (which is covering her hoof) and flirts with her. Then Lajabless reveals her face under the hat and it’s like a skull face. (laughs) The — the guy’s like so freaked out. He like falls off of a cliff dies.

THOUGHTS: I think that a lot of cultures have a story of a female “seductress” leading to a man’s downfall. In biblical lore, Lilith is often portrayed as a sexual temptress. However, as the story goes, Lilith was only cast out of Eden because of her desire to be equal to Adam. I think a similar thread happens in this story. As OR tells it, Lajabless was minding her own business when a drunk and leery man makes an advance on her. It is interesting to me how women in legends are often painted as more villainous than they are when they are able to stand up to or retaliate against their male counterparts.