Folklore



Superstitions and Folklore Characters in Trinidad & Tobago well be similar to other Caribbean countries with slight variations in name of the character.
 
 
Churile (pronounced Choo-ryle)

A churile is the spirit of a pregnant woman who died during childbirth, or committed suicide during pregnancy. She is depicted by long, unbound, disheveled hair streaming over her face. Dressed in white, she carries her fetus in her arms. In the dead of the night, she wails sorrowfully as her unborn child cries for milk like a cat.

A churile is in eternal grief since she lost her child. A churile's victim is a pregnant woman, who she follows and possesses out of envy. Her attacks on women take the form of miscarriages, even among those in her former household. A churile also attacks her former husband through the onset of sickness. She would seek revenge if he had abused her during their marriage, and if he had neglected or neglects the children she had borne for him when she was human.
 
Dee Baba (pronounced Dee Bah-bah)

Dee Baba is perceived as the protector of the land from dangerous forces. Some sources state that he takes the form of a white man on a black horse. This man resembles a colonial slave master who rides on a horse through a sugarcane plantation. He has a whip in one hand and a chain in the other. Other sources claim that Dee Baba takes the form of either a black rooster or a black dog.

The spirit of Dee Baba is fed once a year (usually in January) or periodically. He is given biscuits (salted crackers), salted butter, white rum, lit cigarettes and a burning deya (clay lamp) or candle on a sohari leaf (similar to a banana leaf) in the bushes. This type of offering is called sadaa (vegetarian). Non-vegetarian devotees offer canned sardines or a black cock (rooster), or a goat or a hog (pig). This type of offering is called satwick (non-vegetarian).

These offerings are made mainly by farmers who would pray to reap an abundant harvest and prevent thieves from stealing their crops. Property owners also make offerings to Dee Baba to protect their house and land from envious neighbours and competing relatives. Others make sacrifices to Dee Baba to obtain health and happiness.
 
Douens

Douens (Dwens) are the souls of children who have died before they were baptized. They are doomed to roam the earth forever. They are seen playing in forests and near rivers and the odd thing about them is that they have no faces and their feet are turned backwards. They may approach children and lead them astray in the forest until they are lost, or they may come near people's houses at night, crying and whimpering.

Old people talk: To prevent the Douens from calling your children into the forest at dusk, never shout their names in open places, as the Duennes will take their names, call them and lure them away.
 
Duppies

Duppies are ghosts that roam the earth at night. It is said that to keep duppies out of your house you must either sprinkle salt or rice grains all around the house; as the duppy must first count each individual grain before entering. By which time the sun will have arisen and they must then return to the spirit world.
 
Gang Gang Sara

Gang Gang Sara (Tobago Folklore by Alice & Gerard Besson) - The legend of Gang Gang Sara, the African witch of Golden Lane, has its origins in the latter half of the 18th century. On a stormy night she was blown from her home in Africa across the sea to Tobago and landed quite safely at the village of Les Coteaux. From there she journeyed to Golden Lane in search of her family who had long ago been transported there. She lived to a great age and is remembered for her wisdom and kindness. She became the loving wife of Tom, whom legend says she had known as a child in her native Africa. She lived to a great age and is remembered for her wisdom. After her Tom had died, wishing to return to her native land, she climbed a great silk cotton tree and tried to fly, not knowing that she had lost the art of flight as a result of having eaten salt. To this day the names of Tom and Sara can be seen inscribed upon the head stones of their graves where they have lain side by side for close upon two hundred years.
 
Jacakalantan

The Jacakalantan is said to be a mysterious light that appears and attracts people, misleading the unwary into desolate areas far away from their intended destinations. And then vanishes.
 
Jumbies (Ghosts/Phantoms)

Jumbies are mischievous or malevolent spirit or creature.
 
La Diablesse

La Diablesse (Lajables), the Devil Woman, roames at night. She has eyes like burning coals and a face resembling that of a corpse, but hides it under a beautiful wide-brimmed hat and a veil over her face. She is dressed exquisitely in a blouse with puffy sleeves and long, petticoated, skirts. She has one cloven foot, which she tries to hide under her long skirts. She turns up at village dances, where she is immediately disliked by the women present, but she utterly charms the men and then asks one of them to take her home. He follows her, totally under her spell. She leads him deep into the woods and then suddenly she disappears. Unable to find his way home, the poor fellow stumbles around in the dark wood until he either falls into a ravine or a river to his death or gets attacked by wild hogs.

Old people talk: If you feel you may encounter a La Diablesse on your way home, take off all your clothes, turn them inside out and put them on again, and this will surely protect you from a La Diablesse.
 
Lugarhoo

A Lugarhoo (Lagahoo or Loup Garou) is a person who can change themselves into a half animal from the torso down; and can also alter its size from tiny to very large in an instant. This is done at night as it rattles and drags chains and carries in its hand a whip-like bunch of dried sticks and reeds.

Old people talk: If you want to see a lugarhoo and not be seen by it, take some yampee from the corner of a dog's eye, put it in your eye and peep out of a key hole at 12 midnight.
 
Mama Glow or Mama Dlo or Mama Dglo

"Mama Glow" or "Mama Dlo" or "Mama Dglo" whose name is derived from the French "maman de l' eau" which means "mother of the water" is one of the lesser known personalities of Trinidad and Tobago folklore. A half woman, half snake with long flowing hairwhich she combs constantly. Her upper torso is a naked, beautiful woman, the lower part coils into a large form of an anaconda snake that is hidden beneath the water. She is sometimes thought to be the lover of Papa Bois, and old hunters tell stories of coming upon them in the 'High Woods'. They also tell of hearing a loud, cracking sound which is said to be the sound made by her tail as she snaps it on the surface of a mountain pool or a still lagoon. Mortal men who commit crimes against the forest, like burning down trees or indiscriminately putting animals to death or fouling the rivers could find themselves married to her for life, both this one and the one to follow. Sometimes she takes the form of a beautiful woman 'singing silent songs on still afternoons, sitting at the water's edge in the sunlight, lingering for a golden moment, a flash of green - gone. Nothing but a big Morte Bleu, rising in the sun beams.

Old people talk: "Did you see a fish jump?" "Yes, but it did not go back in again!" 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.
 
Mermaids and Fairymaids

Mermaids and Fairymaids (Tobago Folklore) - There be mermaids here and Leviathan, great denizens of the deep. Amongst the swirling currents and white capped blue-green waters, just where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, close by St. Giles and near to Misty Marble Island, past Anse Gouleme and Anse Brisant, towards the Bird of Paradise Island and down the coast past Speyside to Fat Hog Bay, it is remembered from long ago that this was where the mermaids came to play.

Tobago mermaids are male and live in the deep, deep sea. They mate with the fairy maids of the rivers and the secret mountain pools. Riding upon the crest of waves, they are handsome men like kings of old or warriors of long ago, beplumed and richly garbed. They may grant a wish, transform mediocrity into genius and confer wealth and power. Sometimes the water people seek relationships with mortals. Some men are particularly attractive to the fairy maids, especially men with smooth skin.

Fairymaids are said to be beautiful with long lush hair and one tiny foot in the shape of a deer's hoof, she may use her power to "turn" a man's head. She may steal his shadow and leave him quite demented. In which case, accompanied by friends and family and with the help of a "workman", he must go to the river and address the water pleading for the restoration of his lost shadow. This done, he must leave the water's edge and not look back. Fairymaids may be found in caves behind waterfalls or beneath certain bridges where the river runs deep and swift. In days gone by, they were seen near certain water wheels. To discontinue a relationship with a fairy queen, offerings of two pairs of shoes must be made. The first must be burnt on the beach, the fairymaid will then rise out of the water and ask if she is to be paid for past services. The answer must be "nothing but this pair of shoes". The second must then be thrown into the waves.
 
Papa Bois

Papa Bois, also called Maitre Bois, lives in the forest and he is the father or protector of the animals that live there. He is often seen by hunters and other people who live near the forest. He gets animals out of snares and treats sick animals at his dwelling. He is an old man who is very hairy, like an animal and usually is only dressed in a pair of ragged trousers with a bamboo horn hanging from his belt. He can turn himself into the form of a large stag or any other animal as well to be able to observe the hunters unnoticed. He is usually very kind, but can be dangerous when crossed. He might even cast a spell on a bad hunter and turn him into a wild hog.
 
Silk Cotton Trees

Silk Cotton trees are regarded with a kind of awed reverance and fear. These are huge trees. It is reported to be very difficult to be able to find someone who will cut down a silk cotton tree as they are said to be the home of spirits and duppies. To cut it down is to free them to roam the earth.
 
Soucouyant

The Soucouyant (Sukuya), also called Old Hag, is a supernatural being who has made a pact with the devil to be able to change herself into all kinds of different forms. At night she sheds her human skin and changes into a ball of fire or any kind of animal and casts spells on people to turn them into animals also, but she has to slip back into that skin before dawn breaks and the cock crows, otherwise she will not be able to get back into it. So it may happen, that, when people suspect that an old woman neighbour of theirs is, in fact, a soucouyant, they may trick her by going to her house at night and destroying the skin she left behind by putting salt on it so that it will shrink and she will not be able to get back into it and thus die. In Trinidad, if somebody walks around with a "hicky" (soukie) on his neck, he may get remarks from his friends like: " Eh, Eh, Soucoyant suck yuh or wha ? "

Old people talk: If you wish to discover who the Soucouyant in your village is empty 100 lbs of rice at the village crossroads where she will be compelled to pick them up, one grain at a time - that is how you'll know the Soucouyant.
 
Wawa Douglas

A Tobago folklore legend is 'believed to possess supernatural powers'
 
Witchdoctors

Witchdoctors, or as they are known in Trinidad, Obeah men, are said to abound. It is said that you can visit one to have any manner of spell performed to grant your desires. It is thought that curses are powerful and can be cast by anyone. Even your neighbour may put the evil eye or MalYeux(Maljo) on you. Any discomfort, hardship or illness may be attributed to this. It can supposedly be warded off by placing blue bottles around your property and by wearing bracelets or anklets made of Jumbie beads.(a little black and red bead found growing on certain bushes.)





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