Soucouyant of Caribbean Folklore
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I find folklore fascinating. Some stories are passed on from generation to generation, never reaching outside the local area. Occasionally, a story makes it outside the locals and into other languages. Lucky for me, this seems to happen often with scary stories. This one comes from a place called the Caribbean, which may summon images of beautiful beaches.
Or, perhaps, a stunning sunset.
For others who may know a bit more than the curated vacation spots, it may summon a different type of image to mind.
See that? That's something you don't ever want to see in the Caribbean. Because if you do, you're probably about to die, as a soucouyant is stalking you.
About the Caribbean
The Caribbean—covering 106,300 square miles (275,400 square kilometers) with over 43 million people, 13 sovereign states, and more ethnic groups, religions, and languages than many other parts of the world of similar size. It is a true melting pot of ideas and traditions and has such a rich and sorted history that I could spend years writing an entire series about it.
Spelling & Pronunciation of Soucouyant
This particular fireball in the sky I mentioned above is well-known throughout the entire area, though it has a few different names depending on the locale. Soucouyant, soucriant, Loogaroo, Lougarou (not the werewolf/lycanthrope), Ole-Higue, Ole Haig, Asema, or simply "Hag." A blood-sucking hag.
For this article, I'll be referring to the name I learned about first. Soucouyant. It's hard to read about something that can't be pronounced, so here's a rough approximation for English speakers.
Sue+coo+yoan (yoan, as in the word "loan")
That'll get you about 80% of the way there, and the next time you find yourself in the Caribbean, you can use that word while screaming and running from the fireball in the sky that's bearing down on you.
What Is a Soucouyant?
The Caribbean's complex history melds together so many different cultures today. A word used in the Caribbean, "jumbie," is used to describe malevolent entities. Essentially, it is a person who is evil and will continue to be evil.
A soucouyant is a jumbie. She's a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her skin as if it were clothing, tosses it in a mortar, and changes into a fireball to fly across the starry sky and stalk her prey. You don't have to be outdoors to fall, victim, though. She is said to be able to enter your home through the smallest crevice, crack, keyhole, or any tiny opening, and she may enter.
She will enter your home and suck your blood. If she likes, she'll draw enough blood to kill you and possibly turn you into a soucouyant yourself or take your skin to assume your identity. The soucouyant takes your blood and uses it to barter with demons for more evil power.
How to Stop a Soucouyant
This is relatively straightforward, but first, you need to know a soucouyant is nearby and not die at her hands. Good luck with that.
It's possible that you can surround your home with grains of rice, which a soucouyant will have to painstakingly pick up one grain at a time before she can enter your home. This same tactic is said to work on many vampire-like creatures.
If you manage that not dying part, you need to track down where she has cast aside her skin at night. Place coarse salt in the mortar with her skin, and she will no longer be able to put it back on, therefore, perishing. Keep that skin, though (after you're sure she's dead) because it's pretty valuable when practicing black magic.
Relevant & Related
- Hear straight from locals from Trinbago Stories on YouTube — T&T Folklore Part 5: SOUCOUYANT
- Check out White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
- Several of Jean Rhys work contains references to soucouyant.
- The novel Demon's Dance by Keri Arthur features a soucouyant.
- There's a short film entitled Soucouyant.