Whereas Superstitions might be quite similar in different
countries, with variations, I have found the folklore to be rather typical
of each country where I have lived. Of course there will be influences
from other countries in Trinidad and Tobago, because of the cosmopolitan
nature of our population. People living here have their origins in Europe,
Africa and Asia. The folklore of Trinidad and Tobago is very colourful
and interesting. These folklore characters also appear in other Caribbean
countries, with variations.
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.
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 ? "
(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.
Bois, also called Maître Bois, lives in the forest and he
protects 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 is able to turn himself in an 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.
Trinidad and Tobago Folk Medicine
This article appeared in the (daily newspaper) in form of a letter to the Editor. Even though this
article is satyrical, the folk medicines mentioned were and are practised
in Trinidad and Tobago.
EDITOR: I have followed with great interest
the spate of articles on herbs, traditional medicine, natural medicine,
etc in the local Press. The last to catch my attention was Essiba Small's
" The tongue tells all about your health and herbs, used the Chinese
way, may hold the cure". I note that AIDS and tuberculosis can be cured
by Chinese herbal medicine and night blindness by sweet potato.
all due respect to the "barefoot doctors" launched in Mao's Cultural
Revolution, their disciples here and their traditional cures, may I
point out that our own medicine and herbal cures are at least as impressive
? Here are a few simple remedies. Preventative medicine is the best
in some instances.
avoid strokes or facial palsy, both of which twist the face - don't
sleep in the moonlight.
avoid flu, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis - cover your head from dew,
don't put your hand in water after ironing or stand near an open fridge.
string of jets around a baby's hand protects against gastro enteritis.
If the baby does get it, a good licking with a branch of sweetbroom
dipped in holy water does the trick.
pneumonia, colds, bronchitis, tuberculosis- Boil and drink Bors canoe.
antibiotics by lime bud tea. Excellent for fevers even if due to infection.
uninary blockages try bachelor button.
diarrhoea, young guava leaves. If it continues try a green guava.
jaundice - rice water.
high blood pressure there is green pawpaw or mature breadfruit leaves.
diabetes, corailli is the answer. Don't constackle yourself with expensive
anemia and leukemia there is green fig and callaloo.
a sore caused by cancer - tie on a hunk of raw meat.
Syphilis boil together sensitive plant, maya chapelle, coconut root,
gully root and water cane in a gallon of water. It should make three
or pus in your eye ? Two drops of the first morning's milk of a nursing
of the world does wonders for eye, nose, throat or teeth complaints.
Boil, squeeze some of the juice on the affected areas. Ends all need
for expensive eye doctors or dentists. Eliminates cataracts.
boils and sores nothing better than pepper leaf and soft candle. Some
people add a clove. If it persists try a lick from a dog. Quite biblical
arthritis make a poultice with wonder of the world and soft candle.
tetanus use cobwebs, or if you like hot soft candle and lime.
all sorts of headaches - rosemary, bayleaf, coconut oil, and don't forget
to tie your head tight, tight, tight. Tie head helps in most ailments.
Can be supplemented by twine - tight - around your big toe.
epileptic fits, hallucinations and schizophrenia are not cured by herbal
remedies. For these it is advisable to get someone expert in devil possession
or to keep a little holy water and an open scissors at hand. If you
suspect your neighbour as the source of problems, an egg ( preferably
a duck's egg ) buried in her/his garden works wonders.
are some banal musts. Clean the body with your first morning pee, keep
an empty glass to tempt out stomach gas the right place, keep lignum vitae
for anything not listed here, take a daily cooling with shining bush tea
( it restores the Yin and Yang immediately), keep a cocoyea broom ready
and don't, but don't eat from everyone. If ist still does not work, don't
worry. It did not work in the Middle Ages.
In China, India, Africa, it doesn't work either. People are likely to
die there earlier than in those countries using modern ( excuse me, Western
Simple, eh ? If we work hard enough traditional medicine will solve the
population problem, and save a beleaguered government most of the budget
now spent on health or training doctors. End of story for strikes, go
slows etc. Never mind China in her catching up is spending mints having
her doctors learn modern medicine. We will stick with barefoot doctors.
But why pay them shoe price ? Take my advice. Arm yourself with a good
head tie, a piece of twine for your toe, a piece of saltfish skin, a lucky
seed, some Bois Bande in case you fail, blue soap if you succeed and fear
pumpkin belly or worse, AIDS, a crocus bag and a cutlass and make for
the nearest weed patch.
This way we don't need Mount Hope, x-rays, pharmacies, blood tests, cat
scans, and we don't have to pay the alternative and natural medicine boys
or girls a single dollar either.