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Trinidad and Tobago Folklore

  • Trinidad and Tobago Folk Medicine- To avoid Strokes - click here

  • Imps
  • Loup Garoo
  • Jumbies
  • Mama Dlo

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.

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.


The 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 ? "




Douennes (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.



Papa Bois

Papa 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 click here to go to their website (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.

To avoid strokes- don't sleep in the moonlight

by Marion O'Callaghan  - ©copyright

THE 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.

With 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.

  • To avoid strokes or facial palsy, both of which twist the face - don't sleep in the moonlight.
  • To 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.
  • A 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.
  • For pneumonia, colds, bronchitis, tuberculosis- Boil and drink Bors canoe.
  • Replace antibiotics by lime bud tea. Excellent for fevers even if due to infection.
  • For uninary blockages try bachelor button.
  • For diarrhoea, young guava leaves. If it continues try a green guava.
  • For jaundice - rice water.
  • For high blood pressure there is green pawpaw or mature breadfruit leaves.
  • For diabetes, corailli is the answer. Don't constackle yourself with expensive insuline.
  • For anemia and leukemia there is green fig and callaloo.
  • For a sore caused by cancer - tie on a hunk of raw meat.
  • For Syphilis boil together sensitive plant, maya chapelle, coconut root, gully root and water cane in a gallon of water. It should make three bottles.
  • Glaucoma or pus in your eye ? Two drops of the first morning's milk of a nursing mother.
  • Wonder 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.
  • For 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 and holistic.
  • For arthritis make a poultice with wonder of the world and soft candle.
  • For tetanus use cobwebs, or if you like hot soft candle and lime.
  • For 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.
  • Depression, 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.
There 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 ) medicine.

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.

Marion O'Callaghan



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