Passed down through oral tradition from generation to generation, stories about mythical creatures are an important part of Caribbean culture. The characters in Caribbean tales vary from wise and kind to downright scary! Here are 4 spine-chilling creatures from Caribbean folklore:
1. The Heartman
Prevalent in tales from Barbados, the heartman mercilessly carves out people’s hearts. Naughty children are usually his main culprits. In some versions, he gives the hearts over to the devil, in others, he steals them because he has no heart of his own. Also called the BlackHeart man, this evil character lures children into his black hearse using candy. Here he appears in a modern Bajan comic book.
2. La Diablesse
This devilish women appears in stories from many Caribbean countries, including Trinidad & Tobago, Dominica, and St. Lucia. She appears beautiful from far away, but hides a horrible calf foot under her long dress. Her hideous face is covered by an enormous hat. She stands at the roadside and tries to entice travelers, especially men, into following her into the forest, where she then vanishes. Her victims wander hopelessly through the forest, never making their way back home. It is said that you can escape her spell only by turning your clothes inside out and walking home backwards.
3. The Rolling Cow/Calf
This frightening bovine is one of the strangest creatures in Caribbean folklore. The ghost of a cruel, wicked butcher, it appears in Jamaican stories as a giant cow that shoots fire from its nostrils and drags chains behind it. It rolls along the hills, terrorizing its victims and chasing them through the darkness.
This creature is classified as a duppy in Caribbean folklore, which means spirit or ghost. There are many versions as to how to stop a rolling calf. One is to throw rice at it, which it may stop and count. Another is to whip it with the left hand. Also, it’s afraid of light, as duppies usually are.
Interestingly, stories of the rolling calf emerged from rural areas of Jamaica that had few light sources. One theory as to where the character came from is that African slaves combined African superstitions with instances of travelers being frightened by wandering cows late at night on dark streets.
Of all the scary creatures from Caribbean folklore, this one may be the most bizarre. The soucouyant is a cross between a witch, a vampire, and a shapeshifter. By day, she’s an elderly woman who lives down the street. By night, she sheds her skin and buries it. Then she flies away into the night, appearing as a ball of fire that can slip through keyholes and under doors. Once she finds a victim, she sucks its blood through its arms and legs and wears its skin as if its a new cloak. The only way to defeat her is to find her buried skin and rub salt into it so that it is too painful for her to wear in the morning.
There are many versions and variations of the soucouyant character in Caribbean countries. It appears in Dominica, St. Lucian, Trinidadian, and Guadeloupean folklore. It is known as Lougarou in Haiti, and as Hag in the Bahamas. In addition, stories about it have been told in Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, and other Caribbean countries.
Main image credit: RyanJamesArt
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