The link between Africa and the Caribbean is evident in the way of life of the people who share a common history. Through the link of the slave trade, blacks in the Caribbean do not fail to acknowledge how deeply connected they are to Africa as seen in their names and culture. Likewise, several Africans pay tribute to their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean who were taken from their homes to live new lives against their choice.
Several things went with them, the music, food, games, dance, dressing, hairstyles and folktales which over time became unique to the Caribbean due to their adaptation of Western cultures and the slow loss of more African originality.
One of the most popular folk characters in the Caribbean that traces back to Africa is the Soucouyant which is in the culture and tales of almost all Caribbean islands.
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Soucouyant is a female folklore character found in St Lucia, Jamaica, Dominica, Guyana, Suriname, Guadeloupe, Haiti, The Bahamas and several other countries. In most of them, she is known as Soucouyant while others refer to her as soucriante or Lougarou.
Soucouyant is a haggard old woman by day and a young woman by night who turns into a fireball blood-sucking creature by night and roams the night seeking for prey to feed her soul with.
In some islands, she does no harm to good people but rather seeks for people who have done evil by entering their homes to suck their blood. On other islands, she is an evil spirit who uses her charm to gain compassion, weaken her prey and suck their blood.
The vampire-like creature sucks blood from the soft parts of the body of her victims while they are in a trance or asleep and leaves blue marks on their body. At times, it is believed that victims of hers who lose a lot of blood could either die or become one of her kind having to obey her forever.
She is closely related to Bazil, the demon that lives in the cotton silk tree who she exchanges blood for life with. Although it is not said that the queen Soucouyant can be captured, her followers can be captured if one heaps rice all over and they are forced to collect grain after grain. If one is lucky to capture one, unrefined salt is thrown at her so that she perishes and leaves her skin which is very valuable and used in black magic.
Soucouyant has been closely linked to European folklore characters such as the Vampire, however, she is said to have arrived in the Caribbean by the 17th century when British enslavers brought slaves from West Africa and parts of East Africa.
In the culture of the Soninke people of Senegal and parts of Mali, the word links to a form of evil wizardry that is dark and mysterious, hunting for evil doers or victims. In many parts of West Africa, local and unrefined salt is sprinkled around to do away with evil spirits which links very much to how Soucouyant is dealt with in the Caribbean.
In Mauritanian folklore, the Loogaroo is very present and similar to its description in Haiti. It is also very similar to the Adze of Ewe folklore in Ghana and can be linked to Suriname’s version of Soucouyant called the Asema.
The folktale female-fireball character has been used to scare children and to keep them from doing bad things or face the wrath of being sucked to death. She has appeared in several books and movies.