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Folklore

Dominica has a rich folklore that comes from its Creole history that is a blend of the colonial and indigenous cultures. Here are a few of the figures of Dominica’s foklore:

Diabless: The Diabless is a female character who is legendary for her evil persona. In fact, in French her name means “She-devil.” Her appearance is beautiful on the exterior, and it is said that she appears to men who travel alone on lonely forest paths by moonlight. Her one distinguishing feature would be her one cloven hoof foot. It is said that the Diabless seduces her victims into the woods with her beauty and then causes them either to die or go crazy when she turns into a furious old hag.

 

Jombie: This is not a character, but rather a spirit – an evil one. The name of this evil spirit comes from a descendent of the Bantu language, and was brought to Dominica from Africa through a number of Central and West African language branches. The name is a mixture of “God” and “Devil”, and highlights the struggle for balance between these two forces. The struggle is celebrated through songs and other religious practices. Jombie, for example, could affect your health or your fortune. The Jombie also manifests in the form of a “boogeyman” in stories that are meant to frighten children to obey rules and orders.

 

Soucouyan:  Soucouyan is a Dominican spirit in folklore tales. A variation of the West African nocturnal forest spirits, the soucouyan takes the form of a woman who sheds her skin at night to become a ball of fire that flies around looking for animals and people whose blood she then sucks. It is said that this spirit may be found in the branches of the Silk Cotton or Formager Trees. The way to fight off this demon is by finding the abandoned skin and rubbing it with salt, because then it will be difficult for the spirit to put it back on when she returns to it. The soucouyan may also be identified by sores on her legs that are incurable from injuries while sucking blood. To delay the spirit from finding her skin, a calabash of peas (large gourd-like plant on a vine) may be placed by the skin, because she will be forced to count the peas before she puts her skin back on to become a human once again. If the sun rises before she puts her skin on than she may be caught. It has also been recorded that the Dominicans believed that the “dancing lights” they believed to be soucouyans were in fact swarms of fireflies.

 

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Updated: 4 April 2008