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Mythology

Jumbies of the West Indies

Jumbies of the West Indies

The world of Caribbean folklore is filled with tales of creatures that lurk in the shadows, waiting to wreak havoc and make mischief. These creatures are known as jumbies and they manifest in all shapes and forms. The lore surrounding each jumbie is influenced by the mythologies from African, Indigenous, and Indian cultures and varies across the West Indies as they are passed down from generation to generation. But one thing remains constant: You DON’T want to cross their paths or the consequences could be dire!

Here is a quick look at 5 commonly known jumbies that will leave a chill down your spine!

1. Choorile

(Photo Credit: Guyana Inc.)

The Choorile (Churile) originates from Indian folklore in the Caribbean and is said to be the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth.

Some stories say she died while her child survived, and she roams the world at night searching for her baby to take with her to the spirit realm. Others say the unborn child died when she did and becomes a spirit as well.

With long, stringy hair covering her face, she is depicted either as carrying a crying fetus in her arms or wandering alone, tormented by the separation from her child. She haunts pregnant women, newborn babies and very young children and is said to cause miscarriages and death in infancy.

Similar to a Banshee, the Choorile is known for her high-pitched wailing as her grief consumes her and motivates her to strike against her victims.

2. Saapin

(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

Also stemming from Indo-Caribbean lore is the Saapin, also known as the Snake Woman. She is a beautiful woman who attracts many men and upon whose back lies the image of a cobra.

The Saapin is unknowingly the host of a serpentine jumbie as the image on her back houses the spirit of a snake. When the moon is full at midnight at a particular time of year, the cobra’s image comes alive yet remains unseen, bites the tongue of the man she is with and returns to its place on the woman’s back, an incident which both the man and the woman are completely unaware of.

The bite itself is not deadly but it bestows on its victim a fatal curse as he then dies from sudden illness or an accident the next day. The Saapin is known to be eternally sad as all her lovers die too soon, leaving her alone and none the wiser that she is the cause of their death. 

3. Massacooramaan

The Massacooramaan is of Guyanese origin with roots in African and Indigenous (Amerindian) folklore. He is a large, hairy creature, far bigger and taller than the average man, and has sharp teeth. Legend has it that this malevolent beast dwells in the interior lands of Guyana and lurks in its rivers, waiting to attack and capsize any boat he encounters. Woe betide anyone unlucky enough to be on a boat the Massacooramaan finds as he doesn’t hesitate to eat its occupants. Seafarers, beware!

4. Lagahoo

(Photo Credit: Listverse)

Hailing from Trinidad, the Lagahoo (Lugarhoo) is a shapeshifter that usually takes the form of a half-man and half-wolf, though he has the ability to change into any animal from the waist down.

Some stories say he has no head and one of his limbs is backwards. This creature roams at night, carries his own coffin upon his neck, and is often said to be covered in chains that drag loudly when he walks which can be heard from miles away. He is also known to carry a bunch of dried sticks and reeds that form something like a whip. It is believed that he is a bloodsucker and feeds off of animals like cows and goats. The Lagahoo has the ability to perform curses but can also offer protection, charms, and bush medicines.

5. Douen

(Photo Credit: Fabien Kong)

Jumbies can also take the form of children, one such type being the Douen, also of Trinidadian origin. A Douen is the spirit of a child who died before it was baptized and is thus destined to roam the earth for eternity. They are genderless, faceless creatures who wear huge mushroom-shaped straw hats atop their large heads and have feet that are turned backwards. Douens are often seen playing in forests and are known to approach children and lure them into the forests where the children are left alone, lost and abandoned forever.


References:

Indian Caribbean Folklore Spirits

Caribbean Folklore 

A Study Into Jumbies

Jumbees of Guyana 

Trinidad & Tobago Folklore 

Myth: The Churile 

Trini Folklore: Douen

Lugarhoo | Mythology & Folklore

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Miranda is an Indo-Guyanese writer, director, theatrical performance artist, and storyteller who combines art and activism to increase representation and visibility for the Indo-Caribbean and Indentured Indian diasporas. An avid brown geek, she originated the cosplay character “Bollywood Bev” in homage to Star Trek’s Dr. Beverly Crusher and as a personal endeavour to advocate for inclusion and representation in the Trek franchise and other media. Miranda is also passionate about mental health and hopes to help destigmatize it in brown communities through her work. You can learn more about Miranda at mirandarachel.com.

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