Oct 5, 2009

Soule Restaurant: Spirits of the Caribbean!

The name Halloween is a Catholic creation; a corruption of All Hallow’s Eve, which was originally celebrated by the Irish (or Celtics) in Ireland, the U.K. and France.
November 1st was their New Year, and they believed that on its Eve, the boundary between the world of the living and dead became blurred, allowing spirits to return to Earth.

The Celtics would extinguish their hearths to discourage spirits from visiting them and then don ghoulish costumes, parading around the neighborhood to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

During the potato famine, Irish immigrants bought these customs to the U.S., and their celebration blended together with the Christian All Souls Day, where Christians would walk from village to village begging for Soul Cakes, creating the custom of trick or treat.

The current American adaptation of Halloween is typified by costumed fetes and scary tales of mythical or supernatural beings.

Trinidad’s folklore includes several creatures that fit nicely in the realm of America’s Halloween tales. However, these creatures are believed to truly exist by many in the islands.

One tragic figure of Caribbean lore is called a Douen (DWEN). It is said that Douen are spirits of children who died before being baptized. Their feet are turned backwards and they have no face. They wander near rivers and lure away young children, who see them only as another child, into the forest. Douens are believed to visit villages at night, whimpering for their mothers’ love.

The Soucouyant, (SOO-KIN-YA), is the chilling Caribbean version of the vampire. She has made a pact with the devil, and sheds her skin at night so she can travel in the form of a fireball in order to find someone from whom she can feed.

A Soucouyant’s bite looks like a bruise with two punctures in its center, and if you find a Soucouyant’s skin and pour course salt onto it, she will be unable to put it on again. She can then be killed by tossing her skinless body into boiling pitch or tar.

Another fearful creature is the La Diablesse (LA-JAH-BLESS). She is a beautiful woman with eyes of coal and the face of a corpse, which she hides beneath a wide-brimmed hat and veil. The La Diablesse attends dances dressed in beautiful ruffled blouses and full skirts to hide her one cloven foot.

She is always disliked by the women and loved by the men; she enchants them, luring them away into the woods where they subsequently fall into a ravine or river to their death.

Men found naked in graveyards or in a prickly tree are also said to be victims of the La Diablesse.

Papa Bois (PAPA BOY-AH) is the guardian of animals and trees. He will not tolerate killing for sport nor the destruction of the forest.

Papa Bois is muscular, with cloven hoofs and leaves growing from his beard, and if you should meet him, always be very polite. Greet him with “Bon jour, vieux Papa.”

Stay cool, and do not look at his feet... you’ll be fine.

Happy Halloween!

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