The Things That Fly in the Night: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circum-Caribbean and African Diaspora

By Giselle Liza Anatol | Go to book overview

PREFACE

I grew up in suburban New Jersey, but my dreams were haunted by the soucouyant. According to the stories shared by my Trinidadian aunts, mother, and grandmothers, the soucouyant seemed to be an ordinary old woman by day. Each night, however, she shed her skin, transformed herself into a ball of fire, flew about the community, and sucked the blood of her unsuspecting neighbors. Afterward, she would return home and slip back into her skin, and the repeated practice made her human form unusually wrinkled. She would not be able to re-don her outer membrane, however, if someone had discovered its secret hiding place and salted or peppered it; this would cause the soucouyant to perish in a frenzy of itching and burning. She could also be destroyed by scattering salt or rice on the doorsteps and windowsills of one’s house: she might be able to enter the premises to satisfy her bloodlust, but she was obligated to count each grain before leaving. At dawn, if neighbors caught her in the midst of her task, they would beat her to death or drop her into a vat of boiling tar or oil; some storytellers alleged that the rising sun would destroy the skinless incarnation of the creature. (In one instance—the version found in Edgar Mittelhölzer’s novel A Morning in Trinidad—the soucouyant has to bend down so low, for so long, to pick up every grain of rice, that she breaks her back and dies.) In any case, the phrase “soucouyant gon’ come for you” has chilled the blood of Trinidadian children for generations—and not just those who misbehaved: anyone’s blood could lure the soucouyant into their home.

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