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

NOTES

Introduction

1. For ease and simplicity, I will most often use the spelling/word “soucouyant” in this book to apply to the skin-shedding, blood-ingesting, female folk figure instead of listing the entire range of spellings (soucriant, sukugnan, etc.) and group of related terms (Ol’ Hige/Higue, hag, volant, loogaroo, etc.).

2. For a comparable discussion of the mythic, castrating vagina dentata, see Phyllis Roth’s assertion that in Bram Stoker’s Dracula “it is not surprising that the central anxiety of the novel is the fear of the devouring woman” (419).

3. See also Lawrence Levine’s historical study of how folk beliefs among enslaved populations in the United States served to invert conventionally depicted hierarchies of White and Black: “[In tales of the supernatural,] whites were neither omnipotent [n]or omniscient; there were things they did not know, forces they could not control, areas in which slaves could act with more knowledge and authority than their masters, ways in which the powers of the whites could be muted if not thwarted entirely” (73–74).

4. One exception to the rule can be found in a story that Gérard Besson shared with me in a 2014 telephone conversation; in it, a man is delighted to accompany two “ladies of the evening,” even though they happen to be soucouyants. He ends up getting abandoned, naked, in a tall tree when dawn approaches.

5. Trinidadian linguist Maureen Warner-Lewis also mentions the obayfo from Akan lore (although with slightly altered spelling), which she links to the Trinidadian soucouyant because of its skin-shedding abilities. However, Warner-Lewis traces the term “soucouyant” to the Fula/Soninke words sukunyadyo (male) and sukunya (female), both of which mean “man-eating witch” (177). Novelist Maryse Condé’s glossary to I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem proposes that the word soukougnan literally means “bloodsucker” and comes from “the African language of the Tukulör people, where it designates a spirit that attacks humans and drinks their blood like a vampire”

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