Part three concludes this series on the Folklore of Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure that someone will note something that was missed and I welcome any corrections and additions that visitors believe should be included.
Duppies are rumored to be ghosts that roam the earth at nights. There isn’t much information available about these characters and, to be honest, I have never heard the name mentioned as a child growing up in Trinidad. However, people that I have spoken too about these creatures of the night swear that they do exist. It has been said that to protect oneself from Duppies that you should sprinkle salt or rice around your house and just as the Soucouyant does the Duppy must count the grains before creating any trouble. Please note that you must put enough salt or rice to have the Duppy counting the grains all night. The hope is that sunlight will meet the Duppy counting and it will have to run and hide until night comes again where it will have to start the count all over again. One sure method to prevent Duppies from following you home is to turn around three times at your gate to confuse the Duppy and prevent it from following you inside. Just remember that Duppies don’t light (any kind of light) so keep the porch light on, they don’t like salt or water so leave a bowl of water at your door and some salted cook food. Well at least you tried to feed and quench the Duppy’s thirst … they just might leave you alone.
Gang Gang Sara is a Tobago story that has some ‘truth’ to it … don’t get at me my Tobagonians brothers and sisters. The legend of Gang Gang Sara, the witch of Golden Lane, started in Africa on a very stormy night when she was blown across the Ocean to the village of Le Coteaux. The story stated that she ended up at Golden Lane where she reunited with her family from Africa (brought to Tobago previously, method of conveyance unknown. It is at Golden Lane that she found the love of her life and his name was Tom. She lived happily with Tom and helped the village people in countless ways. She is remembered to this day for her wisdom and kindness. However, when Tom died she became lonely and wished to return to Africa. As a result, she went to the Silk Cotton tree and climbed to the top to launch off for her flight home. Unfortunately because she lived on a diet of salted food she did not realize that she had lost her ability to fly and fell to her death. She was laid to rest next to her beloved Tom with their names, Tom and Sara, carved into the head stones of their graves. These headstones are now over two hundred years old. So whenever you go to Tobago for a holiday ask about Gang Gang Sara and seek out the graves of Tom and Sara to pay your respects.
Jackalantan is a confusion maker and appears at nights as a bright light. If you’re curious enough and follow the light it will lead you to a place that is unknown to you then disappear as if it never existed. You are left in a state of confusion.
Mermaids and Fairy maids have been sighted through the Caribbean. I have a friend from Haiti who swears that he saw a mermaid who tried to lure him into the ocean. He tells of a story where the mermaid took a man’s son away by sweeping him off a rock only to return the boy years later at the very same place. The boy did not age one day but that is another story. The Mermaids of Tobago are male and live in the deep part of the ocean. The leave the ocean and come to the rivers to mate with the Fairy maids. The Fairy maids are rumored to exist in caves and waterfalls. Sometimes the Dairymaids mate with humans and are partial to men with smooth skin. There is a shoe ritual that is used to discontinue the relationship with the Fairy maid. One pair is burnt on the beach that will cause the Dairymaid to appear and ask for payment for services rendered. When that happens your response should be, “nothing but a pair of shoes” after which the shoes are thrown into the ocean. This should put an end to the relationship. However, most hot blooded Trinis (a citizen or Trinidad and Tobago) may never want to stop the party.
The Silk Cotton Tree is at the source of most legends. That is the source of the jumbies and spirts. It has been said that if the Silk Cotton tree is cut down that all the jumbies and Duppies that are housed inside will be released to create more mischief. No one will knowingly or willfully cut down the Silk Cotton tree.
The Obeah Man (Witch doctor) is in good supply in Trinidad. Just about anyone can tell you where you can go to get a bush bath or to get a reading. I remember when I was young my mother was convinced that someone cast a spell on me. I was encouraged to go to Curepe near the junction where I entered a home and was taken to the back into an open space with a small shed. My sister accompanied me that day. We entered the room where we saw candles or different colors lighted with an old gentleman seated with another person. There was white rum (or babash) available for the ritual. After all was said and done and I had my reading I was taken to an outside bath house where I was given a bucket of cold water with red lavender added and asked to wash my body with the water. I undressed and did as I was told. On my way home I remember telling my sister how stupid I felt for participating in the ceremony. My sister simply steups and told me that I don’t know any better. I guess the ritual did not work because to this day I don’t feel any different and in need of another Santiwah.