Sukuyan

Sukuyan

(pop culture)

The sukuyan was the vampire entity found on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. It resembled the loogaroo of Haiti, and in Trinidad the terms sukuyan and loogaroo (also pronounced nigawu or legawu) were often used interchangeably. It was also similar to the asema of Surinam and probably originated from the aziman, the vampire of the Fo people of Dahomey in West Africa. Melville Herskovits recorded a tale of a man in Trinidad who was informed that his late wife was a vampire. The deceased had not only taken the husband’s blood but was visiting the homes of his neighbors. She was discovered drugging his tea each night. One night he only pretended to drink his tea and:

… he went to bed, feigning to sleep. Then he heard her call

‘Kin, ‘kin, you no know me? ‘Kin, ‘kin, you no hear what your mistress say? ‘Kin, ‘kin, come off, come off!

She took off her skin and put it behind the large water barrel.

Twice she leaped and then went through the roof. As the man watched this, he said to himself, “My wife, that what she do?” The sky seemed afire, and the room was very light. He salted the inside of the skin thoroughly, then put it in place behind the water barrel where she had left it. When she returned before break of day, she tried to get back in her skin but could not because the salt burned her.

‘Kin, go on. ‘Kin, you no know me? ‘Kin, you no hear what your mistress say?

This was repeated three times, and each line was spoken three times.

“Skin squinch, he draw, can’t go on, he burning he.” So the woman put away the skin, wrapped herself up in a blanket, and lay down under the bed.

The husband reported her to the authorities, and she was seized and identified as a sukuyan. She was tried, condemned to death, and executed by being covered in tar and set afire.

The vampire was seen as a member of the community who lived during the day as an ordinary person but left its skin at night and, as a ball of light, traveled about looking for blood. People could be protected from an attack by a number of means. They could mark their doors and windows with crosses. A pair of scissors and a mirror fixed above the door inside of the house also offered protection. A broom placed upside down behind the door rendered a sukuyan powerless to do its work. If caught, the sukuyan usually underwent a transformation into one of several animals, and without its skin, would thus be unable to resume its human form.

Sources:

Herskovits, Melville J., and Frances S. Herskovits. Trinidad Village. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947. 351 pp. Rept. New York: Castle Books, 1964. 351 pp.
References in periodicals archive ?
If Smith's own perspective remained subordinated to the imperatives of patriarchy in Carriacou, his material reveals the stirrings of a social theory of sexuality, in which lesbianism figures as a form of sexual shape-shifting associated with the gendered witchcraft idioms of the lougarou and the sukuyan.
The first two are nocturnal shapeshifters; the male lougarou (from the French loup-garou, or werewolf) and the female sukuyan "who roam abroad at night and suck the blood from sleeping humans and beasts.
Like the nocturnal sukuyan or cloven-hoofed jablesse, she changes into something else.