Indo-Caribbean folklore spirits

the cover page of the book

  • By Megha Sharma

Here is a video from the distinguished lecture series of Dr Kumar Mahabir. He is a renowned Anthropologist and is a professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT). He has shared useful insights into the Indo-Caribbean Folklore spirits. Through the video, he discusses his book “Indian Caribbean Folklore Spirits” which provides details of the presence of a brood of spirits believed to roam the Caribbean since the abolition of slavery.” The book also discusses five kinds of spirits acknowledged in the East India.

The Anthropologist also presents a catalogue of works, on spirits and supernatural beings. Herein, he talks about the well-known movie “Harry potter” (An adaptation of the book series by J.K rowling), “the chronicles of Narnia” ( by C.S Lewis). Both the movies are given a mystical touch with a fantastic storyline having unusual characters like Papa Bois and Mr. Tumnus respectively. He recounts other Hollywood productions with and an Indian movie “Hisss”, where the centeral character plays the role of a Nagin (female snake).

The video also discovers how Indian festival Holi and the West Indies festival Phagwa, celebrate the good over evil, where the king hiranyakashyap and his sister Holika are demons. Further, the Moko-Zombie ghost and the blue devils are also traditional synchronicities. The Moko Zombie ghost moves on stilts and the origins of the word being derived from the West Indies, meaning spirit, and the blue devil, a ghost with “tails, mask, horns and pitchfork”.

The most interesting part is when Dr Kumar acknowledges the five spirits of India and the Caribbean Sea. He provides how the book, “Indian Caribbean Folklore Spirits” registers the presence of five widely known spirits in both the lands. Namely, the Raa-khas, the Chu-rile, dee baba, the snake woman: Nagin and the Jinn: sheikh sadiq.

All these are different manifestations of evil spirits with the Raa-khas being a new born evil child, born as a consequence to its mother’s evil deeds. The child has to be killed as soon as it is born by the midwife (chaamine) to get rid of the risk of becoming a victim.

The Chu-rile is a ghost pf a died pregnant women, who has suicided in the time period. It moves around in white dress with unmanaged hair and is often considered to harm people as she grieves for her lost child whereas, the Saapin, is an adorable woman who charms many men. She is a sign of near death and also a cause of her husbands’ death. She is said to marry seven times and has a snake along her spine. It is surprising to note that this mystic incarnation is undiscovered by the woman herself. She undergoes this transformation on a full moon night (Purnima).

a manifestation of the chu-rail image
a manifestation of the chu-rail image

Besides the embodiment of evil, there are spirits invoked in order to achieve harmony within the lives. These spirits are known to eradicate ill-fortune from one’s life. The dee baba is one such example, known as the protector of the farming land, in the form of a black dog or a colonial slave master on a horse. The farmers perform a food giving ceremony to this spirit and take blessings for a good harvest.

the spirit of a jinn
the spirit of a jinn

The Jinn can be either a good or a bad spirit. It is an invisible form, however, can be invoked to visibility by humans. The evil ones tortures and victimizes its subjects while the angelic ones take the woes away and give livelihood.









Megha Sharma is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her masters in English and has also done her studies in German language. Twitter: @meghash06510344