The soucouyant or soucriant in Dominica, St. Lucian, Trinidadian, Guadeloupean folklore (also known as Loogaroo or Lougarou) in Haiti, Louisiana, Grenada and elsewhere in the Caribbean or Ole-Higue (also Ole Haig) in Guyana and Jamaica or Asema in Suriname), in The Bahamas it is known as Hag. It is a kind of blood-sucking hag.
The soucouyant is a shapeshifting Caribbean folklore character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enter the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices and keyholes.
Soucouyants suck people’s blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning. If the soucouyant draws too much blood, it is believed that the victim will either die and become a soucouyant or perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices black magic. Soucouyants trade their victims’ blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.
To expose a soucouyant, one should heap rice around the house or at the village cross roads as the creature will be obligated to gather every grain, grain by grain (a herculean task to do before dawn) so that she can be caught in the act. To destroy her, coarse salt must be placed in the mortar containing her skin so she perishes, unable to put the skin back on. Belief in soucouyants is still preserved to an extent in Guyana, Suriname and some Caribbean islands, including Dominica, Haiti and Trinidad.
The skin of the soucouyant is considered valuable, and is used when practicing black magic.
Soucouyants belong to a class of spirits called jumbies. Some believe that soucouyants were brought to the Caribbean from European countries in the form of French vampire-myths. These beliefs intermingled with those of enslaved Africans.
In the French West Indies, specifically the island of Guadeloupe, and also in Suriname, the Soukougnan or Soukounian is a person able to shed his or her skin to turn into a vampiric fireball. In general these figures can be anyone, not only old women, although some affirm that only women could become Soukounian, because only female breasts could disguise the creature’s wings.
The term “Loogaroo” also used to describe the soucouyant, possibly comes from the French mythological creature called the Loup-garou, a type of werewolf; often confused with each other since they are pronounced the same. In Haiti, what would be considered a werewolf, is called jé-rouges (“red eyes”). As in Haiti, the Loogaroo is also common in Mauritian culture. In Suriname this creature is called “Asema”.
As the legend of the Soucouyant has been verbally passed down over the centuries, the story has changed with the passage of time, so that the Soucouyant is no longer exclusively described as an elderly woman.