Ol’ Higue

oldhigue

The “Ol’ Higue” of Caribbean folk lore derives from numerous oral traditions of demonic spirits. The Ol’ Higue is depicted as an elderly man or woman who, upon shedding its human skin, is revealed to be a glowing, animated ball of light. Female variants are said to drink the blood of children, while the male variants prey primarily on adults. Waking up with black and blue marks on one’s skin is said to be a sign that you’ve been visited by Ol’ Higue overnight. Tradition dictates that to ward them off, one must leave a bag or a bowl of rice before one’s door before bed.

Wordsworth McAndrew, a Guyanese poet, wrote a poem about the demon entitled Ol’ Higue:

Ol’ woman wid de wrinkled skin,
Leh de ol’ higue wuk begin.
Put on you fiery disguise,
Ol’ woman wid de weary eyes
Shed you swizzly skin.

Ball o’ fire, raise up high
Raise up till you touch de sky.
Land ‘pon top somebody roof
Tr’ipse in through de keyhole – poof!
Open you ol’ higue eye.

Find de baby where ‘e lie
Change back faster than de eye.
Find de baby, lif de sheet,
Mek de puncture wid you teet’,
Suck de baby dry.

Before ‘e wake an’ start to cry
Change back fast, an’ out you fly.
Find de goobie wid you skin
Mek de semidodge, then – in!
Grin you ol’ higue grin.

In you dutty powder gown
Next day schoolchildren flock you round.
“Ol’ higue, ol’ higue!” dey hollerin’ out
Tek it easy, hold you mout’
Doan leh dem find you out.

Dey gwine mark up wid a chalk
Everywhere wheh you got to walk
You bridge, you door, you jealousie
But cross de marks an’ leh dem see
Else dey might spread de talk.

Fly across dis window sill,
Why dis baby lyin’ so still?
Lif’ de sheet like how you does do,
Oh God! Dis baby nightgown blue!
Run fo’ de window sill!

Woman you gwine run or not?
Doan mind de rice near to de cot.
De smell o’ asafoetida
Like um tek effect ‘pon you.
You wan’ get kyetch or what?

But now is too late for advice,
‘Cause you done start to count de rice
An’ if you only drop one grain
You must begin it all again.
But you gwine count in vain.

Whuh ah tell you?

Day done, light an’ rice still mountin’
Till dey wake an’ kyetch you countin’
An’ pick up de big fat cabbage broom
An’ beat you all around de room.
Is now you should start countin’

Whaxen! Whaxen! Whaxen! Plai!
You gwine pay fo’ you sins befo’ you die.
Lash she all across she head
You suck me baby till um dead?
Whaxen! Whaxen! Plai!

You feel de manicole ‘cross you hip?
Beat she till blood start to drip.
“Ow me God! You bruk me hip!
Done now, nuh? Allyou done!”

Is whuh you sayin’ deh, you witch?
Done? Look, all you beat de bitch.
Whaxen! Whaxen! Pladai! Plai!
Die, you witch you. Die.
Whaxen! Whaxen! Plai!

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