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Growing up in the village the perks of running carefree and hearing scary stories that raised the hairs on your skin, looking back now was a treat. As children any story told about the old higue evoked fear of your blood being sucked or the risk of it if you dare forget what you’re supposed to do when you encounter this vampire. There is a list of requirements that have been observed ritualistically in homes that believe the old higue exists. Until today.
(The story as told by Dmitri Allicock for the Guyaneseonline blog)
The Old Higue (Hag) was and still remains part of Guyana’s folklore. This old soul or witch lives on the edge of the villages in the day and becomes a ball of fire at night, flying through the air and seeking out tender juicy babies to suck but will settle on feeding on any prey. Many homes have the ominous manicole broom that is made from the manicole palm over the doorway.
This special broom along with bowl of uncooked rice and bottles of various goodies are kept waiting on the old higue. It supposedly served as a deterrent or the broom to be used in beating the old higue when she is drawn to counting the rice grains. Many unfortunate elderly, sick and uncared for, were victimised as this practice is still alive in some of the villages and minds of Guyanese. I know some would challenge me and are convinced there are still old higue flying around at night.
Here is some Old Higue food for thought that has a flavor of Creole taste. Like I been saying, we got ‘old higue’ here too! But unlike them foreign vampires, them vampires here got a li’l more powers. Them vampires here can walk in sunlight. [Heh! From the way people describe them, I can think o’ some who fit the description o’ old higue, man and woman who does drain you ‘til you dry. I sure you know some too…]
Old higue is usually an old woman…sometimes a man. But for some reason, you only hear ‘bout woman old higue. She does live in the community just like me an’ you. But unlike me an’ you, she does slip out o’she skin on the night when she going on she li’ jaunt. Then she does hide the skin in a calabash gourd, and hang it in a tree in a dark, dark shade.
And hear the best part! She does spin she self into a ball o’ fire and flyyyy, fly and land on the top o’ the house where the brand new baby live. She does go in the house and suck the blood from the baby. The poor, sweet li’l thing does turn blue and die. Always, when folks see a baby turn blue and die, they does say is old higue suck it.
[I know somebody who insists that this is why he baby die. I ask he, “You see the old higue?” Nooo,” he say, “Me no see no old higue. But me baby been blue when he dead. So is old higue kill he.” Now, if you think them lil, li’l mosquitoes does vex me…imagine how an old higue can enrage villagers!
So, naturally, they does set traps to ketch the wretch. To ketch she you got to throw raw rice, that is, grains o’ uncooked rice, on the floor. When old higue enters the house she does turn into a person again…but without she skin, remember? As soon as she walks in the house, she does step on the raw rice. And as soon as she feel that rice she does have to count. If old higue only drop one grain o’ rice she got to start counting all over again.
So there she is, counting, counting, and counting ‘til morning come. And that is how the people does ketch she. Well!
Lawd help you if you is a old higue and you get ketch this way.
Them people does take they coconut broom…and BROOM! the old higue, beat and beat! And remember, she ain’t got no skin on, so you can imagine how it does burn.
Heh! In all them years that me hearing ‘bout old higue I never meet one single soul who ketch a old higue in they house, never ketch she counting rice, never ketch she to broom she.
[But this midday, when I cook rice for lunch, about five, six cooked grains fall down…and I ketch mehself picking them up from the floor. Help, help, what that mean?]
Every now and then, people does ‘suspect’ that some old lady [or man] is a old higue…and that is what the conversation was all about at Sunday night dinner.
The belief in the “Ole Higue” is very serious business for many. A mentally challenged woman on the East Coast at Bachelor’s Adventure was tragically beaten to death in April 2007 for being an “Ole Higue.” Some cultural beliefs and practices have serious ramifications.
In celebration of Guyana’s Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary (2016) the story of the Old Higue was made into a film, which was written and directed by Bonny Alves, and produced by Charmaine Blackman Alves. Watch here: –