Voodoo culture, both in Louisiana and Haiti, is full of stories and folktales. In fact it was through the oral tradition that all traditional African religions were able to survive under brutal conditions in the Caribbean during colonial times. The Voodoo folklore of the Caribbean and southern United States, like that of other cultures, contains mysterious supernatural creatures including vampires and werewolves, known as loup garou in French and Creole.
A story of a domestic servant who had fallen victim to a peculiar curse!
In this story we will see how some people believe that taking on animal qualities can be the result of a curse. I first heard this story in the spring of 2004 from a Haitian woman named Yvette Antoine with whom I attended a class in Latin American literature at the University of Massachusetts. Yvette affirms that the events described in the story occurred in her home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the mid 1980’s and centers around a domestic servant who had fallen victim to a peculiar curse.
Yvette had always known that her servants were practitioners of Voodoo, this was to be expected, since it is the majority religion of Haiti often practiced along side Catholicism, but a rumor circulated in her household that one girl in particular, Marisol, was involved with the Makaya sect, a particularly mysterious and aggressive branch of Voodoo common in the central and northern regions of Haiti. They told Margarita that Marisol had been engaged to marry a wealthy land owner named Pierre in her native city of Cap Haïtien. She did not love this man but stayed with him out of a need for financial security and for this she incurred the wrath of her future mother-in-law who hated her violently. The mother-in-law, Nanette, suspected that Marisol had so captivated her son’s affections by means of witchcraft, and she went to a local bokor to discover the truth. With a toss of the cowry shells, the makaya priest confirmed what Nanette had known all along. Marisol had paid a mambo 8,000 gourdes (approximately 200$), a small fortune in Haiti, to make a powerful wanga, or spell, that would render Pierre helpless against her will. Nanette was not able to find a bokor or mambo with enough power to break the curse, and the local Catholic priest dismissed the whole situation as superstitious nonsense and refused to perform an exorcism on her son.
Marisol grew bored with her fiancé and she found a new male companion in Port-au-Prince with an ever bigger bank account. One night she packed her bags and left Cap Haïtien unannounced. Upon discovering her absence, Pierre attempted to locate her in Port-au-Prince only to discover that was living in Santo Domingo with her new companion. He returned to Cap Haïtien and fell into a deep depression. He could not sleep and began to drink bottle after bottle of sweet Barbancourt Rum. Nanette pleaded and begged with him to realize that what he felt was not real but the workings of a powerful and evil spell. Nevertheless, Pierre continued down this path of self destruction until one night he walked into the ocean drunk and was found dead on the beach the next morning.
Nanette planned an elaborate funeral for her son and observed the traditional nine day period of mourning in which she fasted and prayed novenas and rosaries for the repose of his soul. In Haiti, those who take their own lives are considered cursed and their souls are condemned to wonder the earth until the day of final judgment. The local priest tried to console Nanette, telling her that the Catholic Church no longer teaches that suicide victims are damned, but Nanette believed more in the old superstitions of the island than in psychology of the modern church. She knew her son had lived a miserable life and was in danger of eternal damnation and it was all Marisol’s fault. Nanette was out for revenge.
Nanette retrieved an old hairbrush from Pierre’s house that had belonged to Marisol on which some of her hair remained. She took it to a bokor, a priest of Makaya Voodoo, and paid him the exorbitant sum of 10,000 gourdes to place a curse on Marisol. The bokor asked if Nanette wanted him to work a spell that would bring about her death. After thinking for a minute, Nanette decided that death would be too good for the woman who had caused Pierre so much misery and that she would rather see her live to endure an agonizing, cursed existence. The bokor thought for a moment and then instructed Nanette to return the next day. When she did, he handed her a wax coffin which he had carved himself. Inside, he had placed the hair from Marisol’s brush, some pungent herbs and chicken bones. The bokor instructed Nanette to take the coffin to the graveyard and bury it next to the cross of Baron Samedi, a Voodoo spirit who dwells in the cemetery and to whom one must appeal in order to open the gates to the world of the dead, and on the night of the full moon the curse would begin. Nanette did as she had been instructed and waited to see the results.
Marisol, despite being in Santo Domingo, was still not able to escape the wrath of Nanette and quickly felt the influence of the bokor’s powerful curse. The bokor had placed the curse of the “loup garou” on Marisol and she received nightly visits from angry, ravenous animal spirits that haunted her nightmares. Before long she began to exhibit animal like behavior and would often sleep walk and not return until the early hours of the morning never remembering leaving her bed, the only proof being the mud and grass tracked into the house by her bare feet. These somnambular excursions were most common during the full moon. The lack of sleep and nightly terror of her dreams took its toll on Marisol draining her once beautiful body of all youth and vitality rendering her a frail ghost with ashen skin and grey hair.
No longer the alluring young women she had been, her new lover lost interested and tossed her out into the streets of Santo Domingo. With no place to go, having burned all her bridges in Cap Haïtien, she arrived in Port-au-Prince and tumbled into a miserable existence in the slums of Cité-Soleil. She heard through an acquaintance of a wealthy woman in the affluent Pétionville district who was taking on servants and that is how she came to work for my friend Yvette. In her household, there was another servant from Cap Haïtien and she warned Yvette of the supposed curse placed on Marisol, but being an upper class frenchified Catholic Haitian, she did not put so much stock in Voodoo and was more concerned with Marisol’s reputation as a seductress than a loup garou. As the servant girl explained, Nanette had paid the bokor to place the curse of the loup garou on Marisol. This term roughly translates as “werewolf.” According to Haitian tradition, this is a curse that is both European and African, the slaves having borrowed it from medieval French legends they had heard during colonial times and applied their own Voodoo magic to affect a nightmarish curse on their enemies. The loup garou are humans who exhibit lycanthropic symptoms during the full moon and are compelled to wander the countryside and devour farm animals, drink their blood and eat their raw flesh. Over time they are believed to become more and more wolf-like during the full moon even to the point of developing excessive hair growth and elongated canine teeth.
At the beginning, Marisol seemed to fit in well in Yvette’s home. She was shy and rarely spoke, but always did her work efficiently and was polite to the other servants. Then the full moon came. On the night of the full moon, Yvette returned home late after visiting some friends. It was nearly 2:00 am when she returned to discover a servant girl waiting nervously in the living room to tell her the Marisol had fell into a violent fit around midnight and jumped from a second story window and disappeared running into the night. Yvette tried her best to sooth her and told her to go to bed and they would find out what happened in the morning. The entire house awoke to screams at promptly 6:00 am. Yvette ran down the upstairs corridor to the room that the servant girls shared and what she saw nearly stopped her heart. Marisol was lying in what seemed a dumbstruck state; she was covered in blood with feathers stuck to her mouth and a dead chicken resting on her chest. Yvette was convinced that Marisol was mad and needed to be locked away in an institution for treatment and she ran to call the doctor. The other servant ran and detained her in the hall. “Je vous en prie, Madame, laissez-moi essayer quelque chose avant que vous la metiez dans un aisile. Je sais que vous ne croyez pas aux esprits de Guinee, mais j’aimerais que l’on apelle le prêt savan, il pourra bien faire qu’elle se ghuerisse.”
Yvette thought for a moment and then agreed to the girl’s request to bring the prêt savan, an individual who imitates the rituals of the Catholic priest, but has no official standing in the Church. She wanted to give Marisol every last chance she could before shipping her off to a mental institution from which she would no doubt be released in a few days’ time and left to fend for herself on the streets. If nothing else, the Voodoo ceremony that the servant girl had in mind might serve as a psychological jolt to snap Marisol out of her altered state. She told the girl to call the prêt savan. She returned an hour later with an impressively tall black man in clerical robes who carried a black, leather doctor’s bag. Yvette could not believe what was about to happen under her own roof.
By this time, Marisol still lay in bed, but she was becoming more respondent and grumbled moans of protests at what was about to happen. The pseudo-priest removed a mortar and pestle from his bag and proceeded to grind together several roots and leaves with a piece of “jabón de Castilla” to make a thick, fragrant paste. Jabon de Castilla is a clear, amber colored soap made in Spain which Voodoo practitioners prize for its spiritual and physical cleansing properties. The peculiar cleric instructed the servant girl to restrain Marisol while he anointed her head and upper lip with the special ointment. Instantaneously, Marisol burst into a fit of violent jerks and thrusts and a litany of profanity flowed from her lips. Yvette was tempted to stop them, but let the scene continue more out of curiosity than anything else. As Marisol’s body spasmed, the priest produced a vial of holy water and began to asperse the afflicted girl who screamed violently as the drops of blessed water came in contact with her skin. What happened next changed Yvette’s scientific, skeptical view of the world and instilled in her a healthy respect for the supernatural.
Silence filled the room. For a few moments they stood there in a surreal state of bewilderment and looked on as the bed shook and levitated a few inches in the air. Marisol lay frozen like a marble statue with her mouth tightly closed and from inside her body came a sound which started as a low growl and escalated into the unmistakable howl of a wolf. Instinctively, all those present made the sign of the cross. They broke out into prayer and spontaneously and in unison recited the Hail Mary. Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâce le seigneur est avec vous. The priest removed from his bag a white linen cloth in which he had wrapped the sacred communion host. Bénite est vous entre toutes les femmes et bénit est le fruit de vos entrailles Jésus. He applied the consecrated host to Marisol’s forehead and reflexively her mouth opened and black vapor spewed from within her and clouded the air in the room. Sainte Marie, mere de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pècheurs maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort. Ainsi soit-il. The bed settled on the ground once again and a sense of order and peace filled the room. Yvette gave the priest a donation for his services and the three women sat on the bed and broke down into tears and Yvette promised Marisol that she would always have a place in her home. They rarely mentioned the events of that day or what had led up to them. All they were sure of was that they had come in contact with a mysterious force and won, which was proof that existence stretched beyond the physical world and that there is more to life than can be seen with tired human eyes. This knowledge would be of great comfort to Yvette in the coming years when a popular revolution overthrew the government of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and she lost everything her family had owned and barely escaped Haiti alive, since as a member of the mulatto bourgeoisie she was marked for certain death.
Marisol made her way over the mountains of central Hispaniola and was last known to be living in Santiago, in the Dominican Republic. After being loosed from the torturous curse, she became very religious, attending daily mass and making novenas in atonement for her past sins. Yvette, upon her arrival in the United States, began a new life and soon prospered as a real estate broker and earned several university degrees. She thought rarely of her life in Haiti and never again mentioned the incident involving the cursed maid, until one day I enquired as to whether she had any interesting stories about Haitian Voodoo.
The curse described in the story is extremely severe, but I heard of similar cases occurring all over Haiti and in New Orleans as well. As a Voodoo priest, people come to me often to have curses, the evil eye and general negativity cleansed away. If you feel yourself the victim of a curse, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I can perform one of several cleansing and curse removal services and I can even send the negativity back to its source.
I would like to take you for taking the time to read my blog. If you have any stories to share regarding Voodoo or the supernatural, I would love to hear them. Until then, I wish you peace, love and abundant blessings!