Caribbean folklore features a rich mixture of local stories, legends and creatures from all over the islands. A tale that’s endured in African, French, Trinidad and Jamaican culture is the legend of La Diablesse, a woman who you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night on your own!
A devil woman
While stories vary across cultures, there are key themes that continually appear in the legend. Most agree that La Diablesse (female devil) was born mortal but she made a pact with the devil and became a demon. When disguised in human form, she entraps men with her beauty and leads them astray into dark places, where they meet an untimely end.
La Diablesse’s true appearance is that of a hideous monster who hides her face beneath a large brimmed hat and a long, colourful dress. The clothes cover a cloven hoof that immediately identify her as a demon.
For those who’ve encountered her, a method of protection is to take your clothes off and turn them inside out before putting them on again.
A champion of the oppressed
Another viewpoint of La Diablesse is as a symbol of female empowerment. In the past, women of the Caribbean were treated as slaves and servants, abused and left to fend for themselves in a society that saw them as second-class citizens.
Instead of a monster, La Diablesse could be seen as the embodiment of those women who were abused. She brings her wrath down on those who foolishly wander away from the good things in their life.
Sharing the legend with the wider world
The origin of La Diablesse is reported to come from Martinique, as the mixing of French and West-African culture gave rise to similar stories of a mysterious and beautiful woman who haunted the forgotten byways of the island.
The renowned 19ththcentury writer Lafcadio Hearn is responsible for taking the legend beyond the Caribbean. In the 1880s, Hearn spent two years in the West Indies, visiting Trinidad and Martinique to record French Creole culture.
In his memoirs, Hearn wrote “mostly she haunts the mountain roads, winding from plantation to plantation, from hamlet to helmet. But close to the great towns and she sometimes walks; she has been seen at mid-day upon the highway which overlooks the Cemetery of the Anchorage, behind the cathedral of St Pierre.”
A rum connection
In the modern day, the legend of La Diablesse lives on in Diablesse Rum. Made in Manchester, Diablesse Rum celebrates the diversity and flavours of the Caribbean with two special blends. The Caribbean golden rum is blended with three aged varieties. This includes an 8-year-old Barbados rum from Foursquare Distillery, a 4-year-old Jamaican rum from Worthy Park Estate and a 2-year-old Guyanese Demerara rum from Diamond Distillery.
The brand’s second offering, Clementine spiced rum, is made with Demerara rum from Diamond Distillery and uses locally produced sugar cane molasses with traditional pot and column distillation techniques.
Temptress, seductress, paragon of feminine beauty, avenger of the oppressed. La Diablesse is all these things. Her duality makes her intriguing and she reflects the diverse culture that’s present in the Caribbean.