Guyanese Folklore spirits, devils and demons (or the mind’s eye)

In the Caribbean the jumbie has many variation. It is a generic term that refers to either spirits, demons, devils, or anything frightening. The different kinds of jumbies is a reflection of Guyana’s complex history and ethnic diversity and they form the basis for many of the country’s stories and legends.

The Jumbie

Credit: gotzombies.com

Credit: gotzombies.com

It is a spirit or demon. All race holds, strongly the belief in this frightful spirit regardless of their religious background.

It is believe that the people who are wicked or evil in their lifetime are bound to become a jumbie after death. Walking pass a cemetry can be the scariest thing to do at night.

The most terrifying of all jumbies is the Dutchman spirit, given that Guyana was once owned by the Dutch in the 17th century into the 18th century. The story goes that they used to kill their slaves and bury them with the treasures in order to protect it. Once the Dutchman would return to retrieve his treasures he would be unable to do so, because it was taken over by the spirit of the dead and he would die leaving a miserable and angry spirit behind to roam around.

Guyanese tend to blame an unexplained event, behaviour or illness on the jumbie factor. The Dutchman spirits get blamed for the worst of evil that is unexplained.

Growing up, there was nothing more exciting,  and at the same time frightening, than a fascinating jumbie story being told at night.

I tend to think that kids  have the capacity to see spirits but when they become adults, they no longer do, instead, they drink them.

A story was told  about two men who were heading home after a night of partying. They decide to take a shortcut (or short route) through the cemetery. As they walk through, they heard  a faint tapping noise coming from among the tombs. They were crippled with fear upon seeing an old man with his hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstone. “Holy cow, Mister,” one of them said after catching his breath, ” You really scared us, we thought you were a ghost!” “Why are you working so late in the night?” “These fools,” the old man grumbled. “They misspelled my name.”

The Ol’ Higue


It is believed the  Ol’ Higue is  a person, generally, an old woman who feeds on the blood of children or adults and usually moves around after dark. She would peel off her skin and hide it under a mortar, then turning into a ball of fire and fly to the home of her victim.

It has been told that one way of getting rid of the Ol’ Higue was finding her skin (before she puts it back on) and rubbing it with salt and pepper. That way, she is unable to put it on without pain and severe burning; she might even die. Another way to trap her is throwing salt or rice grain around the door or window. That way she would not be able to leave a house until she had counted every grain. Another way, is beating her with a stick or broom; the following day the old woman with signs of severe beatings is revealed as the Ol’ Higue.

It is believed that becoming an Ol’ Higue is as a results of a curse passed on from a dying Ol’ Higue.

The Moongazer

Credit: classybay.com

Credit: classybay.com

The Moongazer comes out at night when there is full moon.  He is a tall and muscular man. His only concern is gazing at the moon. The older folks use warn that this man should be ignored and never get in his way, if he is ever seen. If you ever try to pay him attention or become afraid of him, he will never let you get pass him; instead he will appear before you blocking your path all the time.

The Kanaima (ka-nai-ma)

Credit: danielpaul.com

Credit: danielpaul.com

He is a bush devil that roams the jungle stalking it prey.  This belief is held among Guyana’s indigenous people. He tracks his victims down until he/she is found.

The kanaima  is a spirit of vengeance for some injustice. They accomplish their goal by possessing the bodies of animals or people.  Under such possession he becomes enraged and attack his victims in violence. This spirit is full of supernatural powers. The kanaima works in a way that it s victim die a slow and painful death. Victims of the kanaima often die from having their intestine twisted and knotted up or a broken neck.

It is believed that the kanaima has the ability to drive people insane with just one look. Kanaima can be good or bad, depending on the person, and is feared and respected among the indigenous people.


There are many jumbies in Guyana’s folklore and history, many of which are slowly being forgotten.


What do you think?

Our Correspondent
Cult Guyana correspondent
Petal - Georgetown

This is Petal. I am a lover of travels, all things culture and Latina.

More about Petal
All correspondents
Follow this place
About Guyana
About this place

Continent: South America
Capital: Georgetown
Population: 748,500
Area: 214,970 km2
Currency: Dollar
Languages: English

Time in Georgetown
5:02 pm

Weather in Georgetown

Distance from you