Hey, friends! I hope you are all well and safe!
As I mentioned in my last post, the past two-ish weeks have been particularly difficult as a Black American individual. I’ve felt hurt, I’ve felt sad, I’ve felt angry, I’ve felt in turns both helpless and hopeful. And I know I’m not alone in my community in feeling that way. I’ve struggled with the fact that as a disabled and immunocompromised individual, I can’t go out and protest and as a low income individual, i can’t spare any money to donation. Knowing this has made me feel so heartbroken and helpless and useless to my people. But then I realized that there is something I have to give. And this is it.
This post is meant to be a joyful and empowering celebration of my people—the people of Black American and African Diaspora descent. I know, in this world that seems to hate us so much, sometimes it is easy to forget our beauty. But in a world which refuses to see us for who we truly are, we have remained defiant and defined our own worth to ourselves. We have created beautiful, gorgeously vibrant cultures and a heritage that we built ourselves from scraps! And today I want to celebrate that, to remind us—and non Black/Diaspora/African folks—of that.
You may not be aware of this, but the African Diaspora—including Black Americans—have a very rich cultural history, which includes plenty of folklore! When I was a child, my mom shared and passed on Black American and other African Diaspora folktales to me and surrounded me with books about that folklore. And today I’d like to share that with you—but with a twist! Today I’m sharing some African Diaspora folktales that I think are just itching to be retold!
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Since childhood, I’ve always had a special fondness for the trickster spider god of African Diaspora folklore, Anansi, the weaver of stories. Anansi is actually one of those folklore figures who originated with our African ancestors and whose stories were brought across the ocean with them and passed down through generations. Who is Anansi? He is the god of stories who often takes on the form of a spider and who is known for his trickster ways.
Honestly, there is so much Anansi content that is just prime pickin’s for a retelling. And even if you didn’t want to do a more direct retelling of a story/stories about Anansi, I think he as a folkloric figure who could interact with other characters in interesting ways in an altogether new story which honors his folkloric origins (think something à la Rick Yancey’s Riordanverse) would be amazing! Like, imagine the fun to be had with a character who’s not only a god, but also a trickster who specializes in weaving tales and who can shape-shift! Not to be too punny, but it would be legendary!! I just think we really been deprived by not seeing an own voices book involving Anansi…
Okay, admittedly this one is a little tricky because a) vudun is a real religion and b) there’s Marie Laveau the Actual Real Life Person™ and then there’s the Marie Laveau the Black American legend. And those two things definitely need to be respected. But. Hear me out! If it was done in a respectful way, can you imagine a fantasy that drew from vudun mythology and that in some way starred Marie Laveau?!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I think most Americans are familiar with the legendary vudun queen, Marie Laveau, but for people who are unfamiliar with her, allow me to give a (very brief) crash course. Vudun is a religion created by Black Americans which draws from West African mythology and mixes it with Christianity. A lot of elements of vudun are conflated with magic (often called “voodoo” or “hoodoo”). Anyhow, Marie Laveau is probably the most famous vudun practitioner. Now, I don’t think much is known about how Marie Laveau established herself as a “vudun queen,” but, decades later, Laveau is still known as the vudun queen! Legend even says that if you draw an X on her tomb and then spin around three times, knock on her tomb, and shout your wish, Laveau just might grant it. If she does, you better be sure to come back and circle your X and leave the mysterious vudun queen an offering.
So, I mean, come on! It’s so obvious that this legend is just literature in the making!
Gang Gang Sarah is the friendly, kind witch of the Caribbean island of Tobago. She is said to hail from Africa but a gust of wind blew her off her course and she landed in Tobago. After staying a bit so that she could look for her family, she wanted to go home. However, she found she could no longer fly owing to the fact that she’d consumed salt. She ended up marrying a man named Tom and lived to her old age.
Okay, so how can you not see that this story is begging to be retold?! I mean, I have so many questions! Where was the witch originally going? What did she do during her stay in Tobago?? How did she meet Tom and how did they fall in love??? I want to know!! Please somebody retell this story and give us all the info!!!
You like stories about the paranormal?! Well, let me tell ya, us Black folk got some stories about the paranormal for ya! We got hoodoo magic! We got haints! We got boo hags! We got it all!
“But wait!” I hear some a y’all crying, “What in the heck is a haint and a boo hag?!”
Well, don’t worry, friends—I’ma tell ya! “Haints” are basically Black Americans’ version of “ghosts.” Simple as that! And boy do we got stories about ’em! Boo hags are another element of paranormal Black American folklore. A “boo hag” is kinda like a vampire, but instead of drinking human blood, a boo hags suck out human breath. Boo hags aren’t generally corporeal, like vampires are, though. Instead, they’re a red spirit that creeps into your home. Boo hags can also “ride” their victims, a.k.a, steal their victim’s skin and walk in their bodies. Generally, boo hags sneak into a house, suck their victim’s breath/energy, and must get back to their own bodies before sunrise lest they be trapped without a body forever.
Eerie, right? But also a perfect element to weave into a fantasy book! Like, can you imagine a vampire story—but with a boo hag?! I think this stuff is perfect fodder for fantasy and I’ll just be over here waiting patiently (*cough* impatiently *cough*) for a novel about haints and boo hags. Y’all better get to work on that 😉
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So that’s all for today friends, I really hope you enjoyed. To my Black followers, I hope I was able to leave you with some joy and some empowerment. I hope we can all remember that Black lives matter and so do stories about them. I’m leaving a Twitter thread of Black lives matter petitions that need more signatures below and I hope you’ll take a moment to sign some of them. Stay safe out there, y’all.
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- Have you ever heard of these folktales?
- What are folktales/fairy tales/ mythologies from your culture(s) that you’d love to see retold?