Vampire turns Saint

Sudha Pillai
Saturday, 8 September 2018

It was over a plate of samoussas (samosas) that I first heard about La Sitarane Fontaine — the vampire of Reunion Island. A French Department in the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is a beautiful isle of beaches, mountains, valleys, rainforests, Creole culture and interesting legends.

It was over a plate of samoussas (samosas) that I first heard about La Sitarane Fontaine — the vampire of Reunion Island. A French Department in the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is a beautiful isle of beaches, mountains, valleys, rainforests, Creole culture and interesting legends. Sitarane came to the port town of St Pierre as a handsome drifter who did the odd jobs. People were mesmerised by his infectious charm and alluring eyes. They let him fix their roof, paint their houses, chop wood and so on. One family even offered Sitarane place to stay under their roof.
 
Everything was fine until the family members dropped dead for no rhyme or reason. Their bodies were ashen and drained of blood. They also had telltale teeth marks on their necks. The deaths seemed to be the handiwork of some other-worldly being/s. Homeless Sitarane was offered shelter the next door. After a few days, the hosts met with the same fate as their neighbours. Mysterious deaths and blood-drained bodies became the norm in town. And those who died had a common link with Sitarane, but he somehow managed to escape death. Now the needle of suspicion turned to him, and the townsfolk began to watch him stealthily.

Warm blood was too much of a temptation for someone like Sitarane. One evening he threw caution to the wind and made a meal out of his hosts and their pet dog. The townspeople caught him with blood dripping from his molars. Come morning, Sitarane stood trussed up, in the public square, facing death without trial. Before he breathed his last, Sitarane looked at the people with chilling eyes and vowed to come back and kill them all.

Fearing retribution, people began to appease his spirit by making offerings at his gravesite. Over time, Sitarane achieved cult status as patron saint of black magic practitioners. Even today, people come from as far as Madagascar to pay their respects to ‘Saint Sitarane’ with offerings of rum and cigars along with evil petitions. Sitarane’s grave can be found in the far corner of the Saint Pierre cemetery. It is a beautiful red and black gravesite with a five feet tall cross as the centrepiece. The red gravestone reads Aum, Saint Ange, Sitarane Fontaine.
  
(The author is a travel writer, photographer and artist. She blogs at www.asunnysquare.com)

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