Are you enjoying People, History, and Culture of Guyana? Sign up to our mailing list so we can email you with interesting stories from time to time!

What Really is the Kanaima?

Be sure to like our Facebook Page: Guyana, South America for more!

First Published: August 2019 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: February 22, 2022 at 23:37 pm

During my travels throughout the Rupununi Savannahs of Guyana, I’ve heard stories of the Kanaima. In fact, I first read about this frightening creature in an online publication which claimed that the Kanaima is a spiritual being which comes to execute vengeance for some wrong committed. Apparently, the Kanaima is “invoked” by someone and sent to harm someone as an act of revenge for some wrong.

After reading this article about the Kanaima, I started asking questions and putting the pieces of a puzzle together.

What really is the Kanaima? Is it a human being with supernatural powers that can shapeshift into the forms of other creatures? Or is it a spiritual being which takes the form of humans and other creatures? The stories are a bit contradictory.

One tour guide in the Rupununi, Mr. Howard Barnabas, who works with Eldorado Tours and Rupununi River Tours, shared his knowledge on the subject with me. He told me that the Kanaima is a spirit, but it takes the form of the person who invokes it, and therefore, the person who invokes it is also called the Kanaima.

But other Amerindians tell a different story: that the Kanaima is actually a human being who gains supernatural power through spiritual works and can actually transform into animals such as bats and jaguars.

Whether it is a human being or a spirit, the Kanaima is considered to be demonic in nature: an evil being which kills in the most horrific manner. The Kanaima is rumored to cut off the tongue and remove the guts of its victims, amongst other horrific acts, ensure a slow painful death of those it attacks.

The story is told of a young boy who returned home after chasing cows and appeared to be sick. He died shortly after and it was discovered that his penis was cut off. It was said to have been the work of the Kanaima.

Another story has been told of ranchers hanging a man in the Rupununi Savannahs because they “knew” that he was a Kanaima who had murdered one of their relatives.

The Kanaima is thought to be able to travel far distances in a short time because of its ability to transform into different creatures such as bats, tigers, and jaguars. While the accounts of the Kanaima vary slightly, there is one thing that everyone I’ve interviewed in the hinterland agrees on: that it exists. On the other hand, some people from the coastlands have dismissed the idea as yet another mythologically creature – nothing more than a folklore or sort of scary bedtime story.

So, what do you think or know about the Kanaima? Tell us in the comments below.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Odette Mann
Odette Mann
2 years ago

I have never seen a kanaims and wouldn’t like to. But part of my growing up in the Rupununi have heard so much of its horrible acts.I know it’s a demonic thing. Very evil.

Frankee Valentino Ramlagan
Frankee Valentino Ramlagan
2 years ago

I’ve study the occult and the kaniama is just a folklore mythology story just to entertain, In reality it does not exist.

Shalini Patel
Shalini Patel
4 months ago

Kanaima do exist, my ex- father in law born and grew up in Bartica and he witnessed an injured tiger turned into a man. Hunters in the village shot a tiger, the tiger was a kanaima .