Rougarou of the Louisiana Bayou
Do you like spooky tales to read on Halloween? Well this one might knock your socks off. The Rougarou of the bayou is the Louisiana werewolf – a very similar-looking creature.
Louisiana is a fascinating place and full of legends from long ago. Is there a Louisiana werewolf? Well, the rougarou of the Bayou country has a pretty strong link to the werewolf of ancient times in Europe and France. Louisiana is a lovely place to visit. However, if you do go there, it is wise to consult long-time residents on the local legends of the area, especially about creatures like the rougarou of the Bayou. It is always good to know which areas should be avoided.
Similar to the European werewolf, the rougarou is a man who can shape-shift, or transform, into a creature. The name rougarou comes from a variant pronunciation and spelling of the French loup-garou. Loup is the French word for wolf, and garou is a man who transforms, shape-shifts, into an animal. In the French Louisiana areas, the rougarou has been the stuff of legends for several generations. The legends originally came from either the early French settlers or the French Canadian immigrants (Acadia) centuries ago.
Apparently, the Cajuns believe the creature prowls in the swamps around Acadia and Greater New Orleans. It might also be lurking around fields, forests, and maybe just anywhere it chooses to. It is a creature with a human body and a wolf head. In Laurentian (Laurentian Mountain range) French communities, there are legends of the werewolf. Now, a werewolf, or lycanthrope, is a human who has the rare ability to shapeshift into a creature with a wolf head and human body. The rougarou has this same ability, therefore, has strong links to the werewolf.
From Deep in the Ancient Laurentian Mountains
In southern Quebec, Canada, one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, the Laurentian Mountains, may hide many mysteries and legends. One of these legends is that the rougarou came from this area.
Within this mountain range, there can be found rocks that were there over 540 million years ago, which is before the Cambrian Period. This geological timeline was the first period in the Paleozoic Era. The Paleozoic Era began with an explosion of geological, climate related and evolutionary changes – with the Cambrian Period seeing the greatest changes of life in the history of the Earth. The Paleozoic Era then ended with the “Great Dying” – the largest, most devastating extinction event in Earth’s history. The possible cause was more than likely several catastrophic events that came together and formed one source of almost total devastation.
It took the Earth a long time to recover, up to 10 million years, according to geologists. Could anything at all have survived this catastrophe, or possibly been formed by many different cells, organisms, vertebrate species or other forms of life? Well, there are reports of strange creatures being seen around the world. Is it possible the rougarou and other such oddities are descendants of ancient deformed ancestors? It does give one something to ponder on.
Here is more to ponder on: the Laurentian Mountain range is a central part of the Grenville orogeny, which was 1000 to 1100 million years ago. What, you may ask, does all this have to do with the rougarou? Well, hold on for a minute while we look back, far back in time.
An “orogeny” is a time, or era, of the process of mountains building up a range. The Grenville orogeny is what resulted from a continental collision, when the eastern part of the United States was formed and the Appalachian Mountains were born – hence the Eastern Continental Divide. The Appalachians extend down towards Louisiana. Is it possible the rougarou migrated over time from all those ancient mountains to Louisiana? Hmmmmmm….?
Well, enough of geology and continental collisions – let’s get back to the rougarou legend.
Teach Your Children Well
Like many tales and lore about creatures, the stories about the rougarou are often used to fill children with fear of going to certain places the parents do not want them in – or to keep them from being out too late at night. Putting the fear of a scary creature into kids is supposed to inspire obedience and make the kids mind their parents. A horrible thought, to scare a child like that, but it does happen.
Some say the rougarou is a headless horseman, much like the one Ichabod Crane had a problem with. It has sometimes been said that a witch can transform into a rougarou, or make a rougarou by putting a curse on others.
One of the most common versions is that one who becomes a rougarou will remain under that spell for 101 days. When the 101 days are up the curse is transferred to another person by blood sucking. The original rougarou then returns to a normal human – yet, if he tells anyone about his experience, he will be killed by the one he drew blood from. That seems rather ungrateful, but one cannot tell a rougarou what not to do.
Tales of the Rougarou
As summer comes close to ending and cooler weather approaches, tales of the rougarou begin anew and are often embellished year after year. And the closer it gets to Halloween, the more outlandish the stories get.
It has been known that the rougarou will roam the streets at night antagonizing everyone it meets until someone stabs or shoots it. The rougarou will purposely do this because at the first drop of blood it returns to the original human form. He can then tell his attacker who he really is. The trick is, though, that the person who attacked the rougarou cannot tell you, or anyone, about this for 101 days – or he, too, will become a rougarou.
Now then, there are ways to keep the rougarou away from you. You can roll up a leaf from the swamps and keep it in your wallet. Or, if you are creative, paint a hexagon shape on the middle of your floor, stand in the center of it, and say prayers to protect you. However, if you do not believe the rougarou stories are true, and you do nothing, you may be heading for a bout or two with a rougarou.
So, it stands to reason that if you do intend to visit around the Bayou areas, especially around Halloween time, you should not be doing any rougarou’in (staying out late and running around the streets) – unless you think you might be staying for at least 101 days.
Now, ol’ Uncle Dieter was born in the Bayou and has no fear of the rougarou – that is when he has had enough of his moonshine. That old man has quite a lot of knowledge about the rougarou and unending tales to tell. He can spin some yarns that will make your hair stand on end and give you some pretty large goosebumps. It doesn’t hurt none for tourists and children to pay attention to his wild stories – it will keep them out of the Bayou for sure.
Uncle Dieter is pretty hard to find, though. He lives deep in the swamp land. Sometimes he is not seen for 100 days or so. Kind of makes us wonder some.
© 2013 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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