Halloween Hauntings, Part 5: Cajun Country Werewolves

Halloween Hauntings Part 5:


loup garou por vous
Loup garou (or rou garou) is native to the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, although it migrated there from France.

In the part of Dixie Spirits dealing with Louisiana, I devote a chapter solely to loup garou—the Cajun version of the werewolf.

Before researching that chapter, I had assumed, like most folks, that the werewolf’s home turf was mainly England and Germany. After all, thanks to Hollywood, who doesn’t know about the werewolves of London and their Anglo-Saxon and Germanic kith and kin? Besides the fact that werewolves don’t eat beef chow mein, the truth is, like all else occult lore emanating from Hollywood, they have it all wrong.

While there are indeed credible tales of man-wolf encounters that come from the British Isles and Germany, the truth be told, the epicenter of lycanthropy—in the Old World at least—is France.

While in English we have but two terms for the werewolf, in France and its former colonies there are no fewer than sixty different names for the werewolf or related kith and kin. One variant one hears most in Louisiana, for example, is rou garou, who is the Cajun version of the beast.

Of course we are all familiar with the French fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast and Perault’s Little Red Riding Hood likewise centers on a wolf who can walk and talk like a human, and devours human flesh—although Perault also intimated that the carnal desires of the werewolf had sexual overtones as well. But as early as the Middle Ages, the French were penning romances involving werewolves, including one by poetess Marie de France. Obviously, when the French first colonized Louisiana, something not quite human came with them to settle in the swamps and bayous of the Delta.

Charles Perault made the tale of an innocent girl falling for the wiles of a loup garou famous, but the story goes back into antiquity.
Charles Perault made the tale of an innocent girl falling for the wiles of a loup garou famous, but the story goes back into antiquity.

The French, in fact, make an important distinction between genuine werewolves—skin changers who transform from man to wolf—and those persons who are mentally deranged and imagine themselves to be wolves. The delusion they call lupomanie—lupomania—while the term lycanthropy is reserved for the phenomena of true werewolfism. Even in English, someone who is disoriented or out of their senses is called “loopy.” Sigmund Freud treated a case of lupomania in late nineteenth century Vienna, although he confused the issue by calling it lycanthropy.

Another popular misconception perpetrated by the media is that werewolves (assuming there be such things) are cursed with this condition through no fault of their own, that it is a curse brought on by a cruel twist of fate. In fact, from accounts in the Middle Ages we know that those who practiced lycanthropy did so willingly, using a belt of wolf’s skin treated with a magic ointment to transform themselves. They were, in fact, considered sorcerers and assumed to be in league with the devil.

According to some lycans, they serve God not the Devil. In Italy they were called Benandanti and are "hounds of God" who fight witches and protect villages.
According to some lycans, they serve God not the Devil. In Italy they were part of a group of skinchangers called Benandanti and claimed to be “hounds of God” who fought witches and protected villages.

This last accusation—consorting with the devil—was disputed by at least one confessed werewolf. In 1692, in Livonia, on the Baltic Sea, one elderly lycanthrope named Theiss said that he and his confreres regularly fought the witches, who were in the service of the devil, and that he and his fellow lycans were in fact “god’s dogs.” I

n Italy there is a similar allegation; there the skinchangers–persons who went into trances and transformed into various animals, including wolves, who called themselves “benandanti” or “good walkers,” Entering into a trance state, leave their human bodies and assume the spirit body of a wolf, in which form they do battle with the Evil Ones.

In the case of Louisiana’s loup garou, my sense is that though it is much talked about in general terms and Cajun folk will gladly spin a yarn or two for you, when you try to pin them down to specifics—date, place, name—they clam up real quick. Cajuns—or at least the ones I have met—are garrulous and outgoing, but when it comes to loup garou and who and where they may be found, my experience was an extreme reluctance to divulge specifics. Whether this is because they genuinely don’t know or whether they do and are afraid to talk I can’t say for sure, although I think the latter is true. I go into depth on this subject in Chapter 15 of Dixie Spirits and for more on it see that book.

Les Lupins higher resolution lith 1858
Werewolves, being gregarious folk, like the Cajuns, have often been known gather together at the full moon to party and dance. Once such place  is Bayou Goula, where they hold the Werewolves Ball--Le Bal Goula. The real werewolf cotillion is not open to non-lycans. But mortals who fear not the moon when it is full may venture to Houma LA and take in RouGarou Fest.

One curious fact I did uncover was that the loup garou of the bayou gather together and hold a ball or party on occasion and this fete du bete is alleged to occur near a small community in swamp country called Bayou Goula. Why there and exactly when the clans of werewolves gather to cavort and make merry remains a secret I have yet to plum. As with all else uncanny and unexplained, I often rely on the kindness of strangers to inform and enlighten me on such things. Therefore, any out there who know more than I have so far unearthed, I and other readers of this blog would love to hear from.

So while the loup garou may not be quite the evil monsters the media and the Inquisition have made them out to be, until we know more of this fey creature and his family, I would advise caution to the curious—especially when the moon is full.

Werewolf attack 18th Cent engraving
Werewolves are traditionally believed to be ravenous beasts filled with carnal desire. Some confessed lycans have disputed this claim.

For more fey creatures and uncanny encounters in Louisiana and elsewhere in the South, see Dixie Spirits; for more weirdness in the same jugular vein, also read Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground.

Dixie Spirits via Sourcebooks
Dixie Spirits: true tales of the Strange and Supernatural south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills of the Mid South


Even in Charles Perault’s day the carnal proclivities of wolves, real and figurative, were well known and the French racontour added this wry moral to the end of his story:

The Moral
From this short story easy we discern
What conduct all young people ought to learn.
But above all, young, growing misses fair,
Whose orient rosy blooms begin t’appear:
Who, beauties in the fragrant spring of age,
With pretty airs young hearts are apt t’engage.
Ill do they listen to all sorts of tongues,
Since some inchant and lure like Syrens’ songs.
No wonder therefore ’tis, if over-power’d,
So many of them has the Wolf devour’d.
The Wolf, I say, for Wolves too sure there are
Of every sort, and every character.
Some of them mild and gentle-humour’d be,
Of noise and gall, and rancour wholly free;
Who tame, familiar, full of complaisance
Ogle and leer, languish, cajole and glance;
With luring tongues, and language wond’rous sweet,
Follow young ladies as they walk the street,
Ev’n to their very houses, nay, bedside,
And, artful, tho’ their true designs they hide;
Yet ah! these simpering Wolves! Who does not see
Most dangerous of Wolves indeed they be?