The Legend of the Rougarou: The Beast of the Bayou
Throughout modern history you will find various versions of the mythical werewolf. Every region and culture has their own tales and legends. Some have been passed down through the written word while others have been passed down from generation to generation through oral-tradition. That is to say, the legends are continued through word-of-mouth; passed from grandmother to grandchild, mother to child, elders to local children, etc. One such legend is that of the fearsome rougarou, Louisiana's version of the werewolf. Because this legend has only been continued through oral-tradition, there are quite a few different versions. Another reason for this is the fact that the legend has traveled many miles. Listed here is a bit of information regarding where the tale of the vicious rougarou began and how it has changed over the years and the miles.
It is seldom agreed upon exactly when and where the story of the rougarou started. One of the most agreed upon theories is that it originated in Medieval France where the creature was originally called loup garou. Loosely translated, loup garou means werewolf. The phrase loup garou comes from the Old French "leu garoul" or leu wolf which comes from the Latin "lupus". Garoul, is a reference to man with the ability to turn into a wolf, a werewolf if you will. Other theories are that the legend began in Quebec, Canada. More possibilities suggest that the legend began with the Native Americans, and more still say that it all started right in Louisiana. It is difficult to determine the exact origins of the rougarou, but the legend of the werewolf itself extends as far back as the Gods of Ancient Greece. There are, of course a few different versions of this story.
It is believed by many that the very first werewolf legend is the story of Zeus and king Lycaon. King Lycaon was the ruler of Arcadia and the king invited Zeus to dine with him, after the meal the king told Zeus that the meat that he had been served was that of Lycaon's own son. Zeus became enraged and cursed king Lycaon and all of his sons and future descendants to become wolves. The king was distraught and went to seek help from the druids and begged them to reverse the curse. Because the curse had been laid down by the king of the Gods, the druids could not remove it. They could, however, alter it. They made it so that the king, and his sons would only transform into wolves for one night every year.
One thing the different versions all seem to share is the fact that a person is not born a rougarou. So, how exactly does a person become a beast? Well, that all depends on which version of the legend you prefer. One possibility is that a person must be cursed by a witch, a witch may also turn herself into a wolf. Another says that the rougarou is a curse placed on Catholics who do not properly observe Lent for the entire seven days. In this version, a person who does not strictly adhere to the rules of Lent would immediately turn into a fearsome creature known as a rougarou. Others still, believe that when a rougarou draws blood from a victim, the curse is passed to that person. One belief is that the original rougarou is then rid of the curse while another says a that the rougarou is simply adding to its numbers, creating a pack. Another version of this theory is that should a person look a rougarou directly in the eye, they will become a rougarou themselves. The Native Americans believed that a normal human being that resorted to cannibalism would become a rougarou. Some tribes, on the other hand, believed that cannibalism would turn a human into a wendigo instead of rougarou. Although, some think that a wendigo and a rougarou are one and the same.
This beast is said to roam the swamps of Louisiana, waiting to attack. Some think that all of the natural disasters that have occured in Louisiana were caused by the evil of the rougarou. One of the most universal beliefs in the various versions of this legend is that the rougarou is pure, unadulterated evil. Whether the "curse" is caused by disobeying the rules of Lent or by a witches spell, it is always some type of perceived evil that causes a human to become a terrible beast. It can be said that these legends arise to explain away evil acts committed by human beings. Of course, it can also be said that acting upon an "evil" notion causes a person to become something other than human. There is an actual recognized mental illness known as lycanthropy. The affected person firmly believes that they turn into a werewolf during a full moon. Their behavior completely changes and they act like a rabid, possessed animal. It is even said that in some cases, the patient's appearance will alter slightly when they enter one of the animalistic states.
The question now is, what exactly does the rougarou look like? Like every other aspect of this legend, the way the creature looks changes depending upon the person telling the story, the exact region it is being told in, and that family's history. One of the most commonly described traits is that the beast stands between seven and eight feet tall, generally on two legs like a man. The creature is covered in wolf-like fur, most commonly described as being grey or black. One version says the creature maintains the body of a human and the head becomes that of a wolf, though most versions agree that the entire body becomes wolf-like. There are a few versions that claim the rougarou appears as nothing more than a large wolf; some variants of this version say that while the creature looks exactly like a wolf, it is huge. So large in fact, that even standing on all four feet, it stands at least a head above an average sized man. The eyes of the creature are always said to be either glowing red or a sickening yellow. Its claws jut from its hands and feet at least four to five inches and its teeth are the stuff of nightmares. Gigantic canine teeth extent from the creatures large mouth dripping with saliva and the blood of its latest victim.
No matter which version of the legend of the rougarou you prefer, it can certainly be agreed upon that the beast would be rather terrifying to encounter. Imagine coming face-to-face with a horrific man-beast. It is believed that the rougarou legend may have been invented by worried parents as a way to keep their children from venturing into the woods; "don't go into the forest or the Rougarou will get you!" Needless to say, it worked more often than not. Now that the legend is primarily told amongst the Cajun population of Louisiana, the creature is said to inhabit the bayou instead of the forests. The swamp areas around Acadia and Greater New Orleans are said to be the prowling grounds of the rougarou creature. At night the creature ventures forth from the swaps to prowl neighborhoods in search of a victim. One common version of the legend states that once the rougarou finds a victim and draws blood, the creature will turn back to its human form. After transforming, the rougarou reveals its true identity to its victim and tells them that if they reveal their identity to anyone within one year and one day, they will turn into a rougarou as well.
The Cajun culture is full of different legends, myths, and superstitions. The rougarou creature is just one of the many; however, it is one of the most prominent. There are those who spend their lives attempting to track down anything paranormal including various cryptids. Cryptid is a fancy word for paranormal creatures. There is even a special term for the people who specialize in paranormal creatures, cryptozoologist. Because of the fact that the culture in Louisiana is seeped in so many myths and legends, it is a hot spot for cryptozoologists and paranormal researchers. People travel from all over to investigate legends like the rougarou, perhaps someone will find a real life rougarou one day creeping through the swamps surrounding New Orleans.
Check out our Rougarou Expedition T Shirt