Louisiana’s Cajun Boogeymen
Parents love their children and will do whatever it takes to protect them. That includes telling them scary stories about boogeymen that will get them if they are bad.
Does that mean either the Pere’ Malfait or Loup Garou are real?
I watched Kolchak: The Night Stalker Spanish Moss Murders, the other night. The episode was about the Pere’ Malfait Cajun legend. The plot is about this creature covered in rotting Spanish moss killing people. It turned out the suspect is a sleep experiment subject. His fear of the Cajun story was so intense that it came alive in his dreams.
Once given a physical form, the Pere’ Malfait killed anyone who was a threat to its existence. That meant anyone who woke up his host. It was a great episode.
I loved the Night Stalker series and wish it hadn’t ended so quickly.
The episode made me think. I love cryptids, but I also love finding out how those stories originated. The legend of the Pere’ Malfait had its birth in France, so did the Loup Garou. The name Pere’ Malfait roughly translates as “Father of the Bad Leaves.”
The legend was brought to the States by French-speaking immigrants. The Pere’ Malfait is a humanoid-like monster covered in rotting Spanish moss. According to the Kolchak episode, the monster squeezes the life out of his victims.
There are no physical sightings of this creature in France. It seems it’s a fairy tale parents tell to scare their children.
The French have another Cajun folktale that has a more exciting history. This fairy tale has teeth – literally. It is the ‘Loup Garou‘ or better known as a ‘werewolf.’ This Werewolf is different from your average run-of-the-mill werewolf.
The legend of the werewolf goes that a victim gets bit by another werewolf. Now, they become werewolves too. Werewolves are affected by a full moon’s silver beams. It is her bright rays that change a human into the werewolf beast. Except, the Loup Garou. The French werewolf can transform into a wolf whenever it wants. It can also change into any other animal it wants as well.
This monster is more shapeshifter than a creature controlled by the moon. Why is the Loup Garou different than the normal werewolf monster?
The most famous story is the Loup Garou’s hunt of lax Catholics. Catholics who don’t observe Lent. The Catholic Lent is a time of fasting and abstaining in Catholicism. I grew up Catholic, and they love to imprint followers with dire consequences if we don’t obey Catholic laws. This is how Loup Garou’s are born. Well, one of the ways.
It is the bad Catholics that turn into Loup Garous, according to legend. There is no story of how the first Loup Garou came to be.
Another tale is Loup Garou is a folktale told to keep wayward children in line. Like the Pere’ Malfait, the Loup Garou is how parents scare their children straight.
So, now we have two Cajun folktales parents use to scare their children. I’m not sure I would want to be born in France or Louisiana.
Is the Loup Garou real?
Legend has it that someone can curse a person into becoming a Loup Garou. Another tale is that the Loup Garou is under a 101-day curse. The affected person can transfer the curse to another being – curses a Voodoo priestess usually casts on their hapless victims.
The legend of the Loup Garou made its appearance during the Renaissance period. Stories claim that the Loup Garou may have started even earlier than the Renaissance. Not surprising is that Catholicism was the main religion during that time.
Folktales evolve, and the one where Loup Garou hunts Catholics is one. Loup Garous hunt Catholics who don’t practice Lent. The original story is they hunt Catholics who haven’t practiced Lent for seven years. Over time, that tale evolved to anyone who didn’t follow lent.
How did the Loup Garou know how long a Catholic followed or not follow Lent? Another interesting fact is the legend goes that it can change into any animal.
So, how did the legend of the Loup Garou get so embedded into French culture?
The story captured the heart of the French and their sense of humor. The Loup Garou evolved into a tongue-in-cheek joke. It’s told that Juliet Henry of Houma had a restless night sleeping one day. She commented, “I made the rougarou all night.”
To those of you not familiar with Juliet Henry? She is the author of In the Shadow of the Trade Winds: Voisin’s Story. Henry grew up in the Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes of Louisiana. She grew up on stories about the Loup Garou. Henry listened to stories from her elders blaming the Loup Garou for sleepless nights.
The Loup Garou became a huge part of French culture. It traveled from France to Louisiana with the French-speaking settlers.
The French Cajun of Louisana completely embraced the Loup Garou as theirs. A visitor can see a real rougarou at the Audobon Zoo in New Orleans. This creature will thrill and scare you with its evil legend.
You can also attend the Rougarou Festival in Houma, Louisiana. The festival is held at the end of October, which is the perfect time for Monsters.
If one is brave? You can even enter into the rougarou costume contest. If your costume is the best Loup Garou looking, then you could win.
The Cajun swamps have two fascinating legends. Legends that nobody has seen, but still live forever in Cajun folklore.
So, if you are ever in Louisiana and driving past the swamps, be careful. The Loup Garou or the Pere’ Malfait could get you.