A CAJUN MYTH and A CAJUN LEGEND

 

THE ROUGAROU vs. the TRAITEUR

 

A Cajun myth:  modern day Cajuns use the term “Rougarou” very loosely.  For example: “I don’t know what was the matter… I couldn’t sleep a wink; I “rougaroued” all night long.”  Here, Rougarou is meant simply to describe restless, rambling during the night. 

 

But, historically, the term Rougarou (also spelled Roux-Ga-Roux, Rougaroo and Rugaru) meant a legendary, mythical creature with a human body and the head of a wolf, which prowled the swamps of South Louisiana.  He was not only a werewolf, but a vampire-like creature as well, who--by night--could transform others by sucking their blood and spreading the curse.  By day, the Rougarou returned to human form. 

           

Cajun Catholic parents often persuaded their children to behave by telling them stories of the Rougarou.  The beast was also believed to hunt down & kill Catholics who did follow the Lenten rules.  In fact, anyone who broke the rules for seven years in a row would be turned into a “Loup Garou” -  (Pronounced lu-ga-ru) from the French:  Loup meaning wolf, and garou – man who transforms into an animal.

 

On the brighter side of Cajun legends, exists the Traiteur (Treater) – or faith healer.  Since the eighteenth century, when Acadians migrated to south Louisiana from France by way of Nova Scotia, the Traiteurs have been ministering to the ill and injured of the bayou country. 

 

One might say that some Traiteurs are in general practice, since they treat almost anything; others are specialists who only cure warts, or only treat breathing problems, or blood problems. etc.  Cajun French traiteurs rarely claim any supernatural powers of their own; they typically proclaim that “healing comes from God.”    As promulgators of Gods healing & will, it is entirely likely that traiteurs frequently found themselves in battles with the darker side of Cajun folklore beliefs when attempting to heal their victims. 

 

In this painting the artist portrays such an instance: the Traiteur attempts healing a witless Cajun, who, in his drunken stupor, has wandered into the nocturnal darkness of the swampland -- and into the unyielding clutches of the Rougarou.'

 

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Dan Junot,
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