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Lycanthropy in North America


Many Native cultures feature skin-walkers or a similar concept, wherein a shaman or warrior may, according to cultural tradition, take on an animal form. Animal forms vary accordingly with cultures and local species (including bears and wolves), for example, a coyote is more likely to be found as a skinwalker's alternate form in the Great Plains region. Skinwalkers tend to be totemic.

In modern folklore and fiction the Wendigo found in the stories of many Algonquian peoples is sometimes considered to be similar to lycanthropes, in that humans could transform into them. The original legends varied significantly, however, and the fit may not be very close.

The Cajuns of Louisiana also believed in a similar creature with the variant name of Rougarou.

Stories of humans descending from animals are common explanations for tribal and clan origins. Sometimes the animals assumed human forms in order to ensure their descendants retained their human shapes, other times the origin story is of a human marrying a normal animal.

North American indigeneous traditions particularly mingle the idea of bear ancestors and ursine shapeshifters, with bears often being able to shed their skins to assume human form, marrying human women in this guise. The offspring may be monsters with combined anatomy, they might be very beautiful children with uncanny strength, or they could be shapeshifters themselves (Pijoan, 79). Pijoan, T. (1992). White Wolf Woman & Other Native American Transformation Myths. Little Rock: August House. ISBN 0-87483-200-4.


Lycanthropy is often confused with transmigration; but the essential feature of the were-animal is that it is the alternative form or the double of a living human being, while the soul-animal is the vehicle, temporary or permanent, of the spirit of a dead human being. Nevertheless, instances in legend of humans reincarnated as wolves are often classed with lycanthropy, as well as these instances being labeled werewolves in local folklore. The Rougarou (alternately spelled as Roux-Ga-Roux, Rugaroo, or Rugaru), is a legendary creature in Laurentian French communities linked to European notions of the werewolf.


the tracks of a werewolf.

The stories of the creature known as a rougarou are as diverse as the spelling of its name, though they are all connected to francophone cultures through a common derived belief in the Loup-garou (pronounced [lu ga' Ru] in French and [lu gER Ru] in English). Loup is French for wolf, and garou (from Frankish garulf, cognate with English werewolf) is a man who transforms into an animal.

Rougarou represents a variant pronunciation and spelling of the original French loup-garou. [1] According to Barry Jean Ancelet, an academic expert on Cajun folklore and professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the tale of the rougarou is a common legend across French Louisiana. Both words are used interchangeably in southern Louisiana. Some people call the monster rougarou; others refer to it as the loup garou.

The rougarou legend has been spread for many generations, either directly from French settlers to Louisiana (New France) or via the French Canadian immigrants centuries ago.

In the Cajun legend, the creature is said to prowl the swamps around Acadiana and Greater New Orleans, and possibly the fields or forests of the regions. The rougarou most often is noted as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legend.

Often the story-telling was used for fear. One example is stories were told by elders to persuade Cajun children to behave. Another example relates that the wolf-like beast will hunt down and kill Catholics who do not follow the rules of Lent. This coincides with the French Catholic loup garou stories, where the method for turning into a werewolf was to break Lent seven years in a row.

A common blood sucking legend speculated that the rougarou was under the spell for 101 days. After that time, the curse was transferred from person to person when the rougarou drew another human’s blood. During the day the creature returned to human form. Although acting sickly, the human refrained to tell others of the situation for fear of being killed.

Other stories range from the rougarou as a headless horseman to the rougarou derived from witchcraft. In the latter claim, only a witch could make a rougarou - either by turning themselves into wolves or cursing others with lycanthropy.

In John James Audubon Zoo in New Orleans there is a model of a huge massive Loup Garou coming out of the swamp. He's black and has glowing red eyes and is at least three times human height.

One of the country’s top-ranked zoos, Audubon Zoo blends the exotic excitement of animals from around the globe with the serenity of its lush gardens, It is also home to New Orleans' own Loup Garou.

Many tales of Voodoo Queens turning peole into this wild beast have surfaced over the years. The Voodoo Hoodoo curse to turn a man into a Loup Garou are said to be done to exact revenge on a family. Many Voodooist believe this creature will kill off it's family members one by one until they are the only survivers of the line.

The Famous Marie Laveau was said to have freed a bayou woman of her curse in the 1870's. Many in New Orleans will tell the story of how she locked the woman up chained in a cemetery crypt for the three nights of the full moon. As many who practice the anciant arts of black magic in Louisiana will tell you a Loupe Garou can change shape at will. But during the nights and days of the full moon they are trapped in the shape of the creature unable to transform at will.

Marie Laveau was said to have the power to shape shift herself. Also some say she is still alive and is a Loupe Garou. it is believed that a man's "inside" can take the form of a cat, dog, wild pig, ape, deer or other animal, and afterwards resume human form; it is termed Garouou.

According to some the power of transformation is a gift of the gods, but others hold that lycanthropy is contagious and may be acquired by eating food left by a lycanthrope or even by leaning one's head against the same pillar. The Todjoers hold that any one who touches blood becomes a shapeshifter. In accordance with this view is the belief that lycanthropy can be cured; the breast and stomach of the shapeshifter must be rubbed and pinched, just as when any other witch object has to be extracted. The patient drinks medicine, and the contagion leaves the body in the form of snakes and worms. There are certain marks by which a shapeshifter can be recognized.

His eyes are unsteady and sometimes green with dark shadows underneath. He does not sleep soundly and fireflies come out of his mouth. His lips remain red in spite of betel chewing, and he has a long tongue. The Todjoers add that his hair stands on end.

Some of the forms of the Garouou are distinguishable from ordinary animals by the fact that they run about among the houses; the were-buffalo has only one horn, and the were-pig transforms itself into an ants' nest, such as hangs from trees. Some say that the lycanthrope does not really take the form of an animal himself, but, like the sorcerer, only sends out a messenger. The Garouou attacks by preference solitary individuals, for he does not like to be observed. The victim feels sleepy and loses consciousness; the lamboyo then assumes human form (his body being, however, still at home) and cuts up his victim, scattering the fragments all about. He then takes the liver and eats it, puts the body together again, licks it with his long tongue and joins it together. When the victim comes to himself again he has no idea that anything unusual has happened to him. He goes home, but soon begins to feel unwell. In a few days he dies, but before his death he is able sometimes to name the shapeshifter to whom he has fallen a victim.


Native American folklore

The creature, spelled as a Rugaru, has been associated with Native American legends with some dispute. The folklore stories vary from mild bigfoot (sasquatch) creatures to cannibal-like Native American wendigos. Neither connections are confirmed.

As with legends passed by oral tradition, stories often contradict one another. The stories of the wendigo vary by tribe and region, but the most common cause of the change is typically related to cannibalism.

A modified example, not in the original wendigo legends, is that of a motif of harmful sensation story -- if a person saw a rugaru, that person would be transformed into one. Thereafter, the unfortunate victim would be doomed to wander in the form of this monster. That rugaru story bears some resemblance to a Native American version of the wendigo legend related in a short story by Algernon Blackwood. In Blackwood's fictional adaptation of the legend, seeing a wendigo caused one to turn into a wendigo.

It is important to note that rugaru is not a native Ojibwa word, nor is it derived from the languages of neighboring Native American peoples. However, it has a striking similarity to the French word for werewolf, loup garou.

It's possible the Turtle Mountain Ojibwa in North Dakota picked up the French name for "hairy human-like being" from the influence of French Canadian trappers and missionaries with whom they had extensive dealings. Somehow that term also had been referenced to their neighbors' stories of bigfoot.

Author Peter Matthiessen determined that rugaru is a separate legend from that of the cannibal-like giant wendigo. While the wendigo was feared, he noted that the rugaru was seen as sacred and in tune with Mother Earth, in the same character of the bigfoot legends of today.

Though identified with bigfoot, there is little evidence in the indigenous folklore for it being the same or a similar creature.


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Please Also See: Werewolf here now for more on the beast of the full moon

And: Lycanthropy

Also: Vampires & Werewolves: Are They Mostly Ghostly or Really Rather Real?



How to Become a Werewolf

You need not suffer from lycanthropy, the mental disease of werewolves, to become a wolfman. Below are some shortcuts to becoming a wolf. Steps:
1. Sleep on the ground in an open field on a Friday night when the moon is full. Many Europeans who lived several centuries ago approved of this method.
2. Drink water from a wolf's footprint. Two hundred years ago, Balkan natives thought this act would surely help you grow hair and fangs. More....


Werewolves: The Myths & The Truths
An informative site exploring truths and myths around the werewolf legend from scientific point of view.


Werewolves ~ Lycanthropy
In real werewolves a physical change to wolf form does occur. The change can be voluntary (at will), or can be forced by certain cycles of the moon and ...


Includes links to individual pages and an artist section.


Werewolf Legends from Germany
If real wolves were feared in earlier times, werewolves were feared all the more. A real wolf could be shot dead or lured into a so-called wolf pit, ...


WEREWOLVES. Introduction to Lycanthrophobia · Filmography · Bibliography · Monsters Frontpage.


Encyclopedia article on werewolves, including sections on history, science, fiction and film.


Werewolf - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Werewolves are sometimes held to become vampires after death. ... Many European countries and cultures have stories of werewolves, including France ...


Although most people know werewolves as simply creatures of nightmares and horror ... During the medieval times, the fear of werewolves took grip of Europe. ...


Monstrous is your first source about vampires, werewolves and other blood-sucking ... In this context, lycanthropy would appear to include only werewolves. ...



Find Werewolves on DVD




The Wolf Man (1941)

Lon Chaney Jr.
as Larry Talbot/Wolf Man

Full Cast List

Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot
Ralph Bellamy as Col. Paul Montford (chief constable)
Bela Lugosi as Bela
Evelyn Ankers as Gwen Conliffe
Fay Helm as Jenny Williams
Jessie Arnold as Gypsy woman
Harry Cording as Wykes
Gibson Gowland as Villager
Olaf Hytten as Villager
La Riana as Gypsy dancer
Doris Lloyd as Mrs. Williams (Jenny's mother)
Eddie Polo as Churchgoer
Tom Stevenson as Richardson (the gravedigger)
Eric Wilton as Chauffeur
Warren William as Dr. Lloyd
Patric Knowles as Frank Andrews (Talbot gamekeeper)
Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva
J.M. Kerrigan as Charles Conliffe
Forrester Harvey as Victor Twiddle (Montford's assistant)
Caroline Cooke as Woman
Margaret Fealy as Woman
Leyland Hodgson as Kendall (Talbot butler)
Kurt Katch as Gypsy with bear
Connie Leon as Mrs. Wykes
Ottola Nesmith as Mrs. Bally
Ernie Stanton as Phillips (member of search party)
Harry Stubbs as Rev. Norman

A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and imbued with a malady his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.

Plot Synopsis: Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela's mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Larry, transformed by the full moon, heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen.

Description Werwolf/Werewolf, Holzschnitt/Woodcut, 162 × 126 mm

Source Gotha, Herzogliches Museum (Landesmuseum)

Date um 1512

Author Lucas Cranach der Ältere




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