Werewolf lore of the Americas
By André K. partridge
Rougarou represents a variant pronunciation and spelling of the original French loup-garou. 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 immigrant’s centuries ago.
In the Cajun legends, 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 described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legend.
Often the story-telling has been used to inspire fear and obedience. One such example is stories that have been told by elders to persuade Cajun children to behave. According to another variation, 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, according to which the method for turning into a werewolf is to break Lent seven years in a row.
A common blood sucking legend says that the rougarou is under the spell for 101 days. After that time, the curse is transferred from person to person when the rougarou draws another human’s blood. During that day the creature returns to human form. Although acting sickly, the human refrains from telling others of the situation for fear of being killed.
Other stories range from the rougarou as a headless horseman to the rougarou being derived from witchcraft. In the latter claim, only a witch can make a rougarou—either by turning into a wolf herself, or by cursing others with lycanthropy.
Native American Folklore
In some Native American legends, a skin-walker is a person with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal he or she desires. To be able to transform, legend sometimes requires that the skin-walker wears a pelt of the animal. In most cases, this pelt is not used in modern times because it is an obvious sign of them being skin-walkers
Possibly the best documented skinwalker beliefs are those relating to the Navajo yee naaldlooshii (literally "with it, he goes on all fours" in the Navajo language). A yee naaldlooshii is one of several varieties of Navajo witch (specifically an ’ánt’įįhnii or practitioner of the Witchery Way, as opposed to a user of curse-objects (’adagąsh) or a practitioner of Frenzy Way (’azhįtee)). Technically, the term refers to an ’ánt’įįhnii who is using his (rarely her) powers to travel in animal form. In some versions, men or women who have attained the highest level of priesthood are called clizyati, "pure evil", when they commit the act of killing a close blood relative (sister, brother, mother, father), incest, or necrophilia. This act is said to destroy their humanity and allow them to fully immerse themselves in the teachings of the Witchery Way.
The ’ánt’įįhnii are human beings who have gained supernatural power by breaking a cultural taboo. Specifically, a person is said to gain the power to become a yee naaldlooshii upon initiation into the Witchery Way. This is done especially via the Navajo equivalent of the 'Black Mass', a perverted "sing" (Navajo ceremonial) used to curse instead of to heal. Both men and women can become ’ánt’įįhnii and therefore possibly skinwalkers, but men are far more numerous. It is generally thought that only childless women can become witches. Not every witch is a skin walker, but every skin walker is a witch.
Although a skinwalker is most frequently seen as a coyote, wolf, fox, eagle, owl, or crow the yee naaldlooshii is said to have the power to assume the form of any animal they choose, a decision based on what specific abilities are needed. For example, Witches may use a bird form for expedient travel in pursuit, escape, or otherwise. Some Navajo also believe that skinwalkers have the ability to steal the face of a person. The Navajo believe that if you ever lock eyes with a skinwalker, they can absorb themselves into your body. Alternately, some Navajos believe that if you make eye contact with a skinwalker, your body will freeze up due to the fear of them and the skinwalker will use that fear to gain power and energy.
A skinwalker is usually described as hairy, except for an animal skin. Some Navajos describe them as a perfect version of the animal in question. The skin may just be a mask, like those which are the only garment worn in the witches' sing, which is the opposite of the good sing. Because animal skins are used primarily by skinwalkers, the pelt of animals such as bears, coyotes, wolves, and cougars are considered taboo. Sheepskin and buckskin are probably two of the few hides used by Navajos; the others are not used for ceremonial purposes.
Often, Navajo people will tell of their encounter with a skinwalker, though many hesitate to reveal the story to non-Navajos, or to talk of such things at night. Sometimes the skinwalker will try to break into the house and attack the people inside, and will often bang on the walls of the house, knock on the windows, and climb onto the roofs. Sometimes, a strange, animal-like figure is seen standing outside the window, peering in. Other times, a skinwalker may attack a vehicle and cause a car accident. The skinwalkers are described as being fast, agile, and impossible to catch. Though some attempts have been made to shoot or kill one, they are not usually successful. Sometimes a skinwalker will be tracked down, only to lead to the house of someone known to the tracker. As in European werewolf lore, sometimes a wounded skinwalker will escape, only to have someone turn up later with a similar wound which reveals them to be the witch. It is said that if a Navajo was to know the person behind the skinwalker they had to pronounce the full name, and about three days later that person would either get sick or die for the wrong that they have committed.
Legend has it skinwalkers can have the power to read human thoughts. They also possess the ability to make any human or animal noise they choose. A skinwalker may use the voice of a relative or the cry of an infant to lure victims out of the safety of their homes; the skin walkers cannot enter a home without invitation.
The yee naaldlooshi are distinguishable in human form because their eyes glow like an animal's. In animal form they can be spotted by moving stiffly and unnaturally, and their eyes do not glow like an animal's.
Skinwalkers use charms to instill fear and control in their victims. Such charms include human bone beads launched by blowguns, which embed themselves beneath the surface of the skin without leaving a mark and human bone dust which can cause paralysis and heart failure. Skinwalkers have been known to find traces of their victim's hair, wrap it around a pot shard, and place it into a tarantula hole. Even live rattlesnakes are known to be used as charms by the skinwalker. A skinwalker can use anything of personal belongs and use in ceremonial rituals against the person they are doing evil against.
Skin-walkers use a powder called corpse dust, also known as corpse poison, corpse powder, and án't'i, to poison victims. Corpse dust is composed of ground infant bones, preferably twin infants, and bones from the fingertips and back of the skull. The yee naaldlooshi blow it into the faces of their victims, or down the chimney if the victims' home. Soon after the victim breathes the dust the tongue starts to swell and blacken, and they go into convulsions and die.
According to Navajo myth, the only way to successfully shoot and kill a skinwalker is with a bullet dipped in white ash.
In Haitian folklore, werewolf spirits known locally as Jé-rouge (red eyes) can possess the bodies of unwitting persons and nightly transform them into cannibalistic lupine creatures.
Another variation: Many Haitians believe that je-rouges, cannibal werewolf-like monsters or evil spirits that inhabit people during the night, trick mothers into giving up their children by waking them at night and asking if they can take the child. Sleepy mothers may answer yes or no. Je-rouges spread this curse like vampires by injecting it into unsuspecting human targets through fangs.
South American Folklore
Luison, Luisõ or Lobison is the name of a monstrous creature from Guaraní mythology. Being one of the seven cursed children of Tau and Kerana, the Luison is one of the primary figures of legend in Guaraní-speaking cultures today, such as Paraguay. Of the original myths of the Guaraní people, the Luison is one of the few whose story has changed significantly in modern times.
The name of Luison is a variation of Lobizón, a name used in Argentina to describe the werewolf or a similar creature, which is itself a variation of the Brazilian name for the werewolf, Lobisomem, more literally wolf-man. What name Luison may have had prior to the influence of European-based mythology is likely lost to the world. Guaraní was not a written language and all myths passed on in storytelling only, thus no written record of his original name would have been made.
In the original version of the myth, Luison was the seventh and last child of Tau and Kerana, and thus was the most accursed of the bunch. He was of vaguely human appearance, but said to be extremely ugly, even horrendous looking. Luison had long, dirty hair that fell down to cover most of his form, pale and sickly looking skin and eyes, and accompanied by the constant, fetid odor of death and decay. So frightening and repulsive was his appearance that his mere presence would instill terror in any unfortunate enough to encounter the beast.
Luison was said to be the lord of the night and was associated with death. His habitat was limited exclusively to cemeteries, burial grounds or other locations similarly tied in with the concept of death, and his sole source of food was dead and rotting flesh. If Luison passes through a person's legs, it is said, the person turns into Luison. In some versions, Luison only appears on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. Luison also filled the same function as the Grim Reaper in many European societies, and it was said that the touch of his cold, clammy hand was a sure sign that one's days on the earth were numbered.
With the arrival of European settlers in the area came myths and legends not indigenous to the Guaraní people. Over time the myth of Luison slowly began to mix with the imported legend of the werewolf, to the point where Luison began to lose many of his associations with death. In many areas of the Guaraní-speaking world the Luison's description has changed to that of a half man, half dog creature, and now bears many similarities to the classical werewolf story. Modern tales tell of a Luison that hunts by the light of the moon, is no longer confined to cemeteries and may hunt living victims down for food. It is sometimes also believed that the curse of the Luison may be transferred to other victims via biting, much as the curse of the werewolf. In part the transition from the original myth to a more werewolf-like creature is because Luison was the seventh son. The seventh son, especially in Paraguay, was thought to be cursed to become a werewolf.