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7783: Re: 7759: lougawou (fwd)
From: LeGrace Benson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Lougawou's in Haiti have more to do with the American Salem witches than
>have to do with vodou. A lougawou is a single woman, living alone, whose
>neighbor has a sick child or a child who dies. Then the woman is accused of
>From researches I have followed in Haiti, Europe and the special rare book
collection of Witchcraft in Cornell University's Krough Library, and from
having been present at a trial of a lougarou in a Haitian court, my
perception of the phenomena associated with the lougarou does not exclude
the description to which I reply, but may add some useful information. The
notion of the lougarou or werewolf apparently arrived in Haiti very early,
perhaps as early as the boucaneers when all of Hispaniola was nominally a
Spanish possession. It does seem to have come from Europe, where such tales
were common especially in France and Germany. Seafarers brought in various
customs and beliefs from Europe, sometimes in book form (such as the Petit
Albert and other grimoires or books of magic) more often as tales told. I
have not found any parallel tales from African lands, although there may be
some. (Anybody on the list have a reference?)Seafarers were in contact with
all sorts of people from colonial merchants and plantation gerants to
freedpeople to slave workers, so had a range of opportunities to diffuse
their stories. Folk tales to scare the bejeebs out of little kids were
common throughout the colonial era not only in St.-Domingue, but just about
everywhere: it was a form of keeping them in line. So the Europen stories
would have ben told to colonial timoun by Europeans, thus diffused out
through another route. During French Revolutionary times, opponents of
Francmaconnerie and the dreaded Amies de Noirs made some interesting uses
in broadsides and posters of the concept of loup garou to demonize these
liberty proponents.The images were almost always masculine, by the way. The
most famous of the European werewolf, loup garou and vampire creatures are
all male. The witches were predominantly female.
In the court trial, which took place in Petionville in the spring of 1991,
a woman brought the charge of lougarou against one of her male neighbors.
She testified that he was sucking the life out of her infant. She had
brought the chuld with her, and indeed it looked to be at death's door.
The accused made a vigorous response, and had brought counter witnesses.
The trial proceeded for a while until it turned into a shouting match, at
which point the judge adjourned it until the next day. I do not know the
outcome. I did observe that there seemed to be provisions in the law to
try such a case.
As a sidelight, there is a medicinal plant in Haiti, growing wild or
cultivated, called lougarou. I am told that it is useful for treating high
blood pressure, as it has diuretic properties.
During my stay in the north of Haiti this spring, I did encounter people,
including some Canadians, who believe in lougarous and who attach that
credence to both men and women. The stories I heard in my own childhood in
the US South were from German immigrants for whom the werewolves were male.
In my judgement, the lougarou tales and beliefs can be distinguished from
Vodou belief and practice, although some of the same persons hold both. So
it was with the German families of my childhood, practicing Catholics or
practicing Lutherans, for whom the werewolf was a separable phenomenon.
This despite the use of a silver cross to stop his action.
Lougarous can provide a fascinating apercu into the imagination of us
LeGrace Benson. Arts of Haiti Research Project