Those who have been reading these pages for some time will have guessed by now that I am fond of folklore, seeing the old stories as being more true than many in the modern materialist culture give credit for. Folklore often gives the reader insight into that culture’s view of the Otherworld. In addition, as you can see from the previous post, I am a shameless aficionado of shapeshifter and particularly werewolf lore so the following appealed to me on both levels.
When one hears the words, loup garou, I would bet that my erudite readers begin thinking of the Old World and France in particular, of course. Most folks with even a modicum of werewolf knowledge know that this phrase is a French word that refers to the werewolf. Or does it? I was browsing the web some time back (ah, the wonders of keeping notes in Evernote) and came across this very interesting website. The site contains a set of stories, not from France, but from right here in America, Indiana, in fact. I was surprised to see that, though the term loup garou certainly applied to a human who became a wolf, it also applied to a number of other shape shifters, including a rather comical tale of a man who became a cow.
The other item that sets these stories apart is the idea that the loup garou, in whatever form it takes, is placed under a shape shifting spell for a limited period of time (more on that in a moment) and that the only way a person could be delivered from the curse was for someone to recognize them as a loup garou and somehow draw blood from the bespelled individual. Once blood had been drawn, the loup garou returned to human form but neither that person nor the person who freed him or her could speak of it for a period of time or the curse would return, and for a longer period.
There is something very otherworldly about these stories. The period of time that the loup garou is cursed (and we never really learn where the curse comes from) is always a period of time, usually a hundred days, plus one. We see this time + 1 motif in many stories of magic and of the faery where the extra day seems to be outside time and not owned by the day to day world; it is magical in its own right and serves as a doorstep into the Otherworld.
While the time + 1 day motif is certainly magical in and of itself, one must also note that the loup garou can only be freed from the affliction by the shedding of blood. Most folklorists would shrug their shoulders at this and then go on to list similar stories and motifs as a sort of “explanation” of this odd detail but I find it magically interesting. By releasing the blood, what many cultures consider to be the essence of life, the loup garou is made whole. In a manner of speaking, the individual literally has to turn themselves right side out, releasing the human part of themselves to the surface in order to regain full humanity.
Finally, the idea of silence weighs heavily throughout these tales. Magical thinkers believe that to know the True Name of something can actually call it to the practitioner. In this case, the victim of the loup garou curse, who has been morose and solemn and sickly in the day, likely exhausted from the night’s wandering, and his or her rescuer must keep silence for a very clear reason: to speak of the curse will call it back.
There is a power in silence that few people explore in our constantly yattering world. Whether we are talking about the monk sitting zazen in his or her zendo, the Native person on vision quest or the ceremonial magician working the magic of Abramelin, great power can be found in periods of silence – the power to contact one’s own inner guidance and learn to hear and listen to that guidance. Perhaps, this is the sub rosa lesson to be learned in these stories of the loup garou. Cursed with a shape that he or she does not desire, the loup garou, when finally released from that spell must keep their peace about the incident, looking within for the strength and inner guidance to prevent such a catastrophe from befalling them again.