Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/535

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SUPERSTITIONS OF THE FRENCH CANADIANS.

the traditionary beliefs existing in French Canada. The story of a human being assuming a wolf's shape is certainly one of the most generally diffused throughout the world, and the werewolf story comes down to us from old Roman times. The French Canadian believes that if a person does not partake of the sacrament for seven years, he will turn into a loup-garou—a shapeless animal without head or limbs; the loup-garou might also appropriate the form of a wild cat, a hare, a fox, or even a black hen, but at night he was obliged to range through woods and desert places. At dead of night the loup-garou steals from his bed; climbing the highest tree in the neighborhood, he hides in its branches, and is instantly transformed into bestial shape. He is endowed with supernatural speed and strength. A fierce creature, with appetites exaggerating those of the animal he resembles, his especial delight is in slaughtering and devouring little children. When he returns to human semblance he may be recognized by his excessive leanness, wild eyes, and haggard countenance. In order to regain his estate of humanity, it is necessary that the blood of the monster should be shed. This kindly office being performed by a friend, a complete restoration results.

The wandering Jew legend in various forms was also very popular in Canada. In many parts of the country cats of three colors were considered lucky, therefore the fortunate possessor of a puss mottled with black, white, and gray should preserve the animal carefully. When a Canadian lumberman is sufficiently fortunate to shoot a deer, he wraps himself at night in the skin, in order to keep off witches.

The souls of the lost, or spirits in purgatory, naturally occupied a prominent position in Canadian folklore. The dead frequently returned to the world; among old-fashioned persons there were few who had not held converse with a spirit or revenant. In punishment for sin, the dead were often detained on the scene of their past misdeeds. One dead person could not help or relieve another; the wrong committed on earth could only be righted by the intervention of a living being. The evil spirits were unable to cross the blessed waters of the river St. Lawrence without the help of a Christian. These haunting spirits were numerous, and of various descriptions.

The aurora borealis, called les marionnettes, les éclairons, les lustrions, are supposed to be lost souls. It is a common habit among the country people to sing aloud to keep off evil spirits as they express it, "Lorsqu'ils ne sont pas trop assurés." They believe that the sound of an instrument, or the human voice raised in song, will cause the marionnettes to dance. However, dire misfortune threatens the reckless being who adopts this method of amusing himself: unless the precaution is taken of touching him