Monster of the Week: The Lenten Werewolf

It smells your beer. Hemera/ThinkStock

So we're in the midst of the Lent. It's 40 days of Christian fasting that stretches from the Ash Wednesday to Easter -- which is why folks tend to blow it out during the Carnival/Mardi Gras season.

Generally it's all an act of devotion. You decide to give up something like booze or chocolate for Lent and you stick to it in order to prove something to yourself or God. Aside from the personal shame or God's displeasure, there's generally nothing at stake.

Unless you live near the Bayou.

Because according to Cajun folk traditions, the monstrous Rougarou haunts the dark just HOPING to catch the unmistakable stink of someone breaking lent. Described as a a humanoid with the head of a dog or wolf, this liturgical lycanthrope murders stray Catholics during Lent and generally terrifies children into behaving. After all, compared to the fires of Hell; the gut-munching jaws of Rougarou offer a much more immediate threat.

And should you break Lent seven years in a row? Well, then you magically turn INTO Rougarou -- or at least transmit the curious form of lycanthropy responsible for the curse. It makes sense from a psychological standpoint: The bestial other-self represents the uncontrollable, base aspects of human nature. It's why we have bigfoots and werewolves to begin with.

There's not much in the way of science to discuss here, but it does cause one to ruminate on negative reinforcement somewhat. What motivation do we need to better ourselves? Health and personal betterment or devotion to a deity? The favors of a loving god or the wrath of a vengeful one? The jaws of Hell or the jaws of a Cajun beastman?

I leave you to decide. Draw blood.

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens is of our monster-haunted world. Sometimes we'll focus on the cultural aspects, but mostly we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.