Friday, August 23, 2013

Crossroads University: Welcome to Our New Blog!

Crossroads University: Welcome to Our New Blog!: It's long overdue, this we realize. But better late than never, or so the saying goes. Welcome to our new blog! Crossroads Univ...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taste for Nutria: A Cajun’s Tale of the Loup Garou

Image copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved.

There are many reason why everyone should have a copy of the book Purloined Stories and Haunted Tales of Old New Orleans by Alyne Pustanio. She's a fantastic writer and an invaluable asset to the state of Louisiana for retelling classic folklore and contributing to the rich body of literature surrounding the unique history of the state. Her own contributions of supernatural fiction, accounting the stories told to her by others, as well as recording her own experiences with the paranormal in New Orleans are deserving of serious attention and I, for one, am her biggest fan.

But don't just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. If you are a Conjure Clubber, you will have received the first 12 stories of her book. For those of you who are not Conjure Clubbers and have not gotten the book yet, I am posting an excerpt here for you to read and get a feeling for the kinds of stories it contains. From Werebeasts to Zombies to haunted people and places, the book shares stories of characters unique to Louisiana folklore, including Chicken Man, the Grunch and the Loup Garou. Here is one of her stories.

 Taste for Nutria: A Cajun’s Tale of the Loup Garou

by Alyne Pustanio

Joe the Cajun Indian was a hunter who spent long stretches out in the swamps in search of duck, deer, and nutria – Louisiana’s version of an overgrown rat. In all that time, he said he’d never seen or heard a Loup Garou or anything like it. “There’s always a first time,” I said, and so the tale recounted below was born!

At the end of a long day’s work of emptying traps along the water’s edge throughout the shadowy, winding labyrinth of the bayou, the trappers were gathered together near the camp of one man where they all planned to spend the night. No one wanted to be caught out in the dappled darkness so the little fishing camp known as the “Tide Over” was picked for the overnight stay. With the boats and traps secured at the camp’s makeshift dock, and the nutria safely stowed in an old metal ice chest near the back door, the trappers settled in for the night. Soon the windows were aglow, casting feeble yellow light into the near-impenetrable darkness of the surrounding swamp. Insects buzzed against the window screens and now and then a large moth fluttered in the light before the night sucked it up again. Amid the comforting chirping of the crickets and katey-dids, the familiar snufflings of the raccoon and the possum could be heard; every now and then a little “plunk” from the still bayou water meant a fish was jumping or a frog had caught a meal.

A nutria, also known as a river rat, is a semiaquatic rodent
found all over south Louisiana. Image in the public domain.
The men made a quick dinner of some catfish they had caught earlier in the day and washed it down with ice-cold beer. Soon, the lights were dimmed and the tired trappers contentedly took to their beds. Surrounded by the all-encompassing darkness and the symphony of the swamp, they were soon asleep.

Baudier was the first to wake up, jolted, all of a sudden, but by what he did not know. Blinking in the darkness, he listened. He sat up. He listened some more. And he sat straight up because he heard — nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a cricket, not a kateydid, not a snuffle or a plunk. He heard nothing.

“Chotin!” he whispered to the man on the cot next to him. “Chotin! Wake up, man! Dere’s sometin’ wrong out dere!” Chotin, a large lump of a Cajun man, sleeping shirtless but in his pants and white shrimp boots (it was these that Baudier saw move first), sat up and looked into the darkness toward Baudier’s voice.

“Maannn! What is wrong wid you?” Chotin droned. “You waked me up from a good sleep, I tell you. Dis better be good!”

“Shhh!” said Baudier. “Listen!” He peered into the darkness until he could make out Chotin’s wide face. “Hear dat?” Chotin listened. He heard nothing. “Hear what?”

But even as he said it, he became aware that he, too, was hearing nothing and he let out a low whistle.

“Chere! Dere ain’t notin’ out dere!” Nearby, Tirout and Gaspard, hearing Chotin whistle, sat up too.

“Maannn, what is you two doin’?” said Gaspard.

“Shhh!” came a hoarse little whisper from Tirout, then, “Listen! What’s dat?” All together they heard it, a THUMP, then another THUMP, followed by a couple of splashes, then two more THUMPS. In each of their minds, the terrified trappers could envision, by the approach of the sounds, just where they were coming from. THUMP and THUMP were on the little spit of land where the traps were set; the splashes put the sound near the boats; the two last THUMPS on the bank near the boats.

Waiting, sweating, not understanding what had them so frightened, but too scared to ignore their gut, the four trappers sat petrified, listening to something approach in the absolute stillness of the night. THUMP. THUMP.

“Gawd!” Baudier choked and in the darkness the round, white eyes of his friends turned to him. “Dat sounds like FEET to me!” The white eyes grew wider and all turned away toward the screened windows and the night beyond.
Just then came three THUMPS in succession, followed by the definite sound of something stepping onto the wooden porch alongside the camp. Though they thought they had been scared before this, the terror level inside the little fishing camp hit a peak as a sniffing, snuffling, snorting kind of sound filled the air. SOMETHING was out there and it was SMELLING for them! Beads of sweat broke on Baudier’s forehead and dripped down into his eyes. He glanced at the windows, illuminated by the faint starlight glinting down from the canopy of cypress and moss; he could feel the others were looking this way, too. That is why there never was any debate on what Baudier must have seen before he passed out, because three other men saw it right along with him!

A huge animal head went past the windows then: like the head of a big dog, blown up to enormous size, the three men who did not pass out saw it in vivid profile against the shimmer of the night beyond. Long, dog-like ears stood straight up to hear every sound; the glassy yellow of monstrous, watery eyes that, had they turned inside, would surely have caused the shaking Cajuns to die on the spot! Drool hung in long, sinuous strings from grisly teeth, and, perhaps worst of all, was the scraping and skittering of what could only be long nails scratching along the outside wall. Suddenly, the creature bent down, probably to walk on all fours because the next sound was like a big dog scampering on the wooden porch planks. The thumping led away to the rear of the camp and suddenly there came a loud metal “CLANG!” The beast had found the
old cooler!  

With growing terror and disgust, the Cajun trappers sat in the darkness of that camp and listened while the horrible Loup Garou devoured every single one of the nutrias they had trapped that day. Guttural gulping and the horrible cracking of skulls and bones filled the men with dread, but they dared not move so long as the Loup Garou was feasting.

Long moments passed that seemed like hours, then suddenly, to their horror, Baudier began to awake and he was groaning loud enough for the Loup Garou to hear!! Now, all the wide, white eyes in the pitch-black room turned upward and each man began to pray, while Baudier continued to groan. Suddenly, the horrible eating stopped. The Loup Garou was listening!

A limp, sad little thud sounded and the men knew the beast had dropped a nutria to the deck; a rustling and clicking noise meant the beast had surely heard Baudier’s pitiful groaning. Chotin, Tirout and Gaspard thought about all the things they would miss in life — boudin sausage and Miller Lite beer, bingo and deer hunting, their boats and watching Saints football, their mommas and their wives—when suddenly, from out in the swamp, they heard a sound that made the hair on their bodies rise and stand straight on end!

“CAAAWWWWW!!” came the horrible noise. “CAAAWWW! CAAAWWWW!”
The noises from the Loup Garou stopped instantly. The thing was wary now, listening. Maybe its yellow eyes were big, too, and peering at the swamp. Stillness descended. Then, suddenly, a cacophony of unearthly screeching and squawking and flapping and howling filled the night air. In the tumult Gaspard, the Cajun closest to the outside window, now summoned up a courage that would become legendary in the swamp, talked about at crawfish boils and fais-do-dos for years to come. He rose stealthily from his cot and sneaked over to the screened window. Looking out he saw an amazing sight: The huge shaggy Loup Garou was covered with angry black crows, all flapping and pecking at the creature.

Suddenly, with a howl, the Loup Garou broke free and in a flash snorting and splashing, it bounded away from the little camp, into the pitch darkness of the swamp with the birds, a cloud of soot and feathers, following. The trappers now clung together, drenched in sweat and shivering with fear in the uneasy silence. They sat like this, holding on for dear life, fearful that the beast might return, until the pale grey light of day could be seen illuminating the sky beyond the mosshung canopy of the swamp. Then, all together in  agroup, like a turtle or a doodlebug with many legs working in unison, they moved toward the back door and opened it.

What greeted them was such a feast of horror that none would soon forget it! Nothing was left of their trapped nutria but some brown fur, some bones and a lot of blood. The men moved around, inspecting the area and found huge prints, like the footprints of a huge dog, all around the camp. It was Baudier who nervously pointed out the bloodstained scratches near the handle of the camp’s door. But suddenly, Tirout stopped.
“Listen!” he called out in a hoarse whisper. They all listened. Out of the silence they heard a single croak, the “caw” of a big black crow perched at the very top of a ragged cypress tree. They watched as the crow spread its wings and flew away, and as it did so, it seemed to the men, that the swamp came alive again. Birds chirped, frogs were croaking, and the incessant song of the katey-dids started up again, as if on cue. “You know what dey say, don’ you?” said Tirout looking thoughtfully up at the crow. “Dey say dem old swamp witches dey go around like big black crows and dey is the only thing what scare de Loup Garou to an inch of his life!”

Chotin whistled again, as was his habit. “Maaannn! You tink dere’s sometin’ to dat?” Just then a cackle, almost like a hoary laugh, trickled down to them from the crow. The men watched as the black bird became a small speck moving in the distance; it wheeled once and fluttered down to be lost among the mossy trees and the grey morning haze.

This last was a sign to the men that it was now safe to move on. Needless to say, not nobody nor nothing had to tell them twice!

And this, they say in South Louisiana, is a true story of the Loup Garou.


This story is copyright 2013 Alyne Pustanio, All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

To Make a Decision

Here's an excerpt from another Conjure Club download, 7 Old School Conjure Works.

If you are in a situation where you have a make an important decision but don’t know what that decision should be, try this fork in the road work. Write down on a piece of paper 2 possible solutions to your issue, in two columns. Be sure to include the best case scenarios no matter what the situation is. Take a red bandana down to the crossroads along with that piece of paper and a brand new nail. Talk to the spirits at the fork of the road and tell them you are looking for the right answer and are leaving the issue with them for a night. Wrap the paper in the red bandana and nail the bandana with the paper wrapped in it at the fork in the road. Leave it overnight. Go and retrieve it the following day. Find a rock about the size of a quarter or so at or very near the fork in the road and take it home with you. Be sure to leave a small bottle of rum as a “thank you” to the Spirits for their help. Unwrap the bandana and flatten it and the paper with your two solutions on a table or other flat surface. Hold the rock directly above the top of the paper and ask the Crossroads Spirits what their answer is to your problem. Drop the rock and watch where it falls. Empowered by the wisdom of the Crossroads Spirits, the best answer will be given to you.

If you are an information seeker, an academic interested in the inner workings of southern conjure traditions, or a practitioner of conjure yourself, you will love our Conjure Club. Each month you will receive on the average 3 to 4 digital downloads and ebooks full of information about traditional conjure workings, working with Catholic saints and folk saints, information about herbs and roots, conjure formularies, various spirits found on the altars of rootworkers all over the South, how to work with lamps, graveyard work, bottle spells, money magic, love spells and much, much more! Go ahead and check it out! Creole Moon's Conjure Club

Article content and document are copyright 2013 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Amulets and Talismans

A talisman is a small amulet or other object, often bearing magical symbols, worn for protection against evil spirits or the supernatural. Drawings of special seals and sigils are used as amulets or talismans and placed in mojo bags. In New Orleans, they are often an ingredient in gris gris bags as well. Other symbols, such as magic squares, angelic signatures, seals of Solomon, seals from the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, magickal alphabets, and kabalistic signs have been employed to a variety of ends, both benign and malicious. All of these can be used as talismans in hoodoo. Even the Buddha has made his way onto the altars of rootworkers, and talismans such as the one pictured above - the Buddha for Peace and Creativity - double as both talisman and a beautiful piece of jewelry.

The difference between an amulet and a talisman is negligible in terms of their effects. In some magick circles it is said that amulets are charged when the moon is waning and talismans are charged when the moon is waxing. 


The Psychic and Magnetic Influence of 

Talismans and Gems

Excerpted from The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems

by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, (1922)


From remotest times, back even to the birth of humanity, Precious Stones and Talismans have been held in high estimation by all nations; the former, primarily because of their beauty, and the latter on account of their virtues, as transmitters of good luck and to avert misfortune. The association of Gems with power, civil and religious, has ever been noticeable; and to the fascination of antiquity may be added the allurement of mystery. Moreover, of the many and varied signs of wealth and luxury, jewels have played a most important part in the lives of the great, not only on account of their beauty but because they contained in a small compass the equivalent to a large sum of money and in times of danger could easily be concealed and carried from place to place.

As tokens or symbols they conveyed joy and confidence to their owners, and were thought to give warning of coming events, inspiring courage and faith in the fearful, and the romances and tragedies in which they have played a part, together with their marked influence on the lives of individuals and nations, intensifies our interest in them so that it is little wonder that faith in the mysterious properties ascribed to them should have survived the growth of ages and still find so many believers in all countries. The philosophers of thousands of years ago, understanding their suitability as a medium for the transmission of astral forces and vibrations, invested them with much importance, attributing to them spiritual as well as material powers, special characteristics and medicinal and curative qualities.

In all probability gems had their origin in the very remote period of the Earth's history when it was still in a molten state subject to deluge and fire, before its solidification made it possible for vegetation to appear, and the translucent lustre of certain gems is due to the action of the floods which preceded the fiery volcanic period. The colouring which forms their greatest fascination is due to various metallic oxides in combination with oxygen which in varying quantities gives red,blue, yellow, or green colourings, as shown by the Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Topaz, and Amethyst.

It is most difficult to determine with any certainty in what country Precious Stones were first worn as ornaments, but the consensus of opinion seems to point to India, as far as recognised history is concerned, as their birthplace, for every rare and beautiful production of Nature, Gems and Pearls are associated with the East.

The earliest records of humanity do not, however, stop with known histories, for traces of man's love for gems are found in the discoveries of travellers and the traditions of South America, evidence proving an inheritance from past civilisations of great antiquity. There is an innate attraction to the marvellous in mankind, the imagination leading us to endow the rare and precious with peculiar qualities, particularly when the source of its beauty and rarity is not readily perceptible. It is akin to the extraordinary magnetic influence which one person may exercise over another without any tangible evidence of super-physical powers, or the mysterious attraction which the Magnet exercises over Iron, and establishes the inference that other minerals may be similarly endowed with properties at present unrecognised by our ordinary physical senses.

Seal of the Sun from the Sixth Book of Moses
Modern research confirms the old teaching that the Universe was created from the four elements, Fire, Air, Water, Earth, in the order given, each growing as it were from its predecessor and all animated in turn by the Word breathed upon them at the Creation; this force, or energy, permeates all existing things from man, who is the highest of apparent physical manifestations down through the animal and vegetable kingdoms to the mineral, in which this energy, by reason of its very slow atomic changes, is least obvious. This Force manifests in the form of vibrations moving in waves through every composite part of the physical world, and, according to the condition of its medium, helping and giving power when in harmony, and thwarting or nullifying action when under unfavourable conditions. To this Force, or Etheric influence, is due the law of Evolution, or progress, which operates in every department of the Universe, not being confined to any one kingdom, but harmonising each with the other, being naturally most powerful in man whose evolution is the highest, and forms the medium through which man can act on the lower kingdoms and receive desired vibrations from them. We may thus interpret Plato's statement "that gems owe their origins to the stars" as an etheric influence acting on the auriferous matter which forms their composition.

The origin of Talismans and Amulets is lost in the obscurity of the ages, but as far back as we can trace human records they are to be found; the terms Talisman and Amulet have become from indiscriminate use to be considered synonymous, but in his notes to the Archaeological Journal, the Rev. C. W. King says:--

"The meaning of these two words is entirely distinct. Talisman being the conception in the Arabic tongue of the Greek, meaning the influence of a planet, or the Zodiac, upon the person born under the same. A Talisman in olden times was, therefore, by its very nature a sigil, or symbolic figure, whether engraved in stone or metal, or drawn upon parchment or paper, and was worn both to procure love and to avert danger from its possessor. The latter purpose alone was the object of the Amulet, its Latin signification being to do away with, or baffle, its root being Amalior. Pliny cites the word as the country-folk name for the Cyclamen which ought to be planted in every human home, because where it is grown poisonous drugs have no power to harm, on which account they call it the flower, Amuletum."

If you would like a copy of this book, all 342 pages of it, head on over to the Creole Moon website where you can download it for free.

If you would like to see a large variety of talismans and amulets, head on over to Medicines and Curios. Doc Miller's got a whole slew of amulets, charms and talismans there!