Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/534

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
534
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SUPERSTITIONS OF THE FRENCH CANADIANS.
By Miss BLANCHE L. MACDONELL.

THE folklore of Canada is the more interesting that it has its origin in various sources. The Canadian transported with him from fruitful Normandy, from poetical and superstitious Brittany, a wealth of popular myths, traditions, legends, and beliefs which are almost as firmly held in French Canada of to-day as ever they were in the ancient days of faith. Civilization has scarcely invaded the sanctity of earnest faith, or broken its spell.

In the legendary lore of Canada the devil plays a prominent part. He does not appear as the strong angel, who fell through pride, the enemy of God, but as the mediƦval devil of monkish legend, the petty persecutor of man. In the rural districts of Canada, Satan is supposed to be very active. His company may be looked for on all occasions. The accidental appearance of a little child in the room often betrays the presence of the evil spirit, as the poor innocent is sure to bewail itself vigorously. The Prince of Darkness may be met at a ball, in the guise of a handsome young man who excels all the rustic gallants in appearance. He wears gloves to conceal his claws, and disregards the trammels of conventionality by keeping his hat on his head to hide his horns. He selects the prettiest girl in the room as his partner, but his choice is usually the village coquette, whose vanity or levity has exposed her to the evil influence. In the midst of the gayety a piercing cry is heard. A strong odor of brimstone becomes perceptible, and the attractive cavalier is wafted out of the window, carrying with him some useful domestic utensil, as, for instance, a stove or the frying pan. The girl may escape with a sharp scratch of a claw, particularly if she should happen to wear a cross or a crucifix. Canadian rustics never answer "Entrez," when a knock is heard at the door; they invariably respond "Ouvrez." This is founded upon an old legend of a young woman who replied "Entrez" to such a summons, when the devil came in and carried her off.

When one is starting in a hurry to bring the priest to the sick, the devil is stimulated to the most lively activity, for then it is the question of the loss and gain of a soul. On such occasions an endless variety of the most unforeseen accidents are sure to happen. The horses are found unharnessed, or the harness breaks without any reason, and strange lights flash before the horses' eyes. Prudent persons guard against such contingencies by providing themselves with two vehicles; then, if an accident happens to one, the other remains available.

The werewolf legend constitutes one of the most somber of