LE FEU FOLLET
When writing the book, Bayou Pigeon, LA. The Spirit of The Atchafalaya.
Mr. Felix Berthelot, a walking history book in one of our talks, about Bayou Pigeon history, Ghost stories came up, he said have you heard ‘Le Feu Follett’.
If you were deep into the swamp, alone on a moonless night where the darkness holds sway. If you were lost or just poling your pirogue back to your camp boat, sometimes you would see lights that seem to be following you along on the ridges, if you went to shore, they would move back in swamp and where the ‘gator and the water moccasins and other bad things lived.
He said these lights were ‘Le Feu Follett’ the Ghosts of the Swamp.
He said if you tried to follow them you would die.
I had never heard of ‘Feu Follet.
So I thought I might ought to research that topic… here is that story.
The Feu Follet is said to be glowing balls of light or flickering balls of light randomly dancing in the dark shadows of the bayou.
A ghost legend, evil entities, they were Evil spirits looking for souls to steal. Laying a trap for those unsuspecting swamp travelers who were unlucky enough to stumble upon them.
The balls of light were thought to be a distraction by the entity in hopes that someone would be drawn to the balls of light, follow them deep into the swamp, and eventually get lost or drown.
Feu follet (foo fow-lay) is a Cajun French phrase which translates to “marsh fire” or “crazy fire,” depending on who you talk to.
The phrase comes from the Acadians. Cajuns today say that their grandparents and ancestors before them used to tell stories that on the darkest of nights, you could see mysterious lights. They’ve supposedly been seen in different sizes, but some say the average size is said to be no larger than a candle flame.
Some old Cajuns thought they were souls who escaped from Purgatory or they’re the souls of babies who were never blessed in the Church.
Cajuns believed that since unbaptized babies carry sin but are still free of wrongdoing, they cannot go to heaven or hell, and their souls stay on earth, sometimes appearing as Feu Follet.
According to Cajun lore, if you tried to follow them, once they lured you into following them, they turn you around and it would look like they were coming to get you.
Adding the fact that the Atchafalaya swamp at night can be a cacophony of noises, from frogs to alligators bellowing and everything in between.
Or it can be eerily silent with nothing but the sounds of your paddle plying the placid, muddy waters. Add the soft touch of Spanish moss on your head or the dropping into your pirogue of one of the many resident snakes and the Atchafalaya can provide quite a scare.
Some old Cajuns believe if the Feu Follet got after you, by sticking a piece of iron, ie., a knife into the ground will distract the Feu Follet would begin playing with the knife and leave the traveler alone.
As the mystery of this phenomenon became more prominent naturally it would eventually lead to the requirement of some sort of explanation.
Over the years many explanations for the lights have been offered, ranging from an electrostatic discharge, swamp gas, or moonlight shining on veins of ghosts.
The most plausible explanation is that the lights are an unusual phenomenon similar to a mirage, caused by an atmospheric condition produced by the interaction of cold and warm layers of air that bend light so that it is seen from a distance but not up close."
Whatever Mr. Felix told me he believed in the Feu Follet.
Back in the day his father told him he knew people who said they saw 'The Feu Follett' frogging on / in the Long View around the confluence of Little Bayou Pigeon / Big Bayou Pigeon.
That if he ever were to see them never try to follow them or he would die.
In modern times some may say, the Feu Follett is finally seeking revenge for the many who have done harm to or in in the Atchafalaya Basin over the years.
Is it the litterers who throws there trash in the waters and on the land, is it fossil fuel exploration that takes shortcut does not follow guidelines established per the permits, is it the outlaw head lighter who is hunting game at night, is it the fisherman who may be running another fisherman nets / crawfish traps, whatever, either way, if you for some reason find yourself in the Louisiana swamp at night…don’t follow the light.