THE STORY OF SCALES, SEA SERPENT OF THE SASSAGOULA

A Mardi Gras Legend, 1882

Folklore in the Sassagoula delta is a mix of various cultural traditions. The Indians that inhabited the area had many stories about the origins of the Sassagoula. One story they told explained how the river feared that the sea would consume all its water if the sea could find the source of the river. So in order to confuse the sea, the Sassagoula split into a thousand small rivers just before it reached the sea. This was how the delta was formed.

The French and Spanish settlers brought many of their own cultural folklores with them and over time these traditions melded together. Most of the stories the children learned delt with religious observances and holidays. However, one story emerged that was totally unique to Port Orleans. It seems that parents have always had a difficult time keeping their children away from the bayou that surrounds the city. These swampy marshes have inherent dangers such as alligators and snakes. So in order to frighten their children away from playing in the bayou, a story emerged of a large serpentine creature that lurks beneath the surface of the dark and still waters, waiting to eat unsuspecting children. Many people, it was said, met their demise while wandering in the misty depths of the murky swamp.

“Scales”, the sea serpent float used in the traditional
Mardi Gras parade can now be seen at its new
home at Doubloon Lagoon.

Some of the older children were not fightened by the myth. So a group of fathers decided to do something to scare them. In a cabin near the bayou, the men constructed a large dragon-like serpent made of fence wire and bedsheets. They painted it with whatever they could find, so the finished product was a horrendous looking, multi colored contraption that took sixteen men to operate.

When the unsuspecting children arrived at the bayou, the serpent emerged, howling, screaming and chasing the ashen children all the way back to town.

Each year the serpent reappeared at the end of the Mardis Gras parade, reminding the children to stay away from the bayou. Eventually “Scales” became a permanent fixture at Doubloon Lagoon and can been seen there today.


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