Medical explanation for Cajun Folklore known as 'Kooshma' - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Medical explanation for Cajun Folklore known as 'Kooshma'

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A medical phenomenon holds a special place in Cajun folklore. The phenomenon is known as "Kooshma".

It originates from the French word, cauchemar, which means nightmare in French. It's an encounter that Lafayette native Ethel Celestine says she has experienced.  

"It was like the devil," Celestine explained. " Our parents always implicated if we didn't say our prayers at night the 'Kooshma' would come and get us. "

Celestine is familiar with the dream. In Cajun folklore, it's a spiritual presence that visits a sleeping person.
Celestine describes it as a dark and evil presence. In the intense nightmare, people will find themselves unable to move or scream while sleeping, fighting to wake up. Celestine says Kooshma happens when you don't pray before falling asleep. 

People who have experienced the phenomena have described seeing an evil presence during the dream. 

"I've had friends say they've seen the little horns sticking out of his head," Celestine said. "Some said they've seen him dress in a little red devil outfit. It's  a dark presence. A really heavy dark presence. "

According to Dr. Bryan Lebean, the "Kooshma" is really a disorder called sleep paralysis. 

"The brain is awakening, but your body is kind of slow to the uptake," Lebean said. "It (the brain) has kind of fallen behind as far as getting your body moving. Your brain is kind of awake, but the body just isn't yet. " 

Sleep paralysis can be a symptom of other medical problems.

"It's part of a true medical disorder like narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea," Lebean said. "It's even tied into alcohol abuse and psychological stress which is why 50 percent of the population are going to experience it at some point in their lives." 

As for Celestine, she says she will say her prayers every night before bed to keep the Kooshma away.

"Once you said that prayer like 'Our Father' everything became calm," Celestine said. 

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