IN December, 1521, the Inquisitor-General for the diocese of Besançon, Boin by name, heard a case of a sufficiently terrible nature to produce a profound sensation of alarm in the neighbourhood. Two men were under accusation of witchcraft and cannibalism. Their names were Pierre Bourgot, or Peter the Great, as the people had nicknamed him from his stature, and Michel Verdung. Peter had not been long under trial, before he volunteered a full confession of his crimes. It amounted to this:
"In a wood near Chastel Charnon we met with many others whom I did not recognize; we danced, and each had in his or her hand a green taper with a blue flame. Still under the delusion that I should obtain money [from the Evil One], Michel [Verdung] persuaded me to move with the greatest celerity, and in order to do this, after I had stripped myself, he smeared me with a salve, and I believed myself then to be transformed into a wolf. I was at first somewhat horrified at my four wolf's feet, and the fur with which I was covered all at once, but I found that I could now travel with the speed of the wind. This could not have taken place without the help of our powerful Master, who was present during our excursion, though I did not perceive him till I had recovered my human form. Michel did the same as myself.
"When we had been one or two hours in this condition of metamorphosis, Michel smeared us again, and quick as thought we resumed our human forms. The salve was given us by our Masters [the devils]; to me it was given by Moyset, to Michel by his own master, Guillemin."
In one of his were-wolf runs, Pierre fell upon a boy of six or seven years old, with his teeth, intending to rend and devour him, but the lad screamed so loud that he was obliged to beat a retreat to his clothes, and smear himself again, in order to recover his form and escape detection.
He and Michel … one day tore to pieces a woman as she was gathering peas; and a M. de Chusnée, who came to her rescue, was attacked by them and killed.
On another occasion they fell upon a little girl of four years old, and ate her up, with the exception of one arm. Michel thought the flesh most delicious.
Another girl was strangled by them, and her blood lapped up. Of a third they ate merely a portion of the stomach. One evening at dusk, Pierre leaped over a garden wall, and came upon a little maiden of nine years old, engaged upon the weeding of the garden beds. She fell on her knees and entreated Pierre to spare her; but he snapped the neck, and left her a corpse, lying among her flowers. On this occasion he does not seem to have been in his wolf's shape. He fell upon a goat which he found in the field of Pierre Lerugen, and bit it in the throat, but he killed it with a knife.
Michel was transformed in his clothes into a wolf, but Pierre was obliged to strip, and the metamorphosis could not take place with him unless he were stark naked. He was unable to account for the manner in which the hair vanished when he recovered his natural condition.
Pierre declared that he felt no exhaustion after his excursions, though the judge inquired particularly whether he felt that prostration after his unusual exertion, of which witches usually complained. Indeed the exhaustion consequent on a were-wolf raid was so great that the lycanthropist was often confined to his bed for days, and could hardly move hand or foot, much in the same way as the berserkir and ham rammir in the North were utterly prostrated after their fit had left them.
The statements of Pierre Bourgot were fully corroborated by Michel Verdung.
The belief that under certain circumstances a human can transform into a wolf (or “werewolf”) is called “lycanthropy” and has been found all over the world since ancient times. Possibly the first written reference to lycanthropy is in the Old Testament book of Daniel, in which King Nebuchadnezzar is described as displaying symptoms of werewolfism for several years. A Greek legend tells of Lycaon who was transformed into a werewolf by the God Zeus, who served him a dish of human flesh. In the 5th century BC the Greek historian Herodotus told of the Neuri, a strange people who became wolves for a short time each year. The Roman poet Virgil, writing in the 1st century, relates the tale of Moeris, a necromancer who could transform himself into a wolf at will.
During the Middle Ages, the rise of witch-hunting was accompanied by a rise in the number of accounts of werewolves, which were also attributed by the Church to demonic influence and in 1257 torture was officially sanctioned as a means of forcing werewolves to confess their crimes.
Towards the close of the autumn of 1573, the peasants of the neighbourhood of Dôle, in Franche Comté, were authorized by the Court of Parliament at Dôle, to hunt down the were-wolves which infested the country. The authorization was as follows:-- "According to the advertisement made to the sovereign Court of Parliament at Dole, that, in the territories of Espagny, Salvange, Courchapon, and the neighbouring villages, has often been seen and met, for some time past, a were-wolf, who, it is said, has already seized and carried off several little children, so that they have not been seen since, and since he has attacked and done injury in the country to some horsemen, who kept him of only with great difficulty and danger to their persons: the said Court, desiring to prevent any greater danger, has permitted, and does permit, those who are abiding or dwelling in the said places and others, notwithstanding all edicts concerning the chase, to assemble with pikes, halberts, arquebuses, and sticks, to chase and to pursue the said were-wolf in every place where they may find or seize him; to tie and to kill, without incurring any pains or penalties. . . . Given at the meeting of the said Court, on the thirteenth day of the month September, 1573." It was some time, however, before the loup-garou was caught.
One theory suggests that the explosion of werewolfism in Europe during the Middle Ages was caused by the contamination of rye bread (consumed in vast quantities, especially among the peasant classes) with ergot, a fungal parasite which grew on the rye and was ingested with the bread made from it; ergot induces LSD-type hallucinations and may have caused people to think they were seeing werewolves. But this does not account for the numerous accounts, many from confessed werewolves, of the use of a magical salve or ointment that aided in the transformation process.
… Pierre Gandillon was accused of witchcraft. He was charged with having led children to the sabbath, having made hail, and having run about the country in the form of a wolf. The transformation was effected by means of a salve which he had received from the devil. He had on one occasion assumed the form of a hare, but usually he appeared as a wolf, and his skin became covered with shaggy grey hair.
He readily acknowledged that the charges brought against him were well founded, and he allowed that he had, during the period of his transformation, fallen on, and devoured, both beasts and human beings. When he desired to recover his true form, he rolled himself in the dewy grass.
According to folklore, there are a number of ways in which an individual can become a werewolf: being bitten by a werewolf, and surviving; being put under a curse; being conceived on the night of a full moon; being possessed by a demon; eating the flesh of a rabid wolf; or drinking water from a puddle formed in a wolf’s footprint. A person can also voluntarily become a werewolf by putting on a wolf’s skin or drinking a specially-concocted magical elixir.
Heredity was also a suspected cause:
His [Pierre Gandillon] son Georges asserted that he had also been anointed with the salve, and had gone to the sabbath in the shape of a wolf. According to his own testimony, he had fallen upon two goats in one of his expeditions. One Maundy-Thursday night he had lain for three hours in his bed in a cataleptic state, and at the end of that time had sprung out of bed. During this period he had been in the form of a wolf to the witches' sabbath.
Pernette Gandillon … in 1598 ran about the country on all fours, in the belief that she was a wolf. One day as she was ranging the country in a fit of lycanthropic madness, she came upon two children who were plucking wild strawberries. Filled with a sudden passion for blood, she flew at the little girl and would have brought her down, had not her brother, a lad of four years old, defended her lustily with a knife. Pernette, however, wrenched the weapon from his tiny hand, flung him down and gashed his throat, so that he died of the wound. Pernette was tom to pieces by the people in their rage and horror.
His sister Antoinette confessed that she had made hail, and that she had sold herself to the devil, who had appeared to her in the shape of a black he-goat. She had been to the sabbath on several occasions.
Pierre and Georges in prison behaved as maniacs, running on all fours about their cells and howling dismally. Their faces, arms, and legs were frightfully scarred with the wounds they had received from dogs when they had been on their raids ... the transformation not taking place, by the fact of their not having the necessary salves...
All three, Pierre, Georges, and Antoinette, were hung and burned.
Signs that someone is a werewolf include hairy palms, eyebrows which meet in the middle, an index finger considerably longer than the middle finger, and hair between the shoulder blades.
The man, Gilles Garnier, was a sombre, ill-looking fellow, who walked in a stooping attitude, and whose pale face, livid complexion, and deep-set eyes under a pair of coarse and bushy brows, which met across the forehead, were sufficient to repel any one from seeking his acquaintance. Gilles seldom spoke, and when he did it was in the broadest patois of his country. His long grey beard and retiring habits procured for him the name of the Hermit of St. Bonnot, though no one for a moment attributed to him any extraordinary amount of sanctity.
The hermit does not seem to have been suspected for some time, but one day, as some of the peasants of Chastenoy were returning home from their work, through the forest, the screams of a child and the deep baying of a wolf, attracted their notice, and on running in the direction whence the cries sounded, they found a little girl defending herself against a monstrous creature, which was attacking her tooth and nail, and had already wounded her severely in five places. As the peasants came up, the creature fled on all fours into the gloom of the thicket; it was so dark that it could not be identified with certainty, and whilst some affirmed that it was a wolf, others thought they had recognized the features of the hermit. This took place on the 8th November.
It is said that a werewolf can be made to return to his human form by calling him by his human name, or by extracting three drops of blood while he is in his animal state. Also, it is said if a werewolf can restrain himself from eating human flesh for a period of nine years (some sources indicate seven years), he is said to be cured of the curse.
The 1941 Universal film “The Wolfman,” starring Lon Chaney, Jr., introduced additional elements which have now become part of popular werewolf lore, although they were only thematic devices created for the film: the vulnerability of werewolves to silver, the fact that a werewolf must transform at the full moon, and the mark of the pentagram on the palm which identifies a werewolf for his next victim.
For centuries, magical practitioners have debated the ingredients of the werewolf salve; only dark hints have come down through the folklore. Practitioners agree that the ointment must necessarily have contained a variety of powerful hallucinogenic drugs and have suggested herbs such as belladonna, monkshood, and hensbane played an important role; these were the same herbs often found in the “flying ointments” used by medieval witches.
Practitioners long studied the efficacy of metals against the werewolf and it appears this belief only goes much farther back than the Hollywood of the 1930’s and 40’s. Many magicians and modern alchemists agree that the metal most effective against the wolfman is cold, hard iron but that any dense metal – including silver – has sufficient properties to “short circuit” the etheric connection necessary to maintain the werewolf’s beastly form, also known as its “magical body of transformation.” Contact with a dense metal like iron or silver will cause the werewolf to return to its human form; injuries caused by the metal will be reflected upon the wolfman’s human body by a magical process called “repercussion.”
The “bersirkir” or Bersekers were infamous Scandinavian warriors who indulged in magical shapeshifting in order to turn the tides of battles. Accounts are still extant of great bears and huge wolves appearing on battlefields all across Scandinavia in dark age battles; while the beast forms fought, their magical “masters” sat trancelike in the camps nearby directing their animal forms from the astral plane. The Native Americans and tribes throughout South America practiced similar shapeshifting magic in attempts to connect with personal and tribal totemic animals; the practices endure to this day.
The classic European werewolf is not a monster commonly encountered in modern times, however, modern cryptozoologists indicate an increasing trend in sightings of wolfman-type creatures. If you participate in any form of paranormal investigations, particularly in rural, underdeveloped areas or exterior locations, it can be very important to know how to identify a werewolf.
Having excluded ordinary animals and the possibility that the paranormal activity may be the work of elemental or nature spirits, the following are signs that point to the possibility that you are dealing with a genuine wolfman:
- One or more animals are sighted behaving in ways out of character for the species in question, or in an area in which that species is definitely known to be extinct;
- The area of the sighting is one in which magical shapeshifting traditions are known or very strongly suspected to have survived;
- The type, behavior, and activities of the animal in question correspond closely to these specific traditions;
- The animal is seen to act in ways that suggest a very high intelligence, unusual physical abilities (such as the ability to keep pace with a car driving at highway speeds), and/or an interest in things (such as money or other valuables) that animals of that species normally neglect;
- If the animal is struck with a non-metallic object, this has no apparent effect on it;
- Other psychological, criminological, and medical explanations have been effectively ruled out.
The great majority of these signs should be present to justify a tentative conclusion that a werewolf or other shapeshifter may be present.
Because different cultures have very different traditions concerning werewolves and shapeshifting magic, it is important to check the details of a sighting against local lore and tradition; this offers the best way to test if a genuine creature is present. If you are working in a region that has a strong Native or South American tradition of shapeshifting, check for the characteristic behaviors of shapeshifters. If, however, your sighting happens in an area with a large concentration of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, you may have found a traditional werewolf; in this case you should read up on eastern European werewolf traditions, and check the phase of the moon, the season, and the date(s) of the sightings.
The werewolf tradition, especially as understood among the Europeans, has deep ties to various kinds of dangerous magical practices, to criminal activities, and to violence, and its possible that in your explorations you may find yourself running the risk of magical or physical attack. In order to respond to a magical attack, the investigator or researcher should be well-versed in all forms of magical self-defense, but especially those dealing with supernatural animals.
If you are actually attacked by a werewolf (or any other type of shapeshifter), remember that there may or may not be a human body inside the magical body of transformation, and that human may be carrying a weapon of some kind. Either way, the animal form is your best point of attack. If you can hit the animal near its center – specifically in the area of its solar plexis – with a highly conductive metal such as silver or iron, it will almost certainly cause the magical form to implode, leaving you faced with either a dazed and disoriented human, or empty air.
When encountering the werewolf in its human form, keep in mind that some of the nascent power of the supernatural animal will still be present, if slightly compromised, for several minutes following the etheric break – and those can be very llllooonnnggg minutes. However, it is also important to remember that laws governing assault and battery apply to supposed lycanthropes as well, and unless your encounter takes place in the forests of the Carpathian mountains, you likely won’t get far with convincing a modern judge that your actions were justified because you were attacking a werewolf …
In rare instances the break in the etheric connection with the magical body of transformation has sometimes been so severe as to kill the shapeshifting human involved; the possibility exists, though remote, that a dead body will turn up somewhere after the long night of magic has passed and you may find yourself in serious legal trouble.
The lesson here is that, unlike vampires for instance, with werewolves its best not to seek out direct physical confrontation, unless you have no choice and you are forced to defend yourself. At any rate it is absolutely essential to know the legal, ethical, and practical issues involved before you put yourself in a situation where violence may result. With werewolves most especially, it is important to take these warnings to heart.
O was it war-wolf in the wood?
Or was it mermaid in the sea?
Or was it man, or vile woman,
My ain true love, that mis-shaped thee?
The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings
By Brad Steiger
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With 250 entries, this filmography and resource is the encyclopedic guide to all things lycanthropic and a fascinating compendium of comparative mythology and folklore. Delving into the 15th century to uncover the origins of the werewolf legend, it is an eye-opening, blood-pounding tour through the ages, landing on the doorstep of creatures like hirsute mass-murderer Charles Manson and canine-directed Son of Sam. A helpful chronology of lycanthropic activities dates back 140,000 years, to the first mixing of human and lupine blood.
From the Back Cover
From movies like An American Werewolf in London to the best-selling game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, to folklore and case histories, The Werewolf Book is the encyclopedic guide to all things lycanthropic. In this spectacular first edition, Brad Steiger takes you back to the 15th century to uncover the origins of the werewolf legend. From there he leads you on an eye-opening world tour through the ages to the modern-day monstrous duality of creatures like cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Does the wolf live within each of us? Learn how the legends of the werewolf can mirror the animal that exists in each and every one of us. Some have given in to these primal animal urges. Find out why. The answers lie within....
The Werewolf Book, the perfect companion to Visible Ink's best-selling Vampire Book, is the eagerly anticipated work resulting from Mr. Steiger's lifelong studies. It contains nearly 250 entries, a filmography, and a resource guide with web sites. More than 125 photographs (including 16 pages in color), ranging from folk art to movie stills, will have you hair standing on end. Shape-changing topics include:
* Classic werewolf movies
* Slaying the werewolf
* Children raised by wolves
* Serial killers
* Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
* Lon Chaney, Jr.
* The Moon and Mars
* Eddie Munster and Wolfie
* Marquis de Sade
* Loup-garou and other creatures from around the world
* Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman
The Werewolf Book, Brad Steiger's homage to the beast within, provides a full moon of fact and fiction for the lycanthrophile in all of us.
About the Author
A regular on Art Bell's syndicated radio program and a veteran author of the paranormal and phenomena, Brad Steiger has more than 150 books to his credit, including his classic, Monsters Among Us. Growing up in a small farming town, Steiger saw movies whenever he could. His interst in werewolves was piqued as a boy when he saw Lon Chaney's very human portrayal of The Wolf Man, a good guy seized by evil forces beyond his control. He views werewolves as a metaphor for the vicious side that lurks within all of us--a force we must always guard against.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Basic Ways to Become a Werewolf
There are two basic ways by which one might become a werewolf: voluntary and involuntary.
According to the ancient Greeks, any skilled sorcerer who so chose could become a werewolf. Throughout history, self-professed werewolves have mentioned a "magic girdle" or "magic belt," which they wear about their middles, or a "magic salve" which they apply liberally to their naked bodies. Others tell of inhaling or imbibing certain potions.
Magical texts advise those who wish to become a werewolf to disrobe, rub a magical ointment freely over their flesh, place a girdle made of human or wolf skin around their waist, then cover their entire body with the pelt of a wolf. To accelerate the process, they should drink beer mixed with blood and chant a particular magical formula.
Some werewolves claim to have achieved their shape shifting ability by having drunk water from the paw print of a wolf. Once this had been accomplished, they ate the brains of a wolf and slept in its lair.
One ancient text prescribes a ritual for the magician who is eager to become a shape shifter. He is told to wait until the night of a full moon, then enter the forest at midnight. Then, according to the instructions:
Draw two concentric circles on the ground, one six feet in diameter, the other 14 feet in diameter. Build a fire in the center of the inner circle and place a tripod over the flames. Suspend from the tripod an iron pot full of water. Bring the water to a full boil and throw into the pot a handful each of aloe, hemlock, poppy seed, and nightshade. As the ingredients are being stirred in the iron pot, call aloud to the spirits of the restless dead, the spirits of the foul darkness, the spirits of the hateful, and the spirits of werewolves and satyrs.
Once the summons for the various spirits of darkness have been shouted into the night, the person who aspires to become a werewolf should strip off all of his clothing and smear his body with the fat of a freshly killed animal that has been mixed with anise, camphor, and opium. The next step is to take the wolf skin that he has brought with him, wrap it around his middle like a loincloth, then kneel down at the boundaries of the large circle and remain in that position until the fire dies out. When this happens, the power that the disciple of darkness has summoned should make its presence known to him.
If the magician has done everything correctly, the dark force will announce its presence by loud shrieks and groans. Later, if the would-be werewolf has not been terrified and frightened away by the dark one's awful screams and groans, it will materialize in any one of a number forms, most likely that of a horrible half-human, half-beast monster. Once it has manifested in whatever form it desires, the dark one force will conduct its transaction with the magician and allow him henceforth to assume the shape of a wolf whenever he wears his wolf skin loincloth.
By far the most familiar involuntary manner in which one becomes a werewolf is to be bitten or scratched by such a creature. In the same category would be those men and women who are transformed into werewolves by being cursed for their sins or by being the victim of a sorcerer's incantations.
Another involuntary means of becoming a werewolf, according to some old traditions, is to be born on Christmas Eve. The very process of one's birth on that sacred night, according to certain ecclesiastical scholars, is an act of blasphemy since it detracts from the full attention that should be given to the nativity of Jesus. Thus, those born on that night are condemned to be werewolves unless they prove themselves to be pious beyond reproach in all thoughts, words, and deeds throughout their lifetime.
Sources: Eisler, Robert. Man into Wolf. London: Spring Books, n.d. Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1960.
Copyright (c) 1999 Visible Ink Press
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CHAMBERS DICTIONARY OF THE UNEXPLAINED: A GUIDE TO THE MYSTICAL, THE PARANORMAL, AND THE SUPERNATURAL
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