The Werewolf in Lore and Legendby Montague Summers
The first definitive work on werewolfery, this book was written by a venerable author of occult studies. Unsurpassed in its sheer scope and depth, it employs a theological and philosophical approach, incorporating an extensive range of historical documentation and folklore. Summers examines the supernatural practice of shapeshifting, notes the finer distinctions… See more details below
The first definitive work on werewolfery, this book was written by a venerable author of occult studies. Unsurpassed in its sheer scope and depth, it employs a theological and philosophical approach, incorporating an extensive range of historical documentation and folklore. Summers examines the supernatural practice of shapeshifting, notes the finer distinctions between werewolfery and lycanthropy, and explores the differences of opinion on exactly how ordinary humans are transformed into creatures of "unbridled cruelty, bestial ferocity, and ravening hunger." His Gothic style, rich in fascinating examples and anecdotes, offers compelling fare for lovers of esoteric lore.
Read an Excerpt
The Werewolf in Lore and Legend
By Montague Summers
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Werewolf: Lycanthropy
AS old as time and as wide as the world, the belief in the werewolf by its very antiquity and its universality affords accumulated evidence that there is at least some extremely significant and vital element of truth in this dateless tradition, however disguised and distorted it may have become in later days by the fantasies and poetry of epic sagas, roundel, and romance. The ultimate origins of the werewolf are indeed obscure and lost in the mists of primeval mythology, and when we endeavour to track the slot too far we presently find ourselves mused and amazed, driven to hazard and profitless conjecture, unless we are sensible enough to recognize and candid enough to acknowledge the dark and terrible mysteries, both psychic and physical, which are implicated in and essentially permeate a catena of evidence past dispute, and which alone can adequately explain or account for the prominence and the survival of those cruel narratives which have come down to us throughout the centuries, and the facts of which are being repeated to-day in the evil-haunted depths of African jungles, and even in remoter hamlets of Europe, farmy woods and mountain vales, almost divorced from the ken of man and wellnigh un visited by civilization.
The mere somatist; the rationalist, often masquerading nowadays under Christian credentials; the rationalizing anthropologist; the totemist; the erratic solarist; "prompt to impose and fond to dogmatize," each and every, in his hot-paced eagerness to expiscate and explain the manner of all mysteries in earth and heaven, will not be slow to broach and argue his newest superstitions, the fruit of trivially profound research, vagaries which can neither interest, instruct, nor yet entertain the true scholar of simpler vision and clearer thought, since in the end these veaking inquirers commonly arrive at nothing, and like the earth-born sons of Cadmean tilth it has proved in the past that again and again do they painfully destroy themselves by internecine war.
Yet there may be found some in whom the missionary spirit of error is so pertinacious that they will refurbish and seemingly with intenser conviction reiterate sham theories a thousand times discredited and disproved. Thus, with regard to the very subject of the werewolf, which he only touches quite cursorily as he passes by, Sir William Ridgeway in his Early Age of Greece was constrained to warn the student that he "must be careful lest whilst he is avoiding the Scylla of solar mythology, he may be swallowed up in the Charybdis of totemism",
Precisely to define the werewolf is perhaps not altogether easy. We may, however, say that a werewolf is a human being, man, woman or child (more often the first), who either voluntarily or involuntarily changes or is metamorphosed into the apparent shape of a wolf, and who is then possessed of all the characteristics, the foul appetites, ferocity, cunning, the brute strength, and swiftness of that animal. In by far the greater majority of instances the werewolf to himself as well as to those who behold him seems completely to have assumed the furry lupine form. This shape-shifting is for the most part temporary, of longer or shorter duration, but it is sometimes supposed to be permanent. The transformation, again, such as it is, if desired, can be effected by certain rites and ceremonies, which in the case of a constitutional werewolf are often of the black goetic kind. The resumption of the original form may also then be wrought at will. Werewolfery is hereditary or acquired; a horrible pleasure born of the thirst to quaff warm human blood, or an ensorcelling punishment and revenge of the dark Ephesian art.
It should be remarked that in a secondary or derivative sense the word werewolf has been erroneously employed to denote a person suffering from lycanthropy, that mania or disease when the patient imagines himself to be a wolf, and under that savage delusion betrays all the bestial propensities of the wolf, howling in a horrid long-drawn note. This madness will hardly at all concern us here. Werewolf is also in one place found to specify an exceptionally large and ferocious wolf, and according to Dr. John Jamieson, in the county of Angus, Warwolf, pronounced warwoof was anciently used to designate a puny child, or an ill-grown person of whatever age.
Verstegan, that is to say, Richard Rowlands, in his A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 4to, 1605, has: "Were our ancestors vsed somtyme in steed of Man yet should it seeme that were was moste commonly taken for a maried man. But the name of man is now more knoun and more generally vsed in the whole Teutonic toung then the name of Were.
"Were-wulf. This name remaineth stil knoun in the Teutonic, & is as much to say as man-wolf, the greeks expressing the very lyke, in Lycanthropos.
"Ortelius not knowing what were signified, because in the Netherlandes it is now clean out of vse, except thus composed with wolf, doth mis-interprete it according to his fancie.
"The were-wolves are certaine sorcerers, who hauing annoynted their bodyes, with an oyntment which they make by the instinct of the deuil; and putting on a certaine in-chanted girdel, do not only vnto the view of others seeme as wolues, but to their oun thinking haue both the shape and nature of wolues, so long as they weare the said girdel. And they do dispose theselues as very wolues, in wurrying and killing, and moste of humaine creatures.
"Of such sundry haue bin taken and executed in sundry partes of Germanie, and the Netherlands. One Peeter Stump for beeing a were-wolf and hauing killed thirteen children, two women, and one man; was at Bedbur not far from Cullen in the year 1589 put vnto a very terrible death. The flesh of diuers partes of his body was pulled out with hot iron tongs, his armes thighes & legges broke on a wheel, & his body lastly burnt. He dyed with very great remorce, desyring that his body might not be spared from any torment, so his soule might be saued. The were-wolf (so called in Germanie) is in France, called Loupgarov."
This "etymological explanation", says Professor Ernest Weekley in his More Words Ancient and Modern, "is substantially correct." This authority remarks that strictly were "should be wer, a word of wider diffusion in the Aryan languages than man or gome. It is found in all the Teutonic languages and is cognate with Lat. vir, Gaelic fear, Welsh gwr, Sanskrit vira. Were died out in early Mid. English, but survives historically in wergild". He also adds: "The disappearance of the simple were led Mid. English writers to explain the first syllable as ware, and, as late as 1576, Turber-ville tells us, 'Such wolves are called "warwolves", bicause a man had neede to be ware of them.' A similar idea seems to account for archaic Ger. wehrwolf associated with the cognate wehren, to protect, take heed."
As Verstegan notes, the Greek [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a word-formation exactly corresponding to the Anglo-Saxon were-wulf, which occurs as a synonym for the devil in the laws of King Cnut, Ecclesiastical Ordinances, xxvi. "Thonne moton tha hyrdas beon swydhe wacore and geornlice clypi-gende, the widh thonne theodsceadhan folce sceolan scyldan, thaet syndon biscopas and maessepreostas, the godcunde heorda bewarian and bewarian sceolan, mid wislican laran, thaet se wodfreca werewulf to swidhe ne slyte ne to fela ne abite of godcundse heorde." "Therefore must be the shepherds be very watchful and diligently crying out, who have to shield the people against the spoiler; such are bishops and mass-priests, who are to preserve and defend their spiritual flocks with wise instructions, that the madly audacious were-wolf do not too widely devastate, nor bite too many of the spiritual flock."
It is interesting to remark that Werwulf actually occurs as a proper name, since Asser in his De Rebus Gestis Ælfredi mentions "Æthelstan quoque et Werwulf um, sacerdotes et carelianos, Mercios genere, eruditos, "who helped that monarch in his studies, and were duly rewarded by him." Werwulf, the Mercian priest, was a friend of Bishop Werfrith of Worcester, and the name is found in various charters, some of which, however, are by no means altogether above suspicion. One may compare such names as Ethelwulf, "the Noble Wolf"; Berthwulf, "the Illustrious Wolf"; Eadwulf, "the Prosperous Wolf"; Ealdwulf, "the Old Wolf," and many more.
Bishop Burchard of Worms, who died in August, 1025, in the nineteenth Book, De Poenitentia, of his Decreta— "Liber hie Corrector vocatur et Medicus"—instructs the priest to ask a penitent the following: "Credidisti quod quidam credere soient, ut illae quae a vulgo parcae vocantur, ipsae, vel sint, vel possint hoc faceré quod creduntur; id est, dum aliquis homo nascitur, et tunc valeant ilium designare ad hoc quod velint ut quandocunque ille homo voluerit, in lupum transformari possit, quod vulgaris stultitia weruvolff vocat, aut in aliam aliquam figuram? Si credidisti, quod unquam fieret aut esse possit, ut divina imago in aliam formam aut in speciem transmutan possit ab aliquo, nisi ab omnipotente Deo, decern dies in pane et aqua debes poenitere."
It must be here carefully remarked that Burchard's question does not for a moment imply any doubt as to the reality of the demon werewolf. In a sense it cuts deeper than that. The essential point of the priest's query is whether the person seeking absolution has doubted the omnipotence of Almighty God, has sinfully allowed himself to wonder whether the powers of evil may not wellnigh match the powers of good, and thus be able to perform diabolic miracles and marvels in despite, as it were, of the Supreme Deity. This, of course, is the deadly error of the Manichees, the dualism of good and evil, a divided empire. During the twelfth century Western Europe, in particular Italy, France, and Germany, suffered from an extraordinary outburst of dualism, the adherents of which foul doctrines propagated their dark creed with tireless zeal until the country began to swarm with Catharists, Albigenses, Paterini, Publicani, Bulgari, Tisserands, Bougres, Paulicians, and a thousand other subversive sectaries. The ultimate principle of these beliefs, differ as they might in detail, was Satanism. Raoul Glaber, a monk who died at Cluny about 1050, writing his contemporary History, speaks of their obstinate persistence in these abominations: "Hos nempe cunctos ita macula-verat haeretica pravitas, ut ante erat illis crudeli morte finiri, quam ab illa quoquomodo possent ad saluberrimam Christi Domini fidem revocari. Colebant enim idola more paganorum, ac cum ludaeis inepta sacrificia litare nitabantur."
Nearly three centuries earlier than Burchard, S. Boniface, the martyred Archbishop of Mayence, Apostle of Germany, in his sermon De abrenuntiatione in baptismate, "concerning those things which a Christian renounceth at his Baptism," speaks of "veneficia, incantationes et sortílegos exquirere, strigas et fictos hipos credere, abortum faceré", that is to say, "poisonings, magic spells and the curious seeking out of lots, trusting implicitly in witches and a superstitious fear of werewolves, the procuring of abortion, as among the 'mala opera diaboli', 'the abominable works of the devil.'" The Saint classes these sins with "superbia, idololatria, invidia, homicidium, detractio, ... fornicatio, adulterium, omnis pollutio, furta, falsum testimonium, rapiña, gula, ebrietas ...", "pride, the worshipping of idols, envy, murder, malice, ... fornication, adultery, all uncleanness, theft, false witness, despoiling by violence, gluttony, drunkenness, ...," and other evil deeds. The phrase "strigas et fictos lupos credere" does not mean merely "to believe that witches and werewolves exist", but "to put one's trust in the power of sorcerers and to believe that the devil is able of his own might to transform men into wolves", which is to say one gives the glory to Satan rather than to God, as in truth witches and warlocks use and are wont.
The word werewolf in its first and correcter signification is employed by Gervase of Tilbury, who in his Otia Imperialia thus explains the term: "Vidimus enim frequenter in Anglia per lunationes homines in lupos mutari, quod hominum genus gerulfos Galli nominant, Anglici vero werewlf dicunt: were enim Anglice virum sonat, wlf lupum."
Gervase of Tilbury composed his Otia about 1212, and rather more than a century later in the English poem William of Palerne, otherwise known as the Romance of "William and the Werwolf", translated from the twelfth century Roman de Guillaume de Palerne at the command of Sir Humphrey de Bohun about 1350, we have the word werwolf, as in 11. 79–80: —
For i wol of þe werwolf- a wile nov speke.
Whanne þis werwolf was come to his wolnk denne ...
and the word is not infrequently repeated throughout the poem.
The following lines occur in Pierce the Ploughmans Crede (c. 1394):—
In vestimentis ouium, but onlie wiþ-inne
þel ben wilde wer-wolues þat wiln þe folk robben.
þe fend founded hem first ...
The Vulgate, secundum Matthseum, vii, 15, has: "Attendite a falsis prophetis, qui veniunt ad vos in vestimentis ovium, intrinsecus aut em sunt lupi rapaces." The Douai translation runs: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." The Authorized Version is practically identical: "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." The Revised is the same. The original Greek has [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for the words translated "ravening wolves" or in Pierce the Ploughmans Crede "wer-wolues". Here, too, they seem to be regarded as definitely inspired by the demon, although this detail perhaps should not be pressed.
In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, which was completed about 1470, book xix, c. xi, mention is found of "Sir Marrok the good knyghte that was bitrayed with his wyf for she made hym seuen y ere a werwolf".
Among Scottish poets Robert Henryson, who was born about the beginning of the second quarter of the fifteenth century and who died certainly not later than 1508, in his Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian, "Compylit in Eloquent, and Ornate Scottis Meter," in "The Trial of the Fox", writes:—
The Minotaur, ane Monster meruelous,
Bellerophont, that beist of Bastardrie,
The Warwolf, and the Pegase perillous,
Transformit be assent of sorcerie ...
In The Fly ting of Dunbar and Kennedie, the latter poet addresses his rival in the following terms:—
Dathane deuillis sone, and dragon dispitous,
Abironis birth, and bred with Beliall;
Wod werwolf, worme, and scorpion vennemous,
Lucifers laid, fowll feyindis face infernall;
Sodomyt, syphareit fra Sanctis celestiall, ..,
Alexander Montgomerie in his Flyting of Montgomerie and Polwart (1582), has:—
Ane vairloche, ane woirwolf, ane wowbat of hair,
Ane devill, and ane dragoun, ane doyed dromodarie, ...
A little earlier in the same poem he reviles his adversary:—
With warwoolffs and wild cates thy weird be to wander; ..,
In the excellent old comedy Philotus young Flavius thus conjures and exorcises Emily:—
Throw power I charge the of the Paip,
Thow neyther girne, gowl, glowme, nor gaip,
Lyke Anker said ell, like unsell Aip,
Lyke Owle nor Airische Elfe:
Lyke fyrie Dragon full of feir,
Lyke Warwolf, Lyon, Bull nor Beir,
Bot pas thow hence as thow come heir,
In lykenes of thy selfe.
King James VI of Scotland in his Dmonologie, 1597, iii, 1, has "war-woolfes" and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which signifieth men-woolfes".
John Sibbald in the Glossary to his Chronicle of Scottish Poetry has: "Warwolf, according to an antient vulgar idea, a person transformed to a wolf Teut. weer wolf S wed. warulf lycanthropus; hoc est, qui ex ridicula vulgi opinione in lupi forma noctu obambulat. Goth, v air, vir; & ulf lupus. It is not unlikely that Warlock may be a corruption of this word." This is, of course, a wholly impossible etymology since the first element in Warlock is the O.E. wr "covenant"; and the second element is related to O.E. leogan "to lie or deny", Thus the first meaning of Warlock is one who breaks a treaty, the violator of his oath, a man forsworn; hence in general a false and wicked person, and then a magician, a sorcerer.
In the famous "Discourse of Witchcraft as it was acted in the Family of Mr. Edward Fairfax", 1621, occurs another form of the word werewolf. "Above all [the transformation of] the Leucanthopoi is most miraculous ... which Witches that people do call weary wolves."
The modern German is Werwolf, which has a less correct old form Währwolf. There are variants, and also corruptions such as bärwolf, which is given in Johann Georg Wachter's Glossarium Germanicum, berwolff in Camerarius, and berwulf.
Excerpted from The Werewolf in Lore and Legend by Montague Summers. Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >