The history of lycanthropes stretches back to man’s beginnings. From cave drawings and tribal folklore to the Inquisition and the twentieth century, man’s fascination with werewolves has never wavered. The field of study has been ripped wide open with new information uncovered daily.
Now there is finally a book that covers all the diverse elements of these cursed but greatly misunderstood creatures. From the bloodstained history of Europe and into the New World, especially the United States, these creatures have been documented like no other.
But there is also a need for practical information. When Werewolves Attack supplies just that type of insight. How do you detect a werewolf when they are in human form? What if a family member is a werewolf? How do you defend yourself from an attack, in terms of weaponry and fortification, whether you are inside or out in the woods? How do you escape from an attack of savage lycanthropes?
Don’t be caught flat-footed again. This is the field guide everybody needs to protect themselves and their family.
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A Brief, Bloodstained History of Werewolves
The Bond Between Man and Wolf
The power of hiding ourselves from one another is mercifully given, for men are wild beasts, and would devour one another but for this protection.
– Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit
Anthropologists place humans' first domestication of dogs at between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. DNA tests have recently established that various domestic and wild dog breeds evolved from four different species of canines, one of them being wolves, some 40,000 years ago. Yet there is evidence that human hunters traveled with wolves much further back — at least 100,000 years ago. Mans superior intelligence and opposable thumbs and wolves' speed and super sense of smell made for an unstoppable hunting team. The dim cultural memory of that ancient bond may be why legends of wolves — the wild ones that did not accept domestication or perhaps simply didn't like the company of men — are so deeply rooted in man's primal subconscious, where fears arise in the dark after midnight.
Ancient man learned a lot from his association with wolves. Wolves knew how to work as a team or pack. They were cunning and deceitful, traits that work well even today in banking and health insurance companies. They were strong, an inspirational example for men in battle. They knew no fear and would fight to the death.
Our brains are still wired with a bit of our animal evolutionary past intact. Some scientists theorize it is in the hypothalamus where our primitive, animal core is housed. Others say it is the pituitary gland that contains a rare, normally dormant thyroid-stimulating hormone called lycantropin. Whatever the hormonal basis, mans cerebral cortex has evolved to be much larger than that of a normal wolf, swelling with the powers of contemplation, imagination, knowledge, analysis and memory. These traits naturally conceal the animal impulses we were born with and allow us to operate as thinking, civilized human beings instead of making moves instinctively the way our forebearers did. Thus the nightmarish tales of werewolves through the ages may reflect our fear of letting our own animal nature run amok. What man did not need was the one extra attribute that came along with being a wolf, the desire for blood — in many cases, human blood.
Werewolves of Antiquity
Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, devoted much study to separating myth from fact. Around 450 BC he reported on shamanic practices in the Neuri tribe of Scythia (part of eastern Poland today):
It seems that the Neuri are sorcerers, if one is to believe the Scythians and the Greeks established in Scythis; for each Neurian changes himself, once a year, into the form of a wolf, and he continues in that form for several days, after which he resumes his former shape.
Note that here he is speaking not of a shaman but of an entire tribe of people turning into a pack of werewolves for multiple days, once a year. This may be the earliest reference in written literature of lycanthropy.
In the eighth of his Ecologues, written about 35 BC, the famed Roman poet Virgil inscribed the following lines:
With these full oft have I seen Moeris change To a wolf's form, and hide him in the woods ...
Apparently, the character of Moeris not only could change shape at will into that of a wolf but did so quite frequently. This is probably the first literary use of shapeshifting.
Four centuries later, around AD 43, the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela substantiated Herodotus' story: "There is a fixed time for each Neurian, at which they change, if they like, into wolves, and back again into their former condition." His comment "if they like" shows that the Neurians were not cursed or under a spell but could change themselves, at a certain time of the year, upon a whim.
Also during the heyday of imperial Rome, the renowned poet and pornographer Ovid reported upon King Lycaon of Arcadia who, to prove his godlike universal knowledge, placed before Zeus a hash made of human flesh. Zeus was not amused and did not care for his own god status to be mocked, so he transformed Lycaon into a wolf:
In vain he attempted to speak; from that very instant His jaws were bespluttered with foam, and only he thirsted His vesture was changed into hair, his limbs became crooked; A wolf, he retains yet large trace of his ancient expression, Hoary he is as afore, his countenance rabid, His eyes glitter savagely still, the picture of fury.
Around the 2nd century AD, Greek geographer Pausanias wrote about Olympic boxer Damarchus who changed into the shape of a wolf at the sacrifice of Lycaean Zeus in Arcadia. Nine years later he turned back into a man. Although Pausanias had a hard time mustering up belief in this particular folktale and later referred to it as inaccurate, it gave rise to a cult of worshippers that sacrificed at the same temple in the hope of becoming wolves. The legend gave birth to the term lycanthropy and also to the association of werewolves with cannibalism. Those who became wolves by sacrificing at the temple of Lycaean Zeus could only become men again by abstaining from eating human flesh for the full nine years.
Another of Rome's greatest literary figures, Gaius Petronius, wrote in Satyricon in the late 1st century of a dinner at which guests told supernatural stories about werewolves. This literary appearance of Roman were-wolfs, like Virgil's, seems to have been pulled from contemporary lore and life in that era and not made up independently by each author.
By the 7th century, men of learning were already trying to find reasons for the werewolf phenomenon, exploring the possibility that it might be a mental or emotional disorder. Paulua Aegineta, a celebrated surgeon of his time from the Greek island of Aegina, included "melancholic lycanthropia" in his medical encyclopedia. He described animal transformation as a malfunction of the brain, brought about by "humeral imbalances" or hallucinogenic drug use. Though far from our modern concepts of mental illness, it was a giant step beyond the mainstream explanation of his time — "The Devil made me do it."
Around the year 1000, Wulfstan II, Bishop of London, wrote a homily called Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, or Sermon of the Wolf to the English. It became his most famous work and is still studied by Old English scholars today. In it, he referred to the Devil as a werewulf — the first recorded use of the word in English. People so strongly identified Wulfstan with it that many referred to him as Lupus (Latin for wolf). After his death, many people claimed to have experienced miracles at his gravesite, yet the church refused to consider him for sainthood.
Most of us are familiar with witch trials throughout history as times of extreme cruelty. The church and the government fought for control of the people, and in their zealous drive to mold society into their visions, the value of human life fell by the wayside. Though less well-known, possibly because the era is seldom mentioned in world history classes, the werewolf fever and subsequent trials were driven by the same ignorance and paranoia that created the great witch hunts. In the end, the two were joined by the populations and the churches' common denominator: the Devil. By the time the trials came to a close, countless people had been murdered, and the paranoia that swept Europe began to subside under the weight of science.
Ukranian Prince Vseslav Briacheslavich was rumored to be a werewolf. He is often depicted as a gray wolf. Legend has it that he was born magically by his mother, so he had an ulcerated hole in his head. (That must be what a magic birth does to you.) The magicians put a magic bandage around it, which he wore until the day he died. He was a successful and popular military leader, often flying from place to place as if by sorcery. He is also recorded as having taken on the form of a lynx and being a sorcerer. He died in 1101.
Welshman Giraldus Cambrensis was a historian and an archdeacon of Brecon. He traveled extensively in Wales and Ireland and was a great lover of Irish music, although he despised the Irish people in general. His writings were accused of being biased and dishonest, and ridicule was leveled against him for being addicted to the cult of the superstitious and the practice of witchcraft. Much of this criticism was not without basis, because in 1187 he wrote Of the Prodigies of Our Times, and First of a Wolf Which Conversed with a Priest. What follows is a brief translation of a few of the passages:
I now proceed to relate some wonderful occurrences which have happened within our time. About three years before the arrival of Earl John in Ireland, it chanced that a priest, who was journeying from Ulster towards Meath, was benighted in a certain wood on the borders of Meath. While, in company with only a young lad, he was watching by a fire which he had kindled under the branches of a spreading tree, lo! a wolf came up to them, and immediately addressed them to this effect: "Rest secure, and be not afraid, for there is no reason you should fear, where no fear is!" The travellers being struck with astonishment and alarm, the wolf added some orthodox words referring to God. The priest then implored him, and adjured him by Almighty God and faith in the Trinity, not to hurt them, but to inform them what creature it was that in the shape of a beast uttered human words. The wolf, after giving catholic replies to all questions, added at last, "There are two of us, a man and a woman, natives of Ossory, who, through the curse of one Natalis, saint and abbot, are compelled every seven years to put off the human form, we assume that of wolves. At the end of the seven years, if they chance to survive, two others being substituted in their places, they return to their country and their former shape. And now, she who is my partner in this visitation lies dangerously sick not inspired by divine charity, to give her the consolations of your priestly office."
At this word the priest followed the wolf trembling, as he led the way to a tree at no great distance, in the hollow of which he beheld a she-wolf, who under that shape was pouring forth human sighs and groans. On seeing the priest, having saluted him with human courtesy, she gave thanks to God, who in this extremity had vouchsafed to visit her with such consolation. She then received from the priest all the rites of the church duly performed, as far as the last communion. This also she importunately demanded, earnestly supplicating him to complete his good offices by giving her the viaticum. The priest stoutly asserted that he was not provided with it, the he-wolf, who had withdrawn to a short distance, came back and pointed out a small missal-book, containing some consecrated wafers, which the priest carried on his journey, suspended from his neck, under his garment, after the fashion of the country. He then entreated him not to deny them the gift of God, and the aid destined for them by Divine Providence, and, to remove all doubt, using his claw for a hand, he tore off the skin of the shewolf, from the head down to the navel, folding it back. Thus she immediately presented the form of an old woman. The priest, seeing this, and compelled by his fear more than his reason, gave the communion, the recipient having earnestly implored it, and devoutly partaking of it. Immediately afterwards, the he-wolf rolled back the skin, and fitted it to its original form.
These rites having been duly, rather than rightly, performed, the he-wolf gave them his company during the whole night at their little fire, behaving more like a man than a beast. When morning came, he led them out of the wood, and, leaving the priest to pursue his journey, pointed out to him the direct road for a long distance.
Cambrensis's journals and histories, while bearing a small amount of ambiguous fruit for music scholars on such topics as harmony, leave much more ambiguity for those studying the lycanthrope.
Around the beginning of the 13th century, Countess Yolande (daughter of Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders) commissioned a poem which was written in the form of an episodic roman d'aventure and set in Italy. Roman d'aventures are written using the elements of magic to play a role in the story line. In this particular case, it is memorable to note that the magic elements involved a werewolf. The countess' poem has not survived, but pieces of the single surviving manuscript of an English poem of the same name written around 1350 still exist and are held at Kings College in Cambridge.
Marie de France composed her twelve Lais (poems) in the early stages of the 13th century. "Bisclavret" is one of those poems and tells an interesting tale of infidelity and lycanthropy. When a Barons wife wants to be with the knight she loves, she decides to discover where her husband goes many nights. It turns out that he is a werewolf and must strip from his clothes, which he hides in a safe place in the woods, before he can complete his lupine transformation. She discovers the hiding place and steals his clothes, thus debilitating his return transformation into human form. For over a decade he remains in lupine form until he gets an opportunity to kill the knight and retrieve his clothes, wherein he changes back into a human. During the tussle with his wife and the knight, he tears her nose from her face. The legend recounts that she bears daughters afterward who are also missing their noses.
The earliest dates concerning the contradictory and confusing stories of the wolf-boy of Hesse, Germany, are 1304, and quite often that changes to 1344. Sometimes that date is pushed as far ahead as 1744. The tale, which was originally related by Benedictine monks, tells of three boys — two from Hesse and one from Wetterau. Purportedly the first mentioned child, a boy of about three years of age, was taken by the wolves and not recovered until he was seven or eight. The wolves had fed him with meat from the hunts and suckled him. They would surround him with their bodies to keep him warm during the winter. Most probably, he was discovered and brought before the court of Henry, prince (Landgrave) of Hesse to be poked, prodded and observed. If this part is true, it is easy to understand why he preferred the company of wolves to men. If our current tabloids had been published back then, he would have been a cover model.
After the crusades in the Holy Lands, some knightly orders returning to Europe, such as the Cathers and the Knights Templar, imported heretical beliefs that challenged the mainstream Catholic Church. The pope appointed church courts called Inquisitions to eliminate them, which the Inquisitions did quite effectively. But in France, where the Cather influence had been strongest, after the knights had all been slaughtered or forced to flee and hide, the Inquisitioners soon found other "heresies" to occupy their attention. Best known of these was witchcraft.
The written authority for witchcraft trials, the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), was written in Latin by inquisitor Heinrich Kramer and first published in Germany in 1486. The treatise was the judicial casebook of European witch and sorcerer hunts.
Curiously, the Malleus Maleficarum rejected the concept of werewolves and other shapeshifters. Kramer wrote:
Here we declare the truth as to whether and how witches transform men into beasts. And it is argued that this is not possible, from the following passage of Episcopus (XXVI, 5): Whoever believes that it is possible for any creature to be changed for the better or for the worse, or to be transformed into any other shape or likeness, except by the Creator Himself, Who made all things, is without doubt an infidel, and worse than a pagan.
The book was condemned by the church because it advocated illegal procedures and beliefs in non-Christian magic, and Kramer himself was denounced by the Inquisition. By declaring Kramer wrong, was the church taking the position that werewolves did exist? Many thought so. Some 80 years later, scholar Johann Weyer wrote in De praestigus daemonum that werewolves, witches and vampires did not possess humans, but instead it was Satan who put those thoughts into people's minds so that they believed it was so. He argued that imagination and gullibility made them susceptible to the Devil's influence — and that certainly was a crime under the Inquisition.
No place boasts more or better-documented accounts of werewolves than France, where between 1520 and 1630, over 30,000 werewolf trials were held, almost always resulting in a guilty verdict and a sentence upon the werewolf (loup-garou in French) as horrible as the fates of his victims. In a country where the secular laws of the time made no distinction between humans and animals — though they did not apply to nobility — werewolf trials became so popular that they were held on an average of one trial and conviction per day for more than a century, overshadowing the witch problem. Here is a sampling of those cases:
Known in history for nothing except being self-confessed werewolves, Michael Verdun, Pierre Borgot and an accomplice, probably Verdun's wife, were charged with lycanthropy in Besancon, France, in 1521. Under torture, they confessed that years earlier they had stripped naked during a Sabbat of warlocks and anointed themselves with a salve that caused their legs to become hairy and their feet to transform into those of beasts. They roamed the countryside attacking children and adults alike to kill and eat them. They were finally captured when Verdun was wounded while in wolf form after attacking a traveler. The traveler followed the trail back to Verdun's house, where he found him being bathed and his wound cared for by his wife. Convicted, they were burned at the stake.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "When Werewolves Attack"
Copyright © 2010 Del Howison.
Excerpted by permission of Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introducing the Lycanthrope,
1 A Brief, Bloodstained History of Werewolves,
2 Getting to Know the Wolf,
3 Detecting a Werewolf,
4 Defending Against a Werewolf,
5 Making Your Escape,
6 Taming Your Werewolf Attacker,
7 Werewolf Myth vs. Reality,
8 Modern Werewolf Legends,
Timeline of the Werewolf,
About the Author,
Also by Del Howison,