“At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave . . . and the whole multitude become wolves.”

Books, Literature, Writers

At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave. Whoever remains behind, or goes reluctantly, is scourged by another with an iron whip till the blood flows, and his traces are left in blood. The human form vanishes, and the whole multitude become wolves. Many thousands assemble. Foremost goes the leader armed with an iron whip, and the troop follow, “firmly convinced in their imaginations that they are transformed into wolves.” They fall upon herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, but they have no power to slay men. When they come to a river, the leader smites the water with his scourge, and it divides, leaving a dry path through the midst, by which the pack may go. The transformation lasts during twelve days, at the expiration of which period the wolf-skin vanishes, and the human form reappears. This superstition was expressly forbidden by the church. “Credidisti, quod quidam credere solent, ut illæ quæ a vulgo Parcæ vocantur, ipsæ, vel sint vel possint hoc facere quod creduntur, id est, dum aliquis homo nascitur, et tunc valeant illum designare ad hoc quod velint, ut quandocunque homo ille voluerit, in lupum transformari possit, quod vulgaris stultitia, werwolf vocat, aut in aliam aliquam figuram?”–Ap. Burchard. (d. 1024).

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s marvelous volume The Book of Were-Wolves (1865).

“La Dama de Elche. Persephone’s thigh where Pluto clutches it in the Bernini. The right hand of Michelangelo’s David. The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.”

Art, Books, Literature, Writers

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

La Dama de Elche. Persephone’s thigh where Pluto clutches it in the Bernini. The right hand of Michelangelo’s David. The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.

–David Markson, Reader’s Block.

“The Chief Seat of Lycanthropy Was Arcadia”

Books, Literature, Writers

It is to be observed that the chief seat of Lycanthropy was Arcadia, and it has been very plausibly suggested that the cause might he traced to the following circumstance:–The natives were a pastoral people, and would consequently suffer very severely from the attacks and depredations of wolves. They would naturally institute a sacrifice to obtain deliverance from this pest, and security for their flocks. This sacrifice consisted in the offering of a child, and it was instituted by Lycaon. From the circumstance of the sacrifice being human, and from the peculiarity of the name of its originator, rose the myth.

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Were-Wolves (1865)

“At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave . . . and the whole multitude become wolves.”

Books

At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the country summoning the devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave. Whoever remains behind, or goes reluctantly, is scourged by another with an iron whip till the blood flows, and his traces are left in blood. The human form vanishes, and the whole multitude become wolves. Many thousands assemble. Foremost goes the leader armed with an iron whip, and the troop follow, “firmly convinced in their imaginations that they are transformed into wolves.” They fall upon herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, but they have no power to slay men. When they come to a river, the leader smites the water with his scourge, and it divides, leaving a dry path through the midst, by which the pack may go. The transformation lasts during twelve days, at the expiration of which period the wolf-skin vanishes, and the human form reappears. This superstition was expressly forbidden by the church. “Credidisti, quod quidam credere solent, ut illæ quæ a vulgo Parcæ vocantur, ipsæ, vel sint vel possint hoc facere quod creduntur, id est, dum aliquis homo nascitur, et tunc valeant illum designare ad hoc quod velint, ut quandocunque homo ille voluerit, in lupum transformari possit, quod vulgaris stultitia, werwolf vocat, aut in aliam aliquam figuram?”–Ap. Burchard. (d. 1024).

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s marvelous volume The Book of Were-Wolves (1865).

“Mediæval mythology, rich and gorgeous, is a compound like Corinthian brass”

Books, Writers

Mediæval mythology, rich and gorgeous, is a compound like Corinthian brass, into which many pure ores have been fused, or it is a full turbid river drawn from numerous feeders, which had their sources in remote climes. It is a blending of primæval Keltic, Teutonic, Scandinavian, Italic, and Arab traditions, each adding a beauty, each yielding a charm, bat each accretion rendering the analysis more difficult. Pacciuchelli says:–”The Anio flows into the Tiber; pure as crystal it meets the tawny stream, and is lost in it, so that there is no more Anio, but the united stream is all Tiber.” So is it with each tributary to the tide of mediæval mythology. The moment it has blended its waters with the great and onward rolling flood, it is impossible to detect it with certainty; it has swollen the stream, but has lost its own identity. If we would analyse a particular myth, we must not go at once to the body of mediæval superstition, but strike at one of the tributaries before its absorption.

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s marvelous volume The Book of Were-Wolves (1865).

“There Is a Polish Story of a Witch Who Made a Girdle of Human Skin”

Books, Literature, Writers

From Sabine Baring-Gould’s indispensable work Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (1866):

There is a Polish story of a witch who made a girdle of human skin and laid it across the threshold of a door where a marriage-feast was being held. On the bridal pair stepping across the girdle they were transformed into wolves. Three years after the witch sought them out, and cast over them dresses of fur with the hair turned outward, whereupon they recovered their human forms, but, unfortunately, the dress cast over the bridegroom was too scanty, and did not extend over his tail, so that, when he was restored to his former condition, he retained his lupine caudal appendage, and this became hereditary in his family; so that all Poles with tails are lineal descendants of the ancestor to whom this little misfortune happened.