The Book of Were-Wolves
Sabine Baring-Gould

Part 1 out of 4

June 2002

[Note: Greek text is in curly braces, i.e., {}.]

[Note: Italics have been indicated by an underscore character before and
after the italicized text. For example, _this is italicized text_.]








Definition of Lycanthropy--Marcellus
Sidetes--Virgil--Herodotus--Ovid--Pliny--Agriopas--Story from
Petronius--Arcadian Legends--Explanation offered



Norse Traditions--Manner in which the Change was effected--Vlundar
Kvda--Instances from the V÷lsung Saga--Hrolf's Saga--Kraka--FaroŰse
Poem--Helga Kvida--VatnsdŠla Saga--Eyrbyggja Saga



Advantage of the Study of Norse Literature--Bear and Wolf-skin
Dresses--The Berserkir--Their Rage--The Story of Thorir--Passages from
the Aigla--The Evening Wolf--Skallagrim and his Son-Derivation of the
Word "Hamr:" of "Vargr"--Laws affecting Outlaws--"To become a



Stories from Olaus Magnus of Livonian Were-wolves--Story from Bishop
Majolus--Story of Albertus Pericofcius--Similar occurrence at
Prague--Saint Patrick--Strange incident related by John of
NŘremberg--Bisclaveret--Courland Were-wolves--Pierre Vidal--Pavian
Lycanthropist--Bodin's Stories--Forestus' Account of a
Lycanthropist--Neapolitan Were-wolf



Pierre Bourgot and Michel Verdung--'Me Hermit of S. Bonnot--The
Gandillon Family--Thievenne Paget--The Tailor of ChÔlons--Roulet 69

Chapter VII


On the Sand-dunes--A Wolf attacks Marguerite Poirier--Jean Grenier
brought to Trial--His Confessions--Charges of Cannibalism proved--His
Sentence--Behaviour in the Monastery--Visit of Del'ancre 85



Barrenness of English Folk-lore--Devonshire Traditions--Derivation of
Were-wolf--Cannibalism in Scotland--The Angus Robber--The Carle of
Perth--French Superstitions--Norwegian Traditions--Danish Tales of
Were-wolves--Holstein Stories--The Werewolf in the Netherlands--Among
the Greeks; the Serbs; the White Russians; the Poles; the Russians--A
Russian Receipt for becoming a Were-wolf--The Bohemian
Vlkodlak--Armenian Story--Indian Tales--Abyssinian Budas--American
Transformation Tales--A Slovakian Household Tale--Similar Greek,
BÚarnais, and Icelandic Tales



Innate Cruelty--Its Three Forms--Dumollard--Andreas Bichel--A Dutch
Priest--Other instances of Inherent Cruelty--Cruelty united to
Refinement--A Hungarian Bather in Blood--Suddenness with which the
Passion is developed--Cannibalism; in pregnant Women; in
Maniacs--Hallucination; how Produced--Salves--The Story of
Lucius--Self-deception 130



Metempsychosis--Sympathy between Men and Beasts--Finnbog and the
Bear--Osage and the Beaver--The Connexion of Soul and
Body--Buddism--Case of Mr. Holloway--Popular ideas concerning the
Body--The derivation of the German Leichnam--Feather
Dresses--Transmigration of Souls--A Basque Story--Story from the
Pantschatantra--Savage ideas regarding Natural Phenomena--Thunder,
Lightning, and Cloud--The origin of the Dragon--John of Bromton's
Dragon a Waterspout--The Legend of Typhoeus--Allegorizing of the
Effects of a Hurricane--Anthropomorphosis--The Cirrus Cloud, a
Heavenly Swan--Urvaci--The Storm-cloud a Daemon--Vritra and
Rakschasas--Story of a Brahmin and a Rakschasas



Introduction--History of Gilles de Laval--The Castle of
Machecoul--Surrender of the Marshal--Examination of Witnesses--Letter
of De Retz--The Duke of Brittany reluctant to move--The Bishop of



The Appearance of the Marshal--Pierre de l'Hospital--The
Requisition--The Trial adjourned--Meeting of the Marshal and his
Servants--The Confession of Henriet--Pontou persuaded to confess
all--The adjourned Trial not hurried on--The hesitation of the Duke of



The adjourned Trial--The Marshal Confesses--The Case handed over to
the Ecclesiastical Tribunal--Prompt steps taken by the Bishop--The
Sentence--Ratified by the Secular Court--The Execution



The Inhabitants of Austrian Galicia--The Hamlet of Polomyja--Summer
Evening in the Forest--The Beggar Swiatek--A Girl disappears--A
School-boy vanishes--A Servant-girl lost--Another Boy carried of--The
Discovery made by the Publican of Polomyja--Swiatek locked up--Brought
to Dabkow--Commits suicide

Chapter XV


Ghouls--Story from Fornari--Quotation from Apuleius--Incident
mentioned by Marcassus--Cemeteries of Paris violated--Discovery of
Violator--Confession of M. Bertrand



The Discourses of Dr. Johann--The Sermon--Remarks




I shall never forget the walk I took one night in Vienne, after having
accomplished the examination of an unknown Druidical relic, the Pierre
labie, at La Rondelle, near Champigni. I had learned of the existence
of this cromlech only on my arrival at Champigni in the afternoon, and
I had started to visit the curiosity without calculating the time it
would take me to reach it and to return. Suffice it to say that I
discovered the venerable pile of grey stones as the sun set, and that
I expended the last lights of evening in planning and sketching. I
then turned my face homeward. My walk of about ten miles had wearied
me, coming at the end of a long day's posting, and I had lamed myself
in scrambling over some stones to the Gaulish relic.

A small hamlet was at no great distance, and I betook myself thither,
in the hopes of hiring a trap to convey me to the posthouse, but I was
disappointed. Few in the place could speak French, and the priest,
when I applied to him, assured me that he believed there was no better
conveyance in the place than a common charrue with its solid wooden
wheels; nor was a riding horse to be procured. The good man offered to
house me for the night; but I was obliged to decline, as my family
intended starting early on the following morning.

Out spake then the mayor--"Monsieur can never go back to-night across
the flats, because of the--the--" and his voice dropped; "the

"He says that he must return!" replied the priest in patois. "But who
will go with him?"

"Ah, ha,! M. le CurÚ. It is all very well for one of us to accompany
him, but think of the coming back alone!"

"Then two must go with him," said the priest, and you can take care of
each other as you return."

"Picou tells me that he saw the were-wolf only this day se'nnight,"
said a peasant; "he was down by the hedge of his buckwheat field, and
the sun had set, and he was thinking of coming home, when he heard a
rustle on the far side of the hedge. He looked over, and there stood
the wolf as big as a calf against the horizon, its tongue out, and its
eyes glaring like marsh-fires. Mon Dieu! catch me going over the
marais to-night. Why, what could two men do if they were attacked by
that wolf-fiend?"

"It is tempting Providence," said one of the elders of the village;"
no man must expect the help of God if he throws himself wilfully in
the way of danger. Is it not so, M. le CurÚ? I heard you say as much
from the pulpit on the first Sunday in Lent, preaching from the

"That is true," observed several, shaking their heads.

"His tongue hanging out, and his eyes glaring like marsh-fires!" said
the confidant of Picou.

"Mon Dieu! if I met the monster, I should run," quoth another.

"I quite believe you, Cortrez; I can answer for it that you would,"
said the mayor.

"As big as a calf," threw in Picou's friend.

"If the loup-garou were _only_ a natural wolf, why then, you see"--the
mayor cleared his throat--"you see we should think nothing of it; but,
M. le CurÚ, it is a fiend, a worse than fiend, a man-fiend,--a worse
than man-fiend, a man-wolf-fiend."

"But what is the young monsieur to do?" asked the priest, looking from
one to another.

"Never mind," said I, who had been quietly listening to their patois,
which I understood. "Never mind; I will walk back by myself, and if I
meet the loup-garou I will crop his ears and tail, and send them to M.
le Maire with my compliments."

A sigh of relief from the assembly, as they found themselves clear of
the difficulty.

"Il est Anglais," said the mayor, shaking his head, as though he meant
that an Englishman might face the devil with impunity.

A melancholy flat was the marais, looking desolate enough by day, but
now, in the gloaming, tenfold as desolate. The sky was perfectly
clear, and of a soft, blue-grey tinge; illumined by the new moon, a
curve of light approaching its western bed. To the horizon reached a
fen, blacked with pools of stagnant water, from which the frogs kept
up an incessant trill through the summer night. Heath and fern covered
the ground, but near the water grew dense masses of flag and bulrush,
amongst which the light wind sighed wearily. Here and there stood a
sandy knoll, capped with firs, looking like black splashes against the
grey sky; not a sign of habitation anywhere; the only trace of men
being the white, straight road extending for miles across the fen.

That this district harboured wolves is not improbable, and I confess
that I armed myself with a strong stick at the first clump of trees
through which the road dived.

This was my first introduction to were-wolves, and the circumstance of
finding the superstition still so prevalent, first gave me the idea of
investigating the history and the habits of these mythical creatures.

I must acknowledge that I have been quite unsuccessful in obtaining a
specimen of the animal, but I have found its traces in all directions.
And just as the palŠontologist has constructed the labyrinthodon out
of its foot-prints in marl, and one splinter of bone, so may this
monograph be complete and accurate, although I have no chained
were-wolf before me which I may sketch and describe from the life.

The traces left are indeed numerous enough, and though perhaps like
the dodo or the dinormis, the werewolf may have become extinct in our
age, yet he has left his stamp on classic antiquity, he has trodden
deep in Northern snows. has ridden rough-shod over the mediŠvals, and
has howled amongst Oriental sepulchres. He belonged to a bad breed,
and we are quite content to be freed from him and his kindred, the
vampire and the ghoul. Yet who knows! We may be a little too hasty in
concluding that he is extinct. He may still prowl in Abyssinian
forests, range still over Asiatic steppes, and be found howling
dismally in some padded room of a Hanwell or a Bedlam.

In the following pages I design to investigate the notices of
were-wolves to be found in the ancient writers of classic antiquity,
those contained in the Northern Sagas, and, lastly, the numerous
details afforded by the mediŠval authors. In connection with this I
shall give a sketch of modern folklore relating to Lycanthropy.

It will then be seen that under the veil of mythology lies a solid
reality, that a floating superstition holds in solution a positive

This I shall show to be an innate craving for blood implanted in
certain natures, restrained under ordinary circumstances, but breaking
forth occasionally, accompanied with hallucination, leading in most
cases to cannibalism. I shall then give instances of persons thus
afflicted, who were believed by others, and who believed themselves,
to be transformed into beasts, and who, in the paroxysms of their
madness, committed numerous murders, and devoured their victims.

I shall next give instances of persons suffering from the same passion
for blood, who murdered for the mere gratification of their natural
cruelty, but who were not subject to hallucinations, nor were addicted
to cannibalism.

I shall also give instances of persons filled with the same
propensities who murdered and ate their victims, but who were
perfectly free from hallucination.



What is Lycanthropy? The change of manor woman into the form of a
wolf, either through magical means, so as to enable him or her to
gratify the taste for human flesh, or through judgment of the gods in
punishment for some great offence.

This is the popular definition. Truly it consists in a form of
madness, such as may be found in most asylums.

Among the ancients this kind of insanity went by the names of
Lycanthropy, Kuanthropy, or Boanthropy, because those afflicted with
it believed themselves to be turned into wolves, dogs, or cows. But in
the North of Europe, as we shall see, the shape of a bear, and in

Africa that of a hyŠna, were often selected in preference. A mere
matter of taste! According to Marcellus Sidetes, of whose poem {Greek
_perý lukan­rw'pou_} a fragment exists, men are attacked with this
madness chiefly in the beginning of the year, and become most furious
in February; retiring for the night to lone cemeteries, and living
precisely in the manner of dogs and wolves.

Virgil writes in his eighth Eclogue:--

Has herbas, atque hŠc Ponto mihi lecta venena
Ipse dedit Mris; nascuntur plurima Ponto.
His ego sŠpe lupum fieri et se conducere sylvis
Mrim, sŠpe animas imis excire sepulchris,
Atque satas alio, vidi traducere messes.

And Herodotus:--"It seems that the Neuri are sorcerers, if one is to
believe the Scythians and the Greeks established in Scythia; for each
Neurian changes himself, once in the year, into the form of a wolf,
and he continues in that form for several days, after which he resumes
his former shape."--(Lib. iv. c. 105.)

See also Pomponius Mela (lib. ii. c. 1) "There is a fixed time for
each Neurian, at which they change, if they like, into wolves, and
back again into their former condition."

But the most remarkable story among the ancients is that related by
Ovid in his "Metamorphoses," of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, who,
entertaining Jupiter one day, set before him a hash of human flesh, to
prove his omniscience, whereupon the god transferred him into a
wolf:-- [1]

[1. OVID. Met. i. 237; PAUSANIAS, viii. 2, ž 1; TZETZE _ad Lycoph._
481; ERATOSTH. _Catas._ i. 8.]

In vain he attempted to speak; from that very instant
His jaws were bespluttered with foam, and only he thirsted
For blood, as he raged amongst flocks and panted for slaughter.
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.

Pliny relates from Evanthes, that on the festival of Jupiter LycŠus,
one of the family of AntŠus was selected by lot, and conducted to the
brink of the Arcadian lake. He then hung his clothes on a tree and
plunged into the water, whereupon he was transformed into a wolf. Nine
years after, if he had not tasted human flesh, he was at liberty to
swim back and resume his former shape, which had in the meantime
become aged, as though he had worn it for nine years.

Agriopas relates, that DemŠnetus, having assisted at an Arcadian human
sacrifice to Jupiter LycŠus, ate of the flesh, and was at once
transformed into a wolf, in which shape he prowled about for ten
years, after which he recovered his human form, and took part in the
Olympic games.

The following story is from Petronius:--

"My master had gone to Capua to sell some old clothes. I seized the
opportunity, and persuaded our guest to bear me company about five
miles out of town; for he was a soldier, and as bold as death. We set
out about cockcrow, and the moon shone bright as day, when, coming
among some monuments. my man began to converse with the stars, whilst
I jogged along singing and counting them. Presently I looked back
after him, and saw him strip and lay his clothes by the side of the
road. My heart was in my mouth in an instant, I stood like a corpse;
when, in a crack, he was turned into a wolf. Don't think I'm joking: I
would not tell you a lie for the finest fortune in the world.

"But to continue: after he was turned into a wolf, he set up a howl
and made straight for the woods. At first I did not know whether I was
on my head or my heels; but at last going to take up his clothes, I
found them turned into stone. The sweat streamed from me, and I never
expected to get over it. Melissa began to wonder why I walked so late.
'Had you come a little sooner,' she said, 'you might at least have
lent us a hand; for a wolf broke into the farm and has butchered all
our cattle; but though be got off, it was no laughing matter for him,
for a servant of ours ran him through with a pike. Hearing this I
could not close an eye; but as soon as it was daylight, I ran home
like a pedlar that has been eased of his pack. Coming to the place
where the clothes had been turned into stone, I saw nothing but a pool
of blood; and when I got home, I found my soldier lying in bed, like
an ox in a stall, and a surgeon dressing his neck. I saw at once that
he was a fellow who could change his skin (_versipellis_), and never
after could I eat bread with him, no, not if you would have killed me.
Those who would have taken a different view of the case are welcome to
their opinion; if I tell you a lie, may your genii confound me!"

As every one knows, Jupiter changed himself into a bull; Hecuba became
a bitch; ActŠon a stag; the comrades of Ulysses were transformed into
swine; and the daughters of Prtus fled through the fields believing
themselves to be cows, and would not allow any one to come near them,
lest they should be caught and yoked.

S. Augustine declared, in his _De Civitate Dei_, that he knew an old
woman who was said to turn men into asses by her enchantments.

Apuleius has left us his charming romance of the _Golden Ass_, in
which the hero, through injudicious use of a magical salve, is
transformed into that long-eared animal.

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.

But, on the other hand, the story is far too widely spread for us to
attribute it to an accidental origin, or to trace it to a local

Half the world believes, or believed in, were-wolves, and they were
supposed to haunt the Norwegian forests by those who had never
remotely been connected with Arcadia: and the superstition had
probably struck deep its roots into the Scandinavian and Teutonic
minds, ages before Lycaon existed; and we have only to glance at
Oriental literature, to see it as firmly engrafted in the imagination
of the Easterns.



In Norway and Iceland certain men were said to be _eigi einhamir_, not
of one skin, an idea which had its roots in paganism. The full form of
this strange superstition was, that men could take upon them other
bodies, and the natures of those beings whose bodies they assumed. The
second adopted shape was called by the same name as the original
shape, _hamr_, and the expression made use of to designate the
transition from one body to another, was at _skipta h÷mum_, or _at
hamaz_; whilst the expedition made in the second form, was the hamf÷r.
By this transfiguration extraordinary powers were acquired; the
natural strength of the individual was doubled, or quadrupled; he
acquired the strength of the beast in whose body he travelled, in
addition to his own, and a man thus invigorated was called _hamrammr_.

The manner in which the change was effected, varied. At times, a dress
of skin was cast over the body, and at once the transformation was
complete; at others, the human body was deserted, and the soul entered
the second form, leaving the first body in a cataleptic state, to all
appearance dead. The second hamr was either borrowed or created for
the purpose. There was yet a third manner of producing this effect-it
was by incantation; but then the form of the individual remained
unaltered, though the eyes of all beholders were charmed so that they
could only perceive him under the selected form.

Having assumed some bestial shape, the man who is _eigi einhammr_ is
only to be recognized by his eyes, which by no power can be changed.
He then pursues his course, follows the instincts of the beast whose
body he has taken, yet without quenching his own intelligence. He is
able to do what the body of the animal can do, and do what he, as man,
can do as well. He may fly or swim, if be is in the shape of bird or
fish; if he has taken the form of a wolf, or if he goes on a
_gandrei­_, or wolf's-ride, he is fall of the rage and malignity of
the creatures whose powers and passions he has assumed.

I will give a few instances of each of the three methods of changing
bodies mentioned above. Freyja and Frigg had their falcon dresses in
which they visited different regions of the earth, and Loki is said to
have borrowed these, and to have then appeared so precisely like a
falcon, that he would have escaped detection, but for the malicious
twinkle of his eyes. In the VŠlundar kvi­a is the following passage:--

I. I.

Meyjar flugu sunnan From the south flew the maidens
Myrkvi­ ig÷gnum Athwart the gloom,
Alvitr unga Alvit the young,
Orl÷g drřgja; To fix destinies;
■Šr ß savarstr÷nd They on the sea-strand
Settusk at hvilask, Sat them to rest,
Drˇ sir su­rnar These damsels of the south
Dřrt lÝn spunnu. Fair linen spun.


Ein nam ■eirra One of them took
Egil at verja Egil to press,
F÷gr mŠr fÝra Fair maid, in her
Fa­mi ljˇsum; Dazzling arms.
Ínnur var SvanhvÝt, Another was Svanhwit,
Svanfja­rar drˇ; Who wore swan feathers;
En in ■ri­ja And the third,
■eirra systir Their sister,
Var i hvÝtan Pressed the white
Hßls V÷lundar. Neck of Vlund.

The introduction of Smund tells us that these charming young ladies
were caught when they had laid their swan-skins beside them on the
shore, and were consequently not in a condition to fly.

In like manner were wolves' dresses used. The following curious
passage is from the wild Saga of the V÷lsungs:--

"It is now to be told that Sigmund thought Sinfj÷tli too young to help
him in his revenge, and he wished first to test his powers; so during
the summer they plunged deep into the wood and slew men for their
goods, and Sigmund saw that he was quite of the V÷lsung stock. . . .
Now it fell out that as they went through the forest, collecting
monies, that they lighted on a house in which were two men sleeping,
with great gold rings an them; they had dealings with witchcraft, for
wolf-skins hung up in the house above them; it was the tenth day on
which they might come out of their second state. They were kings'
sons. Sigmund and Sinfj÷tli got into the habits, and could not get out
of them again, and the nature of the original beasts came over them,
and they howled as wolves--they learned "both of them to howl. Now
they went into the forest, and each took his own course; they made the
agreement together that they should try their strength against as many
as seven men, but not more, and. that he who was ware of strife should
utter his wolf's howl.

"'Do not fail in this,' said Sigmund, 'for you are young and daring,
and men would be glad to chase you.' Now each went his own course; and
after that they had parted Sigmund found men, so he howled; and when
Sinfj÷tli heard that, he ran up and slew them all-then they separated.
And Sinfj÷tli had not been long in the wood before he met with. eleven
men; he fell upon them and slew them every one. Then he was tired, so
he flung himself under an oak to rest. Up came Sigmund and said, 'Why
did you not call out?' Sinfj÷tli replied, 'What was the need of asking
your help to kill eleven men?'

"Sigmund flew at him and rent him so that he fell, for he had bitten
through his throat. That day they could not leave their wolf-forms.
Sigmund laid him on his back and bare him home to the hall, and sat
beside him, and said, 'Deuce take the wolf-forms!"'--V÷lsung Saga, c.

There is another curious story of a were-wolf in the same Saga, which
I must relate.

"Now he did as she requested, and hewed down a great piece of timber,
and cast it across the feet of those ten brothers seated in a row, in
the forest; and there they sat all that day and on till night. And at
midnight there came an old she-wolf out of the forest to them, as they
sat in the stocks, and she was both huge and grimly. Now she fell upon
one of them, and bit him to death, and after she had eaten him all up,
she went away. And next morning Signy sent a trusty man to her
brothers, to know how it had fared with them. When he returned he told
her of the death of one, and that grieved her much, for she feared it
might fare thus with them all, and she would be unable to assist them.

"In short, nine nights following came the same she-wolf at midnight,
and devoured them one after another till all were dead, except
Sigmund, and he was left alone. So when the tenth night came, Signy
sent her trusty man to Sigmund, her brother, with honey in his hand,
and said that he was to smear it over the face of Sigmund, and to fill
his mouth with it. Now he went to Sigmund, and did as he was bid,
after which he returned home. And during the night came the same
she-wolf, as was her wont, and reckoned to devour him, like his

"Now she snuffed at him, where the honey was smeared, and began to
lick his face with her tongue, and presently thrust her tongue into
his mouth. He bore it ill, and bit into the tongue of the she-wolf;
she sprang up and tried to break loose, setting her feet against the
stock, so as to snap it asunder: but he held firm, and ripped the
tongue out by the roots, so that it was the death of the wolf. It is
the opinion of some men that this beast was the mother of King
Siggeir, and that she had taken this form upon her through devilry and
witchcraft."--(c. 5.)

There is another story bearing on the subject in the Hrolfs Saga
Kraka, which is pretty; it is as follows:--

"In the north of Norway, in upland-dales, reigned a king called Hring;
and he had a son named Bj÷rn. Now it fell out that the queen died,
much lamented by the king, and by all. The people advised him to marry
again, and so be sent men south to get him a wife. A gale and fierce
storm fell upon them, so that they had to turn the helm, and run
before the wind, and so they came north to Finnmark, where they spent
the winter. One day they went inland, and came to a house in which sat
two beautiful women, who greeted them well, and inquired whence they
had come. They replied by giving an account of their journey and their
errand, and then asked the women who they were, and why they were
alone, and far from the haunts of men, although they were so comely
and engaging. The elder replied--that her name was Ingibjorg, and that
her daughter was called Hvit, and that she was the Finn king's
sweetheart. The messengers decided that they would return home, if
Hvit would come with them and marry King Hring. She agreed, and they
took her with them and met the king who was pleased with her, and had
his wedding feast made, and said that he cared not though she was not
rich. But the king was very old, and that the queen soon found out.

"There was a Carle who had a farm not far from the king's dwelling; he
had a wife, and a daughter, who was but a child, and her name was
Bera; she was very young and lovely. Bj÷rn the king's son, and Bera
the Carle's daughter, were wont, as children, to play together, and
they loved each other well. The Carle was well to do, he had been out
harrying in his young days, and he was a doughty champion. Bj÷rn and
Bera loved each other more and more, and they were often together.

Time passed, and nothing worth relating occurred; but Bj÷rn, the
king's son, waxed strong and tall; and he was well skilled in all
manly exercises.

"King Hring was often absent for long, harrying foreign shores, and
Hvit remained at home and governed the land. She was not liked of the
people. She was always very pleasant with Bj÷rn, but he cared little
for her. It fell out once that the King Hring went abroad, and he
spake with his queen that Bj÷rn should remain at home with her, to
assist in the government, for he thought it advisable, the queen being
haughty and inflated with pride.

"The king told his son Bj÷rn that he was to remain at home, and rule
the land with the queen; Bj÷rn replied that he disliked the plan, and
that he had no love for the queen; but the king was inflexible, and
left the land with a great following. Bj÷rn walked home after his
conversation with the king, and went up to his place, ill-pleased and
red as blood. The queen came to speak with him, and to cheer him; and
spake friendly with him, but he bade her be of. She obeyed him that
time. She often came to talk with him, and said how much pleasanter it
was for them to be together, than to have an old fellow like Hring in
the house.

"Bj÷rn resented this speech, and struck her a box in the ear, and bade
her depart, and he spurned her from him. She replied that this was
ill-done to drive and thrust her away: and 'You think it better,
Bj÷rn, to sweetheart a Carle's daughter, than to have my love and
favour, a fine piece of condescension and a disgrace it is to you!
But, before long, something will stand in the way of your fancy, and
your folly.' Then she struck at him with a wolf-skin glove, and said,
that he should become a rabid and grim wild bear; and 'You shall eat
nothing but your father's sheep, which you shall slay for your food,
and never shall you leave this state.'

After that, Bj÷rn disappeared, and none knew what had become of him;
and men sought but found him not, as was to be expected. We must now
relate how that the king's sheep were slaughtered, half a score at a
time, and it was all the work of a grey bear, both huge and grimly.

"One evening it chanced that the Carle's daughter saw this savage bear
coming towards her, looking tenderly at her, and she fancied that she
recognized the eyes of Bj÷rn, the king's son, so she made a slight
attempt to escape; then the beast retreated, but she followed it, till
she came to a cave. Now when she entered the cave there stood before
her a man, who greeted Bera, the Carle's daughter; and she recognized
him, for he was Bj÷rn, Hring's son. Overjoyed were they to meet. So
they were together in the cave awhile, for she would not part from him
when she had the chance of being with him; but he said that this was
not proper that she should be there by him, for by day he was a beast,
and by night a man.

"Hring returned from his harrying, and he was told the news, of what
had taken place during his absence; how that Bj÷rn, his son, had
vanished, and also, how that a monstrous beast was up the country, and
was destroying his flocks. The queen urged the king to have the beast
slain, but he delayed awhile.

"One night, as Bera and Bj÷rn were together, he said to
her:--'Methinks to-morrow will be the day of my death, for they will
come out to hunt me down. But for myself I care not, for it is little
pleasure to live with this charm upon me, and my only comfort is that
we are together; but now our union must be broken. I will give you the
ring which is under my left hand. You will see the troop of hunters
to-morrow coming to seek me; and when I am dead go to the king, and
ask him to give you what is under the beast's left front leg. He will

"He spoke to her of many other things, till the bear's form stole over
him, and he went forth a bear. She followed him, and saw that a great
body of hunters had come over the mountain ridges, and had a number of
dogs with them. The bear rushed away from the cavern, but the dogs and
the king's men came upon him, and there was a desperate struggle. He
wearied many men before he was brought to bay, and had slain all the
dogs. But now they made a ring about him, and he ranged around it.,
but could see no means of escape, so he turned to where the king
stood, and he seized a man who stood next him, and rent him asunder;
then was the bear so exhausted that he cast himself down flat, and, at
once, the men rushed in upon him and slew him. The Carle's daughter
saw this, and she went up to the king, and said,--'Sire! wilt thou
grant me that which is under the bear's left fore-shoulder?' The king
consented. By this time his men had nearly flayed the bear; Bera went
up and plucked away the ring, and kept it, but none saw what she took,
nor had they looked for anything. The king asked her who she was, and
she gave a name, but not her true name.

"The king now went home, and Bera was in his company. The queen was
very joyous, and treated her well, and asked who she was; but Bera
answered as before.

"The queen now made a great feast, and had the bear's flesh cooked for
the banquet. The Carle's daughter was in the bower of the queen, and
could not escape, for the queen had a suspicion who she was. Then she
came to Bera with a dish, quite unexpectedly, and on it was bear's
flesh, and she bade Bera eat it. She would not do so. 'Here is a
marvel!' said the queen; 'you reject the offer which a queen herself
deigns to make to you. Take it at once, or something worse will befall
you.' She bit before her, and she ate of that bite; the queen cut
another piece, and looked into her mouth; she saw that one little
grain of the bite had gone down, but Bera spat out all the rest from
her mouth, and said she would take no more, though she were tortured
or killed.

"'Maybe you have had sufficient,' said the queen, and she
laughed."--(Hrolfs Saga Kraka, c. 24-27, condensed.)

In the FaroŰse song of Finnur hin fri­i, we have the following
Hegar Ý­ Finnur hetta sŠr. When this peril Finn saw,
Mannspell var at meini, That witchcraft did him harm,
Skapti hann seg Ý varglÝki: Then he changed himself into a were-wolf:

Hann feldi allvŠl fleiri. He slew many thus.

The following is from the second Kvi­a of Helga Hundingsbana (stroph.

May the blade bite,
Which thou brandishest
Only on thyself,
when it Chimes on thy head.
Then avenged will be
The death of Helgi,
When thou, as a wolf,
Wanderest in the woods,
Knowing nor fortune
Nor any pleasure,
Haying no meat,
Save rivings of corpses.

In all these cases the change is of the form: we shall now come to
instances in which the person who is changed has a double shape, and
the soul animates one after the other.

The Ynglinga Saga (c. 7) says of Odin, that "he changed form; the
bodies lay as though sleeping or dead, but he was a bird or a beast, a
fish, or a woman, and went in a twinkling to far distant lands, doing
his own or other people's business." In like manner the Danish king
Harold sent a warlock to Iceland in the form of a whale, whilst his
body lay stiff and stark at home. The already quoted Saga of Hrolf
Krake gives us another example, where B÷dvar Bjarki, in the shape of a
huge bear, fights desperately with the enemy, which has surrounded the
hall of his king, whilst his human body lies drunkenly beside the
embers within.

In the VatnsdŠla Saga, there is a curious account of three Finns, who
were shut up in a hut for three nights, and ordered by Ingimund, a
Norwegian chief, to visit Iceland and inform him of the lie of the
country, where he was to settle. Their bodies became rigid, and they
sent their souls the errand, and, on their awaking at the end of three
days, gave an accurate description of the Vatnsdal, in which Ingimund
was eventually to establish himself. But the Saga does not relate
whether these Finns projected their souls into the bodies of birds or

The third manner of transformation mentioned, was that in which the
individual was not changed himself, but the eyes of others were
bewitched, so that they could not detect him, but saw him only under a
certain form. Of this there are several examples in the Sagas; as, for
instance, in the Hromundar Saga Greypsonar, and in the FostbrŠ­ra
Saga. But I will translate the most curious, which is that of Odd,
Katla's son, in the Eyrbyggja Saga.--(c. 20.)

"Geirrid, housewife in Mafvahli­, sent word into Bolstad, that she was
ware of the fact that Odd, Katla's son, had hewn off Aud's hand.

"Now when Thorarinn and Arnkell heard that, they rode from home with
twelve men. They spent the night in Mafvahli­, and rode on next
morning to Holt: and Odd was the only man in the house.

"Katla sat on the high seat spinning yarn, and she bade Odd sit beside
her; also, she bade her women sit each in her place, and hold their
tongues. 'For,' said she, 'I shall do all the talking.' Now when
Arnkell and his company arrived, they walked straight in, and when
they came into the chamber, Katla greeted Arnkell, and asked the news.
He replied that there was none, and he inquired after Odd. Katla said
that he had gone to Breidavik. 'We shall ransack the house though,'
quoth Arnkell. 'Be it so,' replied Katla, and she ordered a girl to
carry a light before them, and unlock the different parts of the
house. All they saw was Katla spinning yarn off her distaff. Now they
search the house, but find no Odd, so they depart. But when they had
gone a little way from the garth, Arnkell stood still and said: 'How
know we but that Katla has hoodwinked us, and that the distaff in her
hand was nothing more than Odd.' 'Not impossible!' said Thorarinn;
'let us turn back.' They did so; and when those at Holt raw that they
were returning, Katla said to her maids, 'Sit still in your places,
Odd and I shall go out.'

"Now as they approached the door, she went into the porch, and began
to comb and clip the hair of her son Odd. Arnkell came to the door and
saw where Katla was, and she seemed to be stroking her goat, and
disentangling its mane and beard and smoothing its wool. So he and his
men went into the house, but found not Odd. Katla's distaff lay
against the bench, so they thought that it could not have been Odd,
and they went away. However, when they had come near the spot where
they had turned before, Arnkell said, 'Think you not that Odd may have
been in the goat's form?' 'There is no saying,' replied Thorarinn;
'but if we turn back we will lay hands on Katla.' 'We can try our luck
again,' quoth Arnkell; 'and see what comes of it.' So they returned.

"Now when they were seen on their way back, Katla bade Odd follow her;
and she lea him to the ash-heap, and told him to lie there and not to
stir on any account. But when Arnkell, and his men came to the farm,
they rushed into the chamber, and saw Katla seated in her place,
spinning. She greeted them and said that their visits followed with
rapidity. Arnkell replied that what she said was true. His comrades
took the distaff and cut it in twain. 'Come now!' said Katla, 'you
cannot say, when you get home, that you have done nothing, for you
have chopped up my distaff.' Then Arnkell and the rest hunted high and
low for Odd, but could not find him; indeed they saw nothing living
about the place, beside a boar-pig which lay under the ash-heap, so
they went away once more.

"Well, when they got half-way to Mafvahli­, came Geirrid to meet them,
with her workmen. 'They had not gone the right way to work in seeking
Odd,' she said, 'but she would help them.' So they turned back again.
Geirrid had a blue cloak on her. Now when the party was seen and
reported to Katla, and it was said that they were thirteen in number,
and one had on a coloured dress, Katla exclaimed, 'That troll Geirrid
is come! I shall not be able to throw a glamour over their eyes any
more.' She started up from her place and lifted the cushion of the
seat, and there was a hole and a cavity beneath: into this she thrust
Odd, clapped the cushion over him, and sat down, saying she felt sick
at heart.

"Now when they came into the room, there were small greetings. Geirrid
cast of her the cloak and went up to Katla, and took the seal-skin bag
which she had in her hand, and drew it over the head of Katla. [1]
Then Geirrid bade them break up the seat. They did so, and found Odd.
Him they took and carried to Buland's head, where they hanged him. . .
. But Katla they stoned to death under the headland."

[1. A precaution against the "evil eye." Compare _Gisla Saga
Surssonnar_, p. 34. _LaxdŠla Saga_, cc. 37, 38.]



One of the great advantages of the study of old Norse or Icelandic
literature is the insight given by it into the origin of world-wide
superstitions. Norse tradition is transparent as glacier ice, and its
origin is as unmistakable.

MediŠval 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 primŠval Keltic, Teutonic,
Scandinavian, Italic, and Arab traditions, each adding a beauty, each
yielding a charm, bat each accretion rendering the analysis more

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 mediŠval 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 mediŠval superstition, but strike at one of
the tributaries before its absorption. This we shall proceed to do,
and in selecting Norse mythology, we come upon abundant material,
pointing naturally to the spot whence it has been derived, as glacial
moraines indicate the direction which they have taken, and point to
the mountains whence they have fallen. It will not be difficult for us
to arrive at the origin of the Northern belief in were-wolves, and the
data thus obtained will be useful in assisting us to elucidate much
that would otherwise prove obscure in mediŠval tradition.

Among the old Norse, it was the custom for certain warriors to dress
in the skins of the beasts they had slain, and thus to give themselves
an air of ferocity, calculated to strike terror into the hearts of
their foes.

Such dresses are mentioned in some Sagas, without there being any
supernatural qualities attached to them. For instance, in the Njßla
there is mention of a man _i geithe­ni_, in goatskin dress. Much in
the same way do we hear of Harold Harfagr having in his company a band
of berserkir, who were all dressed in wolf-skins, _ulfhe­nir_, and
this expression, wolf-skin coated, is met with as a man's name. Thus
in the Holmverja Saga, there is mention of a Bj÷rn, "son of
_Ulfhe­in_, wolfskin coat, son of _Ulfhamr_, wolf-shaped, son of
_Ulf_, wolf, son of _Ulfhamr_, wolf-shaped, who could change forms."

But the most conclusive passage is in the VatnsdŠla Saga, and is as
follows:--"Those berserkir who were called _ulfhe­nir_, had got
wolf-skins over their mail coats" (c. xvi.) In like manner the word
_berserkr_, used of a man possessed of superhuman powers, and subject.
to accesses of diabolical fury, was originally applied to one of those
doughty champions who went about in bear-sarks, or habits made of
bear-skin over their armour. I am well aware that Bj÷rn Halldorson's
derivation of berserkr, bare of sark, or destitute of clothing, has
been hitherto generally received, but Sveibj÷rn Egilsson, an
indisputable authority, rejects this derivation as untenable, and
substitutes for it that which I have adopted.

It may be well imagined that a wolf or a bear-skin would make a warm
and comfortable great-coat to a man, whose manner of living required
him to defy all weathers, and that the dress would not only give him
an appearance of grimness and ferocity, likely to produce an
unpleasant emotion in the breast of a foe, but also that the thick fur
might prove effectual in deadening the blows rained on him in

The berserkr was an object of aversion and terror to the peaceful
inhabitants of the land, his avocation being to challenge quiet
country farmers to single combat. As the law of the land stood in
Norway, a man who declined to accept a challenge, forfeited all his
possessions, even to the wife of his bosom, as a poltroon unworthy of
the protection of the law, and every item of his property passed into
the hands of his challenger. The berserkr accordingly had the unhappy
man at his mercy. If he slew him, the farmer's possessions became his,
and if the poor fellow declined to fight, he lost all legal right to
his inheritance. A berserkr would invite himself to any feast, and
contribute his quota to the hilarity of the entertainment, by snapping
the backbone, or cleaving the skull, of some merrymaker who incurred
his displeasure, or whom he might single out to murder, for no other
reason than a desire to keep his hand in practice.

It may well be imagined that popular superstition went along with the
popular dread of these wolf-and-bear-skinned rovers, and that they
were believed to be endued with the force, as they certainly were with
the ferocity, of the beasts whose skins they wore.

Nor would superstition stop there, but the imagination of the
trembling peasants would speedily invest these unscrupulous disturbers
of the public peace with the attributes hitherto appropriated to
trolls and j÷tuns.

The incident mentioned in the V÷lsung Saga, of the sleeping men being
found with their wolf-skins hanging to the wall above their heads, is
divested of its improbability, if we regard these skins as worn over
their armour, and the marvellous in the whole story is reduced to a
minimum, when we suppose that Sigmund and Sinfj÷tli stole these for
the purpose of disguising themselves, whilst they lived a life of
violence and robbery.

In a similar manner the story of the northern "Beauty and Beast," in
Hrolf's Saga Kraka, is rendered less improbable, on the supposition
that Bj÷rn was living as an outlaw among the mountain fastnesses in a
bearskin dress, which would effectually disguise him--_all but his
eyes_--which would gleam out of the sockets in his hideous visor,
unmistakably human. His very name, Bj÷rn, signifies a bear; and these
two circumstances may well have invested a kernel of historic fact
with all the romance of fable; and if divested of these supernatural
embellishments, the story would resolve itself into the very simple
fact of there having been a King Hring of the Updales, who was at
variance with his son, and whose son took to the woods, and lived a
berserkr life, in company with his mistress, till he was captured and
slain by his father.

I think that the circumstance insisted on by the Saga-writers, of the
eyes of the person remaining unchanged, is very significant, and
points to the fact that the skin was merely drawn over the body as a

But there was other ground for superstition to fasten on the
berserkir, and invest them with supernatural attributes.

No fact in connection with the history of the Northmen is more firmly
established, on reliable evidence, than that of the berserkr rage
being a species of diabolical possession. The berserkir were said to
work themselves up into a state of frenzy, in which a demoniacal power
came over them, impelling them to acts from which in their sober
senses they would have recoiled. They acquired superhuman force, and
were as invulnerable and as insensible to pain as the Jansenist
convulsionists of S. Medard. No sword would wound them, no fire would
barn them, a club alone could destroy them, by breaking their bones,
or crushing in their skulls. Their eyes glared as though a flame
burned in the sockets, they ground their teeth, and frothed at the
mouth; they gnawed at their shield rims, and are said to have
sometimes bitten them through, and as they rushed into conflict they
yelped as dogs or howled as wolves. [1]

[1. Hic (Syraldus) septem filios habebat, tanto veneficiorum usu
callentes, ut sŠpe subitis furoris viribus instincti solerent ore
torvum infremere, scuta morsibus attrectare, torridas fauce prunas
absumere, extructa quŠvis incendia penetrare, nec posset conceptis
dementiŠ motus alio remedii genere quam aut vinculorum injuriis aut
cŠdis humanŠ piaculo temperari. Tantam illis rabiem site sŠvitia
ingenii sive furiaram ferocitas inspirabat.--_Saxo Gramm_. VII.]

According to the unanimous testimony of the old Norse historians, the
berserkr rage was extinguished by baptism, and as Christianity
advanced, the number of these berserkir decreased.

But it must not be supposed that this madness or possession came only
on those persons who predisposed themselves to be attacked by it;
others were afflicted with it, who vainly struggled against its
influence, and who deeply lamented their own liability to be seized
with these terrible accesses of frenzy. Such was Thorir Ingimund's
son, of whom it is said, in the _VatnsdŠla Saga_, that "at times there
came over Thorir berserkr fits, and it was considered a sad misfortune
to such a man, as they were quite beyond control."

The manner in which he was cured is remarkable; pointing as it does to
the craving in the heathen mind for a better and more merciful

"Thorgrim of Kornsß had a child by his concubine Vereydr, and, by
order of his wife, the child was carried out to perish.

"The brothers (Thorsteinn and Thorir) often met, and it was now the
turn of Thorsteinn to visit Thorir, and Thorir accompanied him
homeward. On their way Thorsteinn asked Thorir which he thought was
the first among the brethren; Thorir answered that the reply was easy,
for 'you are above us all in discretion and talent; J÷kull is the best
in all perilous adventures, but I,' he added, 'I am the least worth of
us brothers, because the berserkr fits come over me, quite against my
will, and I wish that you, my brother, with your shrewdness, would
devise some help for me.'

"Thorsteinn said,--'I have heard that our kinsman, Thorgrim, has just
suffered his little babe to be carried out, at the instigation of his
wife. That is ill done. I think also that it is a grievous matter for
you to be different in nature from other men.'

"Thorir asked how he could obtain release from his affliction . . . .
Then said Thorsteinn, 'Now will I make a vow to Him who created the
sun, for I ween that he is most able to take the ban of you, and I
will undertake for His sake, in return, to rescue the babe and to
bring it up for him, till He who created man shall take it to
Himself-for this I reckon He will do!' After this they left their
horses and sought the child, and a thrall of Thorir had found it near
the Marram river. They saw that a kerchief had been spread over its
face, but it had rumpled it up over its nose; the little thing was all
but dead, but they took it up and flitted it home to Thorir's house,
and he brought the lad up, and called him Thorkell Rumple; as for the
berserkr fits, they came on him no more." (c. 37)

But the most remarkable passages bearing on our subject will be found
in the _Aigla_.

There was a man, Ulf (the wolf) by name, son of Bjßlfi and Hallbera.
Ulf was a man so tall and strong that the like of him was not to be
seen in the land at that time. And when he was young he was out viking
expeditions and harrying . . . He was a great landed proprietor. It
was his wont to rise early, and to go about the men's work, or to the
smithies, and inspect all his goods and his acres; and sometimes he
talked with those men who wanted his advice; for he was a good
adviser, he was so clear-headed; however, every day, when it drew
towards dusk, he became so savage that few dared exchange a word with
him, for he was given to dozing in the afternoon.

"People said that he was much given to changing form (_hamrammr_), so
he was called the evening-wolf, _kveld˙lfr_."--(c. 1.) In this and the
following passages, I do not consider _hamrammr_ to have its primary
signification of actual transformation, but simply to mean subject to
fits of diabolical possession, under the influence of which the bodily
powers were greatly exaggerated. I shall translate pretty freely from
this most interesting Saga, as I consider that the description given
in it of Kveldulf in his fits greatly elucidates our subject.

"Kveldulf and Skallagrim got news during summer of an expedition.
Skallagrim. was the keenest-sighted of men, and he caught sight of the
vessel of Hallvard and his brother, and recognized it at once. He
followed their course and marked the haven into which they entered at
even. Then he returned to his company, and told Kveldulf of what he
had seen . . . . Then they busked them and got ready both their boats;
in each they put twenty men, Kveldulf steering one and Skallagrim the
other, and they rowed in quest of the ship. Now when they came to the
place where it was, they lay to. Hallvard and his men had spread an
awning over the deck, and were asleep. Now when Kveldulf and his party
came upon them, the watchers who were seated at the end of the bridge
sprang up and called to the people on board to wake up, for there was
danger in the wind. So Hallvard and his men sprang to arms. Then came
Kveldulf over the bridge and Skallagrim with him into the ship.
Kveldulf had in his hand a cleaver, and he bade his men go through the
vessel and hack away the awning. But he pressed on to the
quarter-deck. It is said the were-wolf fit came over him and many of
his companions. They slow all the men who were before them. Skallagrim
did the same as he went round the vessel. He and his father paused not
till they had cleared it. Now when Kveldulf came upon the quarter-deck
he raised his cleaver, and smote Hallvard through helm and head, so
that the haft was buried in the flesh; but he dragged it to him so
violently that he whisked Hallvard into the air., and flung him
overboard. Skallagrim cleared the forecastle and slew Sigtrygg. Many
men flung themselves overboard, but Skallagrim's men took to the boat
and rowed about, killing all they found. Thus perished Hallvard with
fifty men. Skallagrim and his party took the ship and all the goods
which had belonged to Hallvard . . . and flitted it and the wares to
their own vessel, and then exchanged ships, lading their capture, but
quitting their own. After which they filled their old ship with
stones, brake it up and sank it. A good breeze sprang up, and they
stood out to sea.

It is said of these men in the engagement who were were-wolves, or
those on whom came the berserkr rage, that as long as the fit was on
them no one could oppose them, they were so strong; but when it had
passed off they were feebler than usual. It was the same with Kveldulf
when the were-wolf fit went off him--he then felt the exhaustion
consequent on the fight, and he was so completely 'done up,' that he
was obliged to take to his bed."

In like manner Skallagrim had his fits of frenzy, taking after his
amiable father.

"Thord and his companion were opposed to Skallagrim in the game, and
they were too much for him, he wearied, and the game went better with
them. But at dusk, after sunset, it went worse with Egill and Thord,
for Skallagrim became so strong that he caught up Thord and cast him
down, so that he broke his bones, and that was the death of him. Then
he caught at Egill. Thorgerd Brßk was the name of a servant of
Skallagrim, who had been foster-mother to Egill. She was a woman of
great stature, strong as a man and a bit of a witch. Brßk
exclaimed,--'Skallagrim! are you now falling upon your son?' (hamaz ■˙
at syni ■Ýnum). Then Skallagrim let go his hold of Egill and clutched
at her. She started aside and fled. Skallagrim. followed. They ran out
upon Digraness, and she sprang off the headland into the water.
Skallagrim cast after her a huge stone which struck her between the
shoulders, and she never rose after it. The place is now called Brak's
Sound."--(c. 40.)

Let it be observed that in these passages from the _Aigla_, the words
a­ hamaz, hamrammr, &c. are used without any intention of conveying
the idea of a change of bodily shape, though the words taken literally
assert it. For they are derived from _hamr_, a skin or habit; a word
which has its representatives in other Aryan languages, and is
therefore a primitive word expressive of the skin of a beast.

The Sanskrit ### _carmma_; the Hindustanee ### _cam_, hide or skin;
and ### _camra_, leather; the Persian ### _game_, clothing, disguise;
the Gothic _ham_ or _hams_, skin; and even the Italian _camicia_, and
the French _chemise_, are cognate words. [1]

[1. I shall have more to say on this subject in the chapter on the
Mythology of Lycanthropy.]

It seems probable accordingly that the verb _a­ hamaz_ was first
applied to those who wore the skins of savage animals, and went about
the country as freebooters; but that popular superstition soon
invested them with supernatural powers, and they were supposed to
assume the forms of the beasts in whose skins they were disguised. The
verb then acquired the significance "to become a were-wolf, to change
shape." It did not stop there, but went through another change of
meaning, and was finally applied to those who were afflicted with
paroxysms of madness or demoniacal possession.

This was not the only word connected with were-wolves which helped on
the superstition. The word _vargr_, a wolf, had a double significance,
which would be the means of originating many a were-wolf story.
_Vargr_ is the same as _u-argr_, restless; _argr_ being the same as
the Anglo-Saxon _earg_. _Vargr_ had its double signification in Norse.
It signified a wolf, and also a godless man. This _vargr_ is the
English _were_, in the word were-wolf, and the _garou_ or _varou_ in
French. The Danish word for were-wolf is _var-ulf_, the Gothic
_vaira-ulf_. In the _Romans de Garin_, it is "Leu warou, sanglante
beste." In the _Vie de S. Hildefons_ by Gauthier de Coinsi,--

Cil lon desve, cil lou garol,
Ce sunt deable, que saul
Ne puent estre de nos mordre.

Here the loup-garou is a devil. The Anglo-Saxons regarded him as an
evil man: _wearg_, a scoundrel; Gothic _varys_, a fiend. But very
often the word meant no more than an outlaw. Pluquet in his _Contes
Populaires_ tells us that the ancient Norman laws said of the
criminals condemned to outlawry for certain offences, _Wargus esto_:
be an outlaw!

In like manner the Lex Ripuaria, tit. 87, "Wargus sit, hoe est
expulsus." In the laws of Canute, he is called verevulf. (_Leges
Canuti_, Schmid, i. 148.) And the Salic Law (tit. 57) orders: "Si quis
corpus jam sepultum effoderit, aut expoliaverit, _wargus_ sit." "If
any one shall have dug up or despoiled an already buried corpse, let
him be a varg."

Sidonius Apollinaris. says, "Unam feminam quam forte _vargorum_, hoc
enim nomine indigenas latrunculos nuncupant," as though the common
name by which those who lived a freebooter life were designated, was

In like manner Palgrave assures us in his _Rise and Progress of the
English Commonwealth_, that among the Anglo, Saxons an _utlagh_, or
out-law, was said to have the head of a wolf. If then the term _vargr_
was applied at one time to a wolf, at another to an outlaw who lived
the life of a wild beast, away from the haunts of men "he shall be
driven away as a wolf, and chased so far as men chase wolves
farthest," was the legal form of sentence--it is certainly no matter
of wonder that stories of out-laws should have become surrounded with
mythical accounts of their transformation into wolves.

But the very idiom of the Norse was calculated to foster this
superstition. The Icelanders had curious expressions which are
sufficiently likely to have produced misconceptions.

[1. SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS: Opera, lib. vi. ep. 4.]

Snorri not only relates that Odin changed himself into another form,
but he adds that by his spells he turned his enemies into boars. In
precisely the same manner does a hag, Ljot, in the VatnsdŠla Saga, say
that she could have turned Thorsteinn and J÷kull into boars to run
about with the wild beasts (c. xxvi.); and the expression _ver­a at
gjalti_, or at _gj÷ltum_, to become a boar, is frequently met with in
the Sagas.

"Thereupon came Thorarinn and his men upon them, and Nagli led the
way; but when he saw weapons drawn he was frightened, and ran away up
the mountain, and became a boar. . . . And Thorarinn and his men took
to run, so as to help Nagli, lest he should tumble off the cliffs into
the sea" (Eyrbyggja Saga, c. xviii.) A similar expression occurs in
the Gisla Saga Surssonar, p. 50. In the Hrolfs Saga Kraka, we meet
with a troll in boar's shape, to whom divine honours are paid; and in
the Kjalnessinga Saga, c. xv., men are likened to boars--"Then it
began to fare with them as it fares with boars when they fight each
other, for in the same manner dropped their foam." The true
signification of _ver­a at gjalti_ is to be in such a state of fear as
to lose the senses; but it is sufficiently peculiar to have given rise
to superstitious stories.

I have dwelt at some length on the Northern myths relative to
were-wolves and animal transformations, because I have considered the
investigation of these all-important towards the elucidation of the
truth which lies at the bottom of mediŠval superstition, and which is
nowhere so obtainable as through the Norse literature. As may be seen
from the passages quoted above at length, and from an examination of
those merely referred to, the result arrived at is pretty conclusive,
and may be summed up in very few words.

The whole superstructure of fable and romance relative to
transformation into wild beasts, reposes simply on this basis of
truth--that among the Scandinavian nations there existed a form of
madness or possession, under the influence of which men acted as
though they were changed into wild and savage brutes, howling, foaming
at the mouth, ravening for blood and slaughter, ready to commit any
act of atrocity, and as irresponsible for their actions as the wolves
and bears, in whose skins they often equipped themselves.

The manner in which this fact became invested with supernatural
adjuncts I have also pointed out, to wit, the change in the
significance of the word designating the madness, the double meaning
of the word _vargr_, and above all, the habits and appearance of the
maniacs. We shall see instances of berserkr rage reappearing in the
middle ages, and late down into our own times, not exclusively in the
North, but throughout France, Germany, and England, and instead of
rejecting the accounts given by chroniclers as fabulous, because there
is much connected with them which seems to be fabulous, we shall be
able to refer them to their true origin.

It may be accepted as an axiom, that no superstition of general
acceptance is destitute of a foundation of truth; and if we discover
the myth of the were-wolf to be widely spread, not only throughout
Europe, but through the whole world, we may rest assured that there is
a solid core of fact, round which popular superstition has
crystallized; and that fact is the existence of a species of madness,
during the accesses of which the person afflicted believes himself to
be a wild beast, and acts like a wild beast.

In some cases this madness amounts apparently to positive possession,
and the diabolical acts into which the possessed is impelled are so
horrible, that the blood curdles in reading them, and it is impossible
to recall them without a shudder.



Olaus Magnus relates that--"In Prussia, Livonia, and Lithuania,
although the inhabitants suffer considerably from the rapacity of
wolves throughout the year, in that these animals rend their cattle,
which are scattered in great numbers through the woods, whenever they
stray in the very least, yet this is not regarded by them as such a
serious matter as what they endure from men turned into wolves.

"On the feast of the Nativity of Christ, at night, such a multitude of
wolves transformed from men gather together in a certain spot,
arranged among themselves, and then spread to rage with wondrous
ferocity against human beings, and those animals which are not wild,
that the natives of these regions suffer more detriment from these,
than they do from true and natural wolves; for when a human habitation
has been detected by them isolated in the woods, they besiege it with
atrocity, striving to break in the doors, and in the event of their
doing so, they devour all the human beings, and every animal which is
found within. They burst into the beer-cellars, and there they empty
the tuns of beer or mead, and pile up the empty casks one above
another in the middle of the cellar, thus showing their difference
from natural and genuine wolves. . . . Between Lithuania, Livonia, and
Courland are the walls of a certain old ruined castle. At this spot
congregate thousands, on a fixed occasion, and try their agility in
jumping. Those who are unable to bound over the wall, as; is often the
case with the fattest, are fallen upon with scourges by the captains
and slain." [1] Olaus relates also in c. xlvii. the story of a
certain nobleman who was travelling through a large forest with some
peasants in his retinue who dabbled in the black art. They found no
house where they could lodge for the night, and were well-nigh
famished. Then one of the peasants offered, if all the rest would hold
their tongues as to what he should do, that he would bring them a lamb
from a distant flock.

[1. OLAUS MAGNUS: _Historia de Vent. Septent_. Basil. 15, lib. xviii.
cap. 45.]

He thereupon retired into the depths of the forest and changed his
form into that of a wolf, fell upon the flock, and brought a lamb to
his companions in his mouth. They received it with gratitude. Then he
retired once more into the thicket, and transformed himself back again
into his human shape.

The wife of a nobleman in Livonia expressed her doubts to one of her
slaves whether it were possible for man or woman thus to change shape.
The servant at once volunteered to give her evidence of the
possibility. He left the room, and in another moment a wolf was
observed running over the country. The dogs followed him, and
notwithstanding his resistance, tore out one of his eyes. Next day the
slave appeared before his mistress blind of an eye.

Bp. Majolus [1] and Caspar Peucer [2] relate the following
circumstances of the Livonians:--

[1. MAJOLI _Episc. Vulturoniensis Dier. Canicul._ Helenopolis, 1612,
tom. ii. colloq. 3.]

[2. CASPAR PEUCER: _Comment. de PrŠcipuis Divin. Generibus_, 1591, p.

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 illŠ quŠ a vulgo ParcŠ vocantur, ipsŠ, 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). In like manner did S. Boniface
preach against those who believed superstitiously in it strigas et
fictos lupos." (_Serm_. apud Mart. et Durand. ix. 217.)

In a dissertation by MŘller [1] we learn, on the authority of
Cluverius and Dannhaverus (_Acad. Homilet._ p. ii.), that a certain
Albertus Pericofcius in Muscovy was wont to tyrannize over and harass
his subjects in the most unscrupulous manner. One night when he was
absent from home, his whole herd of cattle, acquired by extortion,
perished. On his return he was informed of his loss, and the wicked
man broke out into the most horrible blasphemies, exclaiming, "Let him
who has slain, eat; if God chooses, let him devour me as well."

[1. De {Greek _Lukan­rwpÝa_}. LipsiŠ, 1736.]

As he spoke, drops of blood fell to earth, and the nobleman,
transformed into a wild dog, rushed upon his dead cattle, tore and
mangled the carcasses and began to devour them; possibly he may be
devouring them still (_ac forsan hodie que pascitur_). His wife, then
near her confinement, died of fear. Of these circumstances there were
not only ear but also eye witnesses. (_Non ab auritis tantum, sed et
ocidatis accepi, quod narro_). Similarly it is related of a nobleman
in the neighbourhood of Prague, that he robbed his subjects of their
goods and reduced them to penury through his exactions. He took the
last cow from a poor widow with five children, but as a judgment, all
his own cattle died. He then broke into fearful oaths, and God
transformed him into a dog: his human head, however, remained.

S. Patrick is said to have changed Vereticus, king of Wales, into a
wolf, and S. Natalis, the abbot, to have pronounced anathema upon an
illustrious family in Ireland; in consequence of which, every male and
female take the form of wolves for seven years and live in the forests
and career over the bogs, howling mournfully, and appeasing their
hunger upon the sheep of the peasants. [1] A duke of Prussia,
according to Majolus, had a countryman brought for sentence before
him, because he had devoured his neighbour's cattle. The fellow was an
ill-favoured, deformed man, with great wounds in his face, which he
had received from dogs' bites whilst he had been in his wolf's form.
It was believed that he changed shape twice in the year, at Christmas
and at Midsummer. He was said to exhibit much uneasiness and
discomfort when the wolf-hair began to break out and his bodily shape
to change.

[1. PHIL. HARTUNG: _Conciones TergeminŠ_, pars ii. p. 367.]

He was kept long in prison and closely watched, lest he should become
a were-wolf during his confinement and attempt to escape, but nothing
remarkable took place. If this is the same individual as that
mentioned by Olaus Magnus, as there seems to be a probability, the
poor fellow was burned alive.

John of NŘremberg relates the following curious story. [1] A
priest was once travelling in a strange country, and lost his way in a
forest. Seeing a fire, he made towards it, and beheld a wolf seated
over it. The wolf addressed him in human-voice, and bade him not fear,
as "he was of the Ossyrian race, of which a man and a woman were
doomed to spend a certain number of years in wolf's form. Only after
seven years might they return home and resume their former shapes, if
they were still alive." He begged the priest to visit and console his
sick wife, and to give her the last sacraments. This the priest
consented to do, after some hesitation, and only when convinced of the
beasts being human beings, by observing that the wolf used his front
paws as hands, and when he saw the she-wolf peel off her wolf-skin
from her head to her navel, exhibiting the features of an aged woman.

[1. JOHN EUS. NIERENBERG _de Miracul. in Europa_, lib. ii. cap. 42.]

Marie de France says in the Lais du Bisclaveret:-- [1]

Bisclaveret ad nun en Bretan
Garwall Papelent li Norman.
* * * *
Jadis le poet-hum oir
Et souvent suleit avenir,
Humes pluseirs Garwall deviendrent
E es boscages meisun tindrent

[1. An epitome of this curious were-wolf tale will be found in Ellis's
_Early English Metrical Romances_.]

There is an interesting paper by RhanŠus, on the Courland were-wolves,
in the Breslauer Sammlung. [2] The author says,--"There are too
many examples derived not merely from hearsay, but received on
indisputable evidence, for us to dispute the fact, that Satan--if we
do not deny that such a being exists, and that he has his work in the
children of darkness--holds the Lycanthropists in his net in three

[2. Supplement III. _Curieuser_ und nutzbarer Anmerkungen von Natur
und Kunstgeschichten, gesammelt von Kanold. 1728.]

"1. They execute as wolves certain acts, such as seizing a sheep, or
destroying cattle, &c., not changed into wolves, which no scientific
man in Courland believes, but in their human frames, and with their
human limbs, yet in such a state of phantasy and hallucination, that
they believe themselves transformed into wolves, and are regarded as
such by others suffering under similar hallucination, and in this
manner run these people in packs as wolves, though not true wolves.

"2. They imagine, in deep sleep or dream, that they injure the cattle,
and this without leaving their conch; but it is their master who does,
in their stead, what their fancy points out, or suggests to him.

"3. The evil one drives natural wolves to do some act, and then
pictures it so well to the sleeper, immovable in his place, both in
dreams and at awaking, that he believes the act to have been committed
by himself."

RhanŠus, under these heads, relates three stories, which he believes
be has on good authority. The first is of a gentleman starting on a
journey, who came upon a wolf engaged in the act of seizing a sheep in
his own flock; he fired at it, and wounded it, so that it fled howling
to the thicket. When the gentleman returned from his expedition he
found the whole neighbourhood impressed with the belief that he had,
on a given day and hour, shot at one of his tenants, a publican,
Mickel. On inquiry, the man's Wife, called Lebba, related the
following circumstances, which were fully corroborated by numerous
witnesses:--When her husband had sown his rye he had consulted with
his wife how he was to get some meat, so as to have a good feast. The
woman urged him on no account to steal from his landlord's flock,
because it was guarded by fierce dogs. He, however, rejected her
advice, and Mickel fell upon his landlord's sheep, but he had suffered
and had come limping home, and in his rage at the ill success of his
attempt, had fallen upon his own horse and had bitten its throat
completely through. This took place in the year 1684.

In 1684, a man was about to fire upon a pack of wolves, when he heard
from among the troop a voice exclaiming--"Gossip! Gossip! don't fire.
No good will come of it."

The third story is as follows:--A lycanthropist was brought before a
judge and accused of witchcraft, but as nothing could be proved
against him, the judge ordered one of his peasants to visit the man in
his prison, and to worm the truth out of him, and to persuade the
prisoner to assist him in revenging himself upon another peasant who
had injured him; and this was to be effected by destroying one of the
man's cows; but the peasant was to urge the prisoner to do it
secretly, and, if possible, in the disguise of a wolf. The fellow
undertook the task, but he had great difficulty in persuading the
prisoner to fall in with his wishes: eventually, however, he
succeeded. Next morning the cow was found in its stall frightfully
mangled, but the prisoner had not left his cell: for the watch, who
had been placed to observe him, declared that he had spent the night
in profound sleep, and that he had only at one time made a slight
motion with his head and hands and feet.

Wierius and Forestus quote Gulielmus Brabantinus as an authority for
the fact, that a man of high position had been so possessed by the
evil one, that often during the year he fell into a condition in which
he believed himself to be turned into a wolf, and at that time he
roved in the woods and tried to seize and devour little children, but
that at last, by God's mercy, he recovered his senses.

Certainly the famous Pierre Vidal, the Don Quixote of Provenšal
troubadours, must have had a touch of this madness, when, after having
fallen in love with a lady of Carcassone, named Loba, or the Wolfess,
the excess of his passion drove him over the country, howling like a
wolf, and demeaning himself more like an irrational beast than a
rational man.

He commemorates his lupine madness in the poem _A tal Donna_:--

[1. BRUCE WHYTE: _Histoire des Langues Romaines_, tom. ii. p. 248.]

Crowned with immortal joys I mount
The proudest emperors above,
For I am honoured with the love
Of the fair daughter of a count.
A lace from Na Raymbauda's hand
I value more than all the land
Of Richard, with his Po´ctou,
His rich Touraine and famed Anjou.
When _loup-garou_ the rabble call me,
When vagrant shepherds hoot,
Pursue, and buffet me to boot,
It doth not for a moment gall me;
I seek not palaces or halls,
Or refuge when the winter falls;
Exposed to winds and frosts at night,
My soul is ravished with delight.
Me claims my she-wolf (_Loba_) so divine:
And justly she that claim prefers,
For, by my troth, my life is hers
More than another's, more than mine.

Job Fincelius [1] relates the sad story of a farmer of Pavia, who,
as a wolf, fell upon many men in the open country and tore them to
pieces. After much trouble the maniac was caught, and he then assured
his captors that the only difference which existed between himself and
a natural wolf, was that in a true wolf the hair grew outward, whilst
in him it struck inward. In order to put this assertion to the proof,
the magistrates, themselves most certainly cruel and bloodthirsty
wolves, cut off his arms and legs; the poor wretch died of the
mutilation. This took place in 1541. The idea of the skin being
reversed is a very ancient one: _versipellis_ occurs as a name of
reproach in Petronius, Lucilius, and Plautus, and resembles the Norse

[1. FINCELIUS _de Mirabilibus_, lib. xi.]

Fincelius relates also that, in 1542, there was such a multitude of
were-wolves about Constantinople that the Emperor, accompanied by his
guard, left the city to give them a severe correction, and slew one
hundred and fifty of them.

Spranger speaks of three young ladies who attacked a labourer, under
the form of cats, and were wounded by him. They were found bleeding in
their beds next morning.

Majolus relates that a man afflicted with lycanthropy was brought to
Pomponatius. The poor fellow had been found buried in hay, and when
people approached, he called to them to flee, as he was a were wolf,
and would rend them. The country-folk wanted to flay him, to discover
whether the hair grew inwards, but Pomponatius rescued the man and
cured him.

Bodin tells some were-wolf stories on good authority; it is a pity
that the good authorities of Bodin were such liars, but that, by the
way. He says that the Royal Procurator-General Bourdin had assured him
that he had shot a wolf, and that the arrow had stuck in the beast's
thigh. A few hours after, the arrow was found in the thigh of a man in
bed. In Vernon, about the year 1566, the witches and warlocks gathered
in great multitudes, under the shape of cats. Four or five men were
attacked in a lone place by a number of these beasts. The men stood
their ground with the utmost heroism, succeeded in slaying one puss,
and in wounding many others. Next day a number of wounded women were
found in the town, and they gave the judge an accurate account of all
the circumstances connected with their wounding.

Bodin quotes Pierre Marner, the author of a treatise on sorcerers, as
having witnessed in Savoy the transformation of men into wolves.
Nynauld [1] relates that in a village of Switzerland, near
Lucerne, a peasant was attacked by a wolf, whilst he was hewing
timber; he defended himself, and smote off a fore-leg of the beast.
The moment that the blood began to flow the wolf's form changed, and
he recognized a woman without her arm. She was burnt alive.

[1. NYNAULD, _De la Lycanthropie_. Paris, 1615, p. 52.]

An evidence that beasts are transformed witches is to be found in
their having no tails. When the devil takes human form, however, he
keeps his club-foot of the Satyr, as a token by which he may be
recognized. So animals deficient in caudal appendages are to be
avoided, as they are witches in disguise. The Thingwald should
consider the case of the Manx cats in its next session.

Forestus, in his chapter on maladies of the brain, relates a
circumstance which came under his own observation, in the middle of
the sixteenth century, at Alcmaar in the Netherlands. A peasant there
was attacked every spring with a fit of insanity; under the influence
of this he rushed about the churchyard, ran into the church, jumped
over the benches, danced, was filled with fury, climbed up, descended,
and never remained quiet. He carried a long staff in his hand, with
which he drove away the dogs, which flew at him and wounded him, so
that his thighs were covered with scars. His face was pale, his eyes
deep sunk in their sockets. Forestus pronounces the man to be a
lycanthropist, but he does not say that the poor fellow believed
himself to be transformed into a wolf. In reference to this case,
however, he mentions that of a Spanish nobleman who believed himself
to be changed into a bear, and who wandered filled with fury among the

Donatus of Altomare [1] affirms that he saw a man in the streets
of Naples, surrounded by a ring of people, who in his were-wolf frenzy
had dug up a corpse and was carrying off the leg upon his shoulders.
This was in the middle of the sixteenth century.

[1. _De Medend. Human. Corp_. lib. i. cap. 9.]



Pierre Bourgot and Michel Verdung--'Me Hermit of S. Bonnot--The
Gandillon Family--Thievenne Paget--The Tailor of ChÔlons--Roulet.

IN December, 1521, the Inquisitor-General for the diocese of Besanšon,
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:--

About nineteen years before, on the occasion of a New Year's market at
Poligny, a terrible storm had broken over the country, and among other
mischiefs done by it, was the scattering of Pierre's flock. "In vain,"
said the prisoner, "did I labour, in company with other peasants, to
find the sheep and bring them together. I went everywhere in search of

"Then there rode up three black horsemen, and the last said to me:
'Whither away? you seem to be in trouble?'

"I related to him my misfortune with my flock. He bade me pluck up my
spirits, and promised that his master would henceforth take charge of
and protect my flock., if I would only rely upon him. He told me, as
well, that I should find my strayed sheep very shortly, and he
promised to provide me with money. We agreed to meet again in four or
five days. My flock I soon found collected together. At my second
meeting I learned of the stranger that he was a servant of the devil.
I forswore God and our Lady and all saints and dwellers in Paradise. I
renounced Christianity, kissed his left hand, which was black and
ice-cold as that of a corpse. Then I fell on my knees and gave in my
allegiance to Satan. I remained in the service of the devil for two
years, and never entered a church before the end of mass, or at all
events till the holy water had been sprinkled, according to the desire
of my master, whose name I afterwards learned was Moyset.

"All anxiety about my flock was removed, for the devil had undertaken
to protect it and to keep off the wolves.

"This freedom from care, however, made me begin to tire of the devil's
service, and I recommenced my attendance at church, till I was brought
back into obedience to the evil one by Michel Verdung, when I renewed
my compact on the understanding that I should be supplied with money.

"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, Michel 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; to me it was given by
Moyset, to Michel by his own master, Guillemin."

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.

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, however, one day tore to pieces a
woman as she was gathering peas; and a M. de ChusnÚe, 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.

The statements of Pierre Bourgot were fully corroborated by Michel

Towards the close of the autumn of 1573, the peasants of the
neighbourhood of D˘le, in Franche ComtÚ, were authorized by the Court
of Parliament at D˘le, 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.

In a retired spot near Amanges, half shrouded in trees, stood a small
hovel of the rudest construction; its roof was of turf, and its walls
were blotched with lichen. The garden to this cot was run to waste,
and the fence round it broken through. As the hovel was far from any
road, and was only reached by a path over moorland and through forest,
it was seldom visited, and the couple who lived in it were not such as
would make many friends. 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.

On the 14th a little boy of ten years old was missing, who had been
last seen at a short distance from the gates of Dole.

The hermit of S. Bonnot was now seized and brought to trial at Dole,
when the following evidence was extracted from him and his wife, and
substantiated in many particulars by witnesses.

On the last day of Michaelmas, under the form of a wolf, at a mile
from Dole, in the farm of Gorge, a vineyard belonging to Chastenoy,
near the wood of La Serre, Gilles Gamier had attacked a little maiden
of ten or twelve years old, and had slain her with his teeth and
claws; he had then drawn her into the wood, stripped her, gnawed the
flesh from her legs and arms, and had enjoyed his meal so much, that,
inspired with conjugal affection, he had brought some of the flesh
home for his wife Apolline.

Eight days after the feast of All Saints, again in the form of a
were-wolf, he had seized another girl, near the meadow land of La
Pouppe, on the territory of Athume and Chastenoy, and was on the point
of slaying and devouring her, when three persons came up, and he was
compelled to escape. On the fourteenth day after All Saints, also as a
wolf, he had attacked a boy of ten years old, a mile from D˘le,
between Gredisans and MenotÚ, and had strangled him. On that occasion
he had eaten all the flesh off his legs and arms, and had also
devoured a great part of the belly; one of the legs he had rent
completely from the trunk with his fangs.

On the Friday before the last feast of S. Bartholomew, he had seized a
boy of twelve or thirteen, under a large pear-trees near the wood of
the village Perrouze, and had drawn him into the thicket and killed
him, intending to eat him as he had eaten the other children, but the
approach of men hindered him from fulfilling his intention. The boy
was, however, quite dead, and the men who came up declared that Gilles
appeared as a man and not as a wolf. The hermit of S. Bonnot was
sentenced to be dragged to the place of public execution, and there to
be burned alive, a sentence which was rigorously carried out.

In this instance the poor maniac fully believed that actual
transformation into a wolf took place; he was apparently perfectly
reasonable on other points, and quite conscious of the acts he had

We come now to a more remarkable circumstance, the affliction of a
whole family with the same form of insanity. Our information is
derived from Boguet's _Discours de Sorciers_, 1603-1610.

Pernette Gandillon was a poor girl in the Jura, who 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.

Directly after, Pierre, the brother of Pernette 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. His 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'

His sister Antoinnette 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. Boguet accounts for the
transformation not taking place, by the fact of their not having the
necessary salves by them.

All three, Pierre, Georges, and Antoinnette, were hung and burned.

Thievenne Paget, who was a witch of the most unmistakable character,
was also frequently changed into a she-wolf, according to her own
confession, in which state she had often accompanied the devil over
hill and dale, slaying cattle, and falling on and devouring children.
The same thing may be said of Clauda Isan Prost, a lame woman, Clauda
Isan Guillaume, and Isan Roquet, who owned to the murder of five

On the 14th of December, in the same year as the execution of the
Gandillon family (1598), a tailor of ChÔlons was sentenced to the
flames by the Parliament of Paris for lycanthropy. This wretched man
had decoyed children into his shop, or attacked them in the gloaming
when they strayed in the woods, had torn them with his teeth, and
killed them, after which he seems calmly to have dressed their flesh
as ordinary meat, and to have eaten it with great relish. The number
of little innocents whom he destroyed is unknown. A whole cask full of
bones was discovered in his house. The man was perfectly hardened, and
the details of his trial were so full of horrors and abominations of
all kinds, that the judges ordered the documents to be burned.

Again in 1598, a year memorable in the annals of lycanthropy, a trial
took place in Angers, the details of which are very terrible.

In a wild and unfrequented spot near Caude, some countrymen came one
day upon the corpse of a boy of fifteen, horribly mutilated and
bespattered with blood. As the men approached, two wolves, which had
been rending the body, bounded away into the thicket. The men gave
chase immediately, following their bloody tracks till they lost them;
when suddenly crouching among the bushes, his teeth chattering with
fear, they found a man half naked, with long hair and beard, and with
his hands dyed in blood. His nails were long as claws, and were
clotted with fresh gore, and shreds of human flesh.

This is one of the most puzzling and peculiar cases which come under
our notice.

The wretched man, whose name was Roulet, of his own accord stated that
he had fallen upon the lad and had killed him by smothering him, and
that he had been prevented from devouring the body completely by the
arrival of men on the spot.

Roulet proved on investigation to be a beggar from house to house, in
the most abject state of poverty. His companions in mendicity were his
brother John and his cousin Julien. He had been given lodging out of
charity in a neighbouring village, but before his apprehension he had
been absent for eight days.

Before the judges, Roulet acknowledged that he was able to transform
himself into a wolf by means of a salve which his parents had given
him. When questioned about the two wolves which had been seen leaving
the corpse, he said that he knew perfectly well who they were, for
they were his companions, Jean and Julian, who possessed the same
secret as himself. He was shown the clothes he had worn on the day of
his seizure, and he recognized them immediately; he described the boy
whom he had murdered, gave the date correctly, indicated the precise
spot where the deed had been done, and recognized the father of the
boy as the man who had first run up when the screams of the lad had
been heard. In prison, Roulet behaved like an idiot. When seized, his
belly was distended and hard; in prison he drank one evening a whole
pailful of water, and from that moment refused to eat or drink.

His parents, on inquiry, proved to be respectable and pious people,
and they proved that his brother John and his cousin Julien had been
engaged at a distance on the day of Roulet's apprehension.

"What is your name, and what your estate?" asked the judge, Pierre

"My name is Jacques Roulet, my age thirty-five; I am poor, and a

"What are you accused of having done?"

"Of being a thief--of having offended God. My parents gave me an
ointment; I do not know its composition."

"When rubbed with this ointment do you become a wolf?"

"No; but for all that, I killed and ate the child Cornier: I was a

"Were you dressed as a wolf?"

"I was dressed as I am now. I had my hands and my face bloody, because
I had been eating the flesh of the said child."

"Do your hands and feet become paws of a wolf?"

"Yes, they do."

"Does your head become like that of a wolf-your mouth become larger?"


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