Werewolf Wednesday: Glossographia (1656)

Peter Stubbe

This week’s snippet of werewolf history comes from Thomas Blount’s Glossographia, an early dictionary published in 1656. Besides The Damnable Life and Death of Stubbe Peeter (1590) the Glossographia is the earliest text I’ve covered for this series, and it specifically mentions the Stubbe Peter/Peter Stumpp case in its entry on the word “Werewolf”:

Werewolf or Were-wolf (were in the old Sax. was sometimes used for man) this name remains still known in the Teutonick, and is as much as to say Man-wolf; which is a certain Sorcerer, who having anointed his body with an Ointment, made by instinct of the Devil, and putting on a certain inchanted Girdle, does not only to the view of others, seen as a Wolf, but to his own thinking, hath both the shape and nature of a Wolf, so long as he wears the said Girdle, and accordingly worries and kills humane creatures. Of these sundry have been taken in Germany, and the Netherlands. One Peter Stump, for being a Were-wolf and having killed Thirteen Children, Two Women, and One Man, was at Bedhur, not far from Cullen, in the year of 1859 [sic], put to a very terrible death.

The year given for Stumpp’s execution is an obvious typo: he was killed in 1589, not 1859.

Note that the description lists two methods of becoming a werewolf: a magic girdle, or an ointment. A girdle was reportedly used by Peter Stumpp, while the detail of the ointment appears to come from elsewhere — possibly the case of Jacques Roulet, who claimed to use such a substance.

The book contains a separate entry for lycanthropy:

Lycanthropy (lycanthropia) a frenzy or melancholly, which causeth the patient (who thinks he is turned Wolf) to fly all company, and hide himself in dens and corners. See Were-wolf.

An interesting detail is that while the “werewolf” entry appears to have been written on the assumption that magical transformations between man and wolf really do exist (bear in mind that the Glossographia was published less than ten years after Matthew Hopkins’ reign of terror and decades before the Salem witch trials in America; such beliefs were still current) the “lycanthropy” entry is more rational-minded, presenting the condition as a mental affliction.

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