Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 2 (1580)

Last week I began looking at Jean Bodin’s 1580 volume De la Démonomanie des sorciers (via Randy A. Scott and Jonathan L. Pearl’s annotated 2001 English edition, On the Demon-Mania of Witches). It’s a hefty piece of scholarship and I didn’t have space to cover Bodin’s whole chapter on lycanthropy. So, allow me to pick up where I left off…

Bodin mentions an incident described in Job Fincelius’s Wunderzetchen reporting “that there was also at Padua a lycanthrope who was caught and his wolf paws were cut off and at the same instant he found himself with his arms and feet cut off”; according to Bodin, this claim corroborates evidence against “the witches of Vernon who usually gathered and assembled in an old ruined chateau, in the guise of a great number of cats” (this apparently comes from Petrus Mamor’s Flagellum Maleficarum). The author also mentions “Henry of Cologne”; Scott and Pearl interpret this as a reference to Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. Always eager to outdo himself, Boding then provides an eyewitness account of a lycanthropic transformation:

And Ulrich Molitor in a little book which he dedicated to Emperor Sigismund, records the debate which was held before the emperor. He says that it was concluded for strong reasons, and with the experience of countless examples, that such a transformation was real, and he claims himself that he saw a lycanthrope at Constance, who was charged, convicted, sentenced and then put to death following his confession.

His next assertion is intriguing, but alas, has no cited source:

There are available several books published in Germany, which attest that one of the greatest kings of Christendom, who died not long ago, often was changed into a wolf, and he was reputed to be one of the greatest sorcerers in the world.

Backing up his claim that “Greece and Asia are even more infected with this plague than are the peoples of the West”, Bodin introduces us to the lycanthropes of Turkey, again drawing upon Job Fincelius:

And in fact in 1542 in the empire of Sultan Suliman, there was such a great number of werewolves in the city of Constantinople, that the emperor accompanied by his guard went out in arms and rounded up one hundred and fifty of them, who vanished from the city of Constantinople in view of all the people.

The next topic is how lycanthrope terminology varies between countries:

The Germans call them “Wer Woolf,” and the French “loups- garous,” the Picards “loups varous” which is derived from “lupos varios,” for the French put “g” for “v.” The Greeks call them “Lycanthropes,” and “Mormolycies.” The Latins label them “varios” and “versipelles,” as Pliny noted while describing this change from wolves into men. Frangois Phoebus, Count of Foix [sic — actually Gaston III Phoebus, according to Scott and Pearl], in his book On Hunting, explains that this word “garoux” means “gardez- vous,” “beware,” which Judge Fauchet pointed out to me. This is quite probable: for the other natural wolves hunt animals, but these ones more often men. This is why one can say, “Beware!”

Bodin makes brief references to Pietro Pomponazzi and Paracelsus as redoubtable scholars who have expressed belief in the existence of werewolves. He then moves on to Casper Peucer:

Caspar Peucer, a learned man and son-in-law of Philip Melanchthon, writes that he had always thought that it was a fable, but after its having been attested by various merchants and trust¬ worthy people who frequently conduct trade in Livonia, where many have even been charged and convicted, and after their confession put to death, says that he is obliged to believe it, and he describes the way they do things in Livonia.

Every year at the end of the month of December, there is a scoundrel who goes and summons all the witches to be present at a certain place, and if they fail to do so, the Devil compels them with blows from an iron rod, so hard that the bruises remain. Their captain goes on ahead and thousands follow him traversing a river, and when they have crossed it they change their shape into wolves, and fall upon men and flocks, and inflict enormous damage. Then twelve days later they return to the same river, and are changed back into men.

Following this is a chunk of text that was left out of Scott and Pearl’s abridged translation. I’ll be covering it next week…

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