Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 3 (1580)

I’ve written a bit about Jean Bodin’s 1580 overview of werewolf lore here and here. In doing so, I’ve drawn heavily upon Randy A. Scott and Jonathan L. Pearl’s annotated 2001 English translation of Bodin’s book, On the Demon-Mania of Witches — which is an abridged edition. In this post, I’ll be looking at one of the sections that was cut out.

Bodin begins the section in question by talking about lycanthropes of Livonia, a subject also discussed by Olaus Magnus. He cites a personal acquaintance of his, a learned man from Burgandy named Languet who served the Duke of Saxony (could this be the sixteenth-century diplomat Hubert Languet?), as having travelled to Livonia and heard of a widespread belief in lycanthropy. He also mentions an unnamed German correspondent who identified Livonia with a land described by Herodotus as being populated by men who turn into wolves (I believe this refers to Herodotus’ account of the Neurian people).

Bodin also cites claims by Herodotus and Olaus Magnus regarding sorcerers who can control storms. Returning to the topic of lycanthropy, the author introduces us to Boyan, legendary son of Simeon I of Bulgaria, who — according to tenth-century historian Liutprand — could turn into a wolf.

Bodin then provides a list of classical sources in a passage which, unlike the above, was translated by Scott and Pearl:

Now this is a very strange thing. But I find it even stranger that many cannot believe it, since all the peoples of the earth and all antiquity agree about it. For not only did Herodotus describe it two thousand two hundred years ago, and four hundred years earlier, Homer, but also Pomponius Mela, Solon, Strabo, Dionysius Afer, Marcus Varro, Virgil, Ovid and a countless number of others…

This is followed by another segment left out of the English translation. Bodin quotes from Virgil’s Eclogues, in which a man named Moeris is described as being able to transform into a wolf using a certain herb; and then from Pliny the Elder, who discussed — and dismissed as fable — a belief in similar such transformations (Natural History, book VIII, chapter XXXIV). After this comes more material that made it into the abridged English edition:

I remarked above that it only takes one witch to spoil a whole family. And Copas, who wrote the Olympionica, states that Demaenetus Parrasius, after having eaten the liver of a child who was being sacrificed to Jupiter Lycaeus, was turned into a wolf. Marcus Varro, the most erudite man of all the Greeks and Latins, (as Cicero says) cites this and also considers it beyond doubt. The history of Olaus Magnus referring to the peoples of Lapland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, who are still pagan and full of evil spirits and witches, says that they frequently change from men into beasts.98 And whoever would like to see innumerable examples, which I am omitting for the sake of brevity, only has to consult Olaus, Saxo Grammaticus, Fincel, and William of Brabant.

On this last personage, Scott and Pearl provide a footnote:

The text apparently confuses here William of Paris (or Auvergne), theologian, and later bishop of Paris until 1249, who wrote the De universo, and Thomas of Brabant, medieval author of About Bees. See Malleus maleficarum, Pt. 1, Q. 3 where they are referred to together as important writers on Incubi and Succubi.

The chapter’s still not finished: I hope to squeeze at least one more post out of Bodin…

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