Werewolf Wednesday: A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (1605)

In relation to folklore, Richard Verstegen’s 1605 volume A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities Concerning the Most Noble and Renowned English Nation is probably most notable for containing the first English version of the Pied Piper story. The book also has some relevance to lycanthropy, however. One section is a glossary (or “explanation of sundrie our moste ancient English woords”) that includes an entry on werewolves.

The author appears to have accepted the literal existence of such beings, although his wording suggests that he believed lycanthropic transformations to be illusions rather than true bodily changes.

The text was clearly used as a basis for the entry on werewolves in the later Glossographia, and like that book it cites the case of Peter Stubbe (or Stump) who was executed just 16 years before Verstegen’s volume was published. The “Ortelius” referred to is probably Abraham Ortelius, although I’ll admit to being unsure what his connection to werewolves might be.

I’ve reproduced the full entry below, retaining the antiquated English (and the inconsistent spelling of “were-wolf”).

Were-wulf. This name remaineth stil known in the Teutonic, & is as much to say as man-wolf; the greeks expressing the very lyke, in Lycanthropos.

Ortelius not knowing what were signified, because in the Netherlandes it is now clean out of use, except just composed with wolf, doth mis-interprete it according to his fancie.

The were-wolves are certain sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodyes, with an oyntment which the make by the instinct of the devil; and putting on a certain inchanted girdel, do not only unto the view of others seemed as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they were thesaid girdel. And they do dispose theselves as very wolves, in wurrying and killing, and most of humaine creatures.

Of such sundry have bin taken and executed in sundry partes of Germanie, and the Netherlands. One Peeter Stump for being a Were-wolf/ and having killed thirteen children, two women, and one man; was at Bedbur not far from Cullen in the yeare 1589, put unto a very terrible death. The flesh of divers partes of his body was pulled out with hot iron tongs, his armes thighes and legges broke on a wheel, & his body lastly burnt. He dyed with very great remorce, defyring that his body might not be spared from any torment, so his soule might be saved. The Were-wolf (so called in Germanie) is in France, called Loupgarou.

As an aside, the entry on werewolves is preceded by a separate entry on that word’s suffix:

Were/ our anceters used somtyme in steed of Men/ yet should it seemed that were/ was moste commonly taken for a married man. But the name of man/ is now more known and more generally used in the whole Teutonic toung then the name of Were.

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