Werewolf Wednesday: Giuseppe Acerbi on Laplanders, Cyclopes and Werewolves (1802)

Well, I’d hoped to have another post about Johann Weyer’s writings on werewolves ready for today, but digging through his Latin has turned out to be more time-consuming than I’d thought. So, I’ve got something a little shorter and sweeter today: a brief reference to werewolf folklore in Giuseppe Acerbi’s 1802 volume Travels Through Sweden, Finland, and Lapland, to the North Cape, in the Years 1798 and 1799.

The relevant section begins with a passage on the way in which descriptions of Laplanders have been distorted throughout history:

The Laplanders have been represented by some authors as being overgrown with shaggy hair, like wild beasts. Others have given them but one eye; but these are fables which those authors seem to have borrowed from Herodotus and Pliny, and in no way applicable either to the Laplanders, or any race of people upon the face of Earth.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Johann Weyer on the Poligny Werewolves (1564)


Last week I wrote about Johann Weyer’s De lamiis liber, in which this sixteenth-century scholar offered a skeptical commentary on lycanthropy. As it happens, Weyer also discussed werewolves in an earlier and better-known book: De praestigiis daemonum.

To the best of my knowledge, Weyer’s only reference to lycanthropy in the original 1563 edition of this volume comes when he’s listing human-animal transformations of classical literature (Odysseus’ men becoming pigs, Diomedes’ companions becoming birds, and Arcadians becoming wolves). The expanded 1564 edition of De praestigiis daemonum is a different matter, devoting its entire thirteenth chapter to an account of lycanthropy.

The case is that of Poligny man Pierre Bourgot (referred to by Weyer as Peter Bourgoti) who confessed in December 1521 that he and his accomplice Michel (or Michael) Verdung were lycanthropes.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Johann Weyer’s De Lamiis Liber (1577)

Whether you know him as Johann Weyer, Johannes Wier or Joannus Wieri, he’s a scholar who certainly left his mark on occultism. Weyer was ahead of his time in arguing that the people accused in witch trials were innocent, and his Pseudomonarchia Daemonum is a key text in demonology. Less well-known is that he also wrote skeptically on the topic of werewolves.

His 1577 book De lamiis liber contains a chapter devoted to lycanthropy. The whole book is in Latin and I’ll admit that I resorted to Google Translate, but I was able to discern the thrust of his argument. Weyer begins by expressing incredulity at reports of men having transformed into wolves, goats, dogs, cats or any other animals. After all, he argues, man was created in the image of God and by divine law placed above the beasts.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Loup Garou in Latin (1549)

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It seems safe to say that most people reading this post will be aware that loup garou is a French term for werewolf. However, it seems that the term may have once had a broader meaning as a loose description of sinister supernatural beings in general.

A while ago I found a citation from 1577 listing loup garou as a synonym for incubus. More recently, I’ve come across a French-Latin dictionary from 1549 that provides a few Latin synonyms for loup garou — and an intriguing lot they are. According to this volume, a Latin-speaker might refer to a loup-garou using any of the following terms: Lemures lemurum; Larua; Lycaon; Lycanthropos; Lucifugus; Solifugus; and Versipellis nycterobius.

Of these, lycanthropos scarcely needs comment, and I imagine that — again — most of my readers will be aware of the myth of Lycaon. The other terms warrent a closer look.

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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.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 4 (1580)

In recent weeks I’ve devoted not one, not two but three posts to the chapter on lycanthropy in Jean Bodin’s 1580 book De la Démonomanie des sorciers, partly through the abridged 2001 English edition by Randy A. Scott and Jonathan L. Pearl. Now, here’s one last post to round off my summary of the chapter…

I’ll start with another section that Scott and Pearl left out of their translation. This dips into classical mythology, with Bodin pointing to Ovid’s story of Lycaon becoming a wolf, and Homer’s account of how Circe turned Odysseus’ men into swine. The latter tale, argues Bodin, is not mere fable, as it was repeated by St. Augustine — who also recounted a story of Arcadian sorceresses turning passers-by into beasts to carry cheese.

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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.

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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…

Werewolf Wednesday: Jean Bodin on Lycanthropy, Part 1 (1580)

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I briefly touched on Jean Bodin’s 1580 book De la Démonomanie des sorciers while covering the exploits of Monsieur Oufle, but it deserves a closer look as an entire chapter (book two, chapter six) is given over to the topic of lycanthropy. In 2001, the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies put out an abridged English translation, under the title On the Demon-Mania of Witches, courtesy of Randy A. Scott and Jonathan L. Pearl; I’ve drawn on this version for most of the quotations in this post. The original French edition can be read here.

The chapter in question opens with some general thoughts — removed from the above-mentioned translation — on the Devil’s habit of appearing as a goat. Bodin then brings up depictions of satyrs in both Greek mythology and the Bible (Isaiah 12:21). These musings on images of demons as half-man, half beast hybrids bring him to the chapter’s main topic — accounts of men becoming wolves through dark magic:

The most difficult thing to believe, and the most wonderful, is the changing of the human figure into a beast and even more from one body into another. Nonetheless, the trials conducted of witches and the divine and human histories of all peoples, are undeniable proof..

Bodin goes on to describe how “the book of the five Inquisitors of witches, which I have mentioned quite often” gives an account of a sorcerer named Staufer who terrorised the region of Bern with violent storms; it is not entirely obvious what relation he has to the subject of werewolves. The next case study is Gilles Garnier,  who was executed less than a decade before the publication of Bodin’s book. Bodin decides against giving an in-depth account of Garnier’s crimes on the grounds that such a publication has already been “printed in Orleans by Eloy Gibier, & in Paris at Pierre des Hayes, & in Sens” (this comment is again left out of the English translation).

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Werewolf Wednesday: A History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies of Monsieur Oufle, Part 2 (1710)


In last week’s post I talked about Laurent Bordelon’s 1710 novel L’histoire des imaginations extravagantes de monsieur Oufle (A History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies of Monsieur Oufle) and covered the first three chapters, which introduced the main character: a Don Quixote-like oaf who believes in all manner of supernatural phenomena. Now, it’s time to read on and see how Bordelon was responsible for one of literature’s earliest werewolf comedies…

Chapter four opens with Monsieur Oufle sharing some festivities with his family (“for tho’ he was very whimsical, and very superstitious, he yet lov’d Mirth”). During the course of the event he indulges in wine — “a much larger Dose than his Head cou’d bear” — and gets rather excited. Nobody seems to mind, however: even Madam Oufle takes his behaviour in her stride, unlike most other wives who, the author informs us, “never shew more Uneasiness, than when they see their Husbands gay.”

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