Thursday, March 31, 2016

Werewolf Stories from Poland by Walter K Kelly 1863

Werewolf Stories from Poland by Walter K Kelly 1863

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In Eastern Europe the werewolf appears in his most appalling aspect, as a being whose nature is blended with that of the vampyre. The same word is used to designate both in the languages of most branches of the Slave stock; but this appears to be a comparatively modern trait, for there is no sign of it in the ancient tradition of the Neurians, of which we have already spoken. In Poland there are traces of the old belief that werewolves were bound to assume that form at certain periods in every year; in the Middle Ages it was twice a year, at Christmas and St. John's Day; but in later legends the wilcolak, or werewolf, is generally the victim of a spiteful sorceress's vengeance. Once upon a time, when some young people were dancing on the banks of the Vistula, a wolf broke in among them and carried off the prettiest girl of the village. The young men pursued, but they were unarmed, and the wolf escaped with his booty to the woods. Fifty years afterwards, whilst the villagers were again making merry on the same spot, there appeared among them a woebegone, ice-grey man, in whom an aged villager recognized his long-lost brother. The latter narrated how he had long ago been turned into a wolf by a wicked witch; how he had carried off the beautiful girl during the harvest feast, and how the poor thing had died of grief a year after in the forest. "From that time forth," he said, "I flung myself with ravenous hunger upon every human being that came in my way;" and he showed his hands, which were still all smeared with blood. "For the last four years," he continued, "I have been going about again in human shape, and I am come to look once more upon my native place, for I must soon become a wolf again." Hardly had he uttered the words ere he sprang to his feet in the form of a wolf, and ran off howling, never to be seen again.

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It is related of another Pole that he was turned into a wolf by a witch whose love he had despised. In spite of his bestial form he loathed raw flesh, and lived on milk, bread, and other food, which he snatched from the labourers in the field. Living in this way he wandered about for many a long year without sleeping, until a great weariness at last overcame him, and he fell asleep. On awaking, he found himself again a man, and ran naked as he was to his village; but there he found everything changed.

A peasant had been seven years a werewolf, when the witchery suddenly ceased, and he hastened home; but finding that his wife was married to his man, he cried out in his wrath, "Oh, why am I no longer a werewolf, that I might punish this base woman!" No sooner had he uttered the impious words than, again become a wolf, he sprang at his wife, devoured the child she had borne to his man, and wounded herself mortally. The neighbours hastened to the spot and killed him; but when light came, they saw, instead of a dead wolf, the body of the man they had well known.

A witch came to a wedding, rolled her girdle together, laid it on the threshold, and poured on the floor a drink brewed from linden wood. After this, when the new-married couple and their friends stepped over the threshold, they were turned into wolves on the spot, and in that form they prowled for three years about the witch's house with hideous howlings. On the day when the enchantment expired, the witch came out with a fur cloak, wrapped it, with the hairy side out, round one werewolf after another, and thereby restored them to their natural shape; but the bridegroom's tail, which she had left uncovered by the cloak, stuck to him for the rest of his days. This happened in the year 1821 or 1822.

Of another wedding party of Poles it is related that they became werewolves through a spell laid on them by a soldier upon whom the bridegroom had set his dogs. Some years afterwards three werewolves were killed in a great hunt, and under the skin of one of them was found a fiddle, under those of the other two were the wedding dresses of the bride and bridegroom.

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