Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Werewolf By William Carew Hazlitt 1905

Werwolf.—An account of this remarkable superstition, which was well known to the ancients, or at least was familiar in the time of Pliny, who refutes it, is given in Sir Frederic Madden's Introduction to the romance of "William and the Werwolf," a translation from the French "Roman de Guillaume de Palermo," and in Mr. Thomas Wright's "Essays on the Superstitions of the Middle Ages," 1846. The werwolf, or loup-garou, as the French call it, is simply a man transformed, as a penance, into a wolf, and doomed to remain in that shape for a term of three or seven years. He wanders about by night, and can only obtain restoration to the human form before the allotted time by the stroke of a key and effusion of blood. Blood-letting is the usual mode, it may be observed, of breaking this kind of spell. Sir Frederic Madden remarks: "This term (werwolf) has the same meaning, and is compounded of the same elements, as the LUK-ANQRWPOS of the Greeks. From the high antiquity of the tradition respecting were-wolves, and its having been current among the Celtic as well as Gothic nations, we find the expression in most of the dialects formed from each of the parent languages, and all corresponding to the signification above affixed of man-wolf, i.e. a wolf partaking of the nature of man, or, in other words, a man changed, by magical art, into the temporary form of a wolf." In William Baldwin's tract entitled, "Beware the Cat," first printed in 1561, if not before, there is a passage which appears to indicate a somewhat varying form of the same strange belief. It is as follows: "There is also in Ireland one nacion whereof some one man and woman are at euery seuen yeeres end turned into wulves, und so continew in the woods the space of seuen yeers; and if they happen to line out the time, they return to their own form again and other twain are turned for the like time into the same shape: which is penance (as they say) enioyned that stock by Saint Patrick for some wickedness of their ancestors; and that this is true witnessed a man whom I left alive in Ireland, who had performed this seuen yeeres penance, whose wife was slain while she was a wulf in her last year."

The author of a passage in the "Flyting betwixt Montgomery and Polwart," 1629 (but written long before), seems to have formed a somewhat indistinct notion of the werwolf, where he speaks of wor wolves and wilde cates in the same line.

"There is a Polish story of a witch who made a girdle of human skin, and laid it across the threshold of a door, where a marriage feast was being held. On the bridal pair stepping across the girdle they were transformed into wolves. Three years after, the witch sought them out, and cast over them dresses of fur with the hair turned outward, whereupon they recovered their human forms." —Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, by S. BaringGould, 1866, p. 143.

Another form of the word is Garwolf, and in Brittany the same legend or notion is found to have existed under the name of Bisclaveret, a story on which is included among the Lays of Marie de France.

There seems some cognate idea in a German trace of the earlier part of the 16th c. entitled Hochstratus Ovans, where one of the interlocutors is Edwardus Leus, who is said "ex nomine commutatus nuper in Canem." Hazlitt's Coll. and Notes, 1903, p. 185.

Comp. Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, ed. 1661, pp. 69-70, an excellent account in Nares, Glossary, 1859, in v., and Mr. Baring-Gould's Book of Werewolves, 1865.

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