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Lycanthropy.—The most classic form of endemic insanity - really Greek, if the case of the Proetides cannot be so considered, is that of lycanthropy, upon which we will make a few remarks, because it is a subject somewhat obscure and but little discussed in treatises on mental disorders. While upon this theme we shall pass the boundaries of the country (Arcadia), and the period of its origin, and follow it in Europe up to the mediaeval epoch.
We note especially that the wolf was a constant companion of Mars in Greek and Roman mythology.
We see in this the adoration of divine scourges, such as still exists in the worship of snakes and tigers in southern India.
Lycosura, a mountainous city of Arcadia, specially worshipped wolves, and it would appear that before Lycaon, Osiris was transformed into a wolf.
A bronze she-wolf was sacred to the oracle of Delphos, to commemorate the transformation of Latona into this animal, in order that she might more securely give birth to Apollo and Diana.
The fable of Romulus and Remus is well known.
The Greeks worshipped a Zeus Lycaeus (from LUKOS, a wolf).
In its primitive meaning lycanthropy probably alluded only to the transformation into wolves, but subsequently the word was used to signify transformation into other animals. Thus, in the period of fully developed lycanthropy when men, transformed into wolves, wandered through the forests, Citeus, son of Lycaon, laments the metamorphosis of his daughter into a bear, and Iphigenia at the moment of sacrifice was changed into a fawn.
But the meaning of lycanthropy continued to degenerate until more recent times, when it is known by the common people as a most mischievous, bad spirit that roams the earth at night; this is the loup garou of the French, called in Italy also lupo manaro, versiera. [The lupo manaro of the Middle Ages was a witch dressed as a wolf. It was also a hobgoblin peculiar to the City of Blois that frightened children. The lupo marino was regarded as a most ravenous fish.]
The native country of lycanthropy, therefore, seems to have been Arcadia, but in some sort it was endemic in other mountainous countries where there were many wolves.
For instance, Virgil (Ecl. viii. 95) speaking of another region says:—
Has herbas atque heac Ponto mihi lecta venena
Ipse dedit Moeris; nascuntur plurima l'onto;
His ego saepe lupum fieri et se condere silvis
Moerim. saepw animas imis excire Sepulcris,
Atque satas allo vidi traduecer messes.
This is the fable: Lycaon, King of Arcadia, son of Titan and the earth, founder of Lycosura on Mount Lyceo, was one of the founders of the important Pelasgian race. He was the first to sacrifice human victims to Jove and was, therefore, changed into a wolf, and wandered in the woods with many others likewise transformed. Ovid says of him,
Territus ipse fugit, nactusque silentia ruris
Exululat, frustraque loqui conatur.—
Met 1. 232.
The members of Lycaon's and Antheus's families, who passed a certain river and gained the forest, became wolves, aud when they recrossed this river regained their human forms. Others believe that Lycaon is the constellation of the wolf, and this may result from the existence of the constellation of the bear into which Lycaon's niece was transformed.
However this may be, in Lycaon we find three united qualities, those of wolf, king, and constellation.
Perhaps the character of wolf was a divine attribute, where the wolf represented brute force as seen in the destruction of herds in a mountainous country, and was in reality given to him who appears to have consolidated the Pelasgians and formed their first laws, inasmuch as we see his name stamped on the firmament.
We have enlarged on the mythology of lycanthropy because it affords a striking example of the superstructure of psychopathy on fable.
It is not only in the legend of Lycaon that lycanthropy is mentioned. Homer speaks of the sorceress Circe who changed Ulysses' companions into swine.
Sanctified by the lupercalian feasts of the Romans, enriched by the story of Circe, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Jonah in the oriental history, lycanthropy, however modified, found much nutriment in Christianity and forms an interesting page in the important psychological phenomenon of witchcraft.
A propos of this we refer to Bodin ("La Demonoumnie ou traite des Sorciers," Paris, 1587), who connects lycanthropy with witchcraft and sorcery, from the fact that the word "ram" is used for demon, because the ram is as offensive in its habits as a demon.
Michael Verdun and Pierre Burgot, tried at Besancon in 1521, were changed after dances and sacrifices to the devil into two agile wolves, who rejoined others in the forest and coupled with them.
Bodin also mentions the lycanthrope of Padua, the famous lupo manaro, whose arms and legs were cut off, and were found to be covered with a wolf's skin.
The witches of Vernon often met together in 1566 under the form of cats and were dispersed and wounded. Certain women suspected of being witches were examined and found to bear the same wounds which were inflicted on them while in the form of cats.
Pierri Mamor and Henri di Colonia were undoubtedly transformed into wolves, according to the same Bodin.
Greece and Asia have always been more infested with lycanthropy than the West.
In 1542 under the reign of the Sultan Soliman there were so many lupi manari at Constantinople that the Sultan with an armed force drove off 150!
The Germans called them Werwolf (Wahrwolf). Wer was derived from the Teutonic word signifying man; in Gothic weir. The French termed them, loups garous, the Picardians, loups varous. The Latins called them varios et versipelles (Vir, man).
In Livonia at the end of December the devil called together the witches, beat them and transformed them into wolves who threw themselves on men!
For Bodin this is quite possible. Some contemporary doctors spoke of lycanthropy as a mental malady, but he shields himself behind Theophrastus, Paracelsus and Pomponius, and deems that it is absurd to attempt to compare natural with supernatural phenomena, and bravely concludes that if this malady existed as the doctors said, it could only be in the individual affected with lycanthropy, and how could the fact be explained of others having assisted de visu at the transformation? "Now that silver can be changed to gold and the philosopher's stone fabricated, it ought not to seem strange that Satan transforms persons." St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Omnes angeli boni et mali ex virtute naturali habent potestatem transmutandi corpora nostra."
Gervais of Tilbury, temp. Hen. II., says, "Videmus enim frequenter in Anglia per lunationes homines in lupos mutari, quod hominum genus gerulfos Galli nominant. Angli vero werewolf dicunt, were enim Anglice virum sonat, et wlf lupum." "Otia imp..ap. Scriptt. Brunav.," p. 895.
A curious work translated from the French in 1350 encouraged the spread of this delusion; this was the romance of "William and the Werewolf; or, William of Palermo.'" As to this history, a king of Apulia had a fair son named William. The king's brother, wishing to be heir to the throne, bribed two ladies to murder the child. What follows shows a mixture of popular belief with what in other cases became actual mental disease. While the child was at play a wild wolf caught him up, ran away with him to a forest near Rome, taking great care of him. But while the wolf went to get some food, the child was found by a cowherd, who took him home. The writer then says: "Now you must know that the wolf was not a true wolf, but a werewolf or manwolf; he had once been Alphonso, eldest son of the King of Spain, and heir to the crown. His step-mother. Braunde, wishing her own son Braundinis to be the heir, so acted that Alphonso became a werewolf."
In the sequel, the Emperor of Rome, while hunting, met the boy William, and, being much pleased with him, took him from the cowherd, placing him behind him on his horse. At Rome he was committed to the care of his daughter Melior to be her page, and, of course, they fell in love with one another.
The emperor, however, designed her for some one else. A friend provides for their escape by sewing them up in the skins of two white bears, and they concealed themselves in a den. There the werewolf finds them and supplies them with food; they are pursued, but escape to Palermo. An opportunity occurs for William (a werewolf was painted on his shield) to fight against the Spaniard, and he takes the king and queen prisoners, and refuses to release them until the wicked Queen Braunde agrees to disenchant the werewolf. This she does, and Alphonso is restored to his right shape, and is warmly thanked for his kindness to William, who is happily married to Melior, and becomes Emperor of Rome.
A typical case of lycanthropy was admitted into the asylum of Mareville under the care of M. Morel, and reported by him in his "Etudes Cliniques."
"The patient, after residing for a time in a convent, returned home, where he became the victim of fearful mental agony and terror. He was not only absorbed in dwelling upon his bodily ailments, but dreaded everlasting torture, merited, as he believed, for crimes, which, however, he had not committed. He trembled in all his limbs, imploring the help of Heaven and his friends. Soon after, he repelled their sympathy, and, concentrating all his delusional activity on his own sensations, became a terror to himself, and endeavoured to inspire every one else with the same sentiment. 'See this mouth,' he exclaimed, separating his lips with his fingers, 'it is the mouth of a wolf; these are the teeth of a wolf; I have cloven feet; see the long hairs which cover my body; let me run into the woods, and you shall shoot me.' All that human means could adopt to save this unfortunate patient was done, but unhappily in vain. He had remissions which gave us some hope, but they were of short duration. In one of these he experienced great delight in embracing his children, but he had scarcely left them when he exclaimed, 'The unfortunates, they have embraced a wolf.' His delusions came into play with fresh force. 'Let me go into the woods,' said he again, 'and you shall shoot me as you would a wolf} He would not eat. 'Give me raw meat,' he said, 'I am a wolf.' His wish was complied with, and he eat some food like an animal, but he complained that it was not sufficiently rotten, and rejected it. He died in a state of marasmus and in the most violent despair" (vol. ii. p. 58).
Such is the graphic account given by M. Morel. It will suffice to illustrate the terrible suffering which the delusion of being transformed into an animal occasions. A. Tamburini & S. Tonnini