Sunday, 24 October 2010

Werewolves

Werewolves

Belief in the werewolf probably dates back to Paleopagan times when the spirits of animals were both revered and feared. Further on in history, we discover that lycanthropy (werewolfism) finds its root name from Apollo Lycaeus (Wolfish Apollo), who was worshipped in the famous Lyceum or Wolf Temple where Socrates taught. Apollo was mated to Artemis, known in some mythos as the divine Wolf Bitch. The She Wolf was another aspect of the goddess trinity, and her legends move through various races and cultures. Significance here is placed on the belief that the goddess or god could shapeshift into an animal form. The werewolf legend of people turning into wolves and back again stems from this tribal belief.

Many myths, from Celtic Ireland through German, insist that if a person wears a wolf pelt, he or she can transform into the spirit beast. In Mercia during the tenth century AD, there was a revival of Pagan learning under two Druidic priests, one of whom was named Werewolf. This name of spirit wolf seems to have been applied to opponents of Chrisitanity in general. About 1000CE the word werewolf was taken to mean outlaw, probably with its association to the renegade Druid priest. Criminals were hanged beside wolves, and the Saxon word for gallows means wolf tree.

Another story traceable to wolf clan traditions, which may have its source in Germany is the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The red garment and the offering of food to a grandmother in the deep woods (the grandmother wore a wolf skin) are symbolic of devouring and resurrection. It is thought that a woven read hood was the distinguishing mark of a prophetess or priestess. As death and resurrection are a large portion of the early Samhain beliefs, it is no wonder we find werewolves associated with the holiday of Halloween.

Medieval tales of numerous executions in France and Germany show that it was as dangerous to be a werewolf as it was to be a Witch. Historical records indicate the torture and murder of several men and women who were made to confess that they had acquired this shapeshifting ability, naturally through a pact with the Christian devil. It is possible that serial killers are not all that modern (skipping Jack the Ripper of course) and that some of the earliest mass killers were considered vampires and werewolves, for killing without guilt is attributable to the animal condition, not the human one. We find the case of Peter Stubb, the infamous Werewolf of Cologne, accused of killing numerous women and children, to be one of the most frightening trials of an individual accused of actually being a werewolf. Two women, his daughter and his mistress, were sentenced as accomplices and Peter Stubb met an incredibly horrendous death at the hands of his judges, while the women suffered the fate of burning at the stake. Although this could be another urban legend gone wild – as with the Witch torture, hangings and burnings mentioned earlier, this might be the case of a real medieval serial killer. France appears to have the worst case of werewolf mania, where many people were burned during the sixteenth century, including suffers from porphyria (a genetic disease), rabies victims, ergot poisoning and of course the true criminal.

Were wolves have resided, many tribes around the world have associated great power and mysticism to the animal and in several cultures the wolf was not seen as a bad beast. In reality we know that the wolf is a highly social, intelligent, and friendly animal.

Tansy
x

Source – Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf

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