An Examination of Lycanthropy

Reference & EducationEducation

  • Author Augustine O'hagan
  • Published May 12, 2023
  • Word count 1,233

Werewolves have been a consistent theme throughout all cultures and ages. From the Nagual of the Aztecs, to the Benendanti of 16th century Italy.

Though are they real? That is certainly a question to ask, particularly with so many accounts from so many places. And even more so with the more consistent ideas regarding them.

In 1692 a man was put on trial for heresy in Swedish Livonia. This was Thiess of Kaltenbrun, who is now known as an alleged lycanthrope, the Livonian werewolf. During his trial he openly proclaimed to be a werewolf, saying that he would venture into hell to fight demons and witches while in his wolf form. This was mostly dismissed by the court, as they were more concerned with his practicing of folk magic, and they feared that through that he was turning people from the church.

This is easy to laugh at and dismiss as the court did, but we must now consider other things.

During the 1500s and 1600s in the Friuli region northeast Italy there was a group known as the Benandanti. They claimed to transform into wolves at night during ember days, and to fight with witches and demons in service of Christ. They said that they fought the witches with bundles of fennel and the witches with bundles of sorghum. Though many were arrested, they would always be released after adamant claims that they fought for Christ.

Turning back to the case of Thiess, we will notice that he claimed to be beaten over the face by a witch wielding a broomstick decorated with horsetails.

If we then go back to the Benandanti, we will see the consistent account of the witches wielding bundles of sorghum, and the Benandanti bundles of fennel. Quite similar to a broom.

Off across the celtic sea, several hundred years earlier, the werewolves of Ossory prowled Ireland when they went ‘wolfing’. The process would include the werewolf going into a trancelike state, as his spirit left his body and turned into a wolf. They would then go about, typically ravaging pastures of sheep. The body would remain, seemingly dead, and if it was moved, it was supposed that they would be stuck as a wolf. Gerald of Wales also writes of a peculiar account, regarding a couple that had been cursed to be wolves by an abbot by the name of Natalis.

Saint Augustine of Hippo, the famed theologian, philosopher, scholar and doctor of the church, in his work the City of God, writes about werewolves. Saying:

“...I believe that a person has a phantom which in his imagination or in his dreams takes on various forms through the influence of circumstances of innumerable kinds. This phantoms is not a Material body, yet with amazing speed it takes on shapes like material bodies, and it is this phantom, I hold that in some inexplicable fashion be presented in bodily form to the apprehension of other people, when their physical senses are asleep or in abeyance.

This means that the actual bodies of the people concerned are lying somewhere else, still alive to be sure, but with their senses suspended in a lethargy far more deep and oppressive than that of sleep. Meanwhile the phantom may appear to the sense of others as embodied in the likeness of some animal and a man may seem even to be himself in such a state and to be carrying bundles.”

This bears much similarity to the idea of astral projection, and to the action of Lucid Dreaming.

Going back to the Benandanti, we will see that they claimed to exit their bodies through their dreams in the forms of various animals. They claimed that on specific days, their spirit would leave their body by night in the forms of animals. The spirits would then go to fight witches, or Malandanti, who fought them with sorghum stalks, which were used for witches' brooms.

Other times the spirits would attend great feasts with others. This resembles an exact opposite of the witches sabbath. The feast would usually be presided over by an “abbess”

In 1589 in Germany, Peter Stumpp was put on trial. What occurred during this would lead to one of the most famed werewolf trials in history.

After being tortured Peter finally confessed to having practiced black magic since the age of twelve. He claimed that the devil had given him a belt that granted him powers to shapeshift into a wolf. He was said to have become a mindless being set on a thirst for blood only.

Not only was he accused of murder and cannibalism, including the consumption of his own son, but also of having an incestuous relationship with his daughter, who was sentenced to death with him.

Whether he spoke the truth, or was forced into speaking these tales through the torture he endured, we will never know.

But what was spoken by the Benandanti has no excuse of torture, it could only be that

1.They were mad.

2.They sought attention.

3.They spoke the truth.

They had nothing to gain, no false confession that was needed to spare their lives, in fact, they risked much. They were merely known to the people of the region as healers and vagabonds.

Much like them in this case were the Zhudaci.

In Serbian folklore The Zduhaci left their dreams to ensure good weather, battling demons for the welfare of their people. Their bodies would remain in a deathlike state, and they were to be kept untouched. Sometimes, they would ask someone to swing a scythe over their body, while they remained seemingly asleep. These Zhudaci would then in their spirit form fly about the clouds to fend off malevolent spirits.

Others saw them as evil beings, associated with the devil through a certain practice of ceased prayer.

Sometimes they would leave in groups, and find a place to keep their bodies while their spirits would leave to do battle, a similar practice used by the Benandanti.

I find it hard to believe that 16th century Italian commoners would be reading Saint Augustine, let alone the Werewolves of Ossory or the Zhudac. I believe that this is no mere coincidence that they all agree upon the way that lycanthropy is practiced, I see it as the truth, that werewolves are real, and not by some scientific excuse and reasoning, not some twisted legend, a variation of some instance of lupine looks, or of rabies, I see these as the main necessities for one to be classified as a shapeshifter or lycanthrope,(at least this is the most common way)

1.Your spirit must exit your body, leaving it in a deathlike state, if the body is touched in any way you cannot return to it.

2.Your spirit must take on a form of that of an animal, commonly a wolf or another ferocious creature.

3.There are usually physical signs of this ability, usually enhanced physical skills, a birthmark, or a caul.

4.This power can only be granted by God, just as Saint Augustine wrote. Though one may use it in league with malicious spirits such as the evil Zhudaci did.

In conclusion I find that shape shifting or lycanthropy is a spiritually possible action. Whether or not one can enter a physical manifestation of their shapeshifted spirit is possible I do not know, however, most certainly the appearance of a physical being is possible.

I am a madman on the internet trying to prove a point.

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Article comments

Abe
Abe · 1 year ago
Nice collection of evidence! Interesting proofs!

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