We Who Hunt Werewolves part Two
The Story Behind "the story"
Can you imagine what it was like to be alive back in the time when the myths were first being told? To huddle around a camp fire in the dark, with the sound of wolves howling off in the distance; listening to a story about men and women who were capable of being both wolf and human. It is hard to say just when and were the first stories about werewolves began, or other tails about shape shifters.
Even so, a good bet would be that it was with the Greeks for this is ware the word Lycanthrope originated from. After all, their myths are loaded with stories of shape-shifting and people being turned into wolves and other animals by the gods. The most famous story is the one about King Lycaon who angered Zeus by serving him human flesh for dinner.
another possible root for werewolves, is an ancient Celtic tribe known as the Yulannu Wood Lords, who belonged to the Dianic Moon Cult. This cult still has influence in modern Wicca however, for this article I want to concentrate on the original practices, for this is the link to werewolves that is the strongest. It is said that they called themselves “weres” and had totem polls that were topped with the image of wolves. Even so, the information on this tribe is rather sketchy, there are reports that they are also connected to Yule’s Eve and Yule Tide and they celebrated the winter solstice.
Then there was The Berserkers who were a tribe of Viking warriors who were said to ware both bear and wolf hides and then work themselves into frenzy, causing a trance like state that would allow them to withstand a great deal of pain. These warriors may have had a lot of influence on the building of the werewolf mythology.
Moving up in history just a bit, to 1210-1214 in England, it appears that men changing into wolves were a common thing. For one quote I found from a book of that time, states: “In England we often see men change into wolves at the change of the moon.” Then in the 1500’s there seem to be an absolute outbreak of werewolves in both France and Germany.
There are all kinds of speculations and theories about how this epidemic happened. One popular belief is that a mold that grows on rye was responsible for the obsession over werewolves in France and Germany. This mold is known as Ergot, which can cause severe hallucinations and other symptoms like high fever and convulsions in some people. This is the same mold that the psychedelic drug LSD was produced from. However, it seems strange to me, that all these people who have digested Ergot would have hallucinations about werewolves. There is a Behavioral psychologist, Linda Caporael who came to the conclusion that Ergot was one of the mane causes of The Salem Witch Trials. However, I strongly feel there are many other issues that must be considered as possible causes for this tragedy.
Anyone who knows anything about psycho-active drugs will tell you that not every one has the same experience while under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance. The hysteria that lead to the eventual execution of over 30,000 people in the 16th and early 17th century, had much more to do with the Religious politics of France and Germany and the fact that wolves were a real threat for many of the rural population.
One thing that stands out to me is the fact that many of the people who were accused of being werewolves were poor peasants and Gypsies. It appears that the real culprits behind this time period were the exaggeration of events, superstitions and prejudice. I have come to the conclusion that the power to be, which was the Catholic Church, was searching for a enemy, something to blame for the events like The Plague (also known as the Black Death).
Whatever was the real cause for this dark time in Europe, there are some strange events that happened throughout France and Germany that still has an air of mystery to them. One notable experience that seemed to ignite the whole hysteria behind the werewolf phenomena was an event in 1591. It happened in Germany in the towns of Colongne and Bedburg.
It started when the town’s people cornered a large wolf that had been attacking the village. Then, according to reports of that time, the wolf turned into a local man named Peter Stubbe. He was placed on a torture wheel were he confessed to the murder of sixteen people, thirteen of them being children. He also claimed that he had been practicing sorcery since the age of twelve. After he was tortured he was beheaded and his body was burned. Finally, his head was stuck on a pole above the wheel he was tortured on. This would be an appalling reminder of his crimes.
One of the notable French cases in 1603 was Jean Grenier, who was only a child of fourteen who confessed to killing fifteen children. The difference in his case was that the French court system sentenced him to life imprisonment instead of burning at the stake. Besides the fact that he was child, he was also considered retarded. This case was one of the incidences that brought around the change in the way so called werewolves were tried. Soon the court started to look on people accused of being werewolves as suffering from mental illness instead of being witches.
During this same time there was a certain Judge who had quite a reputation for his trials of witches and werewolves. His name was Henri Boguet who even wrote a book on his experiences with interrogating those accused of witchcraft or being a werewolf. This book was Discours des Sorciers which became a guide for judging witches. One of his cases that became notorious was a family that was accused of being werewolves. This was the Gandillion family, who father Pierre and son George was said to change into the form of a werewolf while even in prison!
If one would take a hard look at all the reports about werewolves throughout the centuries just in Europe alone, it is easy to come to the conclusion that there must be some truth to this mythology. Even after all the hysteria around the witch trials finally cooled off, there were still reports well into the 18th century and beyond.
Case in point would be the mysterious creature that tormented the village Gévaudan and surrounding area in 1764-1767. This was the well documented case of the beast of Gévaudan. I have supplied five videos from a series of nine from YouTube videos. In these videos it goes into detail about what this creature may have been. I decided not to download all of the series because they are not conclusive. In other words, the case was never solved. As it shows in the videos, this creature that once was thought to be a wolf may have claimed as many as 100 lives. A lot of descriptions say that the beast had reddish fur, while others say it was blackish.
A large wolf is finally killed and yet, six months later the killings started again. King Louis XV offers a large award for killing this monster. Finally a famous wolf hunter named Jean Chastel comes to the rescue and finale kills the creature with a silver bullet. Some witnesses say the strange creature was then cut open and human collar bone was found inside. Then there are several conflicting reports about what happened to the carcass, some say it was buried and some say it mysteriously disappeared. Even though in France it is considered to be true event, the accounts of the beast differ so much, that many think that portions of the story was a hoax. After all this story comes from France, were the supernatural and the natural seem to merge quite frequently.
From this story, I will briefly jump over to the country of Wales were other werewolf sightings occurred that appears to have some truth surrounding them. This story started back in 1790 and there has been possible sighting of this alleged werewolf as late as 1994.
The first encounter with this strange beast was on a full moon night, in fact a moon that was described as blood red. It was then that a black werewolf-like creature attacked a stage coach and killed one of the horses that were pulling it. This beast killed the first horse but the other horse escaped. Then the very next year, there were more sightings. This incident started when a man found large wolf tracks and followed them with another man for two miles. This is when they found a gruesome site. They had entered snow covered field that was littered with the remains of Sheep and cattle. Something had skinned the animals, leaving nothing more than the blood and skins.
When they ventured to the near by ranch house they found the owner huddled inside, unhurt but terrified! He claimed that the beast that killed his livestock had chased him inside his house and then glared at him though the window. He also stated that the animal had blue eyes and appeared human-like!
Then, in 1778 the best struck again killing two vagrants in the area. The local pastor was sent a anonymous letter that claimed the murders was the work of the spirit of male witch that had been burned at the stake way back in the 1400’s! Now all of this could be chalked up to superstitions, if it was not for the legend resurfacing in 1992.
A Welsh newspaper known as the Western mail reported sightings of a “Bear like” animal being seen on the night of a full moon. All together there were about seventy sighting between 1992 and 1994. I decided to do a Goggle search for this newspaper and sure enough it does exist! However, the closes story I could get in my personal hunt for the Welsh werewolf was a story about a milk stealing bum who had been dubbed “the wolf man” as late as October 10, 2010.
Speaking of myths…I want to end this segment by quickly looking at what I see as a somewhat miss leading belief about wolves. This belief is that wolves do not attack or kill people. Yes it is true that most of the time healthy wolves will avoid humans and yet….there are exceptions to even this rule!
There have been very few incidents in North America of wolves actually killing humans, and yet there have been some attacks on humans! Before I supply the information on those attacks, I want recall some of my own experiences with wolves and coyotes.
First I will share what I myself have witnessed, that has lead me to believe that both wolves and coyotes have the capability to hunt, harm, or even kill humans. I grew up in Southern California were coyotes were very abundant. In fact the rural area of Glendale back in the mid 70’s had a real problem with coyotes. These animals had lost there fear of humans.
There were many times I came home late at night to find coyotes wandering around my neighborhood. There were many reports of these animals snatching small dogs off of leashes when there owners took them in walks early in the morning or at night. At that time, I had a cat named Berserk who ended up being the only cat that survived on our street during the years of 1973-1975. This was when the attacks were at there worst.
One incident that made the front page news of the local news paper was about a toddler who had been surrounded by a pack of coyotes who were about ready to attack the child before the adults showed up. These people lived in the outskirts of town and there was a din of coyotes located on there property. Here is the fact I have learned about predators in the wild, they are opportunist who will try to kill of any animal that seems vulnerable.
This includes bares, cougars, coyotes or wolves. It is foolish to think that a predator will not kill a human if they think they have an opportunity to. Another experience I had involved a pair of captive wolves owned by my roommate in Santa Rosa California. Even though these wolves were captive, they were not tamed and very dangerous. My roommate made it clear that no one should enter the back yard when he was not present. This was because these wolves were very territorial, and anyone venturing back there would be considered a threat. Yes it is true, that wolves can become tame and then very loving and loyal pets. However, one should understand the instincts of these animals.
You should not take my word for it, for all you haft to do is make a Google search on “killer wolves” or “wolves attacks” and you will find many cases of wolves attacking people though the world. In fact there was a woman killed in Alaska back in March of this year.Her name was Candice Berner, 32 years of age. She was living in a village called Chignik, about 475 miles southwest of Anchorage. It really surprised me to learn that even in Paris France back in 1450 there was a major wolf pack attack.This is when a wolf pack broke through the walls surrounding Paris and killed fifty people.
Wikipedia has a very cohesive list on “wolf attacks on humans” which truly surprised me, for I did not realize that there were as many attacks as the list shows. Over all most of the wolf attacks were in Eastern Europe and India. Another thing that surprised me was the amount of wolf attacks on young children and people with dogs within North America. These were not fatal, and yet they help drive my message home. This message is simple, even though wolves have learned to fear humans; they still can and will attack.
In the last twelve years there has been five humans attack by wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario Canada. One of these attacks was on a twelve year old who had been dragged from his sleeping bag back in August, 1996.
The reason why I called this one "The Story Behind the Story" is that it was while doing research about the werewolf trials in France that I first came up with the idea for "the Howling Heart."In the next Segment of "we who hunt werewolves" I will return to a fictional story about a group of modern day werewolf hunters It will be call And Deliverer us from Evil...This will play off of "The Howling Heart" series that I wrote last Halloween. I hope you will enjoy!