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Mythical Creatures -

Amazons
The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, ...

Pygmies
The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be over...

Giants
This last sentence seems almost a compendium of The History...

Early Men
On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, beca...

Wild Men
Sometimes a specimen of humanity has got astray in infancy,...

Hairy Men
If, as we may conjecture from the above, the ancient Briton...

The Ouran Outan
Transition from hirsute humanity to the apes, is easy, and ...

Satyrs
He also mentions and delineates a curious Ape which closely...

The Sphynx
"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his bre...

Apes
Sluper, who could soar to the height of delineating a Cyclo...

Animal Lore
We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--whic...

The Manticora
Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having som...

The Lamia
The Lamiae are mythological--and were monsters of Africa, w...

The Centaur
This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very an...

The Gorgon
In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-...

The Unicorn
What a curious belief was that of the Unicorn! Yet what myt...

The Rhinoceros
The true Unicorn is, of course, the Rhinoceros, and this pi...

The Gulo
Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst...

The Bear
As Pliny not only uses all Aristotle's matter anent Bears, ...

The Fox
By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at ...

The Wolf
The Wolf, as a beast of prey, is invested with a terror pec...

Were-wolves
But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, i...

The Antelope
When not taken from living specimens, or skins, the arti...

The Horse
Aldrovandus gives us a curious specimen of a horse, which t...

The Mimick Dog
"The Mimicke or Getulian Dogge," is, I take it, meant fo...

The Cat
Aldrovandus gives us a picture of a curly-legged Cat, but, ...

The Lion
Of the great Cat, the Lion, the ancients give many wonderfu...

The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta
The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says...

The Leucrocotta The Eale Cattle Feeding Backwards
"There are oxen, too, like that of India, some with one hor...

Animal Medicine
We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative prope...

The Su
Topsell mentions a fearful beast called the Su. "There is a...

The Lamb-tree
As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Plan...

The Chimaera
Aldrovandus gives us the accompanying illustration of a ...

The Harpy And Siren
The conjunction of the human form with birds is very eas...

The Barnacle Goose
Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, w...

Remarkable Egg
No wonder that a credulous age, which could see nothing ...

Moon Woman
One would have imagined that this Egg would be sufficien...

The Griffin
There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, ...

The Phoenix
Pliny says of the Phoenix:--"AEthiopia and India, more espe...

The Swallow
"And is the swallow gone? Who beheld it? Wh...

The Martlet And Footless Birds
Of the Martin, or, as in Heraldry it is written, Martlet, G...

Snow Birds
But we must leave warm climes, and birds of Paradise, and s...

The Swan
The ancient fable so dear, even to modern poets, that Swans...

The Alle Alle
"There is also in this Lake (the White Lake) a kind of b...

The Hoopoe And Lapwing
Whether the following bird is meant for the Hoopoe, or the ...

The Ostrich
Modern observation, and especially Ostrich farming, has ...

The Halcyon
Of this bird, the Kingfisher, Aristotle thus discourses:--"...

The Pelican
The fable of the Pelican "in her piety, vulning herself,...

The Trochilus
This bird, as described by Aristotle, and others, is of a p...

Woolly Hens
Sir John Maundeville saw in "the kingdome named Mancy, whic...

Two-headed Wild Geese
Near the land of the Cynocephali or dog-headed men, there w...

Four-footed Duck
Gesner describes a four-footed duck, which he says is li...

Fish
Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to th...

The Sea-mouse
"The Sea-Mouse makes a hole in the Earth, and lays her Eggs...

The Sea-hare
"The Sea-Hare is found to be of divers kinds in the Ocean, ...

The Sea-pig
Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of thi...

The Walrus
Of the Walrus, Rosmarus, or Morse, Gesner draws, and Ola...

The Ziphius
This Voracious Animal, whose size may be imagined by compar...

The Saw Fish
"The Saw fish is also a beast of the Sea; the body is huge ...

The Orca
is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"...

The Dolphin
Pliny says:--"The Dolphin is an animal not only friendly to...

The Narwhal
generally called the Monoceros or Sea Unicorn, is thus show...

The Swamfisck
The accompanying illustration, though heading the chapte...

The Sahab
"There is also another Sea-Monster, called Sahab, which hat...

The Circhos
"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos...

The Remora
Of this fish Pliny writes:--"There is a very small fish tha...

The Dog-fish And Ray
Olaus Magnus writes of "The cruelty of some Fish, and th...

The Sea Dragon
Of the Ray tribe of fishes, the Sea Dragon is the most ...

The Sting Ray
Pliny mentions the Sting Ray, and ascribes to it marvellous...

Senses Of Fishes
He also tells us about the senses of fishes, and first of t...

Zoophytes
Writing on the lower phases of Marine Animal life, he says:...

Sponges
"We find three kinds of sponges mentioned; the first are th...

The Kraken
This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is sc...

Crayfish And Crabs
Pliny tells us that in the Indian Ocean are Crayfish four c...

The Sea-serpent
Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can...

Serpents
Of Serpents Topsell has written a "Historie," which, if not...

The Crocodile
The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the C...

The Basilisk And Cockatrice
Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topse...

The Salamander
Many writers have essayed this fabled creature, but almost ...

The Toad
Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and the...

The Leech
The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means ...

The Scorpion
Of the Scorpion, Pliny says:--"This animal is a dangerous s...

The Ant
No one would credit the industrious Ant, whose ways we are ...

The Bee
The Busy Bee, too, according to Olaus Magnus, developed, in...

The Hornet
So also, up North, they seem to have had a special breed...



Were-wolves








But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, is the belief
which existed for many centuries, (and in some parts of France still
does exist, under the form of the "Loup-garou,") and which is mentioned
by many classical authors--Marcellus Sidetes, Virgil, Herodotus,
Pomponius Mela, Ovid, Pliny, Petronius, &c.--of men being able to change
themselves into wolves. This was called Lycanthropy, from two Greek
words signifying wolf, and man, and those who were thus gifted, were
dignified by the name of Versipellis, or able to change the skin. It
must be said, however, for Pliny, amongst classical authors, that
although he panders sufficiently to popular superstition to mention
Lycanthropy, and quotes from others some instances of it, yet he
writes:--"It is really wonderful to what a length the credulity of the
Greeks will go! There is no falsehood, if ever so barefaced, to which
some of them cannot be found to bear testimony."

This curious belief is to be found in Eastern writings, and it was
especially at home with the Scandinavian and Teutonic nations. It is
frequently mentioned in the Northern Sagas--but space here forbids more
than just saying that the best account of these eigi einhamir (not of
one skin) is to be found in The Book of Were-Wolves, by the Rev. S.
Baring-Gould.

The name of Were Wolf, or Wehr Wolf, is derived thus, according to
Mr. Gould:--"Vargr is the same as u-argr, restless; argr being the
same as the Anglo-Saxon earg. Vargr had its double signification in
Norse. It signified a Wolf, and also a godless man. This vargr is the
English were, in the word were-wolf, and the garou or varou in
French. The Danish word for were-wolf is var-ulf the Gothic,
vaira-ulf." Lycanthropy was a widespread belief, but it gradually
dwindled down in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to those eigi
einhamir, the witches who would change themselves into hares, &c.

Olaus Magnus tells us Of the Fiercenesse of Men who by Charms are
turned into Wolves:--"In the Feast of Christ's Nativity, in the night,
at a certain place, that they are resolved upon amongst themselves,
there is gathered together such a huge multitude of Wolves changed from
men, that dwell in divers places, which afterwards the same night doth
so rage with wonderfull fiercenesse, both against mankind, and other
creatures that are not fierce by nature, that the Inhabitants of that
country suffer more hurt from them than ever they do from the true
natural Wolves. For as it is proved, they set upon the houses of men
that are in the Woods, with wonderfull fiercenesse, and labour to break
down the doors, whereby they may destroy both men and other creatures
that remain there.

"They go into the Beer-Cellars, and there they drink out some Tuns of
Beer or Mede, and they heap al the empty vessels one upon another in the
midst of the Cellar, and so leave them: wherein they differ from natural
and true Wolves. But the place, where, by chance they stayd that night,
the Inhabitants of those Countries think to be prophetical: Because, if
any ill successe befall a Man in that place; as, if his Cart overturn,
and he be thrown down in the Snow, they are fully perswaded that man
must die that year, as they have for many years proved it by experience.
Between Lituania, Samogetia, and Curonia, there is a certain wall
left, of a Castle that was thrown down; to this, at a set time, some
thousands of them come together, that each of them may try his
nimblenesse in leaping. He that cannot leap over this wall, as commonly
the fat ones cannot, are beaten with whips by their Captains.

"And it is constantly affirmed that amongst that multitude there are the
great men, and chiefest Nobility of the Land. The reason of this
metamorphosis, that is exceeding contrary to Nature, is given by one
skilled in this witchcraft, by drinking to one in a Cup of Ale, and by
mumbling certain words at the same time, so that he who is to be
admitted into that unlawful Society, do accept it. Then, when he
pleaseth, he may change his humane form, into the form of a Wolf
entirely, going into some private Cellar, or secret Wood. Again, he can,
after some time put off the same shape he took upon him, and resume the
form he had before at his pleasure....

"But for to come to examples; When a certain Nobleman took a long
journey through the Woods, and had many servile Country-fellows in his
Company, that were acquainted with this witchcraft, (as there are many
such found in those parts) the day was almost spent; wherefore he must
lie in the Woods, for there was no Inne neare that place; and withall
they were sore pinched with hunger and want. Last of all, one of the
Company propounded a seasonable proposall, that the rest must be quiet,
and if they saw any thing they must make no tumulte; that he saw afar
off a flock of sheep feeding; he would take care that, without much
labor, they should have one of them to rost for Supper. Presently he
goes into a thick Wood that no man might see him, and there he changed
his humane shape like to that of a Wolf. After this he fell upon the
flock of sheep with all his might, and he took one of them that was
running back to the Wood, and then he came to the Chariot in the form of
a Wolf, and brought the sheep to them. His companions being conscious
how he stole it, receive it with grateful mind, and hide it close in the
Chariot; but he that had changed himself into a Wolf, went into the Wood
again, and became a Man.

"Also in Livonia not many years since, it fell out that there was a
dispute between a Nobleman's wife and his servant, (of which they have
plenty more in that Country, than in any Christian Land) that men could
not be turned into Wolves; whereupon he brake forth into this speech,
that he would presently shew her an example of that businesse, so he
might do it with her permission: he goes alone into the cellar, and,
presently after, he came forth in the form of a Wolf. The dogs ran
after him through the fields to the wood, and they bit out one of his
eyes, though he defended himself stoutly enough. The next day he came
with one eye to his Lady. Lastly, as is yet fresh in memory, how the
Duke of Prussia, giving small credit to such a Witchcraft, compelled
one who was cunning in this Sorcery, whom he held in chains, to change
himself into a Wolf; and he did so. Yet that he might not go unpunished
for this Idolatry, he afterwards caused him to be burnt. For such
heinous offences are severely punished both by Divine and Humane Laws."

Zahn, on the authority of Trithemius, who wrote in 1335, says that men
having the spine elongated after the manner of a tail were Were-wolves.
Topsell takes a more sensible view of the matter:--"There is a certaine
territorie in Ireland (whereof M. Cambden writeth) that the
inhabitants which live till they be past fifty yeare old, are foolishly
reported to be turned into wolves, the true cause whereof he
conjectureth to be, because for the most part they are vexed with the
disease called Lycanthropia, which is a kind of melancholy, causing
the persons so affected, about the moneth of February, to forsake their
owne dwelling or houses, and to run out into the woodes, or neare the
graves and sepulchers of men, howling and barking like Dogs and Wolves.
The true signes of this disease are thus described by Marcellus:
those, saith he, which are thus affected, have their faces pale, their
eies dry and hollow, looking drousily and cannot weep. Their tongue as
if it were al scab'd, being very rough, neither can they spit, and they
are very thirsty, having many ulcers breaking out of their bodies,
especially on their legges; this disease some cal Lycaon, and men
oppressed therewith, Lycaones, because that there was one Lycaon, as
it is fained by the poets, who, for his wickednes in sacrificing of a
child, was by Jupiter turned into a Wolf, being utterly distracted of
human understanding, and that which the poets speake of him. And this is
most strange, that many thus diseased should desire the graves of the
dead."





Next: The Antelope

Previous: The Wolf



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