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

s 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.


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