"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night...may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright"
~"The Wolfman" 1941
What is a Werewolf?
Modern psychology defines lycanthropy in two ways; the first being that someone suffering from delusions may believe that they have
the ability to become a wolf or actually are a wolf, and the second is that someone believes that the form and characteristics of a wolf
can be attained by witchcraft or magic.
In late Old English, the word "werewulf" comes from the root "wer" meaning "person" or "man" and "wulf", meaning, well....wolf.
It quite literally defines out as "wolfman". In Old High German, the word is "werwolf", and in Swedish, "varulf".
Etymology online explains: "Old English wulf "wolf, wolfish person, devil," from Proto-Germanic *wulfaz
(source also of Old Saxon wulf, Old Norse ulfr, Old Frisian, Dutch, Old High German, German wolf, Gothic wulfs), from PIE root
*wlkwo- "wolf" (source also of Sanskrit vrkas, Avestan vehrka-; Albanian ul'k; Old Church Slavonic vluku; Russian volcica;
Lithuanian vilkas "wolf;" Old Persian Varkana- "Hyrcania," district southeast of the Caspian Sea, literally "wolf-land;"
probably also Greek lykos, Latin lupus)." and "Wolves as a symbol of lust are ancient, such as Roman slang lupa "whore,"
literally "she-wolf", preserved in Spanish loba, Italian lupa, French louve. The equation of "wolf" and "prostitute, sexually
voracious female" persisted into the 12th century, but by Elizabethan times wolves had become primarily symbolic of male lust.
The specific use of wolf for "sexually aggressive male" was first recorded in 1847; wolf-whistle attested by 1945, American English,
at first associated with sailors. The image of a wolf in sheep's skin is attested from around 1400."
In folklore, a werewolf or lycanthrope is a human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or wolf-like creature, either purposely due
to a genetic factor, after being placed under a curse or as a contracted disease after being bitten or scratched by another werewolf.
Lore says the werewolf begins transformations from human to wolf creature during the full moons.
This is what we have come to know as "shapeshifting".
History, Origins, and Superstition
The earliest sources for belief in lycanthropy are from Petronius' Satyricon and Gervase of Tilbury's "Otia Imperialia", where he states:
"One thing I know to be of daily occurrence among the people of our country, is the course of human destiny is such that certain men change
into wolves according to the cycles of the moon". He goes on to explain a plight of a knight named Raimbaud de Pouget. Pouget was said to have
been who was disinherited Pons de Chapteuil, and then subsequently became a werewolf. Gervase continues by stating that “One night when he was
wandering alone like a wild beast through unfrequented woodlands, deranged by extreme fear, lost his reason and turned into a wolf.”
After this, naturally, de Pouget “confessed in public” to the accusations. Gervase also gives the story of a man by the name of Chaucevaire,
who he says has also suffered from lycanthropy. He states "when the time has come, Chaucevaire parts company from all his friends, lays his
clothes under a bush or secluded rock, and then rolls naked in the sand for a long time until he takes on the shape and voracity of a wolf,
gaping for prey with a wide-open mouth and yawning jaws."
The lore and belief in werewolves is a widespread concept in European folklore. Variants in the details of the stories were largely influenced
by Christian interpretations during the medieval period, paralleling the witch hysteria into the colonial period. The fear of werewolves spread
throughout Europe, with trials of supposed werewolves from the early 15th through 18th centuries. The persecution of werewolves and witches who
can turn themselves into wolves, was a part of the witch hunts, most significantly coming to a peak in the 1500s.
In 1589, the case of Peter Stumpp led to heightened interest and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French and German-speaking Europe.
Not much is known about Peter Stumpp, and what we do know may be either propaganda, sensationalism, or just outright lies. The primary source for the
Stumpp werewolf case comes from a 16-page pamphlet published in London in 1590 called "The Damnable Life and Death of Stubbe Peeter".
The pamphlet goes into detail about Stumpp's life, the crimes he was accused of, his torture, confession to have been practicing black magic from
the time he was 12 years old, making a pact with the devil, and eating selected children in the area.
Supposedly, the devil had given him a magic belt that allowed him to transform into "the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty,
with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body, and mighty paws."
Removing the belt would change him back to his human form. No belt like this was ever found.
Under torture, Stumpp confessed to killing and eating fourteen children and two pregnant women, with one of the victims being his own son, whose
brain is said he devoured.
The paranoia persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with the persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases
taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria. Six trials were conducted during the period from 1701 and 1725, all in either
Styria or Carinthia. In 1701 Paul Perwolf of Wolfsburg, Obdach, Styria was executed; In 1705 the case and unknown verdict of one "Vlastl" of Murau,
in Styria; The 1707 case of six beggars from Wolfsberg, Carinthia were executed; In 1708, three shepherds in Leoben and Freyenstein, Styria were
executed by lynching; In 1718 Jakob Kranawitter, a beggar with mental illness was put to death in Rotenfel, Oberwolz, Styria and in 1725,
Paul Schäffer, a beggar of St. Leonhard im Lavanttal, Carinthia was too, executed.
It's always the people that society enjoys the least that are accused of being dangerous; the poor, the mentally challenged, the "different".
In other circumstances, it's a ploy to get something that the accused has, most commonly, property. It is a painful and shameful part of our
evolution to understand ourselves and each other.
When European settlers moved into the early colonies, they brought their legends and superstitions of the werewolf with them. These legends mixed
with the native stories and were influenced as well by those of other settlers. The cold, dark forest plays tricks on the mind, and being in
unfamiliar territory surrounded by legends and lore, like our early American ancestors, those stories bred even more paranoia and superstition.
Legends of "skinwalkers" in the native American tradition tells of people who can shapeshift into anything they please, wolves included.
Wolves are predatory and were and are a very real risk to anyone that keeps livestock, so the fear was and is already there.
The American Werewolf is a hybrid legend, born of the retelling of European werewolf stories and then built upon by urban legends and rural fixations.
Shamans, Spirituality, and Vision Quests
Stories and lore persist throughout history, and into our own modern times by way of new books, movies, and various other portrayals of humans
that become like animals. But what of the truth? What exactly is the origin of these legends and tales? Well, that's no simple task to pin down
because the lore has been handed down for thousands of years, from culture to culture. I assume we can place some origination with our indigenous forebears.
In those ancient and primitive societies, the Shamans and Taltos were the wise people who would help the community as doctors and advisors.
As spiritual leaders, it was believed that they could cross the physical/spiritual border, bringing back information during "spirit quests".
One of the ways this was accomplished was through the act of "shapeshifting". A shaman was connected to a particular animal spirit; sometimes, many. They would dress in the hide, fur, bones, teeth, or feathers of these
animals as a means to “get into the mind” of the animal; a practice similar to possession, and something we call "linking".
As far as this practice, as psychology defines it, being delusional, in my opinion, isn't. Anyone can get lost in a belief, but that depends
on the mental disposition of the person. As far as historical accusations of curses, spells, and witchcraft turning said humans into beasties,
I am not at liberty to say. I don't know of anyone who has personally been afflicted by either curse or spell into a werewolf. Has it happened?
Who knows. Maybe?
What I can confirm is that "linking" the wolf" has come to be a rite of understanding, compassion, and power for us.
The Veshigi "Werewolf"
We employ practices of pathworking and meditations that connect us deeply to the wolf. One particular rite is that of Wolf Moon,
celebrated during the full moon in January. The process of how to "link" the wolf is outlined in our "Werewolf 101" and "Wolf Moon"
packages that are available in our Hexenriit Book of Shadows.
We do not physically turn ourselves into wolves; however, we do have a strong connection to the wolf as an animal, metaphor, and archetype.
We have brought back valuable information and understandings, as well as forming strong ties within certain wolf packs, as a result of our
rituals and practices. By connecting to the wolves directly, learning their customs, understanding their connections to each other and their world,
and being accepted by them in doing so, does it make us "werewolves"? Well, that depends upon your point of view.
I consider "werewolf" to be more of a spiritual term, especially with respect to being an initiatory process, so yes, the process of "becoming" is clear:
to truly understand, you must experience, and once experienced, it becomes a part of you. The initiation is a deeply personal and emotional connection
to a species outside of our human condition. To be accepted, or allowed to view and experience very intimate aspects of wolf life requires trust.
Animals are very intuitive. As human animals, we trust our instincts. Just as our forest companions, furred and feathered neighbors do,
we also can feel the subtle energies and shifts in our environments and can be quite good at determining intentions.
When you go to creatures, such as wolves, you go with "pure" intentions. This means that you don't lie. The word "pure" or "innocent" in this
context is referring to "natural state". If you are going to the wolves to learn how to be a better hunter, then state that intently.
If it is to learn how to build bridges and communal bonds, state that. The statement is done by being open-hearted, and in being open-hearted,
you allow the truth of your intentions to be read and felt, without any attempts at covering it up. That is the pureness or innocence in the communication.
You go "naked" in that respect, with nothing covering up the truth. To cover or hide the truth is seen as something conniving or devious, and can be
considered hostile and suspect, so don't do that.
The wolf pack that I have a personal connection to, accepted what I wanted to learn, and out of many spiritual or "mind-connective" visits,
was accepted as a part of their family. The protection of the pack, the learning, and the love were all bestowed upon me as one of their own,
and it is with great honor that I consider myself to be one of them. The lessons, visualizations, experiences, and yes...majik, are all a part of that.
This is the process of initiation.
The word "werewolf" is also metaphor.
It's a nod backward in time. As well as being a powerful way to connect to the wolf spirit, it is a fun way to move energy, find motivation,
and howl at the moon from time to time. I brought the things I learned back and shared them with others whom I trusted.
Although many consider themselves to be of the wolf spirit, ours is by Hexenwulf, or the witch-wolf process, as outlined in my writings.
The Veshigi tradition is steeped heavily in legends and lore of the enchanted forests, and Hexenwulf is a wonderful part of that.
It is specific to the Veshigi tradition of Appalachian Hexerei, and to date, as far as I am aware, we are the only group that not only
use the practice but the term as well.
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