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Human Animals Part 6

St. Pascal Baylon, who lived from 1540-1592, was assailed by devils in the guise of various animals. Sometimes they rushed upon him in the form of lions and tigers seeking to devour him. As he withstood their attacks with wonderful courage they tried to get at him in another way, and offered to impress upon his body the marks of divine wounds, making crosses of blood on various parts of his body. Then Pascal, horrified at this form of deception, cried out to the evil one, "You ravening wolf, how dare you take upon yourself the clothing of a lamb? Away with you!"

This speech acted as an exorcism, and the devil vanished.

The evil one has often been likened to a ravening wolf, which has led to the symbolic form of transformation from a wolf to a lamb being found in many legends--a mental change as extreme in its effects as any physical change could be. Andrew Corcini, afterwards Bishop of Fiesole, was converted in this figurative sense from a wolf into a lamb. He was the son of wealthy parents in Florence, and, shortly after his birth, in 1302, his mother dreamt that she had brought forth a wolf and that her wolfish offspring ran into a church and became transformed into a lamb. As the boy grew, his wolfish character was clearly apparent; he was cruel, selfish, and untamable. One day his mother said to him, "Andrew, you are in very truth the child of my dream," and then she told him what she thought of him. He was greatly struck by her story and spent the night in solitude and prayer. The next day he went to the church of the Carmelites and, prostrating himself before the image of the Virgin, he said, "Glorious Virgin, see the wolf full of iniquity at thy feet. Thy offspring, oh mother, was a Lamb without blemish. Make me also a lamb of God, and receive me into the fold." For three hours he prayed without ceasing, and then the prior found him and acceded to his request to be taken into the Carmelite order, when he became a changed man.[30] He died in 1373.

St. William of Acquitaine was also "converted from a wolf to a lamb"

(A.D. 1157). He was Count of Poitou and Duke of Guyenne, a giant in stature and a wild beast in disposition. Through the holy offices of St. Bernard he became changed, and calling himself "the chief of sinners" repented of his evil ways in sackcloth and ashes.[31]

These cases of spiritual transformation from animal-man to man-animal, though interesting psychologically, do not awaken the intense curiosity which material metamorphosis arouses, and which centres especially in the subject of the wer-wolf.

Bodin[32] accumulated a large amount of evidence in favour of actual transformation. He quotes one Pierre Mamor, who, whilst in Savoy, deposed to having seen a man change into a wolf and described how he did it. Henry of Cologne, author of a treatise, "de Lamys," vouched for the truth of similar statements. Ulrich le Meusnier, who dedicated a treatise to the Emperor Sigismund, gave numerous examples of the veritability of transformation, and swore to having seen a wer-wolf at Constance, who was accused of and executed for this crime. Germany, Greece, and Asia were much infested by these pests. In 1542, under the rule of Sultan Suleiman, a number of wer-wolves were found at Constantinople. The Emperor called out the guard and, marching forth at its head, freed the city of one hundred and fifty of these terrors in full view of the people.

Paracelsus, one of the greatest occultists the world has known, was positive that men could change into animals. Gaspar Peucerus, who had long been sceptical and thought such ideas were a fable, was constrained to believe there was truth in certain stories brought to him by merchants trading in Livonia, who had seen victims of lycanthropia executed for their misdeeds.

In the history of Johannus Trithemius, it may be read that in the year 970 there was a Jew called Baian, son of Simeon, who was not only able to turn into a wolf at pleasure, but could also render himself invulnerable, and Sigebertus, the historian, wrote that one of the Kings of Bulgaria was able to transform himself into all kinds of animals.

Boguet, if anything, erred on the side of credulity. He asserted that in 1148 a huge man-wolf was seen at Geneva, which killed thirty people.[33]

In July, 1603, in the district of Douvres and Jeurre a great storm of hail fell and damaged all the fruit trees, and three mysterious wolves were seen. They had no tails, and they passed harmlessly through a herd of cows and goats, touching none of them except one kid, which one of the wolves carried to a distance without in any way injuring it. This unnatural conduct made it fairly evident that these were not real wolves, but sorcerers who had brought about the hail-storm and wished to visit the scene of the disaster. It was said that the biggest wolf that led the pack must be the evil one himself.

The two stories which follow show that transformation was sometimes regarded as an instrument of divine punishment for sins committed.

Albertus Pericofcius in Muscovy treated his subjects with gross cruelty, and extorted herds and flocks from them. One night he was away from home and all his cattle were killed. When informed of his loss he swore a round oath, saying, "Let him who has slain, eat; if the Lord chooses, let him devour me as well."

At his words some drops of blood fell to the ground, he was transformed into a wild dog, and rushing upon his dead cattle began to devour the carcases.

Another gentleman in the vicinity of Prague who had robbed his tenants right and left took the last cow from a widow who had five children to support. As a judgment he lost all his cattle, at which misfortune he broke into horrible curses. He was there and then transformed into a dog which had a human head.

These incidents, however, throw no light on the real nature of the wer-wolf or wer-dog, which remains as much a mystery as that of the vampire. In some points a similarity may be said to exist between them, both being destructive forces, of an evil and self-seeking character. Those afflicted become subject to trance-like states and hysterical phenomena.

A certain kind of vampire (which is really a bloodsucking ghost) is said to have the power of assuming animal shape, and Bulgarian vampires appear to be especially gifted with this peculiarity.

It is believed in a certain district of Germany that unless money is placed in the mouth of a corpse at the time of burial, or if the dead man's name is not cut from his shirt, he will become a vampire and his ghost will issue from his grave in the form of a pig.

A gruesome story is told of a witch who chose to wander in animal shape. She died in 1345 and her body was cast rudely into a ditch, but instead of resting quietly she roamed at night in the form of various unclean beasts, leaving havoc and death in her tracks. On exhumation she was found to be a vampire, and a stake was driven through her breast, which, however, failed to have the desired effect. She still prowled around in the dark, using the stake as a weapon with which to slay her victims, nor did she cease her nefarious deeds until her body had been reduced to ashes.

Camden says that jilted maidens or deserted wives used to bribe witches to get their faithless men consigned to prison for lycanthropy, the usual term being seven years, but, judging from the trials which are on record, death by burning was more frequently resorted to.

FOOTNOTES:

[28] _See_ Chapter XXI on Animal Ghosts.

[29] Harsnet, Samuel, "Popish Impostures," 1603, pp. 97, 98.

[30] Surius, "Lives of the Saints."

[31] Thibault, "Life of Guillaume of Acquitaine."

[32] "De la Demonomanie des Sorciers," 1593, Book II, pp. 195-6.

[33] "Discours des Sorciers," 1610.

CHAPTER VIII

THE WER-WOLF TRIALS

In Poitou the peasants have a curious expression, "courir la galipote," which means to turn into a wer-wolf or other human-animal by night and chase prey through the woods. The _galipote_ is the familiar or imp which the sorcerer has the power to send forth.

In the dark ages sorcerers capable of this accomplishment were dealt with according to the law, and hundreds were sent to trial for practising black arts, being condemned, in most instances, to be burnt alive or broken on the wheel. One of the most notorious historical cases was that of Pierre Bourgot, who served the devil for two years and was tried by the Inquisitor-General Boin.

Johannus Wierius[34] gives in full the confession of Bourgot, otherwise called Great Peter, and of Michael Verding. The prisoners, who were accused of wicked practices in December, 1521, believed they had been transformed into wolves.

About nineteen years before Pierre's arrest at Pouligny a dreadful storm occurred which scattered the flock of sheep of which he was shepherd, and while he went far afield to search for them he met three black horsemen, one of whom said to him, "Where are you going, my friend? You appear to be in trouble."

Pierre told him that he was seeking his sheep, and the horseman bade him take courage, saying that if he would only have faith, his master would protect the straying sheep and see that no harm came to them.

Pierre thanked him and promised to meet him again in the same place a few days later. Soon afterwards he found the stray sheep.

The black horseman, at their second meeting, told Pierre that he served the devil, and Pierre agreed to do likewise if he promised him protection for his flock. Then the devil's servant made him renounce God, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints of Paradise, his baptism and the tenets of Christianity. Pierre swore that he would do so, and kissed the horseman's left hand, which was as black as ink and felt stone-cold.

Then he knelt down and took an oath of allegiance to the devil, and the horseman forbade him thenceforth to repeat the Apostles' creed.

For two years Pierre remained in the service of the evil one, and during that time he never entered a church until mass was over, or at least until after the holy water had been sprinkled.

Meanwhile his flock was kept in perfect safety, and this sense of security made him so indifferent about the devil that he began to go to church again and to say the creed. This went on for eight or nine years, when he was told by one Michael Verding that he must once more render obedience to the evil one, his master. In return for his homage Pierre was told that he would receive a sum of money.

Michael led him one evening to a clearing in the woods at Chastel Charlon, where many strangers were dancing. Each performer held in his hand a green torch which emitted a blue flame. Michael told Pierre to bestir himself and that then he would receive payment, so Pierre threw off his clothes and Michael smeared his body with an ointment which he carried. Pierre believed that he had been transformed into a wolf, and was horrified to find that he had four paws and a thick pelt. He found himself able to run with the speed of the wind. Michael had also made use of the salve and had become equally agile. After an hour or two they resumed human shape, their respective masters giving them another salve for this purpose. After this experience Pierre complained that he felt utterly weary, and his master told him that was of no consequence and that he would be speedily restored to his usual state of health.

Pierre was often transformed into a wer-wolf after this first attempt, and on one occasion he fell upon a boy of seven with the intention of killing and eating him, but the child screamed so loudly that he beat a hasty retreat to the spot where his clothes lay in a heap, rubbed himself hurriedly with the ointment and resumed human form to escape capture. Another time Michael and he killed an old woman who was gathering peas, and one day whilst in the shape of wolves they devoured the whole of a little girl except for one arm, and Michael said her flesh tasted excellent, although it apparently gave Pierre indigestion.

They confessed also to strangling a young woman, whose blood they drank.

Among other disgusting crimes, Pierre murdered a girl of eight in a garden by cracking her neck between his jaws, and he killed a goat near to the farm of one Master Pierre Lerugen, first by setting on it with his teeth and then by gashing its throat with a knife. The latter operation leads to the belief that he had resumed his ordinary shape at the time.

A peculiar point worth noticing about the case of Michael and Pierre was that the former was able to transform himself at any moment with his clothes on, while the latter had to strip and rub in ointment to achieve the same result. At the time of his confession Pierre declared that he could not recollect where the wolf's fur went to when he became human again.

He also deposed that an ash-coloured powder was given to him, which he rubbed upon his arms and left hand and thus caused the death of every animal he touched. Here there would seem to be some discrepancy, for he declared that in many instances he strangled, bit, or wounded his victims!

Garinet[35] gives a good account of the important trial in 1573 of Gilles Garnier, who was arrested for having devoured several children whilst in the form of a wer-wolf.

The prisoner was accused of seizing a young girl aged ten or twelve in a vineyard near Dole, of killing her and dragging her into a wood, and of tearing the flesh from her bones with his teeth and claws. He found this food so palatable that he carried some of it away with him and offered to share it with his wife. A week after the feast of All Saints he captured another young girl near the village of La Pouppe, and was about to slay and devour her when someone hastened to her rescue and he took flight.

A week later, being still in the form of a wolf, he had killed and eaten a boy at a spot between Gredisans and Menote, about a league from Dole. He was accused also of being in the shape of a man when he caught another boy of twelve or thirteen years of age and carried him into the wood to strangle him, and, "in spite of the fact that it was Friday," he would have devoured his flesh had he not been interrupted by the approach of some strangers, who were too late, however, to save the boy's life. Garnier, having admitted all the charges against him, the judge pronounced the following sentence:--

"The condemned man is to be dragged to the place of execution and there burnt alive and his body reduced to ashes."

The account of the trial, which took place on the 18th day of January, 1573, was accompanied by a letter from Daniel d'Ange to the Dean of the Church of Sens which contained the following passage:--

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