Werewolf Ointment and Child Horderves

Most folk think they know the werewolf legend. You get bit by a werewolf and then become one. Yet how did the first werewolves begin? Its like the chicken and the egg dilemma. The best place to look is sixteenth century France. Between 1520 and 1630 there were 30,000 cases of lycanthropy. That’s a whole lot of baying at the moon. Reading through the various cases, I noticed some trends emerge.

Origami Werewolf

Origami Werewolf

The Dark Lord

It’s no surprise in a devout Christian country that the devil would be blamed for any wrongdoing. In two legends, a figure dressed all in black approaches the victims and tempts them. In 1502, Pierre Burgot was trying to gather up his sheep when he ran across an ominous horseman all in black. The stranger called himself “The Lord” and asked Burgot to obey him. In a second meeting, The Lord commanded that Burgot denounce God.

Another case involved a boy called Jean Grenier. He ran away from an abusive father, finally meeting the Lord of the Jungle in the woods. The man was tall, dressed in black, and sat upon a horse. (Puts a whole new meaning to tall, dark and handsome.) This Lord kissed Grenier with icy lips. On their second meeting (and it seems the nasty part of the deal happens at the second meeting) the Lord scratched a tattoo onto the boy’s thigh, marking him.

Curse of the Werewolf 1961

Curse of the Werewolf 1961

Werewolf Ointment

Apparently the Dark Lord carries around vials of werewolf ointment. In both the above cases, this is what caused the transformation. In the case of Burgot, he met a man called Michel Verdum (possibly a friend of the Lord). He commanded Burgot to strip naked and rub magic ointment on his body. During the process, Burgot saw his arms and legs transform, becoming hairy and lupine. Verdum also became a werewolf and together they ravaged the countryside.

The boy lycanthrope, Grenier, had a similar experience. The Jungle Lord gave the boy ointment and a wolf skin. After anointing himself, the wolfskin transformed Grenier into a werewolf. One view of the lycanthrope is as a skin walker.

The Beast of Gevaudan, published by Basset, 1764 (color engraving). Musee Nat. des Arts et Traditions Populaires, Paris, France­

The Beast of Gevaudan, published by Basset, 1764 (color engraving). Musee Nat. des Arts et Traditions Populaires, Paris, France­

Eating Children

Apparently, the favorite food of werewolves is children, raw and crunchy. Burgot tore apart a seven-year-old boy and abducted a four-year-old girl. He and Verdum ate up every last bit. Grenier attacked and ate fifteen children, including one from a cradle.

The werewolf of Caude (1598) was tried for killing and eating a boy of fifteen. There was also a werewolf who used a tailor shop to lure children (because so many kids desperately yearn to hem and stitch).

Finally, the Hermit of Dole (Gilles Garnier) munched down on several children in 1573. Another werewolf, Gilas Garner, attacked children with paws and teeth, eating flesh from their legs and belly. Bottom line, it did not pay to be a teen in medieval France.

Werwolf2

Werewolf by Lucas Cranach

In none of these cases do further werewolves multiply by excessive bites. The legends seem clear that some mingling with the dark forces causes lycanthropy, not some disease.

Tim Kane

Advertisements

Bizarre Ways to Become a Vampire

When you step outside the films and popular fiction, vampirism gets a little wonky. In Eastern Europe you don’t get bit to become a vampire. Often, you’re born a vampire. Say what? True, many people equate vampirism to a curse. And there are plenty of ways to get cursed.

the-master

A child born with a caul (a piece of membrane that covers a newborn’s face) would become a vampire after dying. To prevent this, the caul needed to be removed, dried, and ground up. Then the child would eat the powdered caul on his or her seventh birthday.

tumblr_l9zjjdhVgw1qcai1d

A very common cause of vampirism is to die without ever being baptized. This leaves the person vulnerable to malicious spirits.

Suicide is the number one cause of vampirism nearly everywhere (Europe, Africa, China). Similar to being unbaptized, suicide was considered a sin against God. The person was buried away from the village, not on hallowed ground. The English had an interesting tradition of interning the corpse at a crossroads with a steak through the heart. The stake prevented the body form being animated by evil spirits.

In Germany, people who died from an accident risked becoming a vampire. Just a little to the south, in Bavaria, simply leading an immoral life could turn you into a vampire after death. Werewolves were closely related to vampires. Therefore, anyone who ate meat from an animal killed by a wolf would become a vampire.

Finally, is anything disturbs your grave, you will rise as a vampire. If an animal runs across your grave, you’re a vampire. Strangely, if a nun crosses your grave, forget about it. Vampire. This begs the question, how many nuns are traipsing through the cemetery?

Be careful folks. Multiple mistakes with your life (or death) can transform you in to the living dead.

Tim Kane

Protect Your Books at All Costs

I recently saw in the news that librarians in the African city of Timbuktu are stashing away ancient books to prevent rebels from looting and burning them. Just think about it. These folks are putting their lives at risk for books. That’s awesome.

I nabbed this photo from Arab News. Click on the picture to view their article.

I nabbed this photo from Arab News. Click on the picture to view their article.

For those of you who don’t know (and I was one of them) Timbuktu is dead center in Mali.

malimap2

This area has a long tradition of hiding texts. People first hid early Islamic works from Moroccans, then the Europeans. So these folk know what they’re doing. The main library that’s been affects is the Ahmed Baba Institute. It houses all sorts of delicate, museum quality text.

Don’t know who Ahmed Baba is? Neither did I. This fella is the greatest medieval West African writers. He lived from 1556 to 1627, making him a contemporary to Shakespeare (though he didn’t get to run a playhouse). He was a major scholar in the Songhai Empire, which ruled most of West Africa. Too bad that the Arabs rushed in and destroyed the empire, imprisoning all the teachers, including this fella. After everyone, I mean everyone, petitioned for his release, Ahmed Baba was able to head back to Timbuktu. Check out his picture.

tumblr_ljsqc72BsY1qgfbgio1_400

I’m sorry, but when I look at this, only one thing comes to mind.

MSDPUFI EC043

Just like the character Jules (at the end of the flick), Ahmed Baba was soft spoken and gave credit to the Almighty. It seems the current librarians in Timbuktu are taking a cue and busting some ass to protect priceless works of literature.

Tim Kane

Zombie Walk

How times have changed. I recall playing tag in the schoolyard pretty much the way it’s always been  played. One person is “it”. He tries to tag everyone else. No goal save running around like crazy.

Now, my daughter introduced me to the twenty-first century version: Zombie Walk. One person is it (called a witch). Everyone else  gets to be humans. The zombie/witch shambles along, trying to catch the humans, who shriek in mock terror. The zombie must touch a human and count up to the age of the human (an easy feat for a kindergartener). Then the human becomes a zombie and the game continues.

Imagine how shocked our parents would have been if we were busting out this zombie tag in the 70s and 80s? Back then, zombies were pure horror. Remember Night of the Living Dead? That was the staple back then. Now, we have a film with a zombie romance: Warm Bodies.

Additionally, there are even zombie picture books, like Zombie in Love (see my review of it here).

The Vampire that Ate the Moon

Almost every culture has superstitions about eclipses. Then there’s Albanian and Romanian folklore, where a vampire infects and eats the moon, sucking the life out.

A shot of the Hessian corpse from the Sleepy Hollow movie.

A shot of the Hessian corpse from the Sleepy Hollow movie.

Albanians believe that when a wicked or miserly person dies, he will become a lugat (a sort of ghost vampire). Apparently, holding too tightly to money seems to be sin. One legend has that the ghost of a miser (called Kukudh) haunts his old house. Anyone who sleeps in that house risks being killed by this evil spirit. However, if you can survive the night, you will inherit the miser’s fortune. What a way to earn a living.

A lugat is a form of poltergeist that leaves the corpse every night (except Saturday’s) to smash windows in homes and be a general disturbance. Some versions state that it flies around in the skin of a dead person. Now that puts the white sheet ghost archetype to shame. Imagine seeing a skinned person floating in your hallway. Other versions have that a lugat is a long fingered ghost that possesses a corpse. Wolves seem to be the only force that can drive this creature back into the grave.

As a ghost, a lugat is indestructible. However, if you can catch it in the grave, you can destroy it. First you need to figure out which corpse is the culprit. It’s usually a relative. (They never leave you alone, even after death.) To narrow down your options, get yourself a white stallion and go trotting through the graveyard. Whichever grave the horse balks at is the winner. Dig up the corpse, stuff the grave with brush, and light it ablaze.

Be careful, if you don’t get corpse burning soon, then a lugat will mature into a kukudh. These demons are almost human-like and can travel out in daylight. They are heavyset, short with a goat’s tail. The only way to destroy this form is with a noose of grapevines.

Eclipse_bradac1

A lugat can also eat the moon to create an eclipse. Villagers would shoot at the moon to scare the lugat away. Pregnant woman needed to stay indoors, least their unborn child be infected with the disease. The word kukudh comes from the Greek word for plague or pestilence.

Romanian Sleeping Spirits

This evil spirit possess people, possibly still alive. The victim has a pale face and dry skin. When the varcolac spirit gets hungry, the person will fall into a deep sleep. The spirit slips out of the mouth and devours the moon. Sometimes when a red hue covers the moon, people thought that the varcolac was at work. If the host body is moved or roused, the sleep becomes eternal because the spirit cannot find the body again. I’m guessing that this was a warning not to disturb grandpa when he dozes off after too much wine.

Next time you witness an eclipse, start looking for sleeping people or grab yourself a white stallion and head to a graveyard. Cause if you don’t, you may never see the sun again.

Tim Kane