Llewellyn - New Worlds of Body, Mind & Spirit - www.llewellyn.com

Aug 22 2010

The Book of Werewolves

Since people have been recently enamored of the subject, and there seems to be growing “werewolf” sub-culture among kids I’m going to post this preview of what I consider to be the Bible of Lycanthropy, Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves. Along with Montague Summers’ The Werewolf in Lore and Legend, Baring-Gould’s study of the history of werewolves and their practices will be your go to guide book for all things lycanthropic.

I own a copy and for this particular book I urge you to eventually do the same, as you will find yourself quickly thumbing through it for references throughout your association with the Arts. Unlike Summers’ otherwise excellent tome The Book of Werewolves has no theological ax to grind but presents a history of werewolf lore through the ages along with studies of actual cases. Once you read Baring-Gould’s book you will realize that the werewolf has never disappeared, but is simply reimagined in our overly psychoanalyzed culture as the serial killer. I urge all people to in particular look at the case of Ed Gein after reading The Book of Werewolves, keeping in mind that it is rumored that during his confinement Gein was said to act out popular werewolf myths, such as howling at the full moon.

For younger visitors whose image of werewolves has been shaped by White Wolf, horror movies and certain book publishers eager to take advantage of pop culture these books will delve into unfamiliar territory. The traditional occult view of werewolves is that they practice a kind of Witchcraft or Sorcery. Some ancient myths tell the tale of men cursed by the gods to walk as wolves, but from the fall of Rome until now all werewolves actively sought out the transformation of mind and body through ritual. Trials of werewolves (which Baring-Gould covers) from the middle ages show that people who we would now call sexual sadists – cannibals, necrophiliacs and child murderers- were termed werewolves but few actually admitted to being such until tortured. We can infer from this that in the middle ages violent predators in general were lumped in with petty sorcerers who sought out ‘The Black Rider” to learn the secrets of shape shifting.

The aforementioned teen werewolf sub-culture becomes more worrisome for the occultist when you are familiar with the practices of the werewolves of old which include wearing wolf skins. Today’s Hot Topic werewolves have taken to carrying fur tails of animals as fetishes and at least one of these young people has already publicly displayed the traits of the European werewolf.

But rather than read my theorizing here’s Baring-Gould himself:

There are cheap Kindle editions available online so there’s really no excuse for not owning this one. The above preview is missing a hundred or so pages and frankly you could simply scour the web for those missing pages but is all that time really worth ten bucks?