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Werewolves
As researched by Shea Thomas

At first impression, the mention of werewolves in the Rede of the Wiccae may seem a little strange and out of place (even to other Wiccans). Indeed, this reference is almost universally deleted in subsequent versions of the Rede.

Part of this may flow from the somewhat awkward phrasing of this particular couplet (the Rede's longest with 19 syllables). The werewolf's absence in later versions may also flow from the role werewolves play in popular culture.

Conceptually, it could be said that werewolves fall into that same general category of fiction as the vampire, mummy, and Frankenstein monster. Since witchcraft is of course a real and practiced religion (and struggles daily with false perceptions) it would be understandable if there was an instinctive avoidance of the more fantastic stereotypes. Perhaps the best example of the popular persistence of werewolves comes from Universal Pictures' 1941 classic The Wolf Man, [n.1] that warned mid-century moviegoers:
   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

While this image remains part of contemporary culture, it should also be pointed out that this is not a new phenomenon. Narratives surrounding wolf and witch have an extremely long history. In more ancient writings (some as old as Rome) witches, wolves, and other fantastic creatures are often described together, and often with equal forthrightness.

Montague Summers, the venerable author of The History Of Witchcraft and The Geography Of Witchcraft, also wrote a book called The Werewolf (Bell Publishing Company. New York. 1966). In this extremely comprehensive survey of lycanthropy, Summers catalogs an entire series of literary connections between witch and wolf, and even more generally the perceived magick of shapeshifting. To cite only a few examples:

"From the Leadhar Na H-Uidhri (The Book of the dun Cow), the oldest volume now known entirely in the Irish language, we learn that the Druids practiced the magic art of shapeshifting." [n.2]

"Sorcerers have the power of taking the form of different animals, but when thus disguised cannot be wounded but by silver." [n.3]

"There are certain men of the Celtic race who have a marvellous power which comes to them from their forebears. For by an evil craft they can at will change themselves into the shape of wolves..." [n.4]

One final example that also associates witches, widdershins, wolves, and a waning moon is the Nordic Spaewife's Prophecy. According to this apocalyptic tale, the last winter marking the end of the world will begin when the offspring of the Ironwood Witch and the wolf-god Fenrir - Skol and Hati (both wolves themselves) finally catch and devour the sun and the moon. [n.5] [n.6]

Eastward sat the crone
In the Ironwood
Who farrowed there
The brood of Fenrir.
Of their get shall be seen
A certain one
Who shall shark up the moon
Like a shadowy troll.
He shall glut his maw
With the flesh of men
And bloody with gore
The home of the gods;
Dark grows the sun,
Storms rage in summer
Weather's a-widdershins.

  1. The Wolf Man. Universal Pictures. 1941.
  2. Montague Summers. The Werewolf. P. 205. Bell Publishing Co. New York. 1966. (citing: A collection of prose and verse compiled and transcribed by Moelmuiri Mac Ceileachair around 1100).
  3. Id at 204-205. (citing: Sir Edgar MacCulloch. Guernsey Folk Lore. Edith F. Carey. Ed. London and Guernsey. 1903).
  4. Id at 206. (citing: Thomas Wright and J.O. Halliwell. Reliquiae Antiquae London. 1843).
  5. Diana Brueton. The Moon. Barnes & Noble with Labyrinth Publishing. 1998. (citing: B. Branston. Gods of the North. Thames and Hudson. 1955).
  6. Ragnarok - Marv Stenhammar. http://www.stenhammar.net/marvin/ragnarok.html. 2000