Friday, August 20, 2010
Werewolves in Irish Folklore.
Werewolves in Irish Folklore:
The werewolf is strong in Irish folklore. There are a number of old tales about strange tribes of wolf-men living in remote areas of County Tipperary, whose assistance was often sought by the ancient kings of Ireland when they made war upon each other. There are also tales of strange beings - half-men, half-wolves - roaming the remote forest and mountain areas of the island. Indeed, one of the oldest written stories that we have about werewolves comes from Ireland. It was written down by a man named Giraldus Cambrensis who wrote down many old Irish tales.
In Ireland in 1182, a priest travelling from Ulster into Meath, and having to pass the night in a wood, was sitting by a fire which he had made, when a wolf accosted him in human speech.
He was, he said, a man of Ossory, on whose race lay an ancient curse, whereby every seven years a man and a woman were changed into wolves; at the end of seven years they recovered their proper form, and two others suffered a like transformation. He and his wife were the present victims of the curse; his wife was at the point of death, and he prayed the priest to come and give her the viaticum (Holy Eucharist given to the dying)
After some hesitation the priest complied; and next morning the wolf took leave of him with words of gratitude. Two years after this event, Giraldus was in the same area, where he was approached by two priests sent by the bishop to ask him his view on this “serious matter.” Giraldus met with the bishop of the town and gave his views in writing. These writings were then sent to the Bishop of Ossory then to Pope Urban III. Showing you just how serious they took this werewolf tale, one of the first ever recorded.
It is said that the people of the Kingdom of Ossory (County Kilkenny and parts of Laois and Offaly) had the power to change themselves into wolves whenever they wanted. During the time that an Ossorian lived as a wolf their human body lay at home as if it were dead. When an Ossorian was about to change into a wolf strict orders were given to friends not to touch or move the human body for if it was moved to a place where the returning spirit could not find it then the person was doomed to remain in wolf form for the rest of their life.
One author (Giraldus Cambrensis) wrote of the Ossorians saying that there were always two of the Ossory people, a man and a woman, living in the shape of wolves for seven year cycles. After living seven years as wolves they returned home and another couple replaced them.
The Irish Werewolf is very different from the excepted version of the werewolf that has become apparent through the spread of Christianity and the inquisition. It is not a crazed man-eater but rather a protector. There are numerous stories in Irish folklore of wolves protecting children, guarding wounded men and guiding lost people to a place of safety.