16th century werewolf woodcut print
Werewolf woodcut print by Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1592.

You are likely familiar with the Salem witch trials of 1692, in which a pair of young girls accused three local women of witchcraft, sparking a hysteria that would consume colonial Massachusetts over the next year.

But did you know that centuries before, Europe had its own trials involving the supernatural? Back then, it was a different culprit: werewolves.

A Brief History of Werewolves

Although largely associated with the Middle Ages, werewolf folklore can be traced back to at least the time of the ancient Greeks. Herodotus, in Histories, wrote of a tribe in Scythia that was transformed into wolves once per year. And even within Greek mythology, King Lycaon of Arcadia is turned into a wolf by Zeus after testing his omnipotence by serving him human remains.

But the time period most closely associated with werewolves is the Middle Ages – and for good reason: there’s evidence to suggest that belief in werewolves was common throughout Europe during this time.

Although recognized as dangerous, they were often viewed with a sympathetic eye because their transformations were out of their control. Werewolves were desperate to stop their affliction and protect their family and neighbors from themselves.

However, somewhere along the way, commoners lost their sympathy for werewolves. During the 15th century in Valais, Switzerland, what is believed to be one of the first werewolf trials took place.

Witches and werewolves alike were blamed for particularly poor crops one year, and soon after, pretty much every other bad thing that happened to anyone at any time. Livestock died? Had to be werewolves. Sick? Werewolves and witches did that. Impotent? Uh, a witch did that… sure.

Not Lycan This

From there, accusations of werewolfery spread throughout Europe. Wolf attacks on both livestock and people (a somewhat common fact of life in this era) were blamed on werewolves.

In 1521, the Pope himself got involved; Inquisitors he appointed presided over trials for those accused of being a werewolf. Two men, Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun, were tortured into a shocking confession.

The men admitted that they sold their souls to Satan, could transform into werewolves, and ritualistically ate children. They were promptly burned at the stake.

Some scholars believe that blaming werewolves was a way for the public to rationalize disturbing serial killings. Two infamous alleged serial killers of the era – a German farmer named Peter Stumpp and a French hermit named Gilles Garnier – were accused of werewolfery and executed.

Under fear of torture, Stumpp confessed to killing fourteen children and two pregnant women. In detail, he described eating the fetus’s hearts, which he allegedly described as “dainty morsels.” Rather than come to grips with human evil so deep, one could see how it might be easier to blame it on werewolves and call the matter settled. 

Because it’s been so long and we can’t exactly call Forensic Files in to sort this whole thing out, whether these men were guilty of their crimes or merely confessed under extreme duress might never be known. And thankfully, werewolf accusations have really petered out these last few centuries.

However, the phenomenon of blaming evil behavior on supernatural forces doesn't appear to have gone away. Just a few years ago, Pope Francis made headlines when he declared that the devil was responsible for the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal. 

What is your reaction?

30 comments

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    That doesn’t surprise me that Pope Francis blamed everything on a mythical creature called the Devil, rather than accept responsibility for those Christian’s under his leadership.

    🦁❤️

    1. Bruce Kuppersmith''s Avatar Bruce Kuppersmith'

      I think this Pope is a Globalist Demon I used to be a Cathokic I was raised Catholic but turned away from it in disgust over toleration of paedophile pervert priests abusing boys. These are not moral religious men they are scum. This sub human continues the tradition of making a mockery of Christianity by providing cover for Satanists and chikd rapists

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        But, isn’t your jealous god also lacking in morals by his infanticide, and genocidal dealings over millennia, along with his other anger management issues dealing with people he is supposed to have created?

        🦁❤️

    2. Leona Weisenbach's Avatar Leona Weisenbach

      Spot on..

    3. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

      Those weren't Christians.

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        Correct, true Christian’s that believe in doing things that their god approves of would be stoning people to death that went against their gods edict’s, and having slaves.

        🦁❤️

  1. Mark Hannon's Avatar Mark Hannon

    Isn't it strange how easy it is to make people believe someone or some group would want to eat children? Children are so often and easily abused by their parents we should really be more wary of parents.

    1. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

      Yes, Q’s and some Republicans believe Democrats east children. With Trump spreading lies and getting such a cult religion following, I now can see how easy it is to convert, even normally rational, people to such extremes. I would have thought in America it couldn’t happen, but then see how quickly Hitler came to power and destroyed so many people and his country.

      1. Leona Weisenbach's Avatar Leona Weisenbach

        Both the Republican's and the Democratic are both cult's. But we had world peace with Trump... Biden is nothing more than another Hitler...

        1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

          Ms. Leona, when was the last time you recall Nazi's parading through the streets of America? When was the last time a "tour" in Congress got hundreds of arrests and a fatality within it's halls? All for the expressed purpose of stopping the election of a United States President? If that was peace..., Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!

        2. Tracy Lea Lemons's Avatar Tracy Lea Lemons

          Amen!

      2. Mark Hannon's Avatar Mark Hannon

        Jewish people were often accused of killing and eating children in history. My grandparents were taken in by Hitler in the 1930's, I'm not proud to say. Fortunately they came to realize their mistaken trust but they, and my mother, were still annoyed after the war was over that people from the concentration camps often were given food and rations before other Germans were.

      3. Krystina S.'s Avatar Krystina S.

        Leona, false equivalency ("whataboutism") creates a nihilistic situation in which nobody can accurately depict one side without some imagined equivalent on other side. It is unimaginative and stifles intelligent debate. You are also playing the "Hitler" card with Biden, which makes NO sense at all. Which you would know if you actually were concerned with facts. Per usual, the U.S. far right goes after the current president with nonsense. Tracy Lea, shame on you for your pseudoreligious outburst of agreement. I mean, really. Norma, thank you for using actual facts and real events to show the inane Leona statement.

      4. Rev. SolomonSaint's Avatar Rev. SolomonSaint

        trump is that false prophet; for more info, consult your local church library...

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    WEREWOLFE? THERE WOLF ! FULL MOON BABY THATs MY BOWL of WOLF EATs !

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Werewolves, Witches etc are all a myth stories that's all they are written by fanatic authors.I mean come on who believes all that ,No scientific proof No DNA no witnesses all stories passed down from generation to generation. Besides it's not catalogued.Same as Vampires, Frankenstein etc all written by authors

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Same goes for God and Gods. Please explain how a virgin pregnancy and birth occurs in humans?

      1. Greg Formoe's Avatar Greg Formoe

        Read the Urantia book, it explains it all. Many things about Jesus were distorted. It was a normal birth, with an extremely rare double personality implant, he was literally fully hum and fully divine at the same time, but his divinity was revealed slowly over time as he first mastered his human mind. The wine happened, walking on water was a dream, feeding the thousands happened, and the full story about the temple and the moneychangers spoke to his disgust at religion being commercialized.

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          @Greg I agree with you when you say many things about Jesus were distorted. At the time Jesus was a very common name and there were many Jesuses. What's written in the Bible is a composite of many of the Jesuses who were alive at the time. Some of them were doing magic tricks.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    If it repeated often enough, people believe. There was a time when you had to believe in God and the Bible or die. I don't think there were many non-believers around after that.

  1. Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.'s Avatar Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.

    Since I keep a bowl of chili falvored chocolate by the bed, never been bothered by a werewolf even once.

    1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

      And as an exorcist, what are you bothered by?

  1. Greg Formoe's Avatar Greg Formoe

    Confessions from long ago were the result of torture, they mean only that evil people ran the church at the time.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    The Howling was a good movie.

  1. Frederick Richard Vobbe's Avatar Frederick Richard Vobbe

    Theology and opinion on Halloween aside, I'm in it for the Kit-Kats. Optional Reece's Peanut Butter Cups run a strong second.

  1. Rev. BH's Avatar Rev. BH

    So now we believe in satanic child eating pedophiles and reptilian overlords. Has anything changed?

    1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

      " Has anything changed? " Well, he was voted out last November.

    2. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      You are describing the Catholic church. They've been doing this for 2,000 years, nothing new.

  1. Victor Marcus Monroe's Avatar Victor Marcus Monroe

    All one has to do is look into the mirror and understand why people want to believe in something bigger than them. Humans will find a way to replace their ugly nature by blaming something on anything else but themselves. It's why we can never be on the same page in our existence. All it takes is for someone with enough narcissism and a thought to convince others this is the right way to act or speak.

  1. P. Keith Benefiel's Avatar P. Keith Benefiel

    What is everybody's favorite werewolf movie? I like "The Werewolf", 1954

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:
Don't have an account yet? Create Account