Werestuff part 6: Weres around the world

Weres around the world

Baring-Gould has a surprising amount of material on werewolves outside European folklore too, considering he wrote his book in the 1860s. Before moving beyond Europe, I guess I should mention the Vrkolak — a type of werewolf from Bulgarian, Slovakian, and Greek folklore that blurs the line between werewolf and vampire, as it is similar to a normal werewolf in life but after death continues to plague the living.  It does not physically transform into a wolf but instead the soul enters that of a wolf.  After death they become vampires, who steal babies from their cradles and suck the dying breath from soldiers on battlefields — they do this in the form of a wolf or hyena.

Indian legends include weresnakes and were-asses (both conditions being curses) as well as were-apes.  The were-ape in a story he recounts was not cursed but simply liked to assume this shape.

Abyssinia folklore has “budas” who are blacksmiths by day and hyenas (or other beasts) at night.  They rob graves to feed, and cast spells to create diseases.  They all wear gold earrings, and Baring-Gould reports that a European traveler claimed to have shot hyenas with gold earrings. (This legend is interesting as it combines ghouls, witches, and werewolves; the blacksmith was apparently the lowest class of smiths in Abyssinia for goldsmiths and silversmiths are not considered evil.)

The Aztecs believed that naguals (witchdoctors/priests) could transform into eagles, snakes, and jaguars (Baring-Gould says “lions”), and this power was also imputed to rulers like Montezuma, who supposedly underwent several transformations before the eyes of conquistadors!

Baring-Gould also mentions North American skin-changers and repeats a story of a family who turn into dogs by wearing dog-skins; when the dog-skins are burned the curse is lifted.  These are a little different from skin-walkers, who can assume any animal’s shape, with or without using an actual animal skin depending on the story, but like skin-walkers, these were-dogs inherit their shape-changing ability.

Published in: on January 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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