As a companion piece to my last post about the unerotic nature of vampires, and because I’ll take any excuse to write about spooky things in October, I decided to write about werewolves… but then I got distracted and wrote about witches also. Deal with it. On the topic of werewolves, however, I have to say that once again I think the World of Darkness got it right. Of all the creepy-crawlies and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, werewolves should be the most sexually active and perhaps by extension the sexiest.
Although the mythos surrounding werewolves tends to vary by region, most European accounts centre on man-turned-beast narratives. The Norse Úlfhéðnar, pictured left, is (from my feeble understanding) a variation on the berserker. The central idea being that a warrior wears the pelt of an animal, in this case a wolf, and then channels that animal’s spirit into their body during the heat of battle. The ferocity of the wolf’s teeth and claws was meant to come out through the berserker’s shield and axe and they were meant to feel no pain until battle had ended. If the purpose of the pelt was to turn warrior into beast on the battlefield, who’s to say it wouldn’t turn them into animals in other, more domestic locations?
Speaking of domestic locations, I recently learned of a more recent werewolf legend in Dogtown, Massachusetts. Now, when I say ‘learned’, what I actually mean is ‘saw-on-a-dodgy-Animal-Planet-reality-show’. The show features interviews with pet owners who think their house is haunted and that their pets can see the spirits doing the haunting. It is called The Haunted and no, I am not kidding.
My poor taste in television aside, this town has reportedly had werewolves lurking in its moors since the mid 1800s. After the War of 1812, the widows of soldiers and sailors who never returned bought dogs for protection and company. Due to a series of unfortunate events, farmers and assorted businesses moved away from the area. When the widows eventually died, the dogs were left to roam feral, giving way to sightings of werewolves in the nearby forests and assorted superstition.
This information, admittedly coming from a 30 second clip on a show about pets who see dead people, didn’t seem to make sense to me. If dogs go feral, which seems plausible, why would they be mistaken for werewolves and not just wolves? Somewhere deep in my brain I remembered reading something about the Malleus Maleficarum. Weren’t the women accused of witchcraft in the 16-17th centuries usually accused of sleeping with beasts? And weren’t most of the women accused of witchcraft also widows? As it turns out, I remembered correct. In the article ‘Women and Witches: Patterns of Analysis‘ Clarke Garrett details how the paradoxical role of women as the least valued and most important member of a household gave way to witch trials.
In the article, Garrett notes how the role of women has traditionally been ‘grubby’. Our domestic domain has traditionally dealt with birth (and all the weird fluids that come out of the process), death, illness and feces. In addition to the whole pregnancy thing, as primary caregivers, women have typically had the dirtiest jobs to do. And yet we are meant to be the (morally) cleanest. The reputation of a family, at least traditionally, rests on the behaviour of the women in the house. This tandems with the traditional economic dependence of women on men to leave widows, like those in historic Dogtown and Salem during the Witch Trials, in a precarious position. Widows, at least in the pre-modern United States, were required to rely on the charity of outsiders. Before pensions, if the primary bread-winner died, there wasn’t a whole lot of choice. You begged or you starved.
How do you refuse a poor widow charity if you are living in Puritan New England? Why, you call them a witch… or you accuse them of keeping werewolf ‘companions’ *wink wink, nudge nudge*. The Malleus Maleficarum, which you can easily find for free-or-almost-free download (but be aware of differences in translation), is full of references to women’s wicked and lustful nature. Women deny God and the Holy texts because we are, at the very core of our beings, lustful and doubtful. This leads us to consort with the devil, follow the Dark Lord’s teachings, tempt innocent men to lay with us, etc, etc. In the Witch Hammer’s light, the curious case of Dogtown seems a lot clearer, no?
Oh, and before I change topic, according to the Maleficarum’s Wiki page, men could also be witches, but it was rare. The most common form of male witch was a sorcerer-archer, which sounds more like a shitty D&D multi-class than something to burn someone at the stake over.
Okay, back to my original point. If we were to have a hierarchy of the sexiest supernatural creatures, werewolves would be at the top of the list. Logically speaking, of course. Why would we need such a list? FOR SCIENCE! Clearly! Ahem, but logically speaking, the animalistic nature of werewolves would probably make them the most prone to outbursts of lust. Unless, of course, you buy into the argument presented by the Malleus Maleficarum and want to argue that women are by their nature prone to lust and devil worship. Even if we skirt around the ol’ witch hammer, folkloric representations of witches tend to focus on hermit-chic rather than the sexy side of forest-dwelling.
Stay tuned for my final Halloween post in a couple weeks’ time in which I’ll talk about why Halloween, in its modern form, is a sexy holiday.
Until next time,