Christianity and Werewolves
Archive file# o112299a
donated by James Vandale
Quite often the antagonist of the werewolf belief (and of werewolves
themselves), is the Catholic church and its larger outgrowth of
christianity in general. Through the church's inquisitions, tortures, and
writings, the church has taught western culture of the "inherent" evil of
werewolves. The werewolf was commonly believed to be the descendant of
Cain or a monstrocity created by selling one's soul to the devil. Even
today, the church in it's many forms views werewolves as the incarnate of
evil, but there is one whom they've forgot. The greatest werewolf sercret
of them all.
One must understand that in the medieval mappaemundi that lurking at the
edges of the world were the monstorous races. At the times, authors like
Pliny with his book "Natural History" who inculded illustrations and
descriptions of these races culled from descriptions and classical
writings ("Natural History" was said to have been created with about
20,000 facts extracted from 2000 classical volumes).
These races were eclectic in appearence, and soe are even familiar tosya,
while others seem outrageous. The Giants, the Pygmies, the Panotii (had
giant ears), the Astomi (no mouths), the Anthropophagi (cannibals), the
Amazons, etc etc etc. But, most improtantly, the Cynocephali.
The Cynocephali, or Dog-heads, were one of the best known monstrous races.
They had the body of a man and the head of a dog. According to Pliny, they
lived in the mountains of India and barked to communicate. They lived in
caves and wore animal skins. They hunted very succesfully and used
javelins, bows and swords. Other sources that circulated in the middle
ages, such as the account of Alexander the Greats adventures in India
picture the Cynocephali much more frightening, -- with enormous teeth and
breathing fire. Severa sources make them cannibals. All sources emphasize
that they combine the natures of man and beast.
The Cynocephali retained an interesting position in christian writings and
teachings. Jesus words in John (10:16) implied that there were many non
christian flock around the world that need to be shepherded. This idea
was reinforced by the story of the Pentecost. As it was told in the Acts of
the Apostles, tongues like flames and fire descended upon the apostles and
they were given the gift to talk in strange languages. "Men of every
nation under heaven" who lived in Jerusalem were amazed to hear the
apostles speak their native languages.
Depections of the nations present at the Pentecost was a popular theme in
early christian art. The idea of "every nation under heaven" was taken
seriously. Consequently, the Cynocephali appear frequently, such as in the
"Theodore" Psalter that is in the British Library.
It depicts Christ
preaching to dog-headed men.
A far from uncommon illustration.
From the depiction to dog-heads being preached to at the pentecost,
follows the logical stories of dog-heads being converted to christianity.
The stories of the missionary activities of the apostles are recorded in
the New Testament. But these were to few to satisfy the faithful, so a
number of non-canonical Acts of the Apostles, came into circulation. One
such, the "Contendings of the Apostles" has an extremely interesting
The book describes the Acts of Andrew and Bartholomew among the
Parthinians. The two apostles meet a giant cannibal named Abominable. As
the name would suggest, he was a terrifying sight:
- four cubits in height, and his face was like unto the face of a great
dog, and his eyes were like unto lamps of fire which burnt brightly, and
his teeth were like unto the tusks of a wild boar, or the teeth of a
lion, and the nails of his hands were like unto curved reaping hooks,
and the nails of his toes were like unto the claws of a lion, and the
hair of his head came down over his arms like unto the mane of a lion,
and his whole appearance was awful and terrifying.
Luckily for the apostles, that when they chance upon Abmoinable after he
has been visited with a vision, where he was promised a human form if he
accepts the apostles' teachings. He does so, and become their guide
through the heathen land.
Other conversions of dogheads include a saint or two. Saint Mercurius (not
well known in western tradition, mostly in greek and egyptian accounts)
used converted Cynocephali as soldiers. They are very savage warriors.
Where, like Abominable, the teachings rendered the Dog-heads gentle, their
savegry (and cannibalism) can be revived for christianity at a saint's
The greatest werewolf secret of all is not that the christian church, knew
of, converted, and even used werewolves. The secret is much deeper in the
church than mere converts and warriors. The secret is in the single name
Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers and seafarers. He is
fairly well known in western tradition. My own father (a sailor) wears a
pendant of him. He is a saint that receives thousands of prayers a day
from the faithful, and has always been a powerful figure.
But the greatest
secret of all is that Saint Cristopher is a Cynocephali, a dog-head, a
The fact that Saint Christopher is a Cynocephali was silently removed from
most of western literature. Some of the best literature of the Saints life
is located in Ireland and Celtic culture of Britian. It is probable that
it has survived there due to the facts that the Irish Monks knew Greek and
that the Irish Celtic culture was not romanized nearly as much as most of
the rest of Europe.
The popular story of Christopher is very much like Abominable's.
Christopher is born a pagan Dog-head called Reprobus. He regrets his
beastial nature and is overjoyed when his conversion to Christianity
allows him to lose his Cynocephalic nature.
An eighth-century list of Saints explained that Christopher "was one of
the Dog-heads, a race that had the heads of dogs and ate human flesh. He
meditated much on God, but at that time could only speak the language of
As time passed, the writings mentioned less and less of Christopher's
Cynocephalic nature. Walter of Speyer wrote, in the tenth century, stated
that Christopher "took his origins from the Cynocephali, a people in
speech and countanence dissimilar to others."
Sait Christopher was more popularly pictured as a giant carrying the
christ child. This still satisfied that Christopher was a convert from a
monstrous race. But it was probably more due to the fact that Christopher
literally means Christ carrier.
Sait Christopher was eventually ousted from the ranks of the saintly. And
the belief of the Cynocephali remained in circulation for several hundred
more years. It eventually mutated, through retellings and trials, to the
great werewolf scares in the 1600s.
So there you have it. One of the best kept secrets of the werewolf world.
Not only were werewolves employed and welcomed to the christian world,
there is actually a werewolf saint. A great secret indeed.
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