“Hail, hail, hail, great Wolf Spirit,
A boon I ask thee, mighty shade,
Within this circle I have made.
Make me a werewolf strong and bold,
The terror alike of young and old.”
Thus begins an ancient incantation. The lycanthropic literature of the past is filled with such eerie chants, delivered in desolate locations within the perimeters of mysterious circles scratched onto the ground, and generally beneath the ghostly light of a full moon. As invocation of evil, the chants called upon the spirits of the trees and air, heat and fire, cold and ice. Repeating the chants over and over again, the votary prepared himself psychically for the transformation. Yet however intently he might feel the words, they were not enough to bring him to the altered state of mind that would enable him to kill and eat his victims. Essential was a girdle or belt cut from the skin of a wolf to be worn around the waist. But more important by far were the vapors that he might inhale or the slaves or ointment with which he might rub his naked body. Made from ingredients as foul as potent, the potions contained psychoactive substances that released the beast within the lycanthrope and set him on his bloody course.
intent, a man traces two concentric circles on flat ground. Then he will build a fire
of pine or larch and black poplar and suspend an iron cauldron on it from
branches above. Into it he will drop these ingredients;
opium, poppy seeds, aloe, henbane, hemlock, parsley, solanine (an extract
of night shade), and asafetida (a gum resin). After stirring all the components
together , he will allow the contents
to simmer. When flames leap up, he will begin his incantation: “Elect of
all devilish host, I pray you send hither, the great gray shape that makes
men shiver. Come! Come! Come! "
Having removed his clothing and put on a wolf-skin girdle, the devotee now rubs his entire body with a salve. Such ointments, which were absorbed through the skin, were made from ingredients as varied as camphor, aconite, aniseed, opium, poplar leaves, bat’s blood and root, mixed with the rendered fat of a cat. Before the ointment begins to take effect, the man breathes in the intoxicating fumes floating from the bubbling cauldron, which prepare him mentally for the next stage of his strange ritual.
Under double influence of the fumes and salve, the man falls to his knees, imploring the spirit of the unknown to bestow on him the power of metamorphosis. With his hands raised, he intones these words; “I beg, I pray, I implore thee-thee unparalleled Phantom of Darkness-to make me a werewolf.” He starts to feel as if his own body is changing structure, growing hairier, his nails lengthening into claws.
Fully transformed the werewolf bounds off into the darkness. But however strong and mean he thinks himself, he knows that even as a werewolf he will be vulnerable, hence the must chant as a charm the final words of the transformation ceremony: “Melt the bullet, blunt the knife, rot the cudgel, strike fear into man, beast and reptile so they may not seize the gray wolf, nor tear his from his warm hide. My word is firm, firmer than sleep or the strength of heroes.”
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