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Title: Lycanthrope or Werewolf
Original Title: Lycanthrope, ou Loup-Garou
Volume and Page: Vol. 9 (1765), pp. 771–772
Author: Unknown
Translator: Nelly S. Hoyt; Thomas Cassirer
Subject terms:
Divination
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Source: Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer, trans., The Encyclopedia: Selections: Diderot, d'Alembert and a Society of Men of Letters (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965).
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This work is in the public domain in the United States of America.

URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.158
Citation (MLA): "Lycanthrope or Werewolf." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.158>. Trans. of "Lycanthrope, ou Loup-Garou," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 9. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): "Lycanthrope or Werewolf." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.158 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Lycanthrope, ou Loup-Garou," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 9:771–772 (Paris, 1765).

This unsigned article is one of many in the Encyclopèdie that deal with charms, spiritualism, black magic, and superstitions. The irrational was still very much present in the Age of Reason, and scientists investigated vampires and experimented with the specter of the rose. See K. Seligman, The Mirror of Magic (New York: Pantheon Books, 1948). [Translator note]


Lycanthrope or werewolf. Man transformed into a wolf by magic, or a man who through illness has the savage tendencies and character of a wolf.

We give this definition in accordance with the ideas of the demonologists who admit of two kinds of lycanthropes or werewolves. The first kind, they say, are those the devil covers with a wolf skin and whom he makes roam through cities and countryside, howling dreadfully and committing ravages. The demonologists add that these men are not really transformed into wolves, but that the devil simply gives them that shape, or that he carries their bodies somewhere and substitutes for them the appearances of a wolf. The existence of such creatures is proven only by stories that are totally unconfirmed.

The second type of werewolf is composed of melancholy men who imagine that they have become wolves after an illness which doctors call in Greek λυκαωνια, and λυκανϑροπια [ sic ], a word composed from λυκος, "wolf," and αντροπος [ sic ], "man" (Delrio, Bk. II). [1]

This is how Malebranche explains how a man imagines himself a werewolf. "A man," he says, "by means of unbridled imagination falls into the madness of believing that he turns into a wolf each night. This disordered imagination cannot help but make him perform such actions as wolves do or are supposed to do. He leaves his home at midnight, he runs through the streets, he throws himself on some children he meets, he bites them and mistreats them; and the stupid and superstitious public thinks that this fanatic has really become a wolf because the unhappy creature thinks so himself and has said so secretly to some people who did not keep quiet.

"If it were possible," adds the same author, "to shape lines in the brain that would persuade men that they have become wolves, and if one could run through the streets and commit the ravages committed by these miserable werewolves without having one's brain completely upset, just as it seems possible to attend the Sabbath without ever leaving one's bed and without waking, these beautiful stories of the transformation of men into wolves would have the same effect as those about the Sabbath and we should have as many werewolves as we have sorcerers." See Sabbath. [2]

"But the conviction that one has become a wolf presupposes a disorder of the brain far more difficult to induce than the one that makes a man believe that he has attended the Sabbath. For a man to imagine that he has become a wolf, an ox, etc., such effort is needed that this cannot be common, though such derangement does occur sometimes, either as the result of divine punishment, as the Scriptures tell about Nebuchadnezzar, or because of a wave of melancholy that strikes the brain. One finds examples of this in medieval authors" ( Recherches de la Vérité , Vol. I, Bk. II, chap. 6). [3]

Notes

1. [Delrio, or Père Martin Anton del Rio, Disquisitionium magicae (Lyons, 1612).]

2. [The article "Sabbath," which is not included in these selections, deals with the witches' Sabbath, belief in sorcerers, and cites as sources Delrio, Malebranche, and Bayle.]

3. Malebranche, De la Recherche de la Vérité . [The passage is on "Imagination" and is chapter 6 of the third section, which deals with the contagiousness of strong imaginations. Nicolas de Malebranche (1638–1715) was a French theologian and philosopher influenced by Cartestian philosophy.]