Sunday, April 22, 2007

Werewolves of Ireland

And as to Irish werewolves mentioned in the previous entry... I posted 2/27 on CBH after a couple of hours fact-hunting a summary of my hunt that I also had shared among a few off-list CBHers what has become under Lee's sowing the acorn of another Branch of the Irish mythic cycle Horslit: Literary Roots of Horslips' Music.

This just in re: "werewolves, Irish." Now, our English word is simply "vir," Latin for "male" plus wolf. Looking at Irish, "wolf/ wild thing" is "faol"; but "conriocht" appears in this particular context. Irish for wolf is also "mac tíre," a figurative way of saying "son of the land!" But the werewolf comes from a different mindset, emphasizing the shape-shifting rather than the Animorph! "Con" is the compound form for "Cú" (as in a certain hero and yours truly), "dog/ hound" and then a metaphor for "warrior". "Riocht" means "adapting- changing- transforming", so "conriocht" is "hound- morphing." There seems one reference in ancient name-lore of persons, "Cóir Anmann," or "Fitness of Names." Translated 1897 by Whitley Stokes, but you'll forgive me for not having a copy on my shelf!

After I laboriously but slightly erroneously translated a Modern Irish version of the Old Irish "Cóir" citation, I found an accurate rendering!

"Laignech Fáelad, that is, he was the man that used to shift into fáelad, i.e. wolf-shapes. He and his offspring after him used to go whenever they pleased, into the shapes of the wolves, and, after the custom of wolves, kill the herds. Wherefore he was called Laignech Fáelad, for he was the first of them to go into a wolf-shape."

Ossory was Ireland's Transylvania, apparently. Here's more from an OI version of the historian Nennius' early medieval British chronicle: "There are certain people in Eri, viz.: the race of Laighne Faelaidh, in Ossory, they pass into the forms of wolves whenever they please, and kill cattle according to the custom of wolves, and they quit their own bodies; when they go forth in the wolf-forms, they charge their friends not to remove their bodies, for if they are moved they will not be able to come again into their bodies; and if they are wounded while abroad, the same wounds will be on their bodies in their houses; and the raw flesh devoured while abroad will be in their teeth."

Giraldus Cambrensis, Gerald of Wales, in his famous Topography of Ireland ca. 1170, also talks about werewolves. Vereticus is mentioned at the site on "Celtic Werewolf Geekery" in a summary of quotes (from which I take the above) of a 2006 paper by Phillip A. Bernhardt-House delightfully called "The Legend of Vereticus: An Ancient Celtic Tale from the 1860s." Apparently Sabine Baring-Gould, Victorian vicar and teller of venerable tales, erred in his collation of Celtic wolf stories, according to the new Dr. Phil. His dissertation: "Canids in Celtic Cultures: From Celtiberia to Cú Chulainn to the Kennels of Camelot, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University College Cork, 2006." All that can be summed up about this topic so far, pending his diss. becoming a book, is at:

My footnote: Maev is derived from, so quoth many, "wolf-queen" and/or -- this latter I suspect of Connacht-bashing chauvinists-- "drunken queen." A more refined version: "She who intoxicates." I knew I liked that spirited gal. The 'wolf- drunk female' etymological connection, I aver, demands primary research and diligent fieldwork. Any CBH volunteers? "Named after the Celtic goddess of Intoxication," according to this site [blog note: seems to have vanished over the past two months, alas], where you can buy your own Action Hero(ine) figurines painted by "experienced Irish artists":

[Blog update: Googling for non-existent images of Irish werewolves, I did find this promising site, a peer-edited academic on-line enterprise:]

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