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Last week I have made another drawing for my new werewolves series, it is called the Werewolf Trial. The drawing isn't based upon one story but more or less incorporates a whole series of stories I have read over time about werewolf trials into one. I myself am not at all an expert on the history of these trials, as history is not as much my topic as folklore is, but it has always surprised me how few people know about them. These trials are often standing in the shadow of the well-known witch trials which took place about the same time. And I can't help but to find this very odd because, in France alone, around 30,000 people were executed between 1520 and 1630 suspected of being a werewolf.
Apart from people being executed, commonn wolves which were seen near the villages got caught by the people and killed on the same accusations. But it was only on rare occassions that an animal was actually put on trial and had to show up in court. But it did happen every once in a while.
Though less commonn, I found the subject of the wolf being the one executed a lot more interesting for my drawing, and that is why a wolf instead of a man is being burned at the stake. However the soul which leaves the body is that of a man and hereby reveals it's true identity to the crowd gathered around the stake. This actually refers to a well known folk belief concerning werewolves in which it is said that by injuring the werewolf the spell would break and it had to transform into its human shape again. In other stories the injury only leads to the werewolf running away. The wound, however, would stay on its skin, also when it finally turned into its human form again. When the person could not hide its wound this sooner or later lead to recognition as well.
How one could injure a werewolf succesfully differs per country, the silver bullet is one of them. In the Netherlands this had to be 'erfzilver': silver inheritad by some deseased family member. In other coutries it had to be silver from the church, especially silver dedicated to saint Hubert which was believed to be very efficious. In Normandy, France, it was believed one had to stab the werewolf three times with a knife in its forehead though others said that three drops of blood drawn by a needle would be enough. Fire was also considered by many as a most potent weapon to battle werewolfs.
This last belief is the one depicted in my drawing where fire forces the soul to appear in its true form.
For those of you who are disgusted by all these violent measures, which I completly understand, it might be a nice thing to know that there were also less shocking ways to make a werewolf appear in its human form. One of these examples was to call its human name three times. This of course was only possible if you already knew the identity of the werewolf. Another method was to throw a piece of clothing to the werewolf. It would then be so occupied by tearing the piece apart that there would be enough time to escape. The following day, one could easily recognize the werewolf, because once changed into its human form again one could still see small pieces of clothing between his or her teeth.
Next time I will share with you all a drawing based upon a werewolf tale I came across in Southern France! One of which I don't think many of you have heard of....