Skepticism is all about the evidence, and it’s a refreshing change to look at the historical evidence for a phenomenon rather than looking at what science says about it.Deborah Hyde took us on a tour of contemporary accounts of werewolves, mainly from France, mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. She limited her scope because shape-shifting appears in so many times and places and she wanted to quote the primary sources.
I sadly arrived slightly late for Deborah’s talk on the history of the European Werewolf but arrived in time to hear some of the more down to earth explanations for the creatures – such as the fact that early reports never described a man turning into a wolf but instead transferred the characteristics of the wolf to the man. This was an interesting point I’d never come across before and made sense. Werewolf was a metaphor, not literal.
There were however some accounts, closely linked to witchcraft and witch-trials where people did confess under torture to being able to change into a wolf.
Deborah’s talk was one I was very much looking forward to and so glad I made some of it. What I saw was fascinating, and werewolves are not a frequent topic on the skeptics scene – but then when many people look down on ghosts and ghouls and those of us interested in them; it might not be hard to imagine there isn’t a great deal of interest in other areas of the supernatural which is a shame, and something we should change.
We’ve had homeopathy up to here, now it’s time to let out the beasties and Deborah’s talk is a great place to start.
Deborah is editor in chief of the Skeptic magazine, and blogs and tweets as Jourdemayne