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Erm... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The context of this doesn't really matter much (it came off of a conservasite, but I don't care about the politics at the moment). The author of an op-ed piece declared something to be "a cross before werewolves"--warding off something nasty that was trying to get in, I guess from context.

Only--maybe I've spent too much (or too little?) time reading horror and folklore, but to the best of my knowledge, a cross before a werewolf doesn't do anything at all, unless it's silver and re-shaped into a weapon. I guess you could stab a werewolf with a silver cross, if you got close enough, and in Silver Bullet, a silver crucifix is melted down to make the title object... but a cross in front of a werewolf? Dude. Crosses in front of vampires have a history. Werewolves are considered demonic, but the religious paraphernelia haven't been especially prominent in lycanthropic lore.

Maybe this qualifies me as being way too picky over ephemera. But would it have been that hard to just say "a cross before vampires" instead?
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sreya From: sreya Date: December 9th, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Only tangentially related, but since you brought up werewolf lore - have you ever run across any werewolf stories where they leave behind stone clothing when they transform? My latin textbook had a short passage about it, and I was fascinated because I'd never heard of that before and went to find out if this was a common thing in Roman werewolf literature, but I couldn't find any reference to stone clothing anywhere. One of those little things I've been curious about ever since college.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
It rings a bell, but I don't remember where I read it. I think it was in a history of werewolf legends.
sreya From: sreya Date: December 9th, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
You mean it is out there? COOL! I'll have to start hunting for that again.
violetsocks From: violetsocks Date: December 9th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Sorry about coming out of no where with this inexplicable rush of fangirl shrieking, but I'm a big fan of medieval literature) EEE! I have run across that sort of myth before! I don't know if you've ever heard of a medieval woman writer named Marie de France, but she wrote several lais (poems, romance-themed, often with supernatural elements) that I love to pieces. My favorite one, "Bisclavret," and is about a werewolf who changes his shape by removing his clothes and hiding them behind a rock near a chapel. I actually have it quoted in my profile.

*leaps back into obscurity*
ashtur From: ashtur Date: December 9th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
What would be nice is if he did that intentionally, as a way of saying "um, sounds good but doesn't work the way you want it to,"... but I doubt that's what he's up to.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2005 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah--when I first read the title, that's what I assumed it would be. Like, say, "Increasing security after a random crime is like putting up a cross before werewolves... looks good, but kind of pointless."
marukka From: marukka Date: December 9th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well... generic/horror werewolf lore and historic lore about werewolves tend to be not very much the same thing. The latter is a lot more varied, for one thing. So there are stories about werewolves being driven off by crosses and the sign of the cross, which worked against pretty much anything non-Christian in much of old folklore, but I doubt that was what he was thinking of.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2005 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I did a lot of reading, and I never ran across one of those.
marukka From: marukka Date: December 9th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure I've seen it in Swedish folklore, where just shouting the name "Christ" in fear can be powerful enough drive off assorted nasties, though I don't have the big book of folklore here to do a check. Wikipedia seems to agree, whatever that's worth :)

But Swedish werewolf lore is pretty far away from the horror version in general (you become a werewolf by a curse or because your mother tried to use magic means for an easier birth, you transform about any time, during Thursdays or become a full-time wolf, and the best way of curing a werewolf is greeting them by their real name).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's also a whole Franco-Germanic variant involving brewing a special ointment which is spread on either the skin of the person wishing to transform, or a wolfskin which that person then wears.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: December 9th, 2005 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Might the writer have meant to imply that whatever he was talking about was INeffective, by crossing the mythologies in this way?
volandum From: volandum Date: December 9th, 2005 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
laureate05 From: laureate05 Date: December 9th, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hrm. Sounds like sloppy writing and mixed metaphors to me, but I'm mean.
dramaturgy From: dramaturgy Date: December 9th, 2005 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gah. No, that is annoying. It's not just you.
psychic_serpent From: psychic_serpent Date: December 9th, 2005 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
But would it have been that hard to just say "a cross before vampires" instead?

Evidently; it seems that this would have required the author to spontaneously develop a much higher IQ. :D

As for werewolf lore, there are a lot of different permutations, but I recently learned from The Werewolf Book*, a sort of encyclopedic reference source on shape-shifters, that the lycanthropic tendency being transferred via bite actually only dates from a film about fifty years ago; prior to that wizards and shamans were chiefly known for using potions, spells and rituals to transform themselves at will (not just at the full moon). However, I do like the bite transference method for the werewolf novel I'm writing because of the communicable disease metaphor; plus, the "bite method" has its own lore by now, and this all being made-up anyway I can do as I like. (So in theory, someone COULD write a story about a werewolf being warded off by a cross, but they'd be treading difficult ground in trying to establish this as a werewolf issue, rather than strictly the domain of vampires.) I'm going to be including the sort of animal transformation that's done at will, too, but that'll be strictly for a villain type (because our hero doesn't LIKE being a werewolf and this is His Burden).

* Unfortunately, I can't actually recommend this book. I'll still find it useful for some things, but the author takes a disturbingly Mulderesque tack; I was looking for folklore and previous usage of werewolves in films and books, whereas he keeps bringing up why werewolves really are REAL. Methinks someone had a bit too much peyote when he was visiting the shamans. ;)
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