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King James and the Werewolves

Werewolf woodcutThe earliest known writing about werewolves – in the Scots language – dates from 1597. No less a personage than King James VI wrote briefly about the subject. The idea of the werewolf had really taken off in Europe in the wake of a famous murder case that occurred in Germany in the lifetime of King James. Although the king believed in witches, he was not, like many of his subjects, so ready to believe everything about the supernatural world without some degree of scepticism. James did not think, for example, that men actually turned into wolves but rather they suffered from a form of madness (‘superabundance of melancholie’) which made them act like wolves. In the manuscript of his book ‘Daemonologie’ the king discussed the idea of werewolves in the form of a dialogue as follows:

Q. Is not oure warre uoulfis then a sorte of thaise spreitis that trublis & hantis sum housis or solitarie placis.

A. Thaire hes indeid bene ane aulde opinion of siclyke thingis for by the greekis thay uaire callid likanthropoy quhilke signifies men uolfis but to tell you simple my opinion in this, gif any sicc thing hes bene I tak it to haue proceidit but of ane naturall superabundance of melancholie quhilke as ue reid that it hes maid sum to think thaim selfis pitcharis, sum horse, & sum ane kind of beast or other, sa suppone I that it hes sa uitiat the imagination & memorie of sum per lucida interualla it hes sa heichlie occupied thaim that thay haue thocht thaim selfis uerrie uolfis indeid at thay tymes & sa counterfitted thair actionis in ganging on thaire handes & feit, preassing to deuoure uemen & bairnis fechting & snatching uith all the curr doggis & in using siklyke actionis & sa to becum beastis by imagination as nabachadnezer uas seuen yearis, but as to thaire hyding of thair slouches & inabilitie to gang up stairis I tak that to be but eikit by uncertaine report the authour of all lyes.

In the original text above the spelling ‘u’ at the beginnings of words is pronounced as a ‘w’ while ‘ou’ is pronounced as ‘oo’. Haue and gif are pronounced as ‘hay-v’ and ‘geef’. Note also ‘uemen’ and ‘seuen’ pronounced as ‘weemen’ an ‘seeven’.


  • King James and the Werewolves