Werewolf Week, Religious Returns: St. Augustine on Lycanthropy

In discussing tales of Diomedes’ companions being turned into birds, Augustine in De Civitate Dei (City of God) discusses werewolves (18.17, the full text):

“In order to make this seem more likely, Varro reports other fantastic tales concerning the infamous witch Circe, who transformed Odysseus’ companions into beasts, and concerning the Arcadians, who were by chance transformed when they swam across a certain lake in which they were turned into wolves. Then, they lived as wolves in the same region. If they did not eat human flesh, then they would be returned to human form after swimming across the same lake again.

werewolf-histories

And he also specifies that a certain Demanaetus tasted of the sacrifice which the Arcadians used to make to the Lycaean god, after the child was burned on the altar, and that he transformed into a wolf and, once he became a man again, competing in boxing at the Olympian games and achieved a victory. Varro does not believe for this reason that Pan or Jupiter were given the name “Lykaios” in Arcadia for any other reason than their ability to turn men into wolves, since they did not believe that this could happen except through divine power. As you know, a wolf is called lykos in Greek, and this is where the name Lykaian comes from. Varro adds that the Roman Luperci arose from their own mysteries similarly.

But what can we who talk about these things say about this kind of deceit by the devil’s forces?”

Augustine goes on to object to these tales and discuss Apuleius’ Golden Ass. I started translating this, but it is a bit of a Halloween buzzkill..

No Room For Werewolves in this city...
No Room For Werewolves in this city…

[XVII] Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines.

Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Sed de ista tanta ludificatione daemonum nos quid dicamus…

Werewolf Week, Religious Edition: Augustine on Lycanthropy

In discussing tales of Diomedes’ companions being turned into birds, Augustine in De Civitate Dei (City of God) discusses werewolves (18.17, the full text):

“In order to make this seem more likely, Varro reports other fantastic tales concerning the infamous witch Circe, who transformed Odysseus’ companions into beasts, and concerning the Arcadians, who were by chance transformed when they swam across a certain lake in which they were turned into wolves. Then, they lived as wolves in the same region. If they did not eat human flesh, then they would be returned to human form after swimming across the same lake again.

werewolf-histories

And he also specifies that a certain Demanaetus tasted of the sacrifice which the Arcadians used to make to the Lycaean god, after the child was burned on the altar, and that he transformed into a wolf and, once he became a man again, competing in boxing at the Olympian games and achieved a victory. Varro does not believe for this reason that Pan or Jupiter were given the name “Lykaios” in Arcadia for any other reason than their ability to turn men into wolves, since they did not believe that this could happen except through divine power. As you know, a wolf is called lykos in Greek, and this is where the name Lykaian comes from. Varro adds that the Roman Luperci arose from their own mysteries similarly.

But what can we who talk about these things say about this kind of deceit by the devil’s forces?”

Augustine goes on to object to these tales and discuss Apuleius’ Golden Ass. I started translating this, but it is a bit of a Halloween buzzkill..

No Room For Werewolves in this city...
No Room For Werewolves in this city…

[XVII] Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines.

Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Sed de ista tanta ludificatione daemonum nos quid dicamus…

Why Doesn’t Remembering Sadness Make Me Sad?

Augustine, Confessions X. 21-22

“The same memory holds my mind’s affections too—not in that manner in which the mind has them when it is experiencing them, but in a very different manner, just as the power of memory conducts itself. For I remember that I was once happy even when I am not happy; and I may recall that I was previously said without being said; I can recollect that I once feared something without fear and also remember ancient desire without feeling desire. But sometimes it is the opposite: I remember previous sadness when I am happy and happiness when I am sad.

This fact is not remarkable for the body: the soul is a different thing from the body. So if I take pleasure in remembering prior pain, this is not surprising. Here, honestly, the mind may also be like memory itself. For when we command that something be recalled, we say “look, keep that in mind.” And when we forget, we said “it’s not in my mind” and “it slipped from my mind”, calling memory itself our mind—although were this the case, why is it that when I recall my past sadness while I am happy, my soul keeps its happiness and my memory its sadness and my mind is happy because of the happiness within it even though the memory which is within it is sad?

Perhaps this is because the memory isn’t integral to the mind? Who could say this? It is not unlikely that the memory is something like the mind’s stomach and happiness and sadness are like its sweet or bitter food. When they are contained within memory, they are unable to be tasted like food taken into the stomach. It is absurd to think that this things are comparable—but still, they are not completely different.”

 

  1. (21) Affectiones quoque animi mei eadem memoria continet, non illo modo quo eas habet ipse animus cum patitur eas, sed alio multum diverso, sicut sese habet vis memoriae. nam et laetatum me fuisse reminiscor non laetus, et tristitiam meam praeteritam recordor non tristis, et me aliquando timuisse recolo sine timore et pristinae cupiditatis sine cupiditate sum memor. aliquando et e contrario tristitiam meam transactam laetus reminiscor et tristis laetitiam. quod mirandum non est de corpore: aliud enim animus, aliud corpus. itaque si praeteritum dolorem corporis gaudens memini, non ita mirum est. hic vero, cum animus sit etiam ipsa memoria—nam et cum mandamus aliquid ut memoriter habeatur, dicimus, “vide ut illud in animo habeas,” et cum obliviscimur, dicimus, “non fuit in animo” et “elapsum est animo,” ipsam memoriam vocantes animum—cum ergo ita sit, quid est hoc, quod cum tristitiam meam praeteritam laetus memini, animus habet laetitiam et memoria tristitiam laetusque est animus ex eo quod inest ei laetitia, memoria vero ex eo quod inest ei tristitia tristis non est? num forte non pertinet ad animum? quis hoc dixerit? nimirum ergo memoria quasi venter est animi, laetitia vero atque tristitia quasi cibus dulcis et amarus: cum memoriae commendantur, quasi traiecta in ventrem recondi illic possunt, sapere non possunt. ridiculum est haec illis similia putare, nec tamen sunt omni modo dissimilia.
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School and Its Attendant Sorrow

(This is perhaps out of place now that the academic year is over; I will have to post it again in August when it feels a bit more relevant!)

Augustine, Confessions 1.9

“From there I was sent to school, so that I could learn my letters, though I (wretch that I was) could not see what use there was in them. Nevertheless, if I were lazy in my studies, I was beaten. This practice was praised by our ancestors, and many before us who led that life constructed these sorrowful paths through which we are compelled to trudge on with multiplied labor and grief to the sons of Adam.”

inde in scholam datus sum ut discerem litteras, in quibus quid utilitatis esset ignorabam miser. et tamen, si segnis in discendo essem, vapulabam. laudabatur enim hoc a maioribus, et multi ante nos vitam istam agentes praestruxerant aerumnosas vias, per quas transire cogebamur multiplicato labore et dolore filiis Adam.

Don’t Bother Me, I’m Reading!

Augustine on Ambrose, Confessions 6.3

“But when he [St. Ambrose] was reading, his eyes were lead along the pages and his heart was revealing their sense, but his voice and tongue maintained silence. Often, when we were in his presence (for he prohibited no one from coming in, nor was it his habit that an entrant should be announced to him), we would see him reading silently – never otherwise. After sitting in unbroken silence (who, indeed,would burden a man so intent on something?), we would leave him. We conjectured that when he had seized upon that small interval of time for rejuvenating his mind, taking a break from the tumult of other people’s affairs, he did not want to be summoned away to something else, so he took care lest some eavesdropper get caught up in it would hear something which the author of the book being read had expressed unclearly, thus making it necessary for Ambrose to explain and discuss various difficult questions. Then, by spending his free minutes on such a task, he would get through fewer books than he wished, even though the cause of preserving his voice, which was easily wrecked, had been a more just reason for reading silently.”

“Hey get the fuck outta here, I’m reading!”

sed cum legebat, oculi ducebantur per paginas et cor intellectum rimabatur, vox autem et lingua quiescebant. saepe cum adessemus (non enim vetabatur quisquam ingredi aut ei venientem nuntiari mos erat), sic eum legentem vidimus tacite et aliter numquam, sedentesque in diuturno silentio (quis enim tam intento esse oneri auderet?) discedebamus et coniectabamus eum parvo ipso tempore quod reparandae menti suae nanciscebatur, feriatum ab strepitu causarum alienarum, nolle in aliud avocari et cavere fortasse ne, auditore suspenso et intento, si qua obscurius posuisset ille quem legeret, etiam exponere esset necesse aut de aliquibus difficilioribus dissertare quaestionibus, atque huic operi temporibus impensis minus quam vellet voluminum evolveret, quamquam et causa servandae vocis, quae illi facillime obtundebatur, poterat esse iustior tacite legendi. quolibet tamen animo id ageret, bono utique ille vir agebat.

Reading aloud is often viewed with some derision in the modern world, but it was the default mode of reading in antiquity. Augustine (4th-5th centuries BCE) is a comparatively late author, yet found Ambrose’s habit of silent reading sufficiently remarkable to record here.

I confess that I usually read silently, yet I find that it is – in contradistinction to the suggestion here – the surest way to guarantee that someone will assume that you are at your leisure and effectively begging to be interrupted.

Werewolf Week: Augustine on Arcadian Werewolf Legends

From Augustine’s City of God XVIII.17

“Varro adds to this by relating other things no less incredible about that most renowned witch Circe, who changed the companions of Ulysses into beasts, and about the Arcadians, who after drawing lots would swim across a certain pool and there be turned into wolves; they would then live with similar wild beasts in the deserts of that region. If, however, after nine years they had not tasted of human flesh, they would be turned back into humans if they swam back across the pond. He also mentions that a certain Demaenetus had tasted a part of the sacrifice in the form of a burnt boy which the Arcadians used to offer to their god Lycaeus; he was turned into a wolf and after ten years restored to his human form. He then practiced boxing and won that contest in the Olympics. The same historian thinks that such a name was not given to Pan Lycaeus and Jupiter Lycaeus for any other reason than this transformation into wolves, which they used to think could not happen but by divine influence. (For, a wolf is called a lykos in Greek, from which it appears that the name of Lycaeus is derived. He also says that the Romans were called Luperci as though derived from the seed of those mystery rites.)”

Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines. Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Werewolf Week, Religious Returns: St. Augustine on Lycanthropy

In discussing tales of Diomedes’ companions being turned into birds, Augustine in De Civitate Dei (City of God) discusses werewolves (18.17, the full text):

“In order to make this seem more likely, Varro reports other fantastic tales concerning the infamous witch Circe, who transformed Odysseus’ companions into beasts, and concerning the Arcadians, who were by chance transformed when they swam across a certain lake in which they were turned into wolves. Then, they lived as wolves in the same region. If they did not eat human flesh, then they would be returned to human form after swimming across the same lake again.

werewolf-histories

And he also specifies that a certain Demanaetus tasted of the sacrifice which the Arcadians used to make to the Lycaean god, after the child was burned on the altar, and that he transformed into a wolf and, once he became a man again, competing in boxing at the Olympian games and achieved a victory. Varro does not believe for this reason that Pan or Jupiter were given the name “Lykaios” in Arcadia for any other reason than their ability to turn men into wolves, since they did not believe that this could happen except through divine power. As you know, a wolf is called lykos in Greek, and this is where the name Lykaian comes from. Varro adds that the Roman Luperci arose from their own mysteries similarly.

But what can we who talk about these things say about this kind of deceit by the devil’s forces?”

Augustine goes on to object to these tales and discuss Apuleius’ Golden Ass. I started translating this, but it is a bit of a Halloween buzzkill..

No Room For Werewolves in this city...
No Room For Werewolves in this city…

[XVII] Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines.

Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Sed de ista tanta ludificatione daemonum nos quid dicamus…