Benandanti

The place to talk about where a lot of things started. Stories and history, references, etc.
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vrikasatma
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Benandanti

Post by vrikasatma »

I'm surprised no-one has brought up the Benandanti, the so-called "Good guy werewolves" who gathered in warpacks on St. Lucia's Night and went to battle against the forces of hell.

There were apparently two branches, one group would do that and another, more solitary group that included "Saint" Christopher, that guarded the pathways of the dead and guided the dearly departed to their ultimate destinations.

A couple links:

http://www.themystica.com/mystica/artic ... thropy.htm

http://tmason.club.fr/WebPages/Publications/riots.htm

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Post by Trinity »

:read:

Whoa. In all my..., yeah more to read! :) ty.
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Post by Jamie »

These are cool, and they are not mentioned very much. However, from the material I've seen, "shapeshifters" would be a more accurate description that "werewolves" since they seen to turn into things like mice and housecats more often than wolves. Adam Douglas has some material on them in "The Beast Within" and "Spellbound" by Dominic Alexander also has some stuff.
In addition, there are very similar legends (involving werewolves this time, and not just shapeshifters) in Russia, Livonia and Lithuania.
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Post by WordWolf »

Actually, the legends of the Benandanti weren't EXACTLY the same as the
legends of the "dogs of God".
They seem to overlap a lot, and seem to share a common origin.

Neither "the Night Battles" nor "the Beast Within" said they were the same.
("The Beast Within" used "the Night Battles" as source material,
but Douglas' book was superior for us in every way-better written,
and written in a relevant style.)

All source information on the werewolves comes from Livonia, and
Jacob Thiess (often misspelled "Theiss", including by me.)
Thiess was one of many people accused out of the blue of practicing
witchcraft, serving the Devil, etc.
Almost all cases of accused meant that the person was then tortured,
and eventually they agreed with whatever the Inquisition was accusing
them of.
Thiess was different.
Thiess readily agreed that he was a werewolf. Everything ELSE he
vehemently denied. He said he was one of the dogs of God, werewolves
who served God and did battle at the world's end a few times a year
to ensure the survival of the crops. He refused to change his testimony
for ANYTHING.
He also refused the blessing of a priest on the grounds that he was
holier than priests.
I'm unsure if he said it, but I've seen the following quote
attributed to Jacob Thiess:
"I am as good a Christian as any of you!"

===========
If you dig into Thiess' claims and the claims of the Benandanti,
you'll see they look related.
Except for the "turning into a wolf" thing, of course.

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Post by Trinity »

And that folks, is why he is called word wolf. :)

*chuckles*

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Post by vrikasatma »

Hey, glad to see another Bookie here :)

:read2:
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Post by WordWolf »

Hey, Trin.
===

I just got around to adding the icon.
I've used wolf-with-book icons for a long time.
After all, I've been "WordWolf" for...over 10 years, actually.
It was old hat when I finally got online.

===
The Christopher legend started out as a cynocephalus.

See, the Day of Pentecost is in the Bible, in Acts 2.
One verse says that there were "devout Jews out of every nation under
heaven."
Now, that's hyperbole (a legitimate figure of speech), and all the countries
are NAMED later in the chapter.
The Day of Pentecost occurred during the Jewish holiday "the Feast of
Weeks", which was why Jews had convened at the temple in Jerusalem.

HOWEVER,
some people didn't know that, and just "ran with it."

So,
when they did depictions of Pentecost, they drew in people from every
nation they knew of. That includes the legendary peoples they "knew"
existed-whether where was proof or not. So, they drew in
"cynocephali", or "dog-heads."
Those were basically anthopomorphic large canine-headed humanoids,
basically crinos garou minus the claws.
(See? They didn't make up everything at White Wolf...)

Anyway, with time, there grew stories of cynocephali interacting with
saints, and conversions of cynocephali to The Faith, and so on.

One legend was of a cynocephali named "Reprobus" (or "bad guy"),
who converted to Christianity, and became known later as
"Christopher", or "Christ-carrier."
In later legends, the dog-head was removed and he was
"sanitized". He was no longer a cynocephalus-he was a Plinean giant.
Same height, but minus the animal traits.
Then the story sprang up how he got his name-carrying a Christ-child
across a river. According to the story, he spent a lot of time hanging
around the river, waiting for kids to show up so he could give them a
lift. (This reminded me of a description in the book
"Catcher in the Rye" which explained the name of the book.)
That it wasn't a REAL story is obvious in hindsight.
Supposedly, he was born with the name "Christ-carrier",
but it wasn't until he was a full adult that the incident occurred that
prompted his birth-name.

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Post by vrikasatma »

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Post by WordWolf »

You've got some good stuff there, and some interesting stuff there.
However, I have to disagree with a few things, and invoke
Occam's Razor for answers.
vrikasatma wrote: When I heard St. Christopher was demoted from sainthood and "renounced" as a syncretization of ancient Egyptian beliefs in a dog-headed figure, as opposed to a real historical personage, the legend of the Dog-Headed St. Christopher started to make sense to me. "Why of course, it's Anpu! All the elements are there."
"St Christopher" was deleted for the simple reason that he never
existed. He was made up, and had a name that makes it obvious he was
made up. The same reasoning is why "St Veronica" was deleted.
She never existed, and her name also comes from her story-
"vera icon", or "true image"-the image on her veil.
Any other "reasons" for the removal of EITHER are coincidental.
Now when I read that "Saint" Christopher was connected with the Benandanti, I did some more thinking and that made sense, too.
I've never dug deeply into the Benandanti's history. However, a LOT of
Christians revered St Christopher, patron saint of TRAVELERS and
lost things. (That this ties him back to wolves, I suspect is an interesting
coincidence, but not intentional.) If the Benandanti were involved
in supposed TRAVELS and especially were concerned with returning
safely to their bodies (if not, they were fools), St Christopher was the
obvious choice of "patrons" . You don't invoke a messenger, say,
for a protection job.
If he was actually revered by Thiess and the "dogs of God" in
Livonia, then the same connection may apply-
they claimed to travel and fight as well- or it may be the
cynocephali connection, or BOTH (which would be impressive.)
I have not seen anything connecting them. This is no guarantee there
is no connection, however.
The main body of the Benandanti, indeed their name, comes from Italy. There was a sizeable cult of Anubis in pagan Italy because He was the companion — some say the early consort — of Isis who had a big following in Rome. So I did what they did, reclaimed the archetype of the canine-headed psychopomp, gave Him a Paganized name in a reverse-syncretization, and pray to Him as Christophoros — not "Christ-carrier" but "Light-bearer" ("Christ," as I was taught, meaning "light").
You were taught incorrectly,
unless someone's claiming a "hidden, esoteric, gnostic" meaning of "Christ".

The Hebrew word "Messiah" and Greek word "Christos" both translate
into English as the same thing: "Anointed", or "Anointed One",
carrying the connotation that the one anointed is so anointed by
God. The meaning of "anointing" is retained in terms like
"chrism", which is an oil used for anointing.

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Post by NightStorm »

Point there Mentor ^

Through my studies on Mythology that is an interesting notion on Anubis.
However I think you got him mixed up with someone else.
Anubis is the embalmer-god. He is associted with priests and the muffication of Orsiris. There is a jackle god simlar to Anpu.. I believe he is the man you looking for, with the association to dreams sleep and traveling. His name?
Heh to be honest I forget..I think he starts with a "W"

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Post by Vilkacis »

NightStorm wrote:There is a jackle god simlar to Anpu.. I believe he is the man you looking for, with the association to dreams sleep and traveling. His name?
Heh to be honest I forget..I think he starts with a "W"
Wepwawet

He originally was depicted with a wolf's head, but was later connected with Anupu/Anubis and became seen as his son -- and a jackal. He and Anupu were later confused and merged together. Bah.

At least, that's what Wikipedia says.

-- Vilkacis

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Post by vrikasatma »

Wepawet = Ap-Uautu. They're different pronunciations, but the same entity. Same as Anubis = Anpu = Anpw = Ienpu = Yenipu. The pronunciation depended on which nome (county) you came from.

I use Ap-Uautu because Wepawet is a mouthful and I like the sound of "Ap-Uautu" better. What's the correct pronunciation? Don't know, ask a Coptic, it's said some of them still speak the old language. I'd love to hook up with one and learn Medu Neteru but Egypt isn't exactly the safest place for a solo white lady right now...to me, a language isn't worth getting raped or blown up for :eyebrow:

Anyway...yes, WordWolf, I knew about the "Christ" = "Anointed One," that's the common parlance. My teacher did have something of a mystic bent and he said it could also be translated as "Light." Probably a "Christ being the light of the world" type of association. To give you an idea of how mystic he was, he got his M.Div. at University of Arizona Flagstaff, had a collection of kachina dolls, and caught me talking to them once when Mom and I went to visit. He took me aside and said, "You can hear them, too, huh? It's a gift from God. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise." [/sharing]

Back to Lycopolis...
There was a triad of Wolf-Gods there: Anpu the Corpse Lord, Ap-Uautu the Opener of the Ways, and Khenti-Amentiu, Lord of the Hidden Lands. It's said the last was absorbed and became a part of Ausir but originally He was Iset's companion. I once saw designs for a tarot deck based on Their dyad. Anpu was a black hound, Ap-Uautu was grey, and Khenti-Amentiu was white.

Many Kemite Pagans I know who do work with Them use whatever canine derivation that resonates with them best; there seems to be a tie between Wolf and Jackal but have you seen the Stuffimals from Stuffe & Nonsense? She made an Ap-Uautu patterned after the Ethiopian wolf, and He had red fur, like one. I would tend to believe that; Ethiopia — Kush — was part of the Pharaonic empire and it's entirely possible that some Ethiopian wolves would be brought as part of tribute to Pharaoh. It's most likely a case of life imitating art because the canid was an important...well, okay, let's call a spade a spade, Wolf/Jackal was a "totem" of Upper Egypt.

People say "There are no wolves in Egypt" but that's assuming you're talking about the timber wolf. Ethiopian wolves are full wolves, they even howl like them, and I imagine their range extended from Ethiopia all the way up to the Mediterranean in pre-dynastic times. The Sahara and Gizeh used to be a lush plain as recently as 5,000 years ago so naturally there'd be predators of all types following the game herds that lived on it. And humans have always been in East Africa and the Mediterranean coast. I'll have to look it up some more, but it wouldn't be a huge stretch to believe that there were (Ethiopian) wolves in the Nilotic Plain.
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Post by WolfVanZandt »

Actually, there was a Christopher in the North African contingency of the Roman legions and he was martyred in the 5th Century. He was most likely from Syria (which is where he was martyred). I suspect that he didn't have a dog's head and the legend about him carying Christ across a river is probably just that - a legend, but he very probably existed.

There's a very good chance the European Therians (Scythian origin) were used by the church as a proto-Inquisition - there are hints of that in modern Eastern European Werelore. THat's a possible source of the Dogs of God. The Dominicans took over the appelation when they entered the Inquistion using their name as a sort of pun - Domini Canis.

And, of course the Lycanthropic Benandante and the Dogs of God were almost certainly different people but I'm not so sure they didn't have the same roots since both seemed to carry many of the same shamanic trappings. Their jobs were different. The Benandantes were the "ghost busters" of their day - they went out after paranormal disturbances. The Dogs of God were inforcers of the church. THey were concerned with people who neglected their churchly duties.

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Post by vrikasatma »

Yeah, according to the legendry, the Benandanti were what we call dream-shifters — meaning, they couldn't p-shift, it all happened entirely in their dreams.

I was thinking of putting down my iron staff and taking up the fennel rod and going into battle with them on Santa Lucia's night...didn't happen, I was sick. Maybe I'll wait for John's Night/Walpurgisnacht. I heard from another source that the battles between the Thiessian Benandanti and the "witches and demons" was more like a sports contest than a real battle — probably a lot of fist-shaking, chest-beating, shouting, stick-waving, sabre-rattling until we're all blue in the face and hoarse and then we just repair to our various bars and pubs and drink the night away...

H'mm. :idea2: I know some of the Seattle Knights, we have horses, maybe we can make wolf masks and fennel staves and re-enact a Benandanti battle in live action :)
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Shamandantis

Post by WolfVanZandt »

Lemme tell you a little story.

Once there were a tribe of shamans called the Neuri. Each one a Shaman. They moved in and out of the shadow worlds at will. They were also great healers - not only of illness but of famine (because they understood nature), and of misfortune (because they could feel the tides of fortune), and of poverty (because they were nortorous scoundrels and theives). Too bad they were some of the most bloodthirsty (cannibal, actually) horrors that occupied the known world.

But when they left the tribe, they blended in well with the people around them and actually showed an altruistic bent. Therefore, they were highly sought after as healers and magicians, and after the great dispersion, they had a place in the world. But, again, too bad - they were so few. And being wanted can be bad if you're too wanted.

So as much as they could, they took on apprentices from outside their own kind and people beside Neuri became, to a certan, but useful, degree shamans, and the profession spread.

The Benandante were simply urban shamans. They, like all other shamans by definition, traveled the shadow lands fighting the night battles.

But Weres were the first and the true good walkers.

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Re: Benandanti

Post by blackwolfhell »

THis is the first I heard of these werewolves.
Release all that you hold dear, and become the night.
Werewolves don't get high on drugs, they run

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Re: Benandanti

Post by Cyberwatt »

Just in case anyone's interested, my Inimicus project has been about these very creatures (albeit tinged with Lovecraftian elements). Check out the link in my signature if you're curious.
http://thevindicad.blogspot.com/ - The new apocalyptic serial novel. With werewolves!

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Re: Benandanti

Post by vrikasatma »

When I was at BayCon a couple weeks ago, the subject of the Benandanti came up on one of the panels. Much interest was expressed and I was approached by several people who wanted to know more, after the panel broke up.

I've done a little more reading into the legendry and found a contrarian view of the Benandanti. Chew on this for a bit:

The article held that the Benandanti were the forces of conformity, normalcy and lockstep mediocrity. The author expressed his contempt for their society and posited that their foil was not witches and demons, but Erlequino (Harlequin), who represents the forces of chaos, rebellion and trickery.

My personal feeling is that he was addressing the Theissian bearers of the fennel staff rather than the Chrisophoroan bearers of the iron staff. The latter I view as beings who understand and respect the place of Death holds in the natural scheme of things. Chaos can be a good thing but it must also be channeled, otherwise life becomes a taxing, pathetic exercise in futility. Conformity traps souls but Chaos breaks them. Order makes room for everything — including Chaos. Chaos makes room for everything — except Order.

We've all had days like that. Nothing worked out! Everything you strove, planned and hoped for went awry, even to the point of catastrophe! That's Erlequino. What happens when the crops go bad? People starve and die.
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Re: Benandanti

Post by Kveldulf »

Interesting stuff indeed!

I was not even slightly familiar with these legends, or with Theiss...my doctorate is in Old Norse religion (and specifically the worship of Odhinn), so I know a great deal about Scandinavian werewolves, with a strong focus on the role of the hide-shifting/ hide-faring/berserkergang motifs, but the idea of a Christian werewolf as a "Hound of God" is new and fascinating to me.
Sounds like there could be a great story in it, too...

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