MILITARY INITIATIONS: RITUAL TRANSFORMATION INTO A PREDATORY ANIMAL
The studies made by Lily Weiser, Otto Höfler, Stig Wikander, C. Widengren, H. Jeanmaire, and Georges Dumézil have markedly advanced our knowledge of the Indo-European military brotherhoods, and especially of their religious ideology and initiatory rituals. In the Germanic world these brotherhoods still existed at the end of the Volkerwandernng. Among the Iranians they are documented in the period of Zarathustra, but since a tart of the vocabulary typical of the Männerbflnde is also found in Vedic texts, there is no doubt that associations of young warriors already existed in the Indo-Iranian period. G. Dumnézil has demonstrated the survival of certain military initiations among the Celts and the Romans, and H. Jeanmaire has discovered vestiges of initiatory rituals among the Lacedaemonians. So it appears that the Indo-Europeans shared a common system of beliefs and rituals pertaining to young warriors.
Now the essential part of the military initiation consisted in ritually transforming the young warrior into some species of predatory wild animal. It was not solely a matter of courage, physical strength, or endurance, but 'of a magico-religious experience that radically changed the young warriors mode of being. He had to transmute his humanity by an access of aggressive and terrifying fury that made him like a raging carnivore.' Among the ancient Germans the predator-warriors were called berserker, associated with bears, literally 'warriors in the body-covering [serkrj] of a bear.' They were also known as itqkedhnar, 'wolf-skin men.' The bronze plaque from Torslunda shows a warrior disguised as a wolf. From all this, two facts emerge:
1. A young man became a redoubtable warrior by magically assimilating the behavior of a carnivore, especially a wolf;
2. He ritually donned the wolf-skin, either to share in the mode of being of a carnivore or to indicate that he had become a 'wolf.'
What is important for our investigation is the fact that the young warrior accomplished his transformation into a wolf by the ritual donning of a wolf-skin, an operation preceded or followed by a radical change in behavior. As long as he was wrapped in the animal's skin, he ceased to be a man, he was the carnivore itself: not only was he a ferocious and invincible warrior, possessed by the furor heroicus, he had cast off all humanity; in short, he no longer felt bound by the laws and customs of men. And in fact young warriors, not satisfied with claiming the right to commit rapine and terrorize the community during their ritual meetings, were able to behave like carnivores in eating, for example, human flesh. Beliefs in ritual or ecstatic lycanthropy are documented both among the members of North American and African secret societies and among the Germans, the Greeks, the Iranians, and the Indians. That there were actual instances of anthropophagic lycanthropy there is no reason whatever to doubt. The so-called leopard societies of Africa furnish the best example. But such sporadic cases of "lycanthropy" cannot account for the dissemination and persistence of beliefs in "wolf-men." On the contrary, it is the existence of brotherhoods of young warriors, or of magicians, who, whether or not they wear wolf-skins, behave like carnivores, that explains the dissemination of beliefs in lycanthropy.
The Iranian texts several times mention "two-pawed wolves," that is, members of the Mönnerbünde. The Dënkart even states that "two-pawed wolves" are "more deadly than wolves with fbur paws." Other texts term them keresa, "brigands, prowlers," who move about at night. The texts dwell on the fact that these "wolves live on corpses; however, without excluding the possibility of actual cannibalism, this would seem to be more in the nature of a stereotype used by Zarathustran polemicists against the members of the Männerbünde, who, in practicing their ceremonies, terrorized the villages and whose way of life was so different from that of the Iranian peasants and herders. In any case, mention is also made of their ecstatic orgies, that is, of the intoxicating drink that helped them to change into wild beasts. Among the ancestors of the Achaemenides there was also a family named saka haumavarka. Bartholomae and Wikander interpret the name: "those who change themselves into wolves (varka) in the ecstasy brought on by soma (hauma)." Now we know that down to the nineteenth century assemblies of young men included a banquet of food and drink stolen or obtained by force, especially alcoholic beverages.
WOLF IN SLAVIC MYTHOLOGY
The Wolf , hort – in Slavic mythology and folklore wolf is associated with shape-shifting (werewolves, Wolchs, Wurdalacks) endowed with great wisdom.
In Slavic folklore wolf personifies the dark cloud covering the sun, and a general darkness. Wolf is close in the mythological functions to other predators (raven, lynx and especially a bear) and it is closely connected with a dog. According to Slavic legends, god modeled wolf from clay or hewed it from a tree trunk, but could not put a soul in it, animate it. Recovered by the God, the wolf rushes to get a soul, but it suffices for a leg
. Chthonic properties of the wolf
(his origin connected with the earth surface, clay, legends about treasures ‘leaving’ the soil in the form of the wolf) put it together with reptiles, especially with snakes
. Snakes / reptiles (in Russian – ‘gadu’), cranes and jackdaws appeared from shavings of wolf’s made by devil.
Wolf is united with ungodly impure animals which are not used as food, characteristic attribute of all these creatures is blindness or ‘blindborness’. In symbolism of the wolf the attribute "alien" is a defining attribute. The wolf is perceived as alien, as messenger from other world
(divine and demonic). The wolf is comprehended as the foreigner – stranger – alien; for example flocks of wolves are called ‘horde’ [like Mongol-Tatar ‘horde’, invading Russia], in popular pagan religious plots [in Russian ‘zagovor’] wolves bear name of Jews
. Various alien parts of a living organism are connected with the wolf; particularly the wolf - is the name of an alien parasitic outgrowth on a tree or a ill black core in it; outgrowths and tumours, swellings of a body are treated with the wolf bone or with the help of a person who has eaten wolf meat.
The wolf acts as the representative of alien and demonic forces. The period of the highest activity of pack of wolves coincides with the period of the highest activity of the dark demonic forces. Wolf is considered a friend of demonic forces or a demonic creature. Czechs allegorically named devil as ‘wolf’. The wolf often serves as a horse for a witch. Southern Slaves named walking in the night dead man - vampire as a wolf. A groom, looking for the bride is symbolically associated with the wolf, looking for the prey. Functions of the intermediary between "this" and that" world, between people and evil spirits, between people and forces of other world are inherent to the wolf. To ensure that the wolf has not eaten grazed cattle, Slavs were putting iron in the furnace, sticking a knife in a table, or covering a pot in oven with the stone. At the first pasture of cattle with the same purpose Slavs close locks, strew ashes from oven on a threshold of a stable.
Gura � .V. Symbolics of animals in slavic national tradition. Мoscow, 1997. P. 122-159
Slavic Mythology, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Russian Academy of Sciences, Slavic Institute, Moscow, International Relationships Press, 2002, P 85-87. Fiery Snake
in Slavic Mythology is a Snakelike Demon with anthropomorphic features
. Cycle of myths about Fiery Snake is reflected in Serbian epic poems, ancient Russian epos about Peter and Fevronia from Murom, Russian epic tales, slavic pagan magic procedures [zagovor] and ancient Slavic epos traditions. Fiery Snake marries a woman (or rapes her), a creature of a Snake descendance is born thereafter (Fiery SnakeWolf), a son of Fiery Snake fights with his father and kills him
Wuk Ognezmij, the Fiery SnakeWolf
- in slavic mythology the hero, the character of the Serbian epos. It is born from the Fiery Snake, appears immersed in light and in human shape; is born ‘in a shirt’ or is covered with ‘wolf’s wool’ - a sign of a wonderful origin. Fiery SnakeWolf can turn into the wolf and other animals, including a bird; makes feats, using abilities of transformation and turning into animals. Wolch
— a mythologized hero of Russian folklore, Belongs to the most archaic layer in the Russian epic epos and possesses werewolf properties.
Birth of Wolch is wonderful: his mother, walking in a garden, fell off a stone and stumbled on the snake; then Snake twisted itself around her legs and ‘snake’s trunk beats her on white hips’; son Wolch is born, its birth is accompanied by nature catastrophies: thunder rattles, ground shivers, sea shivers, fish leave into the depth of the sea, birds are flying away high in heavens, animals hide in mountains
. Almoust immediately after being born, Wolch already speaks and puts on an armor. Having mastered art to be a werewolf at age 12 Wolch heads an army, and at age 15 is available for military endeavors. He studies grammar till the age 7, and at age 10 he comprehends ‘a wisdom’ to turn around and to become ‘a falcon the light’, the grey wolf, or an animal with golden horns. Having mastered art of ‘werewolfery’, Wolch learns that ‘Indian tsar’ is going to conquer Kiev. Wolch decides to outstrip the opponent and is going with his army to a campaign to conquer ‘Indian empire’. On a way Wolch practices and shows his army the art of cunning and wisdom, acting as the great hunter, the master of a natural world, first of all the world of animals. Having turned back into the wolf, Wolch in shape of a falcon beats geese, swans, ducks. Wolch feeds and nouriches, dresses and gives shoes to his army; he is always awake.
Having turned back into a falcon, Wolch arrives in chambers of Indian tsar Saltyku and overhears his conversation with queen [tsarina] Azvjakovna, young Elena Aleksandrovna. Having learned about intentions of tsar hostile to Russia, Wolch turns around into an ermine, goes down in a cellar, bites off bowstrings, neutralizes arrows and guns, again turns around into a falcon the light, arrives to the army and leads it to a fortified city of Indian tsar.
To get inside without being noticed, Wolch turns the soldiers into ants and together with them gets into city through a narrow crack, subjecting city to a terrible devastation, kills the Tzar, marries his wife, and gets his soldiers to marry ‘seven thousand’ of defeated young Indian girls.
The motive of transformation of Wolch (and his soldiers) into ants getting into a unapproachable fortress, reminds similar motive in connection with Indra the Thunderer (Regveda, I, 51, etc.).
Zeus approaches Eurimedusa also in the form of an ant. Their son Mirmidon (literally ‘of ants’) became the ancestor of Mirmidonites, ‘ant’ people. In Russian fairy tale Ivan Tsarevich, having turned into an ant, enters the crystal mountain, kills the Snake with 12 heads and releases the daughter of a tzar and marries her.
In the Novgorod legend about Wolf-magician Wolch, the senior son (which later gave his name to river Wolchov, before river was known as ‘a muddy river’) was ‘a devil serving magician’; who with his devilish means ‘turned into to a fierce animal Crocodile, blocking a waterway in Volkhov town to those who refused to warship him, some he devoured, others drawned . And ignorant people worshiped him as god and named him Thunderer or Perun (references to Snakelike Perun in Novgorod epos sources). Wolch built a city on place, called Perun’, and worshiped it. Devils strangled Wolch in Wolchov river, his body floated upwards and was buried by pagans. But in three days ‘Earth shed tears on the ground and has devoured a hellish body of a Crocodile, and his tomb went to the infernal bottom of the Earth’.
Zalmoxis, The Vanishing God by Mircea Eliade. The book was originally published in 1970 as De Zalmoxis a Gengis-Khan: Etudes comparatives sur le religions et le folklore de la Dacie et de l’Europe Orientel.
RELIGIOUS MEANINGS OF ETHNIC NAMES
According to Strabo, the original name of the Dacians was daoi. A tradition preserved by Hesychius informs us that daos was the Phrygian word for "wolf.' P. Kretschmer had explained daos by the root *dhäu, "to press, to squeeze, to strangle."' Among the words derived from this root we may note the Lydian Kandaules, the name of the Thracian war god, Kandaon, the Illyrian dhaunos (wolf), the god Daunus, and so on. The city of Daous-dava, in Lower Moesia, between the Danube and Mount Haemus, literally meant "village of wolves. Formerly, then, the Dacians called themselves "wolves" or "those who are like wolves," who resemble wolves. Still according to Strabo, certain nomadic Scythians to the east of the Caspian Sea were also called daoi. The Latin authors called them Daliae, and some Greek historians daai. In all probability their ethnic name was derived from Iranian (Saka) dahae, "wolf." But similar names were not unusual among the IndoEuropeans. South of the Caspian Sea lay Hyrcania, that is, in Eastern Iranian "Vehrkana," in Western Iranian "Varkana," literally the "country of wolves" (from the Iranian root vehrka, "wolf'). The nomadic tribes that inhabited it were called Hyrkanoi, "the wolves," by Greco-Latin authors. In Phrygia there was the tribe of the Orka (Orkoi). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolf
We may further cite the Lycaones of Arcadia, and Lycaonia or Lucaonia in Asia Minor, and especially the Arcadian Zeus Lykaios" and Apollo Lykagenes; the latter surname has been explained as "he of the she-wolf," "he born of the she-wolf," that is, born of Leto in the shape of a she-wolf. According to Heraclides Ponticus (Fragm. Hist. Gr. 218), the name of the Samnite tribe of the Lucani came from Lykos, "wolf." Their neighbors, the Hirpini, took their name from hirpus, the Samnite word for "wolf." At the foot of Mount Soracte lived the Hirpi Sorani, the "wolves of Sora" (the Volscian city). According to the tradition transmitted by Servius, an oracle had advised the Hirpi Sorani to live "like wolves," that is, by rapine. And in fact they were exempt from taxes and from military service, for their biennial rite-which consisted in walking barefoot over burning coals-was believed to ensure the fertility of the country. Both this shamanic rite and their living "like wolves" reflect religious concepts of considerable antiquity. There is no need to cite other examples. We will note only that tribes with wolf names are documented in places as distant as Spain (Loukentioi and Lucenses in Celtiberian Calaecia), Ireland, and England. Nor, indeed, is the phenomenon confined to the IndoEuropeans.
The fact that a people takes its ethnic name from the name of an animal always has a religious meaning. More precisely, the fact cannot be understood except as the expression of an archaic religious concept. In the case with which we are concerned, several hypotheses can be considered. First, we may suppose that the people derives its name from a god or mythical ancestor in the shape of a wolf or who manifested himself lycomorphically. The myth of a supernatural wolf coupling with a princess, who gives birth either to a people or a dynasty, occurs in various forms in Central Asia. But we have no testimony to its existence among the Dacians.
A second hypothesis comes to mind: the Dacians may have taken their name from a band of fugitives - either immigrants from other regions, or young men at odds with the law, haunting the outskirts of villages like wolves or bandits and living by rapine. The phenomenon is amply documented from earliest antiquity, and it survived in the Middle Ages. It is necessary to distinguish among:
a) adolescents who, during their initiatory probation, had to hide far from their villages and live by rapine;
b) immigrants seeking a new territory to settle in;
c) outlaws or fugitives seeking a place of refuge. But all these young men behaved "like wolves", were called "wolves", or enjoyed the protection of a wolf-god.
During his probation the Lacedaemonian kouros led the life of a wolf for an entire year: hidden in the mountains, he lived on what he could steal, taking care that no one saw him. Among a number of lndo-European peoples, emigrants, exiles, and fugitives were called "wolves." The Hittite laws already said of a proscribed man that he had "become a wolf.'' And in the laws of Edward the Confessor (ca. AD. 1000), the proscribed man had to wear a wolf headed mask (wolfhede). The wolf was the symbol of the fugitive, and many gods who protected exiles and outlaws had wolf deities or attributes. Examples are Zeus Lykoreius or Apollo Lykeios, Romulus and Remus, sons of the wolf-god Mars and suckled by the she-wolf of the Capitol, had been "fugitives." According to the legend, Romulus established a place of refuge for exiles and outlaws on the Capitol. Servius informs us that this asylum was under the protection of the god Lucoris. And Lucoris was identified with Lykoreus of Delphi, himself a wolfgod. Finally, a third hypothesis that may explain the name of the Dacians centers on the ability to change into a wolf by the power of certain rituals. Such a transformation may be connected with lycanthropy properly speaking-an extremely widespread phenomenon, but more especially documented in the BalkanoCarpathian region-or with a ritual imitation of the behavior and outward appearance of the wolf. Ritual imitation of the wolf is a specific characteristic of military initiations and hence of the Männerbünde, the secret brotherhoods of warriors. There are reasons to think that such rites and beliefs, bound up with a martial ideology, are what made it possible to assimilate fugitives, exiles, and proscribed men to wolves. To subsist, all these outlaws behaved like bands of young warriors, that is, like real 'wolves.'
Werewolf (also lycanthrope or wolfman) in folklore is a person who shapeshifts into a wolf or wolflike creature, either purposely, by using magic, or after being placed under a curse. They are said to be immortal. The medieval chronicler Gervase of Tilbury associated the transformation with the appearance of the full moon, but this concept was rarely associated with the werewolf until the idea was picked up by fiction writers. In popular culture, a werewolf can be killed if shot by a silver bullet, although this was not a feature of the folk legends.
The legends of ulfhednar mentioned in Vatnsdœla saga, Haraldskvæði and the Völsunga saga may be a source of the werewolf legends. These were vicious fighters analogous to the better known berserker, dressed in bear hides and said to channel the spirits of these animals, enhancing their own power and ferocity in battle; they were immune to pain and killed viciously in battle, like a wild animal. They are both closely associated with Odin.
In basque lanuage wolf souns as ‘ocho’, in Georgian epic there is a mythical personage – ‘Ocho pintre’ what means too hairy man.
So, in Slavic folclore we have a FireSnake [from a Halactic Federation ‘serving’ men] immersed in light who twists its body around Slav young woman legs, ‘its trunk beats her on white hips’, he rapes, forcibly impregnates her, then Slav woman gives birth to a Wolkh, a soulless half-wolf half-man like creature, a merciless predator who heads an army of likewise soulless soldiers to conquer other city, where he subjects entire city to devastation, kills tzar, marries tsarina and lets his predator soldiers marry young Slav girls to spread predator warrior genes in population. He also makes wonders, transforms itself and his ilk into other animals. I wonder if Merovings were associated in popular tradition with wolves. They seem to fit in that box. I didn’t research on that yet.