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Werewolves of Ireland

Once upon a century, (the 6th), an important abbot by the name of Saint Natalis became very annoyed with Clan Allta in County Meath. Very ticked off. So he put a curse on them. The entire clan. His curse decreed that two members of this unfortunate family had to take the form of a wolf for seven years. In shifts. After seven years, if they survived in the wild, they could return to the clan and another two clan members would take their place. And so on. For eternity. It is entirely possible that this clan is still under this curse.

There is a documented story written in the 12th century, 600 years after the ill-tempered abbot that describes a priest traveling at night and running into one of these Clan Allta werewolves. Pick up a copy of Giraldus Cambrensis’s Topographica Hibernica next time you go to the library and you can read the story yourself. Naturally the priest was a bit frightened. But since the wolf was chatting him up and speaking human and appeared to be distressed, this nice priest, possibly embarrassed by his colleague Abbot Natalis’s bad temper, took the time to listen to an unusual request from the werewolf.

The priest was asked to accompany the werewolf deep into the forest where his wolf-wife (a wolfen) was resting, close to death. The priest agreed and gave the wolfen the Last Rites. Then the situation got sticky. Even long ago, the maxim “give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile” was in place. The wolf asked the priest to give the wolfen Holy Communion. The man-wolf pointed out that obviously Divine Providence had sent the priest. The priest had to agree but was a bit reluctant as the seminary had never mentioned what to do if a werewolf requests Holy Communion. But when the man-wolf peeled the fur off the wolfen and revealed the body of an old woman, the priest decided to give her Communion.

“No good deed goes unpunished” is a fact of life. The whole issue turned theological when this holy priest told his confessor what he had done. After synods of bishops and abbots failed to resolve the important theological significance of a werewolf receiving the sacraments, it went to the Vatican itself for the last word on the matter. The big issues were: Was this creature man or beast? And, if you killed a werewolf, would you be a murderer or a hunter? The whole thing was eventually declared a miracle, with no practical advice on future werewolf sacramental issues.

Finally, there are possibly other werewolves in Ireland who are just the regular kind. Like Lon Chaney, they turn into a wolf at night and the next morning, they are back to normal. In Ireland, it is thought that werewolves tend to run in families. Much valuable information is available about what to do and how to discover if your own family has one or more of these regular, undercover werewolves.

The following important information will help you. How do you spot a werewolf? It’s not too difficult if you know what to look for. A werewolf is exhausted during the day from creeping around all night looking for things to eat. So if someone you know just won’t get up easily in the morning, do not buy the “I’m just not a morning person” excuse. That person could be a werewolf. Another thing to look for is a wound of some sort on this sleepy head. If he/she/it had attacked an animal or human the night before that put up a good fight and wounded this werewolf, those same wounds will appear on its human body the next day. So look for scratches and do not buy “the cat clawed me” excuse. Be vigilant. But whatever you do, do not pray to Saint Natalis for assistance. He might take it the wrong way.

Brenna Briggs is the author of the Liffey Rivers Irish Dancer Mysteries.

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