Monday, March 12, 2007

Tis Like the Howling of Irish Wolves Against the Moone

In a thirteenth-century Latin poem on the Wonders of Ireland, immediately before a description of a man who lived headless for 7 years and a few entries before yet another one of those surprising references to ships floating in the air, there's this:
De hominibus qui se vertunt in lupos

Sunt homines quidam Scottorum gentis habentes
Miram naturam majoram ab origine ductam,
Qua cito quando volunt ipsos se vertere possunt
Nequiter in formas lacerantum dente luporum,
Unde videntur oves occidere saepe gementes;
Sed cum clamor eos hominum seu cursus eorum
Fustibus aut armis terret, fugiendo recurrunt.
Cum tamen hoc faciunt sua corpora vera relinquunt,
Atque suis mandant ne quisquam moverit illa;
Si sic eveniat, nec ad illa redire valebunt.
Si quid eos laedat, penetrent si vulnera quaeque,
Vere in corporibus semper cernuntur eorum.
Sic caro cruda haerens in veri corporis ore,
Cernitur a sociis, quod nos miramur et omnes.
(Thomas Wright and James Orchard Halliwell, eds, Reliquiae Antiquiae: Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts Illustrating Chiefly Early English Literature and the English Language, Vol I, London, 1841, 105; also available online here in Mommsen's edition; best edition in Gwynn's The Writings of Bishop Patrick, Dublin, 1955)

"There are certain men of the Celtic race who have a marvelous power which comes to them from their forebears. For by an evil craft they can at will change themselves into the shape of wolves with sharp tearing teeth, and often thus transformed will they fall upon poor defenseless sheep, but when folk armed with clubs and weapons run to attack them shouting lustily then do they flee and scour away apace. Now when they are minded to transform themselves they leave their own bodies, straitly charging their friends neither to move or touch them at all, however lightly, for if this be done never will they be able to return to their human shape again. If whilst they are wolves anyone hurts or wounds them, then upon their own bodies the exact wound or mark can plainly be seen. And with much amaze have they been espied in human form with gobbets of raw bleeding flesh champed in their jaws" (lovely quaint translation from Montague Summers, The Werewolf in Lore and Legend, 1933, 207-208)

According to Bernard Merdrignac, "Les loups, saint Guénolé et son double," in Religion et mentalités au Moyen Âge, 2003, 457-65 (via Hervé Martin), the poem is a paraphrase of material by an eleventh-century Bishop of Dublin, Patrick (d. 1084). In other words, it's a pre-conquest poem likely revived for use in an Ireland conquered yet again. Apart from the Merdrignac and the Martin (presumably, since I've yet read it), the poem doesn't yet seem to have received what we owe it. A search of google books turns up virtually nothing; the International Medieval Database suggests Máire West, "Aspects of díberg in the tale Togail Bruidne Da Derga," in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 49-50 (1997): 950-964; and the closest the MLA gets us is Winifried Schleiner, "'Tis Like the Howling of Irish Wolves Against the Moone': A Note on As You Like It, V.ii.109," English Language Notes 12 (1974): 5-8. I'm certainly missing something, as this putatively exhaustive search turns up neither the Merdrignac nor the Martin nor the work on wolves by Philippe Ménard or Aleks Pluskowski. In other words, I'm probably missing something, but all I have right now is my own library and the false plenitude of the internets.

I don't have much to say about the poem yet. My point here is simply to introduce it in the hopes that someone will recall an essential article on the poem, invisible to google books and the main databases, or, better yet, in the hopes that it generates interpretation and wonder from my co-bloggers and our readers. For now, I'm struck first by the poem's muddling of responsibility for the lycanthropy. Does the power to turn into wolves come "ab origine ductam"? In other words, is the power racial and hence to some degree outside their power? Is it a natural wonder ("miram naturam")? Or is it by will ("quando volunt")? Whence comes the evil (since they're changing shape "nequiter")? Or are these the wrong questions to ask?

I also wonder about the "men who run at them armed with clubs and weapons" [q: what makes a club different from armum?]--their Irish (?) enemies--and about suis--their Irish (?) Werewolf (?) companions? Who colludes and who does not? And, to sharpen/hobble Wright's translation in the last lines, who are the witnesses to all this? ("One with raw flesh stuck to the mouth of his true body has been seen/examined thus by (our?) associates/colleagues/allies, which we and all others wondered at")? And what of the raw flesh of sheep (not of humans) stuck to their face? Why should violence be the ineluctable mark of their racial stain (?), whether the violence they suffer or the violence they cause?

One way in might be through JJC's discussion of Gerald and Werewolves in On Difficult Middles:
Medieval writers were fond of attaching allegorical meanings to fauna, spawning a tradition of bestiaries that were ultimately more about humans than animals. Gerald leaves us in no doubt what the wolf represents when he writes later in the Topography that 'wolves in Ireland generally have their young in December, either because of the extreme mildness of the climate, or rather as a symbol of the evils of treachery and plunder which here blossom before their season.' The Irish inside their wolfskins are not very different from the treacherous, plunder-driven Irish inside their human forms. Their lycanthropy only makes visible in their bodies what they already are... (86-87)

With that in mind, I wonder about the poem's insistence on "true bodies"? Why should the werewolf's true body be a human form rather than a form that admits of both bodies? Doesn't the mouth smeared with sheepblood display the doubled body that is their actual, true form, the wolf and the human together? Building on her work on resurrection doctrine, Caroline Walker Bynum speaks of werewolf stories as indicative of an understanding of "the embodied nature of self" and reflecting "less a desire to shed body than an effort to understand how it perdures, less an escape into alterity than a search for the rules that govern change" (Metamorphosis and Identity, 109), where the human form, the "corpora vera" underneath the wolf, persists despite mutability. But I wonder if the truth smeared over the face is another kind of bodily truth, one not of bodily depths underneath but one of surfaces, one of stains.

What do you all make of this?


Anonymous said...

I don't know what to make of it, Karl. But, I do have something for you. And, damn my eyes if my own copy of the book I'm about to recommend to you has gone missing. I vaguely remember a student leaving my office with it and me saying to myself "You'll never see that again."

The book is reviewed below. It's my kind of book: the notes constitute 80% of the word count.

I cut&paste a review of it from my new PEP Web account (that's what I'm talkin bout!).

(1953). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34:170-171

Man Into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism and Lycanthropy: By Robert Eisler. With an Introduction by Prof. Sir David K. Henderson. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1951. Pp. 286. 21 s.)

Review by: D. N. Hardcastle

The form of this book is somewhat unusual. It consists essentially of a 29-page lecture given to the psychiatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine under the presidency of Sir D. K. Henderson (who writes the Introduction), the author's foreword, and two hundred pages of notes, five appendices, and an index. The subject-matter was originally published in the Hibbert Journal for 1946 as one of the initial chapters of a Sociology of war and peace, but the author's untimely death in 1949 prevented him from completing this work.

The author's foreword is a valuable contribution, as in it he outlines the theme of his paper and conclusively defends its somewhat unorthodox presentation in the book. He declares that in presenting a thesis the lecturer should be able to answer all questions and counter all objections raised in the subsequent discussion. This he claims to have done by including in the book so many notes and references. It is obvious from Sir D. K. Henderson's introduction that the lecture was clear and interesting, but perhaps for the reader the subject-matter would have been more coherently presented if the lecture had been recast and more of the supporting evidence now given in the form of notes incorporated in the text. It is clear that the author spent an immense amount of time and thought on both the lecture itself and its supporting notes.

In his approach to the understanding of sadism and masochism he introduces the paradox of the widespread desire to suffer pain, and uses this to show how ridiculous is the hedonistic theory of motivation. He ignores any ontogenetic causes and explains irrational behaviour in terms of atavistic reversion. He proceeds to unfold his concept of the evolution of the human race from the time of the ice age, when the ancestors of the golden age—the Primate apes—were perfectly innocuous, frugivorous savages, living in the

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primeval virgin forest (150, 000–100, 000 B.C.). During the destruction of this forest by the encroachment of the ice age, these 'good savages' were driven by hunger to aggression; they copied the habits of the beasts of prey which pursued them and they, in turn, vented their wrath upon their victims by devouring alive the run-down booty—lycanthropy. He then assumes that these savages, who had now become werewolves, invaded the territory, as yet unaffected by the change of climate, of other 'good savages', killed the men, raped and carried off the women, and through this cross-breeding produced the human race of to-day. To the question 'Must wars go on, human nature being what it is?' he answers that if all our ancestors were carnivorous, then it is inevitable. If, however, there was a 'fall', and the murderous habits of our ancestors developed only under extreme environmental conditions, then there is a hope that by changing our social environment we can discard the 'wolf's mask'.

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Article Citation

Hardcastle, D.N. (1953). Man Into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism and Lycanthropy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 34:170-171

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I think it is a truly bizarre poem, and unfortunately so elliptical that it's hard to know what to do with it. On your advice I'm just now finishing Pluskowski's wolf book, and there isn't a lot in there that's of use for Irish werewolves. He does grant werewolves the hybridity that Bynum so resolutely denies, though. So does Rhonda Knight in her excellent "Werewolves, Monsters and Miracles: Representing Colonial Fantasies in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica" (Studies in Iconography 22 55-86).

Here's one quote from Pluskowski that resonates. Actually, it's Pluskowski quoting Gervase of Tilbury:

For in England we have often seen men change into wolves according to the phases of the moon. The Gauls call men of this kind gerulfi, while the English name for them is werewolves, were being the English equivalent of uir.

I love that glide between languages enacted through the lycanthrope, just like Marie de France's opening of Bisclavret ... only there the "Celtic" element didn't topple out, and we got three languages instead of two.

A wonder indeed, Karl.

Karl Steel said...

MU: On the one hand, that book's freakin nuts (am I being too much of a bone-headed literalist?); on the other hand, it's pretty much standard for the 40s, i.e., the hunting hypothesis all over again (see Matt Cartmill's A View to a Death in the Morning, which I've plugged here before, or, if you want something medieval, well, see Des Grantz Geanz, whose narrative of carnivorous fall is one I'll be reworking into an article this year). That said, I do think starting with "the paradox of the widespread desire to suffer pain" should be long as we do it w/out the Altered States/Primal (Pleasant) Horde thing.


I think it is a truly bizarre poem, and unfortunately so elliptical that it's hard to know what to do with it.

No kidding.

The Gauls call men of this kind gerulfi, while the English name for them is werewolves, were being the English equivalent of uir.

Part of what's odd about this is Gervase glossing only the English even though he has listed three languages: why not gloss the, er, Gaulish? It's obvious why not. There's really only two vernaculars here, since gerulf and werewolf are so close as to be virtually the same word. In other words, what might need to be three categories linguistically and two political categories (with Latin above them all) is in fact only two: Latin and a vernacular (mis)recognized as vernaculars. Maybe pushing too hard here, and in what direction, I don't know.

Gervase, by the way, has two excellent hippophagous episodes that I hope to treat someday.

The Rhonda Knight sounds quite good.

In Re Bynum, well, in all fairness, the text I quote is also "resolutely denying" hybridity, what with its multiple (anxious?) reference to true bodies. Given that this Celtic lycanthropy is genetic (following out the etymology of gens), it's clear that even their human "true" bodies are inherently multiple, mutable, uncontainable, &c, &c., and that the references to true bodies only underscore the desire for a persistent human self that this story of animal transformation, by its nature, frustrates.

Karl Steel said...

oops. des grantz geanz

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I also like how Gervase has to dance around the fact that there is no Latin word for werewolf. I think he's trying to avoid coming to the Bynum-ish conclusion that such true lupine hybridity doesn't exist. Lycaon for example doesn't stay suspended between man and wolf for long in the Metamorphoses (though he is most interesting in that medial state). Bynum goodness on the first point here

Gerulf and werewolf might themselves be close, but I'm not so sure Gervase would collapse French and English like that. They share the concept missing from latin, but I really do think G. wouldn't intermingle the two tongues so easily. But I want to think about that.

Michael: that's some weird shit you've pulled from your sleeve!

Anonymous said...

Weird shit is a speciality (pronounced as a Brit would, for effect) of mine.

That book's notes are a wild ride. I've found material in there I have never seen cited elsewhere concerning the history of masochism. Pull this book out of the library, and see for yourself.

I love my PEP-Web. Yes, yes, I do.

Here's a couple off PEP for you:

1. A review by Ernest Jones.

(1934). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 15:362

The Werewolf: By Montague Summers. (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., London, 1933. Pp. 307. Price 15 s.)

Review by: E. J.

This author faithfully continues his learned investigations into the particular mediæval superstitions dealt with in my book on 'The Nightmare'. Not that he appears ever to have heard of Psycho-analysis. His two books on Witchcraft and two on the Vampire are now followed by this volume on the Werewolf.

The Rev. Summers may very well be the only true survivor of the Middle Ages, for he appears to accept and believe literally all the extraordinary stories then current and which we nowadays classify as superstitious beliefs. Indeed, the passage of time and the flow of ideas signify little for him: for example, he quotes an author of 1854 as 'a recent authority' on psychiatry. He has a childlike faith also in the value of information qua information, however irrelevant:

… a young girl named Marguerite Poirier, of the outlying hamlet of St. Paul, in the parish of Espérons, swore that in the full moon she had been attacked by a savage beast, much resembling a wolf. (Espérons is now known as Eugénie-les-Bains, owing to the visits of the Empress Eugénie to the warm sulphur baths here. This small spa has about 610 inhabitants.) The girl stated that one midday whilst she was watching cattle a wild beast with rufulous fur rushed from the thicket and tore her kirtle with its sharp teeth.

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Article Citation [Who Cited This?]

J., E. (1934). The Werewolf. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 15:362

2. An article, with good refs.

Salzman, L. (1975). Werewolf Fantasy. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 3:239-256.

The refs are thus:

Aylesworth, T. (1971), Werewolves.

Burton, R. (1621), Anatomy of Melancholia, 1621. National Textbook, Reprint, 1969.

Easton, K. (1959), An unusual case of fugue and orality, Psychoanal Q., 28, 505-513. [→]

Eckels, R. P. (1937), Greek Wolf-lore, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Eisler, R. (1951), Man Into Wolf, Greenwood Press, New York.

Franklin, A. M. Lupercalia.

Garden, N. (1973), Werewolves, Lippincott.

Illis, L. (1964), West Virginia Medical Journal, 60, 131.

Jones, E. D. (1951), On the Nightmare, Liveright, England, 137.

Koontz, D. (1973), Werewolves Among Us, Ballantine.

Kriss, M. (1972), Werewolves, Shapeshifters and Skinwalkers, Sherbourne.

Lowery, B. (1969), Werewolf, Vanguard, New York.

O'Donnell, E. (1912), Werewolves, Finch Press, London.

Sandemose, A. (1966), Werewolf, Gustaf Lannestock, Trans. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin.

Simak, C. (1973), Werewolf Principle, Berkeley Publications.

Stewart, C. T., Origin of Werewolf Superstition.

Summers, M. (1973), The Werewolf, Citadel Press, University Books, New York, 14, 22, 114.

Tuke, D. H. (1892), Dictionary of Psychological Medicine, London.

Zilboorg, G. (1941), History of Medical Psychology, Norton, New York.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting--another review. I bolded the line I found of some value.

(2001). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 24:139-140

Susirajalla. (At the frontier of the country of wolves).: Pekka Impiö: (ed.). Oulu: Kajo, 2001.

Review by: Maria Turpeenniemi

Tor-Björn Hägglund, a medical doctor and psychoanalyst, was born in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia, and has worked for almost 30 years as a training analyst for the Finnish Psychoanalytical Society. He was professor of psychoanalytical Society. He was professor of psychotherapy and medical psychology at the University of Oulu from 1977 to 1989, and a senior lecturer in adolescent psychiatry at the University of Helsinki from 1977 to 1989. He has received awards for his studies and papers on adolescents and dying patients. In 1994, he was granted a degree of honorary doctor in the Faculty of Pedagogy at the University of Oulu. Hägglund is widely recognized as the initiator and developer of training of psychotherapists for adolescents. He remains one of the most significant and esteemed psychoanalytic thinkers and authors in Finland.

Susirajalla is a collection of essays. The editor of the collection, Pekka Impiö, is also one of the authors, who include Hägglund's students, coworkers and friends. The essays deal with Hägglund's outstanding production, consisting of scientific as well as literary works and articles. The psychoanalytic papers focus on dying and mourning, adolescence, inner space, creativity and folk poetry. Hägglund has written in an interesting way about Oedipality, body-ego and aging, and has pondered on what takes place between the psychoanalyst and the analysand. Hägglund's literary works consists of essays, novels and collections of poems.

The review of Hägglund's works begins with Raimo Hyttinen's thorough essay which sheds light on Hägglund's thoughts on adolescence. He brings forth the influence of D.W. Winnicott in Hägglund's psychoanalytic thinking.

The Oedipal themes and their formation occupy a central position in Hägglund's works. Hyttinen emphasizes that Hägglund has developed psychoanalytic concepts in the context of Oedipal themes from the centrality of the phallus towards towards the centrality of inner space. He also introduces Hägglund's views regarding both clinical psychoanalytic work with adolescents and the importance of adolescence in the course of one's life and in our culture.

Raija Pohjamo refers to Hägglund's conception based on the centrality of the inner space as “the secret garden”. The essay is enlivened with descriptions of the everyday work in psychoanalysis and baby observation. Pohjamo presents articles (written by Hägglund together with his fellow researchers) referring to phallicism and its defensive nature as well as to the inner space and its centrality. She describes how these themes emerge in the psychoanalytic work. The viewpoint of Pohjamo as a grandmother enables the sensitive protrayal of a woman's experience of her own changing and aging body.

Hägglund's articles on the Oedipus theme cover the whole course of human life. Raija Pohjamo and Pekka Impiö focus in their lucid essay on the many faces of Oedipus. Hägglund's studies on Finnish folktales and on the developmental phases of adolescence, and those of later life have been subjects of interest to Hägglund, and have led him to the idea that the Oedipus complex can never be ultimately resolved – it re-appears as the age-old Oedipus throughout the different phases of life.

The body as the abode of the mind and the producer of its contents offers a central standpoint to Hägglund's theoretical work. In her essay, Marja-Leena Yrjölä discusses the body-ego and aging.

Aging is an aspects on corporality and is usually connected with feelings of abandonment. In his latest papers Hägglund brings forth a livelier picture, stressing individuality as formed through lif experience and social interaction. He considers meditations as an important creative function of old age. As the focus of drive gratification of the body becomes displaced to the oral region, the drive gratification becomes sublimated into the region of language, and turns into a desire to speak, discuss and write. The integration of one's past life leads to renunciation and subsequently, to an experience of loneliness which is alleviated by the extent to which one has been able to share his or her life's work with others. Yrjölä also contemplates the literary impact of Hägglund's scientific texts. According to Hägglund, it is important to

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reach the deepest, most archaic layer of the mind. It is “to allow living space for the untamed, hidden and not yet sublimated side of the analysand”; “only creative identification can enable one to walk with the wolves…”.

Hägglund has written articles on the psychodynamics of dying since the 1970s. Psychoanalytic literature has relatively few studies on dying. Referring to Eisler, Hägglund has connected this with the fear of identifying with the dying patient as well as with the fear of one's own death. Hannu Hiltunen has written a clear and detailed essay on Hägglund's experiences and thoughts as a psychotherapist of dying people. According to Hägglund, the attitude toward death is influenced by the concept of its unknown quality. The death and the event of dying derive their psychic contents from life and the experiences of life.

According to Hägglund, death is experienced as castration. against which one can have recourse to a phallic defence. If the dying person can find creative interaction with a close person, he is able to maintain his interanal mobility, which gives him an opportunity for true renunciation and mourning. Hägglund points out that it is extremely important for the dying person to be in touch with his internal fantasy world and objects, in order to abandon his external objects in a genuine way and maintain good enough narcissistic experience without falling too much into depression.

Pekka Impiö's essay on fairytales, myths and stories as points of contact with one's internal world is written vividly and in a story-telling manner. He ponders upon how fairytales and myths help us deal with the tendencies and desires that are not accepted by our conscious mind. He illustrates how the themes and characters of Finnish folktales and the Kalevala have affected Hägglund, since they deal with themes close to his interests, such as adolescence, creativity, Oedipality, female internal space, body-ego, mourning and death.

Impiö views personal psychoanalysis as also creating a narrative which renders an opportunity to understand something that has formerly been beyond reach. The analysand can become interested in the unknown within himself in a new way. According to Mikael Enckell, it is the lost material that makes the analysand remain in analysis for years, and the analyst for a whole life. Impiö points out how the analyst can help the analysand to interact with the repressed aspects of himself.

In numerous works, Tor-Björn Hägglund has studied creativity; the psychoanalysis of creativity and the creativity of psychoanalysis. Winnicott's thoughts about the importance of the transitional space as the origin of creativity and the capacity to be alone have served as a solid basis for Hägglund's theoretical considerations. Merja Kaleva and Riitta Kellosalo have collected Hägglund's thoughts on creativity into an insightful essay. Jukka Pohjola's rustically warm essay “In the wilds of Lapland with a Siberian jay” deals with creative loneliness and the satisfaction connected with it.

Mikael Enckell's study on Tor-Björn Hägglund's figure as a creative researcher and writer salutes his versatility. His approach expresses the same honesty, sincerity and respect for others that transpires from Hägglund's works, In this essay, two experienced psychoanalysts and writers meet each other. The dance with wolves begins.

In his short essay, Juhani Kellosalo links Hägglund's poems ot a meditative tradition, searching for a synthesis and balance, and represents a compact synopsis of Hägglund's three collections of poems.

Camilla Bargum's essay “Thoughts about words” is a warm and touching statement in its openness. She ponders language, the mother tongue, and its significance for a scene of identity. The starting point for these considerations is Hägglund's paper: “Språket; vår hud och vårt hjärta” (Language, our skin and our heart”) which he gave at the XV Nordic Psychoanalytic Conferencc in Mariehamn in 1994.

The articles in Susirajalla are independent essays which offer a solid picture of Tor-Björn Hägglund's psychoanalytic thinking. Each writer has found an interesting cornucopia of ideas to draw from in Hägglund's works. The reader sense an atmosphere of respect and gratitude towards the man who walks with the wolves.

The first essays of the book serve as an excellent introduction to Hägglund's psychoanalytic scientific work, whereas the writers of the second half of the work become personally involved in an analysis of Hägglund's ideas.

I can imagine that this collection of essays in also satisfying to Tor-Björn Hägglund himself as far as the feeling of becoming understood and of being able to share one's life-work with others gain more depth as the years go by.

A visit to the Frontier of the Country of Wolves in fascinating.

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Unknown said...

on Irish Werewolves, I'd recommend the following article by Kim McCone:
"Werwolves, Cyclops, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland"
(Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, 1986)
I don't remember whether he talks about this poem (I don't think he does, actually, but it's been a while since I looked at it). "Diberg" is an especially nasty category of plunder-taking.

Karl Steel said...

More to come later? but I'm six kinds of busy right now as Spring Break springs to a close. So, quickly, and belatedly, thank you Rebecca for the article suggestion. Looks interesting.