Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/326

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well instanced in the history of a widespread belief, extending through savage, barbaric, classic, oriental, and mediæval life, and surviving to this day in European superstition. This belief, which may be conveniently called the Doctrine of Werewolves, is that certain men, by natural gift or magic art, can turn for a time into ravening wild beasts. The origin of this idea is by no means sufficiently explained. What we are especially concerned with is the fact of its prevalence in the world. It may be noticed that such a notion is quite consistent with the animistic theory that a man's soul may go out of his body and enter that of a beast or bird, and also with the opinion that men may be transformed into animals; both these ideas having an important place in the belief of mankind, from savagery onward. The doctrine of werewolves is substantially that of a temporary metempsychosis or metamorphosis. Now it really occurs that, in various forms of mental disease, patients prowl shyly, long to bite and destroy mankind, and even fancy themselves transformed into wild beasts. Belief in the possibility of such transformation may have been the very suggesting cause which led the patient to imagine it taking place in his own person. But at any rate such insane delusions do occur, and physicians apply to them the mythologic term of lycanthropy. The belief in men being werewolves, man-tigers, and the like, may thus have the strong support of the very witnesses who believe themselves to be such creatures. Moreover, professional sorcerers have taken up the idea, as they do any morbid delusion, and pretend to turn themselves and others into beasts by magic art. Through the mass of ethnographic details relating to this subject, there is manifest a remarkable uniformity of principle.

Among the non-Aryan indigenes of India, the tribes of the Garo Hills describe as 'transformation into a tiger' a kind of temporary madness, apparently of the nature of delirium tremens, in which the patient walks like a tiger, shunning society.[1] The Khonds of Orissa say that some among them

  1. Eliot in 'As. Res.' vol. iii. p. 32.