Holywood loves sensation. And the werewolf beliefs of the late Middle Ages are sensational. That is why many horror films have been made in which the werewolf plays an unsavory role. With this the film producers dishonor the faith of the Germanic people. Werewolves are actually shamans, medicine people, priests of Óðinn.
According to superstition, a werewolf is a human who changes into a wolf at full moon. You would become a werewolf if you were bitten by another werewolf. In this superstition, an ancient religion is connected with primitive science. What is the truth?
In the late Middle Ages, wolves contracted rabies. Healthy wolves avoid humans. Only in extremely severe winters does it sometimes happen that a pack of starving wolves attacks a human. Normally that doesn't happen. But when wolves get rabid, they become extremely aggressive. They bite at anything that comes near them. And if you are bitten by a rabid wolf, you will become rabid yourself. Over time, your body begins to cramp and jerk. You can no longer swallow and you refuse to drink, even if you are very thirsty. Then you get fits of rage. You will eventually become paralyzed and die. If a rabid patient bites a doctor, priest, or nurse, they also become infected.
Today, rabies is curable, but in the late Middle Ages it was a terrible disease. Imagine a medieval superstitious priest. According to his view, the patient is simply possessed by a devil. Just sprinkle with holy water and the devil is banished. But instead of dissolving in a cloud of smoke, the patient bites the priest. And then the priest gets rabid too. Despite his 'divine protection'. There must be a very strong demonic force involved.
In the late Middle Ages, the Catholic Church conquered the last pagans. Shortly after their total seizure of power, witch burnings began. But they couldn't do anything against rabies (or the plague). Therefore, people began to believe in a mighty demonic force.
Remnants of the old pagan faith were still remembered. And the old native Europeans knew about werewolves and were-bears. Now they were bitten by a wolf and they became rabid. It was then that people began to confuse rabid wolves with werewolves. Thus arose the superstition that you became a werewolf after being bitten by another werewolf. Since there were no rabid bears, the werebears were forgotten.
Ulf means wolf, hedh means skin and nar means 'dead person' (a person that is death for the family), initiate. The old Norse Ulfhedhnar can be translated as: initiate with the wolf skin. In English they called these people: werewolves. Were means man or human.
The Ulfhedhnar were members of a secret league: the wolf league. The members were priests of Óðinn. Óðinn is the god of the sky. he has one flaming eye: the sun. He is also the god of runes and magic, and the god of warriors and death. In the Netherlands he was called Wodan or Vodanes.
The old native Europeans lived in a tribe. But some people didn't feel at home in the tribe. Then they became members of a secret union. During their initiations they passed through the realm of the dead. They were dead to their tribe and family. That's why they called them nar. Literally translated nar means corpse. But in the old days, it was about someone who was dead to his family and tribe.
If you wanted to leave your tribe, there were several options. As a woman you could devote yourself to Hal, the goddess of death. Then you belonged to the Haljaruenos. Or you devoted yourself to Freya. Then you became a Völva. Or you devoted yourself to Jörd-Nerthus. Then you became a priestess of Mother Earth. As a man you could devote yourself to Óðinn (Wodan), Thór (Donar) or Baldr. The priests of Óðinn became werewolves, the priests of Baldr werebears, and the priests of Thór were goats or goat riders. If you were gay or androgynous, you could become a priest of Freyr.
Transsexuality also occurred among the Germanic people. You are transsexual if you have male sex organs and you feel like a woman, or if you have female sex organs and you feel like a man. The old native Europeans did not have a problem with this. If a woman wanted to become a werewolf or a werebear, and she was suitable, she was given the same opportunities. The same was true for men who wanted to become priestess.
If you wanted to become a priest of Óðinn, you went to a Kennar. Ken-nar means: initiate in the secret knowledge. (Ken means to know.) You can compare him to the druid among the Celts. When he took you on as an apprentice, you were initiated into magic, martial arts and runes. Rune means secret.
You were initiated after a long period as an apprentice. Naked and painted black, you went into the forest with a spear to hunt for a wolf. If you killed a wolf, you roasted the heart and ate it. You took the teeth and the skin back with you. These were used in shamanic rituals.
If you couldn't find a wolf, you were out of luck. This was regarded as a sign (omen) of rejection by Óðinn.
After killing the wolf, you got a potion with henbane. This put you in a deep trance. Then you were put in a leather bag and hanged in a tree in a clearing in the forest. You stayed in that tree for nine days and nine nights. In this nine days you transformed into a werewolf: a man-wolf.
The native Europeans knew a drink with which people could be initiated. Among the Hindus, such a drink is called Soma. With the ancient Persians it was made from the white Haoma. And the Germanic people called the drink Ódrerir. This translates to 'moves the mind'.
According to the myth, there was a dwarf who knew everything: Kvasir. This dwarf was killed by the dwarves Fjalar and Galar. His blood was collected in two barrels and a cauldron. The cauldron is called Ódrerir, and the vessels Son and Bodn. They mixed the blood with honey and saliva to make mead.
Kvada means: request, demand. Kvasir can be translated as: he who asks the oracle, he who demands insight. Bodn means: bid, offering, feast, commandment, message. And son means sound, special sacrifice. You could translate 'son' as: mantra, magical chant, chanted spell.
Ódr means: madness, rapid violent movement, spirit power, ritual singing. Ódr is also used in the same way as prana in India and ga-llama in ancient Persia. And erendi means: mission, quest, issue, message, and the result of the mission. Ódr-erir can thus be translated as: quickly and violently carry out a mission and demand results.
When a priest wanted an answer to a question, he prepared Ódrerir. Kvasir (a plant) was killed and divided between a cauldron and 2 barrels. Kvasir was usually henbane. The roots went into the large cauldron, the seeds or flowers into one vessel, and the leaves and stems into the other vessel. Then the roots were made into mead. Additives were made from the leaves and from the seeds or flowers.
Note. The leaves of Henbane contain the most active substances when the plant is in bloom. So collecting flowers and leaves goes well together. But by the time the plant bears seed, the leaves are virtually powerless.
When a priest of Óðinn wanted an answer to a question, he would isolate himself, put on his wolf skin and drink Ódrerir. As a result, he fell into a strong trance, in which he could send out his animal spirit (Hamr) as an animal. For example as a wolf, eagle, salmon or bear.
During such magical journeys, the priest comes into deep contact with his unconscious desires and complexes. That is why years of preparation are necessary to withstand such contact well. Without this preparation one will go crazy. And then one remains insane for the rest of life.
In order to accept and understand the answer to the question without prejudice, self-conquest and humility are necessary. Therefore, during the training to be a werewolf, your pride and self-importance will be broken. Then you learn to overcome yourself. Finally, you offer yourself to your Higher Self.
Óðinn is the god of the hanged (Hangagud). If you want to devote yourself to him, you must hang yourself from the world tree Yggdrasil. If you do, you'll be following Óðinn's lead.
Before Óðinn sacrificed himself, his name was Yggr (the terrible one). After he prepared himself sufficiently, he went hunting and killed a wolf. He cut out the wolf's heart and devoured it raw. According to other sources, he roasted it first. He then cut a rune in his left side with his spear Gun-gnir (war-stimulating). Finally, in a wolfskin sack, he hanged himself in a huge ash tree. He hung in the tree for 9 days and 9 nights. And during this time he traveled through the 4 times 9 worlds. After 9 days and 9 nights he knew the entire Universe, and he knew himself. Then he also knew the runes, the magical signs and staff rhymes. He saw and sang a magical rune and freed himself. The wolfskin sack tore open, and Óðinn was born. The terrible Yggr (the ego or lower self) had died on the tree. And Óðinn the lord of victory was born.
By wrapping yourself in a leather bag, you shut yourself off from the light. The leather bag symbolizes not only the womb, but also your mental shield with which you separate yourself from reality. After your initiation, the membrane with which you have surrounded yourself tears. Then the light flows into you and you get to know yourself and reality.
The league of wolves had three grades: Skalde, Thulr, and Kennar. You can compare these with the degrees: Bard, Vates and Druid with the Celts. Before you became Skalde, you were an apprentice. So there were actually four degrees. But a disciple was not yet counted in the league of wolves.
The Skalde sang the sacred Edda songs and kept the knowledge of the religion alive among the Germanic tribes. The Thulr conducted the rituals, consulted the runes, predicted the future and made sure that everything was done according to the rules of the faith. The Kennar was the wise master who taught and initiated disciples.
In the Middle Ages there was a similar degree system in the guilds, the trade unions of that time. When you entered puberty as a boy, you went to a master. This one taught you a trade. If you were motivated enough, the master took you on as an apprentice. For years you were less than that master's servant. You had fewer rights, less pay and you had to work harder. But at the end of your apprenticeship you became a journeyman. Then you could work independently and earn your living independently. As an apprentice you didn't have time for a relationship with a woman. And women weren't interested in apprentices because they weren't earning anything yet. So the moment you became a journeyman, you were a free journeyman. Such men were very desirable. They knew a trade and could support a woman. Moreover, they had hardly any obligations. Free journeyman had the women to choose, even if they were quite ugly. Most journeymen married quickly. It was considered strange if a 30-year-old journeyman was not yet married. Sometimes people were urged by the guild brothers to get married, in order to prevent social unrest (fear of sexual adventures with married women).
After working for years as a journeyman, some reached a very high standard in their work. Then they were recognized as masters by the other guild brothers. Then students could be hired and trained. These students could work for free, so that they earned more. As a result, the master could still live in reasonable wealth even at an advanced age.
The werebears were the priests of Baldr. In Old Norse they were called Bersekr. Baldr is the son of Óðinn in mythology. The werebears were a split from the werewolves.
To become a werebear, you first had to kill a bear, drink its warm blood and eat its heart. Then you got the heart of a bear. You took the skin and a claw for shamanic rituals.
After killing the bear you were put on the bear skin. You had to stand on the bearskin and not move or scream. Then you were pelted with stones, sticks and excrement by the priests of Baldr. You had to let this come over you unmoved. If you passed, you got a piece of mistletoe the size of your thumb. By chewing this you went into a deep trance. Then you were wrapped in your bearskin and lowered into a burial mound. You stayed in the hill for nine days and nine nights. On the morning of the tenth day you were released from the burial mound and you were a werebear.
The werewolves provided the religious education and magic. The werebears were the healers.
Among the peasants there was a strong cult devoted to Thor. Thor is the god of the goats. When he drives his chariot over the clouds, it thunders on earth. When he throws his battle hammer at the ice giants, we see lightning.
The priests of Thor were initiated in a great pit in the earth. They were symbolically struck on the head with the battle hammer. A second blow brought you back to life.
When the farmers in Limburg (in the south of the Netherlands) ran into distress and were forced to work in the coal mines, a parody of the old faith in Thór revived. They called themselves goat riders.
With Light and Love, Andreas Firewolf
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Germanic tribes lived from about 3500 BC to 100 AD. Each tribe had its own myths and customs. And they changed over time.
So we can not say things like: "The Germanic people were like this and they believed that".