Deborah Hyde
Deborah Hydehttp://deborahhyde.com/
Deborah Hyde is former editor of The Skeptic and is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. She writes and lectures about belief in the malign supernatural, with special regard to the folklore, psychology and sociology behind belief.

More from this author

Plagues and Plots: Throughout history, epidemics and conspiracy theories have gone hand-in-hand

From the anti-Semitic Flagellants of the Black Death to modern day 5G-hating COVID deniers, epidemics have always driven conspiracy theories.

Donald Rooum (1928 – 2019): Cartoonist, Campaigner and Skeptic

Deborah Hyde remembers the cartoonist, campaigner, skeptic and humanist Donald Rooum, creator of the long-running Sprite strip for The Skeptic.

Fairies Dancing in a Ring

This image of fairies dancing in a ring comes dates from around 1600 and was in its original form a woodcut, before appearing in an issue of The Strand magazine in 1892.

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft

Deborah Hyde reports from the Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford.

Do ghosts exist? If not, why do we see them?

  This is the deceptively simple question I ask at the beginning of every episode of the Haunted podcast. The show features ghost stories that...


A werewolf attacks a man
Hans Baldung Grien
From Die Emeis (1516)

Guest Contributor: Deborah Hyde

Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg (1445-1510), the ‘Doctor Keisersperg’ of the caption above, was a Swiss preacher who gave a series of Lenten sermons in 1508 which were transcribed and published as Die Emeis (The Ant Colony). The 1516 edition of this collection benefited from the addition of woodcuts attributed to Hans Baldung Grien, including this one, of a werewolf attacking a man.

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw a peaking of interest in werewolfism in some parts of mainland Europe. Authorities such as Jean Bodin and Henri Boguet teased out the details and logic of the witches’ pact, and whether the devil actually had power to really change men into beasts. Charges of werewolfism at this time, therefore, were associated with witchcraft and heresy.

But this was the era of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, with its attendant paranoia, scapegoating and bloodshed. ‘Werewolves’ tended to be found in more isolated, mountainous areas, where there were likely to be both religious independents and real wolves.

Of the several werewolf trial records that remain today, we can discern a motley parade of political scapegoats, unpopular villagers, torture victims and real psychopaths.

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