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Occult Auvergne: How to Become a Werewolf

Those from the mountains in particular do believe in the werewolf…

– Charles Alexandre Hippolyte Amable Bertrand 

The folklore of Auvergne is rich in werewolf tales. With some notable exceptions, the traditional Auvergnat loup-garou was almost always an evil-doer, a ravenous beast that haunted cemeteries and lonely country roads. Like the menacing mountain forests of Puy-de-Dôme, Haute-Loire, and Cantal — hostile to all but the most canny mountaineer — he was a formidable and primal force. As such, he was also a valued ally to those who had already committed their souls to the Devil.

Most Auvergnats shied away from the werewolf and his infernal works. Yet for some, the call of the wild, the appeal of superhuman — albeit malevolent — power was perhaps too much to resist. In fact, according to the nineteenth-century French physician and folklorist François Pommerol, people could voluntary become werewolves via a very simple ritual. The following is my translation of an excerpt from Pommerol’s 1900 essay, “Folk-Lore de L’Auvergne”:

“To obtain it [the wolf skin], go to a crossroad at midnight; call the devil and say: “Money for my black hen, I’d like a skin.” When you’ve repeated this formula three times, the Devil comes and you make your deal; you sell your soul for money, but at night you become a sprite and put on a beast’s skin.”

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