Werewolf Fact of the Day

Werewolf Book 2e
ISBN: 9781578593675

Who is Lucius Apuleius and why is he significant to the werewolf legend?

  • He wrote about shape-shifters.
  • His most-remembered work,"The Golden Ass," detailed magical methods of transformation.
  • He claimed to have seen a woman change into an owl.

Lucius Apuleius lived in North Africa around the middle of the second century. Although he wrote in Latin, he was very familiar with the popular Greek Romances of his time. His passion for Greek philosophy expressed itself in a book of philosophical extracts, which included an essay on Plato and another on the theology of Socrates. Although he was very prolific, the books of Apuleius have never made it into the Classical canon of authors because of his vocabulary and involved syntax, thus he is remembered primarily for his Metamorphoses, often referred to as "The Golden Ass."

In nearly all of his prose, Apuleius displays a kind of obsession with the supernatural, Eastern religions, and magic. His Apologia is written as his legal defense for the accusation that he had cast spells on his wife and her family. In the Golden Ass, he describes the salves that wizards and Witches used to transform themselves into animals. In one episode, he tells of peering through a crack in a door and watching a Witch named Pamphile take off her clothes and remove from a chest a number of small boxes that contained various ointments:

She anointed her whole body, from the very nails of her toes to hair on the crown of her head, and when she was anointed all over, she whispered many magic words to a lamp ... Then she began to move her arms, first with tremulous jerks, and afterwards by a gentle undulating motion, till a glittering, downy surface by degrees overspread her body, feathers and strong quills burst forth suddenly, her nose became a hard crooked beak, her toes changed to curved talons....

To Apuleius' spying eyes, Pamphile was no longer Pamphile, but she had become an owl. As he continued to watch in astonishment, Pamphile uttered a "harsh, querulous scream, leaping from the ground by little and little" until at last "she stretched forth her wings on either side to their full extent and flew straight away."

After such a demonstration, Apuleius decides that he must apply the ointment to his own body and become an owl, just as Pamphile had done. After he has thoroughly applied the salve to every part of his body, Apuleius begins to flap his arms and eagerly anticipates the appearance of feathers that will signal his transformation into an owl. But to his great surprise and disappointment, his skin hardens into a leathern hide covered with bristly hair.

"The palms of my hands and the soles of my feet became four solid hoofs, and from the end of my spine a long tail projected. My face was enormous, my mouth wide, my nostrils gaping, my lips pendulous, and I had a pair of immoderately long, rough, hairy ears."

Instead of an owl, Apuleius found that the ointment had transformed him into an ass.

From The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings, Second Edition by Brad Steiger, (c) 2012 Visible Ink Press(R) Steiger's homage to the beast within provides meaty facts for the lycanthropic in all of us.

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