Werewolf Fact of the Day

Werewolf Book 2e
ISBN: 9781578593675

What fanatical Muslim sect is a contemporary example of structured lycanthropic behavior?

  • It was founded in the sixteenth century.
  • It spread across North Africa, the Middle East, and Sudan.
  • It was founded by Ibn Isa, "the son of the Hairy One, Isa (Esau)."
  • Its adherents took on an animal personas.


One of the most remarkable examples of structured lycanthropic behavior in contemporary times is to be found in the fanatical Muslim sect known as the Isawiyya, whose adherents are spread out across North Africa, the Middle East, and the Sudan. Founded in the early sixteenth century by the fakir and mystic Sheikh Abu Abd Allah Sidi Muhammad ben Isa as-Sofiani al Mukhteari (Ibn Isa), his followers vow to love Allah above all else, to fight his enemies wherever they are to be found, and to take unto themselves the name of an animal. Because Ibn Isa had the ability to communicate with all creatures, the religious gatherings of the sect require that each individual member wear a mask that represents one of seven animals--camels, cats, dogs, panthers, jackals, boars, or lions.

Ibn Isa, "the son of the Hairy One, Isa (Esau)," slept and prayed on two panther skins. Like the biblical Esau, he had the gift of catching wild animals and rendering poisonous snakes harmless. In the qasida "At-Taiya" which he composed, Ibn Isa defined his powers by writing: "Men as well as the jinns are all devoted to me, also the venomous reptiles and the beasts of the desert."

Before embarking on a pilgrimage, the followers of Isawiyya sacrifice a bull or a calf in honor of Ibn Isa. Before the ritual, the calf or bull is dressed in women's clothing, thus becoming an obvious substitute for a human victim. As the rites progress, the brothers and sisters work themselves into such a frenzy that the sacrificial animal is torn to bits and its flesh eaten raw. When they begin their journey homeward after the pilgrimage, they dye their hands and feet red to represent fresh blood.

European witnesses to an Isawiyya initiation rite told of watching the initiates dancing and whirling faster and faster until they reached a point of violent ecstasy. Then, as they were writhing in the dust, bowls of live snakes, lizards, toads, and scorpion were set before them. Immediately, the initiates seized the bowls and began stuffing the wriggling creatures into their mouths, biting and tearing at them until there was nothing left but bloodstains.

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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