Werewolf (II) – Volkodlak

“Dinner in the open air” by Jakub Różalski.

WEREWOLF (II), Volkodlak

(Proto-Slavic *vъlkodlakъ: *vъlkъ “wolf” + *dlaka “skin, hair”)

Slovenian volkodlak, Polish wilkołak, Russian volkolak, Czech vlkodlak, Bulgarian vărkolak, Serbian-Croatian vukodlak etc.

in Slavic mythology human with ability to turn into a ➚ wolf or transformed into one by other people.

Herodotus mentioned about the lycanthropy of Slavs, when writing on Neuri (Greek Neuroí, probably a Slavic or Slavic-Baltic people from the upper basin of Dnestr, Boh and Pripyat Rivers) [1]. He suggested that each of the tribe transformed into a wolf for several days once a year.

Possible traces of ritual dressing-up as a wolf (i.e. “being a wolf”) survived in Slavic ethnonyms. Veleti were called “Wiltzen” by Einhard (compare with Haefeldan-Wolves in King Alfred’s translation of Orosius), also compare with Lutici-Wolves (see euphemistic Russian description of a wolf – lutiy zver’ i.e. “dangerous animal”).

The origin of ideas on werewolves relates to heroism; compare with metamorphosis of Zmaj (see ZMAJ OGNJENI VUK) and Vseslav [2] as well as wolfish costume of ➚ Makedon. At the same time linguistic data show evidence on the relation between the lycanthropy and wisdom, knowledge; compare with Ukrainian vischun “werewolf”, Czech vedi “werewolf cubs”. Both aspects were represented by ➚ Volkh Vseslavevich. Probably the lycanthropy is genetically connected with the wisdom of warrior-chieftain acquired during the military initiation.



[1] H d t., Hist., IV, 105; [2] Słowo…, 426 ff.


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