The Benandanti Werewolves
This case was tried in 1692 in Jurgenburg, Livonia,
situated in an area east of the Baltic Sea, steeped in werewolf
folklore. It involved an 80-year-old man named Thiess.
Thiess confessed being a werewolf, saying his nose had been
broken by a man named Skeistan, a witch who was dead at the
time he had struck Thiess. According to Thiess' testimony Skeistan
and other witches were preventing the crops of the area from
growing. Their purpose for doing this was to carry the grain
into hell. To help the crop to continue to grow, Thiess with
a band of other werewolves descended into hell to fight the
witches and recover the grain.
The warring of the werewolves and the witches occurred on
three nights of the year: Saint Lucia, Pentecost and Saint
John (the seasonal changes). If the werewolves were slow in
their descent the witches would bar the gates of hell, and
the crops, livestock, and even the fish catch would suffer.
As weapons the werewolves carried iron bars while the witches
used broom handles. Skeistan broke Theiss' nose with a broom
handle wrapped in a horse's tail.
The judges were astounded
by such testimony, for they had naturally supposed the werewolves
were agents of the Devil. But now they were hearing the werewolves
were fighting the Devil. When asked what became of the souls
of the werewolves, Thiess said they went to heaven. He insisted
werewolves were the "hounds of Gods" who helped
mankind by preventing the Devil from carrying off the abundance
of the earth. If it were not for them all would suffer. He
said there were werewolves in Germany and Russia also fighting
witches in their own hells.
Thiess was determined in his confession, denying he had ever
signed a pact with the Devil. He refused to see the parish
priest who was sent for to chastise him, saying that he was
a better man than any priest. He claimed he was neither the
first nor the last man to become a werewolf in order to fight
Finally the judges, probably out of desperation, sentenced
Thiess to ten lashes for acts of idolatry and superstitious