Livonia Werewolves

Livonia Werewolves : A mass hysteria of LYCANTHROPY in northern Europe during the Inquisition. The Livonia area (now part of the Baltic Republics of Estonia and Latvia) was rife with superstitions and fears of WEREWOLVES. During the 1600s—the peak of the Inquisition’s witch hunts— 31 people in Livonia were brought to trial on charges of damage to animals, property, and people while running amok as werewolves.

According to lore, werewolves made night marches by the thousands in annual rites after Christmas. For 12 days, the people were transformed into wolves. While their human bodies lay in trance, the werewolves were beaten with chains or IRON rods by the devil and were forced to attack flocks of animals.

Casper Peucer, a Protestant physician, described the reported events in his Commentarius de Praecipibus Divinationum Generibus (1560):

At Christmas a boy lame of a leg goes round the countryside summoning the Devil’s followers, who are countless, to a general conclave. Whoever remains behind, or goes reluctantly, is scourged by another with an iron whip till the blood flows, and his traces are left in blood. The human form vanishes, and the whole multitude become wolves. Many thousands assemble. Foremost goes the leader armed with an iron whip, and the troop follow, firmly convinced in their imagination that they are transformed into wolves. They fall upon herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, but they have no power to slay me. When they come to a river, the leader smites the water with his scourge and it divides, leaving a dry path through the midst, by which the pack go. The transformation lasts twelve days, at the expiration of which period the wolf skin vanishes, and the human form reappears.

The parting of the water was considered by demonologists to be a mockery of the biblical parting of the Red Sea for the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

In another case described by OLAUS MAGNUS, the wife of a Livonian lord publicly doubted the existence of werewolves. One of her servant boys promptly disappeared into a cellar and returned as a wolf. Dogs chased him into the woods and bit out one of his eyes. The next day he reappeared in human form with one eye missing. The sympathetic link of physical wounds between human and wolf forms is common in werewolf lore. See also THEISS OF LIVONIA.


  • Otten, Charlotte F., ed. A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture. New York: Dorset Press, 1989.
  • Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology. New York: Bonanza Books, 1981.
  • Summers, Montague. The Werewolf. New York: Bell Publishing, 1966

From: the Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley -a leading expert on the paranormal -Copyright © 2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.