Poligny Werewolves (1521) Werewolf trial in France. In December 1521 two men were charged with witchcraft and cannibalism and brought before the Inquisitor General for the diocese of Besancon, France. The accused were Pierre Burgot (also Bourgot), called Peter the Great because of his size, and Michel Verdun (also Verdung).
Partway into the trial, Burgot made a full confession. He said that 19 years earlier in Poligny, a terrible storm scattered his ﬂock of sheep. He enlisted the help of others and went out in search of his lost sheep. Three black horsemen rode up to him and inquired about his troubles. One of the men promised three things: Burgot would ﬁnd his lost sheep; he would be protected and would never have any more trouble; and he would be given money. He would have all of these things if he would pledge to serve only the man’s master. Burgot agreed to meet the man again in four or ﬁve days.
Burgot did find all of his sheep, and he went to the meeting. He learned that the mysterious man was a servant of the devil. He swore allegiance to the devil and renounced Christianity. He kissed the man’s left hand, which he described as “black and ice-cold as that of a corpse.” He later learned the man’s named was Moyset.
Burgot served the devil for two years. His ﬂock was protected. But Burgot soon tired of this life and resumed attending church. He was approached by Michel Verdun and was persuaded to renew his compact with the devil on the promise of getting money. Verdun took him into the woods, where a ceremony was performed for transforming into WEREWOLVES. Burgot described it:
In a wood near Chastel Charnon we met with many others whom I did not recognize; we danced, and each had in his or her hand a green taper with a blue ﬂame. Still under the delusion that I should obtain money, Michel persuaded me to move with the greatest celerity, and in order to do this, after I had stripped myself, he smeared me with a salve, and I believed myself then to be transformed into a wolf. I was at ﬁrst somewhat horriﬁed at my four wolf’s feet, and the fur with which I was covered all at once, but I found that I could now travel with the speed of the wind. This could not have taken place without the help of our powerful master, who was present during our excursion, though I did not perceive him till I had recovered my human form. Michel did the same as myself. When we had been one or two hours in this condition of metamorphosis, Michel smeared us again, and quick as thought we resumed our human forms. The salve was given us by our masters; to me it was given by Moyset, to Michel by his own master Guillemin.
Burgot insisted that, unlike the accounts given by other accused witches and werewolves, he felt no exhaustion after his shape-shifted adventures. He said that he and Verdun went out many times as wolves.
On one occasion, Burgot said he seized a boy of about six or seven years, intending to tear him to pieces and eat him. The boy screamed so loudly that Burgot was forced to retreat to his clothes and smear himself with OINTMENT in order to resume his human shape so that he could escape detection.
On another occasion, he and Verdun attacked and tore to pieces a woman who was gathering peas. They killed a man who attempted to rescue her. They attacked, killed, and ate a girl of four, leaving only one arm. Verdun thought the ﬂesh to be especially delicious. They strangled another girl and drank her BLOOD. In his human form, Burgot attacked a girl of nine who was weeding her garden. She begged for her life, but he snapped her neck, killing her. He attacked a goat and bit it in the throat, and then killed it with a knife.
Burgot told the inquisitor that he had to be naked in order to make the transformation into wolf, but Verdun could do it with his clothes on. Burgot could not explain what happened to his wolf hair when he shape-shifted back into human form; it just seemed to vanish. Verdun corroborated all of Burgot’s statements.
See also LYCANTHROPY; SHAPE-SHIFTING.
- Baring-Gould, Sabine. The Book of Werewolves. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1865.
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.