Did you know that some werewolves were also holy warriors of God who protected people from demons and reclaimed stolen goods from the forces of evil to ensure good crops each year,and passed between Heaven, Hell, and Earth at will?
Well, they were! Let’s talk about something called the Hounds of God, and the one court trial it comes from – the trial of a man named Thies (also spelled Thiess). This is a very important piece of werewolf studies, as it’s something that often gets overlooked today in favor of scholars who choose not to look beyond the modern portrayal of insane, murderous werewolves.
In 1691, a court case took place in what is now present-day Latvia, in which a man named Thies of Kaltenbrun was brought into court in regards to a separate case, one about a church robbery. However, the court was told that Thies was a werewolf who’d made a deal with the Devil.
Surprising everyone, Thies admitted openly to being a werewolf, and even told the court of some of his doings. For instance, he told the court that he once broke his nose – when he traveled to Hell with fellow werewolves, in order to retrieve some grain for some farmers. So here we have an amazingly benevolent werewolf, chasing demons into Hell after they stole some grain, just to get it back for the farmers.
Thies reminded the court that he’d once told them these things before, but they laughed him off. This second testimony of lycanthropy concerned them, especially since many of those present in said court knew him well and as a friend, and they argued that he was a perfectly sensible and intelligent man who had never once hurt anyone or broken the law.
The court, of course, informed Thies that werewolves are allies of the Devil and therefore could not be agents of God. Thies disputed this, saying that werewolves battled Satanic wizards in hell, calling werewolves the Hounds of God. Thies said a very important difference existed between werewolves and Satanic sorcerers (like Peter Stubbe, as you’ll recall from a previous werewolf fact). Werewolves went to Heaven, and wizards went to Hell. According to Thies, werewolves would only ever descend into Hell to reclaim things like grain, fruit, fish, and cattle so that people have good harvests.
Trouble came up for Thies when the court learned he was also a local healer, one who blessed crops and animals and cast charms against wolves, to keep them away from livestock. Because of this, the court decided he was sacrilegious, claiming his blessings didn’t mention God – despite Thies himself proclaiming he was a Christian. Sadly, that wasn’t good enough for them (because they really just wanted to find some loophole to nail any guy who claimed to be a werewolf, whether he was good or bad, insane or sound), and Thies was still sentenced to be flogged and then banished for life from his home town.
Something important to note here, and I put great emphasis on this, is that not all of Christianity saw werewolves as pure evil. There were sects and regions that didn’t deride werewolves or things related to them (say hi, Saint Christopher) – but as eras passed, this began to wane, and the beliefs of werewolves as shamans, healers, defenders, or any sort of benevolent figure started to disappear. Over time, the Catholic Church moved away from any idea that werewolves could be benevolent. Gone were stories like the werewolves of Ossory, and all tales of werewolf knights were pushed aside. By the 1700s, the Church – by and large – wanted werewolves to be evil, and that was that.
This leaves you with two people recounting werewolf lore by the Early Modern Period: the Church and the physicians, both of whom wanted everyone to believe that either werewolves were pure evil and served the Devil, or werewolves didn’t exist and were the product of insane people who needed to be put down, respectively. No matter who was judging, no matter the basis of religion or science, werewolves lost, so their legends started to become lost, too.
By this point in time (unlike earlier, when monks preserved so many of the werewolf legends we still have today), neither the religious nor the secular powers had any interest in preserving the old folklore of cultures (including Christian ones!) that believed werewolves to be benevolent.
And if we don’t continue to tell the world about the benevolent werewolf legends out there, guess what? They’ll continue to fade, and we’ll lose them, too. Then we’ll be stuck forever with these awful evil pop culture plague rat werewolves, and ew, who on earth wants that?