Priest Communes Good Werewolves

From Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) and his Topographia Hibernica, Topography of Ireland (Twelfth Century):

            I now proceed to relate some wonderful occurrences which have happened within our times. . .

It chanced that a priest [and his assistant] was journeying from Ulster towards Meath. He was watching by a fire which he had kindled under the branches of a spreading tree. Lo! a wolf came up to them, and immediately addressed them: “Rest secure, and be not afraid, for there is no reason you should fear.”

Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hibernica Image from British Library Royal MS 13 B VIII.

Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hibernica
Image from British Library Royal MS 13 B VIII.

The travellers being struck with astonishment and alarm, the wolf added some orthodox words referring to God. The priest then implored him, and adjured him by Almighty God and faith in the Trinity, not to hurt them, but to inform them what creature it was that in the shape of a beast uttered human words. The wolf, after giving catholic replies to all questions, added at last: “There are two of us, a man and a woman [who] are compelled every seven years to put off the human form, and depart from the dwellings of men. Quitting entirely the human form, we assume that of wolves.

“And now, she who is my partner in this visitation lies dangerously sick not from hence, and, as she is at the point of death, I beseech you, inspired by divine charity, to give her the consolations of your priestly office.”

The priest followed the wolf trembling as he led the way to a tree [and] beheld a she-wolf, who under that shape was pouring forth human sighs and groans. On seeing the priest, she gave thanks to God. She then received from the priest all the rites of the church duly performed, as far as the last communion. This also she importunately demanded: holy communion.

Priest communes werewolf. Note the missal around the wolf's neck. Topgraphia Hibernica,  From British Library Royal MS 13 B VIII.

Priest communes werewolf. Note the missal around the wolf’s neck. Topgraphia Hibernica, From British Library Royal MS 13 B VIII.

The priest stoutly asserted that he was not provided with it, then the he-wolf, who had withdrawn to a short distance, came back and pointed out a small missal-book, containing some consecrated wafers, which the priest carried on his journey, suspended from his neck, under his garment, after the fashion of the country. The wolf then entreated him not to deny them the gift of God. . .

The she-wolf immediately presented the form of an old woman. The priest, seeing this, and compelled by his fear more than his reason, gave the communion; the recipient having earnestly implored it, and devoutly partaking of it. These rites having been duly, rather than rightly, performed, the he-wolf gave them his company during the whole night at their little fire, behaving more like a man than a beast. When morning came, he led them out of the wood, and, leaving the priest to pursue his journey, pointed out to him the direct road for a long distance.

Epilogue: Later the priest confesses this incident to his bishop. The bishops asked Gerald, who was also a priest, to comment on the incident, but alas, he could not attend the meeting.

 

From Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hibernica.

Edited and abridged by Cynthia June Long.

Images from the British Library manuscript Royal MS 13 B VIII.

 

Spread the Word About The Secret Place

Tana French is back with her fifth book in the “Dublin Murder Squad” series, The Secret Place. This time, teen Holly Mackey brings detective Stephen Moran a clue on a year-old murder at her private boarding school, St. Kilda’s. Holly is the daughter of detective Frank Mackey from French’s previous book, Faithful Place, in which we also saw Stephen Moran first debut as a supporting character. New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin predicted in 2010, “If Ms. French keeps chain-linking her novels together, so that a supporting character in one becomes the protagonist of the next . . . Stephen will star in a book of his own some day.” The Secret Place is Stephen Moran’s big break to make it off the cold cases department and into the murder squad.

secret place cover

            One year earlier, Chris Harper, a handsome and popular student at the neighboring boys’ school was found dead, overnight, in a cypress grove at the girls’ school. The case had languished until Holly brings in a note from the anonymous-secrets bulletin board, the titular Secret Place, that claims that somebody knows who-done-it. Detective Moran teams up with the previous detective on the case, the maligned no-nonsense Antoinette Conway who is fighting sexism and the sting of being unable to solve her first murder.

The book is well-plotted and suspenseful (so suspenseful that I stayed up late reading it even though I was ill and exhausted) and has a dash of the uncanny or supernatural. French has a gift for characters and fully develops the primary suspects, eight teenage girls. Both the four girls from the popular clique and Holly and her three friends, the ‘weirdos’ or independent non-clique, are uniquely created. I stress: that’s a true gift to make eight teen girls into individuals! Equally as compelling is Moran’s interviews with all eight witnesses, in which he takes a different tack and approaches each girl according to her own ego needs in order to get at the truth.

As with the other Murder Squad books, department politics forms a strong subplot as Moran’s and Conway’s careers are on the line as they search for a solve. Frank Mackey even makes a larger-than-cameo appearance.

Gripping, insightful, and full of delightful teen and Irish slang, this is a strong addition to French’s series, although this book also stands alone. (The series is loosely linked.) A small downside is that because it is set in a self-contained boarding school, we American readers and lovers of all things Irish don’t get a vicarious view of the rest of Dublin.   Double bonus points for nick-naming a character “Father Voldemort” (the priest and Head of the boys’ school).

Craft Notes: A must-read for writers interested in creating multiple unique teenage characters and members of cliques who don’t blend together indistinguishably. This is an alternating narrative switching between the teenagers’ points of view from a year earlier and Moran’s present-day investigation. Moran’s interviews are also notable for dialogue or insight into police interviewing.

 

 

For Further Information: Tana French’s website

To purchase on Amazon

The Crescent Moon Bear and The Unconscious Bear Within

Copyright: Nature's Pics Online, Creative Commons, www.naturespicsonline.com

Copyright: Nature’s Pics Online, Creative Commons,
http://www.naturespicsonline.com

The subconscious is a wondrous place.

               I’d been musing on an anecdote I had read once-upon-a-time, I knew-not-where and I picked up my best guess source, Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Women Who Run With the Wolves. After some diligent searching and skimming, I found the story of interest, right there on page 284. I have since written about this passage for Orthodox Christian Network here if you want to check out the initial prompt down this particular rabbit hole.

I was honestly amazed that I found the passage. I wasn’t even sure if I was searching the right book. I haven’t read the book in close to ten years.

A brief reacquaintance with the text enabled me to realize that this is one of those books that speaks to you differently and significantly at different stages in one’s life. It is more than a collection of folktales—it is a book about how folktales teach us essential truths.

In my twenties, I cherished—and memorized—Estés’ version of “Vasalisa and the Doll” for its secrets in reclaiming and unlocking intuition. In my thirties, I clung to her tale of “The Ugly Duckling” as guidance on how to find true belonging. Here I am now, in my forties, redisocovering the Selkie and “The Red Shoes” and—surprising to me—a story about facing my own inner repressed rage she calls “The Crescent Moon Bear.”

Equally surprising is the steps the woman in the story takes to calm the Crescent Moon Bear. Like the Little Prince taming the Fox, the woman feeds the bear regularly, on schedule, each time inching closer to the bear. Finally she requests the object of her quest—one of his hairs.

Intriguing and amazing and profound that the same qualities the Little Prince uses to foster intimacy—consistency, respect, conveying safety, compassion, approaching gradually—are the same steps the woman in the Crescent Moon Bear story uses to calm the bear and her husband’s rage—and our own unacknowledged internal rage.

Consistency; Respect; Conveying safety; Compassion; Approaching gradually.

Why I am so surprised that these virtues are helpful in a variety of disparate situations?

Wish me luck in making peace with my inner raging bear and offering intimacy to reclaim my own inner child this year.

This year’s resolution: to play more.

Cover photo (cropped) from Clarissa Pinkola Estes' Women Who Run With The Wolves

Cover photo (cropped) from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With The Wolves

Fairy Tales Are Our Wise Guides

“Because matrilineal lines of initiation—older women teaching younger women certain psychic facts and procedures of the wild feminine—have been fragmented and broken for so many women and over so many years, it is a blessing to have the archaeology of the fairy tale to learn from. We can reconstruct all we need to know from those deep templates or compare our own ideas on women’s integral psychological processes to those found in tales. In this sense, fairy tales and mythos are our initiators; they are the wise ones who teach those who have come after.”

 

–Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves

V0012074

Wellcome Library, London.
Colored Lithograph.