Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages by Claude Lecouteux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Scholarly piece of work that canvasses the gamut of European traditions and talks extensively about the Astral Double. Prior to the advent of Christianity which propagated the belief in just one complete soul and one complete body,the Europeans believed that there were three parts. The first part of the soul was called the Fylgja, the second part was called the Hugr and the third part was the Hamr.
The Fylgja acted as sort of an guardian angel. It could take the form of a human or animal. The Fylgja would stay with a person from their birth until their death. Upon death the Fylgja would go to someone else. For a male the Fylgja would often appear as a female. In the Siberian shaman tradition the man would meet this female and be married to her. The could not have children of course but the shaman would be taught magic by the Fylgja. The Fylgja would carry out battles on the behalf of their owner. The appearance of these Fylgjas lead people to call them fairies.
The Hugr is the astral double that usually looks like the person. Also called the fetch. It could travel far distances and be seen by different people as well as view what was going on in distant places. If it got wounded the persons physical body. This fetch could take human form or animal form, including that of the werewolf.
Werewolf was nothing but the astral double of the person who was astral planing. Usually the werewolf was born with six fingers, one eyebrow or with the caul still over it's head. Sometimes a person was spelled to be a werewolf. The werewolves of Livonia and the benadanti in Italy would battle evil sorcerers and take back seeds and grains they had stolen and brought to hell. They guaranteed the harvest.
Witches also sent their astral doubles forward to do certain deeds. Some good some bad. There were times when they stole children sometimes they did good things. On the sabbats they would smear their bodies with flying ointment and imagine they were flying with the Goddess Diana or her daughter Herodia. Sometimes they flew with Abonde. It was their Hugrs that were flying. Shamans could leave their body as will with special techniques.
While the Hugr was out the person's body could not be moved. They had to be left lying on their back.To put them on their stomach would not allow the hugr to return to the body and they would be forced to wander forever. Not much is said about the hamr although it seems to be like an energy that can be used to cause nightmares. Most people do not astral travel or have their Hugr leave their body unless they are sick or experience some grave trauma. Sometimes the Hugr would visit different realms.
The book uses many tales from the Norse religion and goes extensively into Romans and Greek lore as well. The similarity between them all despite the lack of connection is amazing. This is a must read.
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