The Victorians were obsessive people. Obsessive for knowledge as well as empire. In the late 1800’s their cities were overrun with all sorts of creatures, mostly human but some myths and legends. To mask their xenophobia, they saw vampires and werewolves running loose in the streets challenging their starch-shirted and oftentimes contradictory values. Dracula, that fanged foreigner was here for our children. Werewolves, also from foreign lands, roamed the forests plucking up school children and dairy maids.
These two books, guides in a way, came out of that obsession, that time.
Vampires and Vampirism
Dudley Wright was an English writer, historian, occultist, Mason, and scholar of Islam. At one point the editor of England’s most influential Masonic newspaper, The Freemason, Wright dedicated his career to the study of religious, theosophical, and esoteric traditions, and was the author of dozens of books and hundreds of articles on such wide-ranging topics as Buddhism, Judaism, poltergeists, and the life of Jesus.
Vampires and Vampirism (1914) is a work from another era, a time when belief and wonder led some to travel down pathways of knowledge in search of truth and terror, not knowing what they would find.
Written in response to an “awakened interest in supernormal phenomena” in the early twentieth century, Dudley Wright’s Vampires and Vampirism traces the history of vampirism around the world, from ancient Babylonia, Assyria, and Greece, to Great Britain, Germany, and Eastern Europe. At times despicable, and always controversial, Dudley Wright was a tireless searcher whose life included conversions to Islam and Catholicism, and a deep, spiritual involvement with organizations dedicated to matters both visible and invisible, true and beyond belief.
The Book of Werewolves
Fantasy, myth, and religious scholars probably know of the eccentric Sabine Baring-Gould’s work. He was prolific in his day, (more than 1,240 publications and 15 children) specifically in writing hymns. The Book of Were-Wolves, written in 1865, is a fascinating read on many levels. First, it shows the transition of literary styles from the late 1800s to today. Second, it is a real attempt at unbiased scholarship by someone whose biases show up in everything else.
Histories of shapeshifting from a wide variety of cultures (Baring-Gould cites everything from North American to South American to Asia to Africa and back up to Europe for examples), and attempts to explain shapeshifting as any number of things; is it psychosis? Is it real? Is it magic? Is it biologic? Is it culture-based (this section alone is worth the read).
He spends some time reviewing cases of ghoulism - eating the dead - as were-activity, also worth the read.