The expression 'u lupuminariu'
derives from the Latin Lupus Hominarius, a man like wolf or Lupus
Manarius, person who walks on all fours.
Popular belief of the werewolf is atavist and dates
back to time immemorial. Already in the Bible is mentioned King
Nabucodonosor who, because of his vanity, was transformed into a wolf and
assumed wild, bestial behaviour. Also, in Greek mythology, there is
reference to Laconius, King of Arcadia, who was changed into a wolf by Zeus
and amongst the ancient Romans, Ovid describes in his Metamorphosis a man
adopting the resemblance of a wolf.
American Indians Europeans have long spoken about
men who became wolves: the process of transformation would occur during full
moon nights. Furthermore, it was believed that whoever was conceived on 25th
of March, day of the Annunciation of Mary, and was born at midnight of 25th
of December, Christmas day, would become lupuminariu. It was also
popular belief that if a werewolf were struck the injury would still be
visible once he had returned human.
The origins of the legend are so many and vary from
region to region but all seem to agree in identifying the wolf as the most
fierce and ingenious animal which attack and devour his prey, so that this
magnificent and intelligent canine is portrayed in several fairytales as the
wicked beast and the catholic religion has often identified it as a satanic
Luckily, today the notorious legend of the lupuminariu
remains only in motion pictures.
Before continuing, however, it is worth
pointing out few misconceptions as the werewolf is often linked to
lycanthropy and the he-wolf.
The werewolf is a man who in nights of full moon
assumes the appearance of an animal which growls, howls and undertakes
dreadful, gory crimes in order to satisfy its bestial needs. It wanders
alone at night and is not capable to ascend a staircase because he walks
belly up, back arched and on all fours and very rarely can be cured.
Lycanthropy is a different matter altogether: it is
science. According to experts is to be considered a lycanthrope a person who
is affected by behavioural problems linked to hysteria and feels compelled
to transform himself into the growling and howling animal or is possessed by
the animal spirit and is induced to attack and bite his fellow humans.
It is pure madness, not a myth and the man remains man. The he-wolf is again
different and far from myth or medical condition. Here we are talking of
recorded events, the child brought up by a pack of wolves from which he has
acquired the behaviour: he communicates using their same growls, has claw
hands, does not hold himself erect, has a fierce look, howls and so on, but
does not transform himself.
During the dark centuries of the Holy
Inquisition many went on trial and burned at the stake as heretics with the
accusation of being werewolves. A famous werewolf was Gilles Garnier, burned
at Dole in France in 1573 because accused of having slaughtered and feasted
on some children that had strayed from home.
The German Peter Stupper was beheaded in 1539
because found guilty of slaying and eating young children and pregnant women
after boasting of being able to transform himself in a werewolf with the aid
of a magic belt received by the devil.
Sant'Andrea has also had its fair share of lupiminari
and fantastic tales but thanks God nobody ended up on the pyre.
Often people were accused of being werewolves
because of envy, because they drunk too much and at night would bellow
dreadfully or for revenge. Some men upheld the legend as a cunning device
for having a free hand take part in nocturnal raids or visiting a cummara
when her husband was away. (Cummara means 'godmother' but here of
course means lover). In any case the lupuminariu was always
and exclusively male. Only under these occasions woman unfaithfulness was
condoned while in all other circumstances she was always declared the
scandalous scarlet woman and forced to hang her head in shame.
Usually transformation occurred at midnight in full
moon, when the magnificent sphere invades our land with all its luminosity
so to reveal the pearly blue transparency of our ancient districts nowadays
it used to soften the wintry freeze and encouraged better dreaming for the
people prematurely aged and bent by hard work and harsh life.
In Sant'Andrea nobody dream any longer, the
districts sleep their eerie sleep, the ancient ruga is wounded and mutilated,
has lost its smells and flavours, the locked up houses resemble resigned
widows, desperate mothers waiting in vain the return of their loved ones;
grandmothers do no longer sit on the front step waiting for their
grandchildren. There are no more children. (in dialect ruga means
neighbourhood, but it also means wrinkle).
U lupuminariu converted into a nocturnal
monster and begun its wandering around the populated heart of the village
and would later go on to await for his victims at crossroads of dark, busy
lanes. The nails of his hands and feet would grow and curve until they
became powerful, hooky claws, symbols of ruthless ferocity. The body would
get covered with long, coarse, bristly hairs overflowing from the sleeves
and de' carzi (trousers, pants) of his wretched clothes. His chest
would expand and the body would all together become more lewd and powerful.
The eyes would get tinged of the brightest red and the canine teeth would
reveal the ability of tearing and penetrating into the flesh especially when
his rage and growling would show the silky, foaming slaver that would
trickle menacingly from the hoary jaws.
He wondered around belly up with a sturdy, brisk
trot, supported by his beastly hands, searching every corner and growling
and howling savagely.
For whoever met him, the only hope of survival
would be running up a long flight of stairs, as the beast, with his strange
posture, could not master the steps. To make him revert to his human
self, you were meant to wound him, although not fatally but enough for him
to loose some blood, as it was thought that blood was what infected the very
being of his double nature. However, u lupuminariu was not easily
tricked or caught unaware, it was very difficult to struck him as the scar
would have been visible once he returned human and that would be the
only incriminating proof that would reveal his true identity.
In Sant'Andrea there always have circulated tales
of several lupuminari and one of these was Antonio: 'Do not go out
tonight because 'Nt¨ani 'e Palýaddhu nŔscia 'e lupuminÓriu and
will eat you!'
Of course we do not believe this. Antonio was a
weired individual, nevertheless his peculiar and flamboyant behaviour was
dictated, like for many of his times, by his overindulgence of the fine wine
of Tralo': when he drunk in excess would remain sleepless.
The fumes of alcohol provoked thunderous roars that were however more
indicative of his lonely existence and his need of love than anything else.
It seems that this notoriety of being a werewolf
came from an impetuous, fiery lady who had proposed to Antonio an amorous
encounter but he had refused in order to save the agreed sum for the favours.
The lady embarked on revenge with all her might by spreading the gossips and
from there to becoming a recognised lupuminariu was an easy step. G¨rditi
JudŔu ca pÓsqua vinna. (loosely translated: Stuff yourself, Judas,
Easter has arrived).