British Werewolves in Music
DOM COOPER serves up some tasty British Werewolf tunes for tonight’s full moon!
Therianthropy or animal transformation is a recurrent theme in British folklore that has filtered down into folk song and beyond, capturing the imagination of many a songwriter. The old English word for ‘man’ is ‘were’ and it is from that source we get werewolves, werefoxes and werecats. Many instances of ‘were’ animals can be found in lore and culture, and from these tales the myth has grown to become locked in to the public psyche.
Saxon chronicles and other written accounts, dating back to the time of King Athelstan in 950, tell us that Britain was once inhabited by wolves. The wolf population endured until the 18th Century when it eventually died out after being hunted to extinction. The last wolf is reported to have died at Wormhill. Maybe the guilt from that crime would go on to create their cultural payback later.
In the Welsh poem ‘Pa Gwr yw y Porthwr’ from circa 1250, we find the Gwrgi Garwlwyd (Man Dog Rough Grey) who was known to kill a Briton each day, with two on Saturday so he could rest on Sunday. This is wolf savagery getting it’s claws in early.
Other animals were also feared. Foxes were thought to be the devil in disguise in the Middle Ages. In Lincolnshire a bite from the vulpine creature was believed to be fatal, and another piece of lore said – during those rare days when both the sun shone and the rain fell, this meant foxes were getting married.
The fox as a trickster appears in an ever evolving folk song from the 19th Century called ‘Reynardine’. Collected as a Victorian broadside ballad, the werefox song (or werewolf song) was later adapted into its well known form by A.L. Lloyd, and in ’69 the band Fairport Convention popularised the song. In ’71 Anne Briggs recorded her stark haunting version.