TWH – At the 2022 Conference on Pagan Studies, Denny Sargent presented a talk on “Animist-Pagan Werewolf Cults in the Ancient World. last January, The Wild Hunt discussed this presentation. The Wild Hunt recently spoke with Sargent via email, a conversation focused on the spiritual practice of Werewolf Magic.
Most people in the developed world have heard of werewolves from two sources. Classic black and white horror movies of the 1930s provided background knowledge. TV shows like “Teen Wolf” and “Vampire Diaries” have updated this base with irony, the modern world, and teenage angst.
These Hollywood Urban Legends (HUL) bear much the same resemblance to werewolf magic as Hollywood witch urban legends bear to witchcraft. For clarity, the words “HUL Werewolves” will refer to the legendary werewolves of Hollywood-Urban. The words “Werewolf Magic” will refer to Sargent’s spiritual practice.
Sargent dismissed “any real connection between HUL werewolves” and werewolf magicians.
Unlike HUL Werewolves, Sargent highly recommended the recent film “The Northman.” He said, “The shamanic berserker’s shapeshifting initiation scene (with mushrooms) is the best portrayal of an ancient werewolf cult I can imagine.” Some specialize in a specific form.
Werewolf Magic, open to all genders and races
In the past, HUL werewolves were mostly male. Sargent reported that more recent HUL werewolf films have featured female werewolves. Examples include the “Ginger Snaps” franchise (2000 and 2004) and “My Mom’s a Werewolf” (1989).
In Sargent’s workshops on Werewolf Magic, about half identify as male and the other half as female. Trans and queer people have attended his workshops, and Sargent stressed that the path is open to all genders.
In his book, Werewolf pack magicSargent wrote: “If you are racist, using the pretense of magic or group work to control others, are homophobic or bigoted in any way, you are not practicing werewolf magic and you are not Don’t honor wolves that don’t attack other wolves because of their fur color or preferred sex.
Before publication, Sargent asked women to review and verify his books werewolf magic and werewolf pack. Both were old handicraftsmen. One woman was straight. The other was gay. They made changes that Sargent adopted. He also gave a preprint review copy to a trans friend and two gay men from The Craft. He said this process “enhanced both books and helped me be open to everyone.”
Werewolf magic transformation
With each full moon, HUL werewolves undergo a complete and involuntary physical transformation. Werewolf Magic also involves transformation, but not on a physical level. Its transformation is voluntary.
Sargent referenced the book, Witches, werewolves and fairies: shapeshifters and astral doubles in the Middle Ages (Lecouteux 2003). This book contains a discussion of the “Double”. Sargent found this concept useful in explaining the magical transformations of werewolves.
Sargent argued that the ancient Egyptians and Greeks believed that an individual would have more than one soul. Sargent calls one of these souls, the Double.
Sargent said that witches often call the Double “the ‘astral body'”. He described it as “the energetic, malleable aspect of ourselves”.
Werewolf magick involves working on the astral or Double in a deep, energized trance state. Animist spirits or gods can help in this process. First, the werewolf magician must form the double (astral skin). Then they have to place the wolf spirit there to form the Wolfskin. Then they can wear the Wolfskin.
Sargent said this work shuts down “the upper upper cortex of the ‘monkey mind'”. He argues that the shutdown allows “the primitive lower brain to take over.” It liberates the Animalself. This term refers to that animal part of you that has been bullied and repressed in a metaphorical cage. In this process, the werewolf magician shapes the astral double and activates the solar plexus energy center.
Werewolf Magical transformation involves body, mind, and soul. The transformation involves “deep psychological work, induction of mental, emotional and magical trance states, [and] physical changes with the will. Magician wolves howl, sway, growl, and physically swing. Some magicians drum the ritual rhythm.
Sargent said that “it takes over an hour to get into this state.” It requires intensive practice “to shut down the upper cortex and let the animal spirit take over.” A “complex coordinated effort”, Werewolf Magic involves “the manipulation of bodily, mental, astral and physical energy”.
Werewolf magic differs from hard polytheism. This works more with animism and animal spirits than with deities. A priestess of Hecate belongs to the same pack as Sargent. For her, Werewolf Magic is part of her practice of devotion to Hecate.
How does the Wolfpack see itself in a trance?
A magical evening of werewolf “full moon trance state/shape-shifting/funny howl” lasted over four hours. Afterwards, Sargent asked the rest of the pack how they had seen him in his werewolf form. Never before had the group discussed this. The other members of the wolf pack saw Sargent as a wolf with black fur and streaks of gray. Sargent saw himself exactly that way.
The Wolfpack continued to compare their self-image with how others saw them. Other members of the wolf pack saw a white arctic wolf. This magician also had his wolf skin double as a white arctic wolf. Another magician saw his “wolf skin lining” as a gray wolf with brown undertones. The other members of the pack saw him that way. Pack members saw each werewolf magician as that magician saw himself. Sargent argued that this happened too often to be a mere fluke.
Sargent found evidence of werewolf cults in the ancient world. At the Sanctuary of Zeus Lycaeus in Greece, priests offered offerings to Zeus Lycaeus (Wolfish Zeus.) The Wild Hunt previously discussed the Altar of Zeus at Lykaion, the center of this cult. He found evidence of a werewolf cult in the Lupercalia of ancient Rome. Sargent found evidence of werewolf cults among the ancient Celts and Germans.
Other communities and other parents
There are other communities with similar practices and Sargent reported that people from them have participated in Werewolf Magic workshops. Some individuals in the leather culture wear physical animal skins as a sign of belonging to the community. Furries have an affinity for certain animals. Furries are an inclusive community where members create an anthropomorphized animal character for themselves, called a fursona, and participate in that character in online and in-person communities. In their fursona, individuals may wear costumes or props to represent their anthropomorphic animal in the community and at events.
These practices resemble aspects of werewolf magic. Sargent reflected on these modern and age-old forms of animal incarnations or cosplay. He knows the Furries and the Leather People.
Sargent included bears among these groups. Bear is a term used by gay people to describe a male husky with generally obvious body hair. Many bears have formed a culture that values rugged yet non-toxic masculinity while promoting acceptance and inclusion of all body types. However, bears identify with the bear as animals, they come in human form, not animal.
Sargent considered bears, furs, and leather people to be “other relatives”.
Sargent believes that “other parents are called to release their repressed and ignored Animalself”. He thinks they “can actually move through liminal space where animal spirits interact with people.” The furs show an affinity with these animal spirits. For Sargent, talking about the other parent is “a fascinating conversation.” This conversation is “still unfolding as I move in more and more circles with this atavistic revival of animistic shapeshifting.” Her next book will be about Other Relatives and Werewolf Magic.
The magic of werewolves as a means of returning to nature
Sargent thinks he has “rediscovered a very important, very primitive gnosis that really helps people… [to] tear down the wall that separates them from Nature. This gnosis “leads to a more natural and joyful life. … We must reconnect with Gaia viscerally and deeply, as the animals that we ARE and rediscover a way of life that includes Nature and the wilderness as our daily reality to save our world.
More information about Denny Sargent is available on his website. His books include Werewolf Pack Magick: A Shapeshifter’s Book of Shadows (2022), and Werewolf Magick: Authentic Practical Lycanthropy (2020).