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Legendary Irish Wolf Warriors

April 26th, 2011 § 19

wolf-growl

All throughout history you can find stories in nearly every country of men that transform into beasts, and ancient Ireland is no different. Ireland is home to stories of ancient warriors known as the Laignach Faelad, warriors that could change their form into that of a savage beast, such as a wolf. Just imagine it, a small army of wolves… terrifying isn’t it?

In what is now known as Tipperary, Ireland, there are stories told, stories about a group of vicious warriors called the Laignach Faelad who were said to be half man, half wolf. These men are mentioned in an incredibly ancient Irish text known as the Coir Anmann, which claims that these faelad (soldiers) would fight for any king willing to pay their steep price. The text goes on to say that these men dressed in wolf skins and were tremendously brutal in battle, which is why the old Irish kings wanted them so badly. During this time the land was drenched in the blood of battle, the country was constantly at war and the kings would do whatever it took to win, including hiring the inhuman Laignach Faelad, which not everyone was too pleased with.

Now, you may wonder why one would be wary about hiring the Laignach Faelad, kings have plenty of gold right? Yes, but unfortunately these warriors did not ask for money, instead they asked for something entirely more precious – the flesh of newborns. They would divide among themselves, falling upon the flesh like wolves and devour it raw. A king would have to be pretty desperate and ruthless to hire these warriors.

The Laignach Faelad were followers of the awful and bloodthirsty god Crom Cruach (the Bowed God of the Mounds), one of the oldest and most horrible of Irish deities. It is also said that these ancient warriors were the most powerful during the reign of king Tigernmas, who was also a follower of this god.

Amazing story, right? Well, in the late 1500s, the English writer William Camden ridicules these stories, saying that the “Wolf Men of Tipperary” never existed. However, no one can know for sure if they are or not. You’ll have to decide for yourselves – do you think the Laignach Faelad really existed?

- Moonlight

About the Author

One of the writers for werewolves.com, as well as vampires.com.

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19 Responses to Legendary Irish Wolf Warriors

  1. Scott says:

    Ah Ireland, so many werewolf legends so few wolves

  2. Ulric Helsing says:

    They sound similar to the Ulfsarks or Beserkers of Scandinavia. Awesome!

    • moonlight says:

      I know! I love these old stories. :) It’s interesting to see the similarities and how stories pass from one place to another.

  3. Paul says:

    There is a British tv series I think it is from the early 80s based on the advertures of Robin Hood and there was a villainous group much like this. Even the name Crom Cruagh was whom they worshipped.

  4. mischa says:

    Some of this is accurate, but most people when it comes to Irish mythology don’t delve deep enough to understand it properly or learn to spell the names right! having been born, raised and lived in Ireland all my life and studied for years on the history I know a thing or two, not being arrogant just stating what I know. Their is no naming out of them devouring newborns, sorry to disappoint, they didn’t that is people adding in the horror or what werewolves are renowned in modern fiction as, but in ancient times this was not what was known.

  5. Nani says:

    This isn’t meant to be insulting, but I think you may have mixed up your translation. ‘Faelad’ may actually be ‘faoladh,’ which translates to something akin to ‘wolf-form’or ‘wolf-like’(‘faol’ meaning ‘wolf’). I just wanted to clear that up (I’m slowly learning Irish, myself, so I was excited when you posted this, but I just wanted to check on that out of curiosity ^_^;; ).

  6. Rhonda says:

    I am writing a book so a lot of this information is very helpful. I promise that if this book is published, I will enter this website as one of the ones I have picked my info up from.

  7. bookwolf says:

    long live werewolves of ireland! hey creator of werewolves.com have u read changeling? really good series of books about a teenage werewolf!!

  8. Hrimhar says:

    To be honest, I have my doubts that even these legends existed since Bob Curran’s book “The Werewolf Handbook” also doesn’t really say where he has this story from.
    Sure he does mention this “extremely ancient Irish text known as the Coir Anmann” but not where he read about it and who/what was the source for that text. If it really is so ancient it would not be something just anybody could get access to and from what I know, Curran has a doctorate in educational psychology and not history or literature or any field that is actually related to the topic.
    Well since he doesn’t really say where he has it from it is hard if not impossible to say whether he made it up or had false information.
    But I can say this:
    I searched for this title and found the title “Cóir Anmann: A late Middle Irish treatise on personal names” edited by Sharon Arbuchnoc. The first part was published in 2005 and the second one in 2007. Furthermore the first book states that there were three of them all contained in Arbuchnoc’s work.
    The scribe of the original first Cóir Anmann (CA) was Ádhamh Ó Cianáin who died in 1373. He was copying from an exemplar belonging to or written by his teacher and most of the manuscript appears to have been written before 1345 (possible 1344), making it ‘the earliest surviving compilation of traditional material after the Book of Leinster’. Five complete copies and one fragment of the second CA have survived and none are older than the late fourteenth century. And three copies of the third CA have survived, all not older than the sixteenth century. So all in all not exactly “extremely ancient”.

    But the actual relevant part is this:
    In the second part of the book by Arbuchnoc there is the following translated text;
    Laignech Fáelad [<fáel 'wolf'], i.e. he was a man who used to engage in 'wolfing', i.e. he used to change into wolf-forms, i.e. into the forms of wolves, whenever he wanted, and so did his descendents after him. And they used to kill cattle in the manner of wolves. For that reason he used to be called Laignech Fáelad. For he was the first of them to change into the form of a wolf.

    This is basically the same description that Montague Summers had in his book "Werewolf". He further added the sentence "This was in Ossory". As his sources he lists "Irische Texte" by Whitley Stokes and Ernst Windisch and "The Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius." William Camden is mentioned in the book but I could find nothing of Tipperary.
    But I did find a reference to Tipperary in the book "Metamorphoses of the Werewolf" albeit only referring to the "Tipperary border". Nonetheless in the book it is stated that the "De Ingantaib Érenn (On the wonders of Ireland) … identifies the werewolves 'as the descendents of Laignech Fáelad in Ossory". It also identifies Fáelad as a person, not a group of people.

    Now Wikipedia mentions Ossory as the anglicized version of the Kingdom of Osraighe and that it "was an ancient kingdom of Ireland. It formed the easternmost part of the kingdom and province of Munster until the middle of the 9th century, after which it attached itself to Leinster." And it further states that County of Tipperary is today located in Munster, so it's possible that "Ossory" and "Tipperary" mean the same location in this case.

    But more I could not find out. And since Curran does not state his sources it is in my eyes at best questionable whether this legend really existed.

    • moonlight says:

      Considering that you are doing all of your searches on the internet, including the questionable wikipedia, I’m going to go ahead and go with Curran. No offense, but I’d rather listen to a well educated expert in the field than someone just doing google searches. I find it highly unlikely that Curran is just making up stories to fill a book.

      • Hrimhar says:

        Actually I only searched for the locations on Ossory and Tipperary on the internet. The Coir Anmann I rented from my local library and read it myself, which should be obvious since I mentioned the exact text.
        Furthermore I own the Werewolf by Summers as well as Metamorphoses of the Werewolf.
        And why do you think that Curran is “a well educated expert”? Please don’t say again that he has a doctorate, because the one he has has no relation to the topic.
        And since he doesn’t state his sources and his book is inconsistent within itself, why do you think it is reliable?
        Does he have had to make it up? No.
        Does that mean it has to be true? No. He simply could have made mistakes.

        • moonlight says:

          Do you know what bibliography means? It’s a list of sources used. Curran has a bibliography in the back of his book with all of his sources. Having read virtually every old text on the topic, and having written many very successful books of his own, I see that as him being an expert.

          • Hrimhar says:

            Show some respect. I know what a bibliography is and just because someone wrote alot of books doesn’t make that person an expert. Or would you claim that Harun Yahar is an expert on evolution?
            Anyway, if your version of “The Werewolf Handbook” has a bibliography than you must have a different one than I do. It has 80 pages, just like stated at Amazon. After the entry on Susanna Martin there is the werewolf test, the glossary, the index and the acknowledgement but no bibliography at all.

          • moonlight says:

            I wasn’t being rude, I apologize if it came off that way. I thought we were talking about the original werewolf handbook of his, or rather the Werewolf Field Guide (I forgot I got the story from the smaller one). That one has a bibliography on page 215. Since it came out before the smaller handbook and the smaller one contains most of the same info, just condensed, chances are it has the same sources.

            And you are right, writing books doesn’t make you an expert. But you have to admit the fact that the man is obviously intelligent, he has MANY books on folklore, not just werewolf ones and all of the big books contain sources. He has clearly done his research. The smaller books he has done may not contain sources, but they all came out after his bigger books which do. The smaller ones are more for fun, they are just little, artistic books with some interesting tidbits on folklore and history. I feel like the bigger books of his are for those more interested in the topic, whereas the smaller ones are just for fun. I won’t argue about his accuracy with you, I feel that he has done his research. Your views are your own :)

  9. Hrimhar says:

    Apology accepted.
    However there is still a problem. I checked the book you mentioned via Amazon and looked at his bibliography as well as the entries on these warriors and it really is basically the same, more or less of course. Still he should have stated his sources in the smaller one.
    Now anyway this sadly doesn’t solve the main problem. One of his sources is “The Werewolf in Lore and Legend” which is according to the book istelf the “unabridged version” of “The Werewolf” by the same author. Now the content lists for the first and later version are identical, with the same page-numbers, as far as I read even the introduction and first chapter are the same, so we can probably assume that they are identical. And here is the problem I already pointed out: Summers speaks of only one person of the name, not a whole group of people. If Curran knew this book, why didn’t he comment on that in “Werewolves”? Or did I overlook something?

    And both claim the Coir Anmann as the source for this and like I stated the Coir Anmann states the same thing Summers states and not what Curran claims. In the longer book Curran states the Anmann to have been edited in the 16th century, which is consistent with what I wrote before so we can assume that he talks about the third Anmann, which I have here next to me and that one states what Summers states and nothing else.

    Now you have to admit that this would at least cause raised eyebrows. For me it makes me state to questions:
    1) How valid is his work?
    2) How valid are his sources?

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