Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 24 June |
The Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Did the werewolf legend start with St. Christopher?

SAINT NICHOLAS,SAINT STEVEN

Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 11/25/17

You'll be surprised to see how the patron of travelers was depicted in early icons.

St. Christopher is well known as the patron saint of travelers and modern depictions of the saint often show him carrying the Christ Child over a river. This is certainly a far cry from early icons that clearly show the famous saint with the head of a dog.

What’s the deal?

Many ancient cultures had a myth that featured a dog-headed race of men. This myth even continues today in the popular werewolf stories. The ancient myth was oddly enough translated into early Christianity and was at first a central part of the story surrounding St. Christopher.

Essentially the idea was that men who lost their way and turned to a life of sin acted like animals. Sin was always associated with the base animal desires of the flesh and some stories went so far to say that some men literally became part animal. The Egyptians were already familiar with depictions of the half-jackal, half-human god Anubis and so it naturally translated into Christian icons.

One story relates how St. Christopher was at first one of these dog-headed men and upon encountering the Christ Child, regained his human appearance. It is primarily symbolic, showing how Christopher left his animal-like ways and embraced the gospel. Early Christians, especially in Egypt, decided to depict Christopher with a dog head to reference this story of conversion.

It’s a fascinating story, but one image you probably won’t find on your St. Christopher medal or holy card.




Read more:
Dragons, unicorns, cynocephali: the favorite monsters of the Middle Ages

Tags:
ArtSaints
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
2
FATHER ANIMATION
Zoe Romanowsky
Animated film shows the power of fatherhood in just one minute
3
SPANISH FLU
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
4
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
5
SUMMER SHED
Zelda Caldwell
Catholic priest’s chapel is finalist in “Shed of the Year&#...
6
Enneagram
Philip Kosloski
Can Catholics use the Enneagram personality system?
7
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
4 Ways to understand God as Father
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.