Erzsébet Báthory, who is mentioned in Sabine Baring Gould's The Book of Werewolves (1865), was a 16th century Hungarian noblewoman who spent the last four years of her life bricked-up within her castle in Čachtice, Slovakia. Legend has it that Erzsébet tortured and killed 600 virgins in order to bathe in their blood, believing it kept her skin youthful. It is rumoured that the countess was followed around by a she wolf and that the three 'prongs' that form the letter 'E' in her family seal represent wolf's teeth.
Julie Delpy directs herself as the Hungarian noblewoman in the 2009 film, The Countess, and also starred in An American Werewolf in Paris (1997).
On 20 May 1990, a stone memorial commemorating the 350th anniversary of Kongla Ann’s trial for witchcraft, was unveiled in the North-Estonian parish of Viru-Nigula. A nearby notice describes the memorial as “a symbol honouring nonconformers and dissenters throughout the ages whose activity has enabled Estonian traditions and customs to survive to this day.”
Ann testified to having turned into a tornado many times as well as a werewolf, although she denied causing any harm in this form, apart from chasing dogs. A witnessed claimed to have seen Ann transform into an invisible dog, in which guise she bewitched and caused the death of a child at Pada Manor, where she was later tried.
The Old Estonian trial transcript reads Ann's confession that she ran as a werewolf (literally witch wolf) then hid her wolf pelt beneath a large stone.
A pdf of Ann's trial transcript (in Old Estonian) is available here:
The mutilated or amputated hand was a potent motif for Swiss surrealist Meret Oppenheim. Although the artist doesn’t specify the identity of the woman or the breed of animal in Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers (1936), the work resonates strongly with the legend of the French noblewoman Arline of Barioux.
Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers is an image that suggests the interwoven fate of women and animals. It also hints at the violence which both have been subjected to throughout history, and of their supposed possession of magical powers.
St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, was a shepherdess whose saintliness was such that sheep and wolves would harmoniously co-exist in her presence. German-born American artist Kiki Smith has made numerous artworks of the saint without her sheep and preferring the company of wolves. Red Riding Hood and Mary Magdalene (immortalised in the Nuremberg Chronicles, from Smith’s birthplace) join Genevieve to make up Smith’s wolf girls.
In Estonia in 1623 alone, thirteen women were tried as werewolves, among them Ann from Meremoisa, a town on the outskirts of Tallinn. Ann confessed to having been a werewolf for four years and to hiding her wolf skin beneath a stone in the fields. Ann was also blamed for the death of a horse and some small animals.
Lupine (wolf-like) femininity maintains a strong cultural presence in Estonia. The town of Viru-Nigula boasts a memorial commemorating Kongla Ann who, in 1640, also confessed under torture to burying her wolf skin beneath a large stone. In 2012, the Estonian State Puppet Theatre created a lavish musical to celebrate the centenary of August Kitzburg’s classic Estonian tragedy Libahunt (“Werewolf,” 1912) about the female werewolf Tiina. Estonia’s first post-Soviet pub Hell Hunt (tender wolf) features a naked blonde riding a smiling wolf as its logo.
In his witch-hunting essay, Discours execrable des Sorciers (1602) the French judge Henri Boguet tells the tale of a huntsman who is attacked by a large wolf in the French mountains. The huntsman fires his gun to no avail, however manages to cut off the wolf’s paw with his hunting knife, placing his trophy in his pouch after the wolf flees. On his way home the huntsman passes a gentleman at his château, who requests a share of the spoils. The huntsman obligingly reaches into his pouch for the wolf’s paw and is horrified to find instead a woman’s hand wearing a gold ring. The gentleman recognises the ring as belonging to his wife and immediately charges to the kitchen to confront her, finding her nursing a bleeding stump beneath her apron. The noblewoman confesses to being a werewolf and her husband promptly turns her over to the authorities for the appropriate punishment
Boguet relates the story as true, although no supporting documents exist. The amputated paw motif does appear, how-ever, in newspapers depicting the exploits of German werewolf Stubbe Peeter.
Else of Meersburg was brought to trial in Lucerne in the mid-fifteenth century on the charges of weather magic and riding on wolves and dogs. She was accused of causing hailstorms over many years by throwing water from a stream and calling upon her demons, Beelzebup and Krütli. The human hand and leg on Else’s wolf steed refer to Early Modern period (c.1500-1800) witness accounts of suspected werewolves. Expert werewolf researcher, Caroline Oates provides an example: “One victim of a severe fright said that the wolf had human toes on its hind paws, while another, who later died of his injuries, stated that his attacker's paws were hairless on the under-side and looked like human hands.”
The largely feminine crime of wolf riding helped to establish a connection between witches and were-wolves in the lead-up to the werewolf trials through out Early Modern Europe, particularly along the French-Swiss border. There is some suggestion that Else’s wolf was executed alongside her.
Maddalena, Antonietta and Francesca Gonsalus were celebrated in sixteenth-century Europe for their extreme hirsutism (excessive hairiness), a condition inherited from their father who was captured as a child on the Canary Islands and brought to the French court of Henri II.
Portraits of Maddalena and her family hang in Ambras Castle, giving rise to the name Ambras Syndrome. Maddalena also appears in the compendium Monstrorum historia by naturalist Ulisee Aldrovandi (1522–1605), a zoological compendium by Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel (1542–1600) and a miniature commissioned by Rudolph II of Austria. In 2009, the sisters became the subject of the biography, The Marvelous Hairy Girls, by Merry Weisner-Hanks.