Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Argentine Werewolf Hysteria Unfounded

Here's another of those viral stories that has become garbled in the telling. In Argentina, there is a century-old tradition that the president of the country serves as the official godparent to the seventh son or daughter born into a family. The adoption of such a godchild wouldn't be a particularly significant world event, except for this outlandish story published by the Independent.

The President of Argentina has adopted a young Jewish man as her godson to "stop him turning into a werewolf", according to tradition. President Christina Fernández de Kirchner met Yair Tawil and his family at her office last week to mark the unusual ceremony, which dates back more than 100 years.


The story recently went viral on the Internet thanks to the Independent article, but it later came to light that the article conflates the adoption tradition and a piece of local folklore that have nothing to do with each other, except that both involve seventh sons.

It seems there is another Argentine tradition called "El Lobison"; a belief that a family's seventh son turns into a werewolf starting on the first Friday after the boy's 13th birthday, and every full moon thereafter, according to the New York Daily News. The belief was allegedly so widespread in the 19th century that parents would kill the seventh son to prevent a future teenage werewolf.

It's a great story, but the two customs are not related, according to Argentine historian Daniel Balmaceda. “The local myth of the lobison is not in any way connected to the custom that began over 100 years ago by which every seventh son (or seventh daughter) born in Argentina becomes godchild to the president,” Balmaceda told the Guardian. That detail didn't stop the Independent from blending the two separate customs and reporting that Kirchner adopted Tawil to prevent him from becoming a werewolf.

It should be noted that nowhere in the myth of "El Lobison" does it say anything about adoption by the president or any other political official breaking the curse. There's nothing particularly spiritual or magical about holding office in a modern democracy, so even in the context of magick it strikes me as a pretty dubious remedy. I mean, if some dark force were really out there preparing to turn Tawil into a werewolf, there's no reason to think it would care whether the boy's godparent is a sitting politician.

That's some sloppy reporting on the part of the Independent. Perhaps if they want to run a story like this in the future, they should run it by an actual occultist to see if what they're alleging makes any sense at all.

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