Father de Smedt has just published in a volume in-8 the beginning cement of the Catalog of Lives of Saints preserved in the manuscripts of the National Library of Paris. In this tome he publishes the text of the lives which seem to him the most interesting. Among these two lives concern Celtic saints, Saint Ronan (p. 438) and Saint Jacu (p. 578). That of Saint Ronan, published according to a manuscript of the thirteenth century, is much more developed and much more interesting than that which was reproduced formerly by the Bollandists.
One of the differences especially deserves attention; it concerns a curious detail, because it tells us about a popular belief among the Celts of the Middle Ages. This belief was that some men had the ability to change into wolves. Saint Ronan was accused of having eaten sheep and a five-year-old girl in the form of a wolf. In the Paris manuscript, 5275, four paragraphs from the life of Saint Ronan, reproduced by Father de Smedt (p. 443-450), tell how the venerable person was accused, how he was justified and by what act of miraculous charity his innocence was avenged for this slander. The text formerly published by the Bollandists tells that Saint Ronan was accused of having eaten a child, but does not say that it was in the form of a wolf that he committed this crime. This text is in this respect inferior to that which Dom Lobineau had before his eyes:
“Keban …. complained … that Ronan was transforming when he wanted in beast and running the country was the wolf who had devoured the cattle that we had lost, and that she, more unhappy than the others had lost her only daughter that this abominable man had devoured. ”
(Lives of the Saints of Brittany, Rennes, 1725, p. 42).
In the edition of Père de Smedt, Keban addressing the king said to him:
“lift lum quem aiunt Ronanum noveris aliquando converted into lupumet non solum cœdem exercere pecorum, verum etiam filiorum hominum. Nam filiam meam cleptim mihi overripe, insuper and devoravit. “(P. 444,)
That man called Ronan, you will know at any time to be converted into a wolf, and not only exercise slaughter of cattle, but also of men. In fact, to me, has taken away my daughter, and also, and swallowed them up together.
Albert the Great expresses the same idea in more oratorical terms, but fundamentally little different:
“The hunting eyes of a few debauched Christians to endure the radiance of the virtues with which the soul of S. Ronan was adorned, accusing him maliciously and wrongly before Roy Grallon (who was then in Kemper with all his court), slandering him as a sorcerer and necromancer, and that like the old lycantrophs by magic and devilish art he turned into a brutal beste, ran the gar6u, and made a thousand evils by the country, the child of a woman of the neighbor being dead, they persuaded the mother of the deceased that the S. by his sorceries had killed his son. “(Compare the edition published by M. de Kerdanet in 1837, p. 287, col. 2).
The Latin life discovered by Father de Smedt and published by him is probably the source from which Albert the Great and Lobineau drew.
The belief in werewolves found in mainland Brittany by the Life of Saint Ronan in the thirteenth century is found around the same time in Ireland, as evidenced by a story preserved by Giraud de Cambrie. An Irish priest, he says, would have given the last sacraments to a wolf who had previously been a woman and who, with her husband, had lost for seven years the human form by the effect of a curse pronounced by a certain abbe. Giraud relates that, two years after the act of charity accompanied by the priest, Giraud, himself, being in Ireland in the county of Meath, was consulted by the bishop on the question of knowing what treatment this ecclesiastic deserved. The fact was known by the confession of the culprit. They sent him to ask the pope for absolution. […]