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  • Cynocephaly

    While doing my usual research tour on the net and in books for a new chronicle, I have encountered a strange thing called Cynocephaly
    The characteristic of cynocephaly, or cynocephalus, having the head of a dog—or of a jackal—is a widely attested mythical phenomenon existing in many different forms and contexts.
    The literal meaning of "cynocephaly" is "dog-headed"; however, that this refers to a human body with a dog head is implied. Such cynocephalics are known in mythology and legend from many parts of the world, including ancient Egypt, India, Greece, and China. Further mentions come from the medieval East and Europe.
    Cynocephaly was familiar to the ancient Greeks from representations of the Egyptian gods, Duamutef (Son of Horus, the Elder), Wepwawet (The opener of the ways), Anubis (the Egyptian god of the dead), Anput (the female counterpart of Anubis) and Khenti-Amentiu (the ancient Jackal-headed god of the necropolis at Abydos) and Am-heh a minor god from the underworld, whose name means either "devourer of millions" or "eater of eternity". He was depicted as a man with the head of a hunting dog who lived in a lake of fire)
    This non-literal approach to depicting deities may have confused visitors from Greece, leading them to believe that Egyptians worshipped cynocephalic gods, or even that mortal cynocephalic entities populated Egypt.
    Reports of dog-headed races can also be traced back to Greek antiquity. In the fifth century BC, the Greek physician Ctesias, in his Indica, wrote a detailed report on the existence of cynocephali in India. Around 400 B.C. the Greek physician Ctesias wrote the following passages (translated to English from Greek), describing the tribes of Cynocephalus.

    "They speak no language, but bark like dogs, and in this manner make themselves understood by each other. Their teeth are larger than those of dogs, their nails like those of these animals, but longer and rounder. They inhabit the mountains as far as the river Indus. Their complexion is swarthy. They are extremely just, like the rest of the Indians with whom they associate. They understand the Indian language but are unable to converse, only barking or making signs with their hands and fingers by way of reply... They live on raw meat. They number about 120,000.

    "The Cynocephali living on the mountains do not practice any trade but live by hunting. When they have killed an animal they roast it in the sun. They also rear numbers of sheep, goats, and asses, drinking the milk of the sheep and whey made from it. They eat the fruit of the Siptakhora, whence amber is procured, since it is sweet. They also dry it and keep it in baskets, as the Greeks keep their dried grapes. They make rafts which they load with this fruit together with well-cleaned purple flowers and 260 talents of amber, with the same quantity of the purple dye, and thousand additional talents of amber, which they send annually to the king of India.They exchange the rest for bread, flour, and cotton stuffs with the Indians, from whom they also buy swords for hunting wild beasts, bows, and arrows, being very skillful in drawing the bow and hurling the spear. They cannot be defeated in war, since they inhabit lofty and inaccessible mountains. Every five years the king sends them a present of 300,000 bows, as many spears, 120,000 shields, and 50,000 swords."

    "They do not live in houses, but in caves. They set out for the chase with bows and spears, and as they are very swift of foot, they pursue and soon overtake their quarry. The women have a bath once a month, the men do not have a bath at all, but only wash their hands. They anoint themselves three times a month with oil made from milk and wipe themselves with skins. The clothes of men and women alike are not skins with the hair on, but skins tanned and very fine. The richest wear linen clothes, but they are few in number. They have no beds, but sleep on leaves or grass. He who possesses the greatest number of sheep is considered the richest, and so in regard to their other possessions. All, both men and women, have tails above their hips, like dogs, but longer and more hairy."

    "They are just, and live longer than any other men, 170, sometimes 200 years."

    Similarly, the Greek traveler Megasthenes claimed to know about dog-headed people in India who lived in the mountains, communicated through barking, wore the skins of wild animals and lived by hunting
    It is possible that the wolf whom raised Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome were Cynocephali too.
    Claudius Aelianus also mentioned the dog-headed tribes in India, and he, too, wrote that they are of human shape and clothed in the skins of beasts. He also added that although they have no speech and howled to communicate, they were capable of understanding the Indian language
    Herodotus reports claims by ancient Libyans that such creatures inhabit the east of their lands
    The best estimate for the place where the battle between the Argonauts and the Cynocephali took place is modern day North Serbia or South Hungary
    As we enter the Late Antiquity, there is a description of two saints Ahrakas and Augani with a dog's head from the legend about the life of the Coptic saint Mercurius Abu-Seifein, whom they faithfully served; their image on the icon is in the Coptic Museum
    In the Eastern Orthodox Church, certain icons covertly identify Saint Christopher with the head of a dog. Such images may carry echoes of the Egyptian dog-headed god, Anubis. The late 10th century German bishop and poet Walter of Speyer portrayed St. Christopher as a giant of a cynocephalic species in the land of the Chananeans (Canaan in the New Testament) who ate human flesh and barked. Eventually, Christopher met the Christ child, regretted his former behavior, and received baptism.
    Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Battutah was a Berber Maghrebi scholar and explorer who travelled extensively in the lands of Afro-Eurasia, largely in the Muslim world, travelling more than any other explorer in pre-modern history, totalling around 117,000 km and who encountered what he described as "dog-mouthed" people on his journey living on an island between India and Sumatra.
    The ninth-century Frankish theologian Ratramnus wrote a letter, the Epistola de Cynocephalis, on whether the Cynocephali should be considered human (he thought that they were)
    Quoting St. Jerome, Thomas of Cantimpré corroborated the existence of Cynocephali in his Liber de Monstruosis Hominibus Orientis, xiv, ("Book of Monstrous men of the Orient").
    The thirteenth-century encyclopedist Vincent of Beauvais acquainted his patron Saint Louis IX of France with "an animal with the head of the dog but with all other members of human appearance… Though he behaves like a man… and, when peaceful, he is tender like a man, when furious, he becomes cruel and retaliates on humankind"
    The Nowell Codex, perhaps more commonly known as the manuscript containing the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, also contains references to Cynocephali. One such reference can be found in the part of the manuscript known as The Wonders of the East, in which they are called "healfhundingas" or "half-dogs
    Cynocephali appear in the Old Welsh poem Pa gur? [Poem 31 of the Black Book of Carmarthen, a mid-13th century manuscript, is known from its first line as Pa gur yv y porthaur? (meaning "What man is the gatekeeper?")] as cinbin (dogheads). Here they are enemies of King Arthur's retinue; Arthur's men fight them in the mountains of Eidyn (Edinburgh), and hundreds of them fall at the hand of Arthur's warrior Bedwyr (later known as Bedivere). The next lines of the poem also mention a fight with a character named Garwlwyd (Rough-Gray); a Gwrgi Garwlwyd (Man-Dog Rough-Gray) appears in one of the Welsh Triads, where he is described in such a way that scholars have discussed him as a werewolf.
    Medieval travellers Giovanni da Pian del Carpine and Marco Polo both mention cynocephali. Giovanni writes of the armies of Ögedei Khan who encounter a race of dogheads who live north of the Dalai-Nor (Northern Ocean), or Lake Baikal. The Travels of Marco Polo mentions the dog-headed barbarians on the island of Angamanain, or the Andaman Islands. For Polo, although these people grow spices, they are nonetheless cruel and "are all just like big mastiff dogs"
    In The Voyage and Travels of Sir John Mandeville, dog-headed men are described as inhabiting the island of Nacumera (the Nicobar Islands)
    The dog-headed people were also found in the New World. Christopher Columbus reported that the Taino were familiar with the cynocephali
    In 1517, the Ottoman Sultan Selim I was presented with a map of the New World drawn by Piri Reis, which included an image of a dog-headed man fighting a monkey in what is now Colombia.
    In 1519, the Governor of Cuba instructed Hernán Cortés to investigate rumours of cynocephali while on his expedition to the American mainland.
    In Central and East Asia a common calendar system consists of a twelve-year cycle, with each year represented as an animal. The eleventh animal of the twelve-year cycle is the dog. Often such animals are depicted as human figures with an animal head. Thus, the cynocephalic depiction of the eleventh zodiac animal is common
    Additionally, in the Chinese record Book of Liang, the Buddhist missionary Hui Shen describes an island of dog-headed men to the east of Fusang, a nation he visited variously identified as Japan or the Americas.
    The History of the Northern Dynasties of Li Dashi and his son, Li Yanshou, Tang historians, also mentions the "dog kingdom".

    The Talmud states that at the time before the Messiah, the "face of the generation will have the face of a dog."
    The Chinese legend of Fu Shi included variations where he had a dog's head
    In Saami mythology Padnakjunne ("Dog-Face") are cannibalistic humanoids with dog snouts.
    In the United States there are tales of dog-headed creatures, including the Michigan Dogman, and the wolf-like Beast of Bray Road of Wisconsin.
    The wulver is a kind of wolf- or dog-like humanoid creature in the folklore of the Shetland Islands of Scotland. They are said to be benevolent, although they became violent if provoked. They were generally friendly to locals, however, and were known to share the fish they caught with them. They were usually described as looking like furry people with the head of a wolf
    The Psoglav is a demonic mythical creature in Balkan mythology; belief about it existed in parts of Bosnia and Montenegro. Psoglav was described as having a human body with horse legs, a dog's head with iron teeth. There are numerous legends about them, particularly on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia
    Itbaraks (English: Shaggy Dog) or just Baraks are Turkic mythological creatures. They were "dog headed, dark coloured manly creatures". According to the Oghuz Khagan Narratives, their country was in the "unknown northwest". It can be assumed that it's around today's northern Russia. Oghuz tried to invade them but couldn't succeed, so he had to retreat to a small island.
    (With a little strech, the Adlet (or Erqigdlet) are a race of creatures in the Inuit mythology of Greenland, as well as the Labrador and Hudson Bay coasts. While the word refers to inland native American tribes, it also denotes a humanoid dog-legged tribe. The lower part of the body of the canine Adlet is like that of a dog and their upper part is like a man's.)

    While this may sound like just another mythical creature, there are very good reasons to believe that the Cynocephali may have actually existed.
    No one knows for sure what happened to this small, but powerful race. It is believed that as the empires around them expanded they were killed off. They were most certainly a warring tribe and would have preferred death in battle to succumbing to another culture's ways. Either way, they have disappeared from human view. Perhaps there are still some of them living in caves awaiting a day where they may return to power.
    Sir Charles Darwin in subtle references suggests that the canine are somehow among the ancestral lineage of human beings...

    I'm a bit curious, what do you think?
    Maybe a lost race of Dog-changers or evolved naturally... they fit nicely in WoD (Maye the Silent Striders are not Garou at all, just tagged along and they were similar enough to pass as a Garou to survive, like the Bunyip or a Nuwisha when infiltrate a Sept "eh, he is just a scrawny Ragabash, don't mention him"
    How would you use the Cynocephaly?
    That is, if you would use them at all
    Last edited by Shadeprowler; 07-03-2022, 06:23 AM.

  • #2
    In northern italy the Cinocefali are really famous and part of the local traditions from the Langobard time. We have also many warlords from medieval time who adopted the name ''cane'' that means dog, and used to depict rabid wolves or dogs on their helmets. In belluno they became werewolves in folklore, and in Veneto and Trentino they became part of the legend about the Wild Hunt, where dogs, hellish wolves and werewolves stalks the alps during the 21th of December to find flesh to eat. Those ''cinocefali bands'' from the langobard time were probably gangs of young warriors who inherited the ancient indo-european traditions and initiation rites using wolf and dog skins as introduction to war, hunt, as it happened in many other traditions, from the norse ulfednar to the irish fianna.

    In my chronicles many young an very feral Get tried to emulate the legends about the lombards creating very aggressive, zealot ad outlaw war parties with... not very orthodox tactics and behaviours and mixed success. Almost like a local camp.


    -'' We are the unsullied.
    We are the inheritors.
    We are the Pure ''-

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    • #3
      IRL: They probably existed as a tribe of people that wore animal heads similar to wendigo or skin-walkers out of naitive american traditions.

      As for how they'd be used, it's equally easy enough to say these are just myths about the current fera or a tribe of fera that were lost. For example: The Warders of Men garou tribe from dark ages wasn't just wiped out, they were forgotten by the garou nation at large. There's plenty of room to say that there are other tribes of fera that were just Lost considering the garou themselves don't even remember that they had at least 17 tribes.

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      • #4
        In terms of Werewolf lore, I just held that the stories of the Cynecephali were a result of the Delierium when people had high Willpower. They either saw Crinos as something like a man with a dog's head, or when they described to others what they saw, their descriptions tended to be something like "it walks on two legs like a human, but with a dog's/wolf's head". In the World of Darkness, much of the real world's supernatural folklore tends to be of the variety of a misinterpretation of what is factually present from the games. That's an easier "solution" to me than inventing yet another race of creatures.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
          In terms of Werewolf lore, I just held that the stories of the Cynecephali were a result of the Delierium when people had high Willpower. They either saw Crinos as something like a man with a dog's head, or when they described to others what they saw, their descriptions tended to be something like "it walks on two legs like a human, but with a dog's/wolf's head". In the World of Darkness, much of the real world's supernatural folklore tends to be of the variety of a misinterpretation of what is factually present from the games. That's an easier "solution" to me than inventing yet another race of creatures.
          This was pretty much my reading of the topic as well. Someone with high willpower saw a werewolf and his descriptions were rendered as they were to match the expectations of a "wolfman" in that cultural and artistic context. It's quite easy to have one of the Garou helping or hindering historical factions and then someone somewhere telling tales of them.


          What doesn't kill you, makes you... stranger.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Prometheas View Post
            IRL: For example: The Warders of Men garou tribe from dark ages wasn't just wiped out, they were forgotten by the garou nation at large. There's plenty of room to say that there are other tribes of fera that were just Lost considering the garou themselves don't even remember that they had at least 17 tribes.

            ?

            Warders of Men are the Glasswalkers.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Damian May View Post
              Warders of Men are the Glasswalkers.
              They evolved into what garou today call the Glass Walkers. Different source books name other names the tribe that eventually became the Glass Walkers used in the centuries between the Dark Ages and today.

              That said, for VtM there is the rule that a Clan is defined by the majority of Kindred believing a group to be a Clan. That is what separates them from the bloodlines. In WtA there are the camps, as different groups within the tribes - although some are considered multi-tribal. There are also some groups, that might or not be considered tribes of their own: Siberakh, Hakken, Kucha Ekundu, Boli Zouhisze.

              The distinction seems to be that if the tribal totem is that of a major tribe, than it is not a tribe at all (at least for the last three groups), the Siberakh might just not be a tribe in the eyes of the general garou population, because of their obscurity.

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              • #8
                That they were called "warders" is interesting, since a warder is a prison guard. It means their original role was to keep humans imprisoned in the cities. They haven't done a particularly good job.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by CajunKhan View Post
                  That they were called "warders" is interesting, since a warder is a prison guard. It means their original role was to keep humans imprisoned in the cities. They haven't done a particularly good job.
                  There are several meanings to the word "warden".
                  It can, and according to the description, did mean, that they would watch over those humans who lived in cities (and thereby created their own habitats outside of the areas garou usually live).
                  Obviously the humans needed a firm hand and guidance if they moved away from the direct control of the garou in the "wilderness".

                  But, sure, the Wardens of Man did a bad job, for they became distracted by progress and new spirits popping into existence due to humans inventing stuff and advancing technologically and socially. When the septs send "Wardens of Man" packs to cities they expected them to deal with the human who lived in areas they didn't want to live in. They didn't expect these packs to create their own culture and eventually turn into a proper tribe of their own.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Prometheas View Post
                    IRL: They probably existed as a tribe of people that wore animal heads similar to wendigo or skin-walkers out of naitive american traditions.

                    As for how they'd be used, it's equally easy enough to say these are just myths about the current fera or a tribe of fera that were lost. For example: The Warders of Men garou tribe from dark ages wasn't just wiped out, they were forgotten by the garou nation at large. There's plenty of room to say that there are other tribes of fera that were just Lost considering the garou themselves don't even remember that they had at least 17 tribes.
                    Exactly. Many tribal people uses the skin of animals as helmets. It wouldnt be so hard for greeks and romans to get confused by that.

                    As for the "barking", greeks and romans always considered the languages of "barbarians" as unintelligible gibberish; for them to consider a foreign language as "barking" wouldnt be too much of a stretch. Just think how it feels to hear a language you have no familiarity with, like russian, german, chinese, arab, if you dont speak any of those... It's completely undecernable, if you dont speak the langague (or a closely related one) it just sounds like a bunch of funny noises.

                    That's the case of english too, for people that dont speak it, it just sounds like gibberish noise

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by heinrich View Post
                      They evolved into what garou today call the Glass Walkers. Different source books name other names the tribe that eventually became the Glass Walkers used in the centuries between the Dark Ages and today.
                      It doesn't change what Damian said in the context. The Wardens are, for all intents and purposes, the Glasswalkers and not a lost and forgotten tribe. Their existence and history is well known to the Garou, and the continuity is there as much as it is for any DA version of a tribe to their current counterparts.
                      Last edited by monteparnas; 07-06-2022, 04:20 PM.


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