Lycanthropy/Werewolves

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Lycanthropy

History/Origin

One of the oldest legends about human monsters. A person with the ability to shape-shift into a wolf. Commonly referred to as Lycanthropy.

Shelley Barclay writes ‘throughout history there are records of the trials of confessed or accused werewolves. In fact, they were hunted, questioned and executed in much the same way witches were, because often witches were accused of also being werewolves. These so-called “werewolf trials” give us a historical glimpse at rampant human belief in werewolves. Some of the accused were arrested because villagers needed someone to blame for dead livestock or some other explainable occurrence, but others were accused because of actions far more sinister and less likely to be contrived’.

In 1521, a Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun were executed as werewolves. Historical records indicate that they were a serial killer team. In 1573, again in France, another “werewolf” was executed. His name was Gilles Garnier, otherwise known as the “Werewolf of Dole.” He was a confessed serial killer. There are numerous accounts such as these, mostly in Europe. Interestingly, real wolves were plentiful in Europe at this time. Could people have simply been associating the carnivorous animal with people who behaved like animals?

A more infamous case of werewolf execution is that of a German man named Peter Stumpp (or Stubbe). Peter was supposedly caught by his neighbors in his wolf form. They witnessed him taking off his “wolf girdle” (more on that later) when they closed in on him. At which time, he re-assumed his human form. Peter confessed to murder, rape and cannibalism. His mistress and daughter were tortuously executed immediately after he was. The reason they were executed? For having knowledge of his crimes and sex with him. Yes, his daughter was executed for being raped by her father. What is worse? Her father had killed her brother and eaten his brains before he was captured.’

While all of these instances are proof of a long-standing belief in werewolves, they are not the first descriptions of werewolves in history. What appears to be the oldest story of a werewolf is not a gruesome group of serial killings followed by an execution, but an Ancient Roman myth. Ovid wrote the Metamorphoses in 1 A.D. In it, he told the tale of King Lycaon (the origin of the word Lycanthrope) who offended the gods by serving human meat to them at dinner. Jupiter punished this transgression by transforming Lycaon into a werewolf. In his werewolf form, he could continue his abomination of eating human flesh with less offense.

We know from Ovid that legends of werewolves go back to at least 1 A.D. We also know that since that time, the legend of the werewolf has evolved. There are werewolf legends that are obviously separate from one another and others that seem to build off the original concept. For example, the full moon had nothing to do with Ovid’s werewolf and other early werewolf legends. Werewolves changed shape at whim. Other legends associate werewolves with a sort of belt or “wolf girdle” that, upon donning, would transform them.’ (read more here).

How do I recognise them?

They are supposed to be unusually strong in human form and resistant to disease. Quick healers.

Where will I find them? How do I become one?

In Hungarian legend the curse can be gained in adulthood by passing three times through an arch made of birch and wild rose spine.

Spreads through a bite or a cut in modern fiction. In older stories it is said to be hereditary.

Folklore states that drinking rainwater from the footprint of a werewolf will pass on the curse. Yum.

In Poland, those born with a birthmark were said to have the ability to change shape.

It was said one could become a werewolf through a ritual. It consisted of eerie chants, delivered in desolate locations within circles scratched on the ground. Essential was a girdle or belt cut from the skin of a wolf, to be worn around the waist. More important were the vapours to be inhaled or rubbed onto skin. They contained psychoactive substances. There would be a fire made of birch, pine and black poplar, suspended above would be an iron cauldron. Into it he would drop opium, parsley, solanine (extract of nightshade) and asafetida (gum resin). When the flames leapt up, the person would begin the chant. They should remove their clothes and rub the body with an ointment made from various ingredients. It might include camphor, aconite, aniseed, opium, poplar leaves and bat’s blood. 

How do I get their attention?

Act like prey.

How do I escape?

Silver bullets don’t work. The best advice is run and avoid isolated areas where they like to hunt.

General information

Werewolves are often shown to be different to ordinary wolves by their lack of a tail.

Sometimes depicted as a familiar which is apart from the human – any injury caused to the wolf, or second self also affects the human.

Silver bullets are a modern myth, as is only changing with the full moon. True werewolves are said to have complete control over their transformation.

There are links between werewolves and vampires. Vampiric werewolves roamed as human corpses during the day.

Articles

Gods and monsters. 

10 facts about werewolves. 

10 real life werewolves. 

Videos

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