Becoming a Wolfman

Various methods for becoming a werewolf have been reported, one of the simplest being the removal of clothing and putting on a belt made of wolfskin, probably as a substitute for the assumption of an entire animal skin. In other cases, the body is rubbed with a magic salve. Drinking rainwater out of the footprint of the animal in question or from certain enchanted streams were also considered effective modes of accomplishing the metamorphosis. The 16th century Swedish writer Olaus Magnus says that the Livonian werewolves were initiated by draining a cup of specially prepared beer and repeating a set formula. Ralston in his Songs of the Russian People gives the form of incantation still familiar in Russia.

In Italy, France and Germany, it was said that a man or woman could turn into a werewolf if he or she, on a certain Wednesday or Friday, slept outside on a summer night with the full moon shining directly on their face.

In other cases, the transformation was supposedly accomplished by Satanic allegiance for the most loathsome ends, often for the sake of sating a craving for human flesh. "The werewolves", writes Richard Verstegan, are certayne sorcerers, who having annointed their bodies with a salve which they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certain inchanted girdle, does not only make others see them as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they wear the said girdle. And they do dispose themselves as wolves, in worrying and killing, and mostly of humans.

Real Werewolves or Hypertrichosis

Most people learned of the witch hunts of the 16th century. Less well known are the werewolf hunts that happened in the same era. A common belief was that werewolves turned their skin inside out to return to human form, so one interrogation practice involved cutting and pulling back a person's skin to see if there was fur underneath.

There are several notable claims of lycanthropy that took place during these werewolf hunts. In 1573, an alleged werewolf, Gilles Garnier, was burned at the stake. In 1589, a man known as Stubbe Peter or Peter Stubbe, was executed near Cologne, Germany for cannibalism and multiple murders. He claimed he had a belt that allowed him to become a werewolf. In 1603, a young man named Jean GrenierĀ­ claimed responsibility for a series of murders and disappearances, saying he had a skin that let him become a wolf. A court determined that Grenier was insane and confined him to a monastery.

In France, between 1520 and 1630, there were more than 30,000 recorded cases of people who claimed to be or appeared to be werewolves. As with the witch trials, there were probably several simultaneous causes for this, and for the werewolf hunts:

  • Hypertrichosis - A real Werewolf or wolfmanHypertrichosis: A genetic disorder linked to the X-chromosome can cause people to grow very thick hair over their faces and bodies. People with this condition can physically resemble werewolves, but it's extremely rare. One variety, congenital generalized hypertrichosis, is known to affect only 19 people in one Mexican family.
  • Ergot poisoning: Ergot is a fungus that can infest grains like barley and wheat, and eating it can cause hallucinations. Ergot poisoning (Saint Anthonys Fire) has also been suggested as a cause of the witch trials in Salem, Mass.
  • Rabies: Many mammals can carry and transmit rabies, typically through biting. Rabies is fatal without immediate treatment. In its advanced stages, it can cause agitation and hallucinations. A rabies epidemic may have caused wolves and dogs to bite humans, who then could have exhibited werewolf like tendencies.
  • Wolf hybrids: Healthy wolves don't generally attack people without provocation, but aggressive hybrids of wolves and dogs may have attacked villages, leading to the idea of violent werewolves.
  • Porphyria: The supernatural condition most often associated with porphyria is vampirism. Porphyria causes sensitivity to light. In some cases, exposure to sunlight causes lesions and blisters, which can sprout fine hair during healing. Advanced porphyria can also lead to hallucinations.
  • Collective hysteria: As unlikely as it sounds, the sudden, simultaneous onset of psychological symptoms in a large group of people is a recorded phenomenon.

Werewolf Meataphor

As with vampires, there's a sexual element to werewolves. While vampires tend to be smooth and sexually charged, the typical werewolf is hyper-masculine. He's exceptionally muscular, exceptionally hairy and exceptionally violent.

These traits come not just from a werewolf's appearance, but from the folklore behind werewolves. In many stories, a man becomes a werewolf because of some sort of excess. His behavior may be too rough, or he may, by the standards of the community, be sexually deviant, usually in terms of wanton relationships with women. These traits may have even caused the word "werewolf" to apply to human behavior. In the 16th century in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France, teenagers who roamed around at night, broke curfews and socialized outside the bounds of polite society were known as werewolves. In some cases, young people disguised themselves as animals to travel from one community to another. A common belief at the time was that outlaws would eventually become werewolves.

What is a Werewolf or Lycanthropy?

Is it a fact based on concrete evidence? Is it a myth, or folklore made up to explain mass killings in small towns? Is it an exaggeration of wolf packs infected with rabies? all these questions have been puzzling mankind for the last 5 centuries. Though many ingenious hypotheses have been suggested as possible explanations, but definite conclusion can not be established. Some experts have tried to observe it as purely supernatural phenomena while others have relied on scientific observations. Contradictions and debates still arise and will continue till any single theory solves the unexplained which seems unlikely considering complexity and diversity of the topic. Nonetheless, the werewolf phenomenon has not perished, yet recent werewolf sightings are still reported.

Werewolf Sightings | Werewolf Folklore