Mythology And Folklore

Theories on lycanthropy

Wayne Leon Learmond's image for:
"Theories on lycanthropy"
Image by: 

"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night,   may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."

So goes the above poem, that has been uttered in many werewolf films in the past. But, to look at those words more closely, is it truly possible, for a man, or indeed a woman, to change their physical shape? To change their shape in such a way as to become something quite unnatural, and something more akin to a demonic entity? This article shall look at the history of lycanthropy (which is the transformation of a human being into a wolf), and what it takes to actually become a werewolf, the process/curses that are involved ... and also the cure.

History of lycanthropy

The history of Lycanthropy is a long one, and is not too dissimilar to Metamorphosis. Indeed, there is at least two types of Lycanthropy, the first is the one in which the person actually imagines himself/herself as being a wolf. Indeed, these types of people actually crave blood and raw flesh, howl at the full moon, and display all the symptoms one would imagine a wolf to display.

The second condition is that in which the person, by some form of magic or curse, actually becomes a wolf. In the second case full metamorphosis is achieved - the changing of the physical human body to that of something completely demonic in nature. The differences between the Lycanthropic state and metamorphosis is this, that Metamorphosis is achieved, willingly, by certain people who are empowered with the magical ability to change from one form to another. This belief is very ancient and is also connected to reincarnation.

As stated, Lycanthropy has a history dating as far back as ancient civilization, and has existed in many countries around the world since the times of antiquity. It was Plato who first mentioned the belief in Lycanthropy. In his 'Natural History', Pink the Elder mentions Lycanthropy too. He went by the theory that certain members of a family, within each generation, becomes a werewolf for nine years.

People such as Petronius, the novelist, Strabo, the geographer and Vergil the poet, have all written about Lycanthropy. Legends state that a werewolf is a man, or woman who is born under a curse. The full moon activates this curse as the victim is then unable to control his or her metamorphosis into the hellish creature they are destined to become.

Most werewolves are male, but occasionally there have been tales of females and even children, roaming the countryside, slaughtering and eating their victims in a bloody orgy. More often then not, the werewolf becomes wounded and this wound is always carried over into the werewolf's human form.

Another legend is that a person will willfully transform himself into a wolf, in order to cause harm to his enemy. It is found that in South America, dark sorcerers murder and drink the blood of all of their enemies. It is not just the wolf that a sorcerer can transform into. In some parts of the world legend has it that there are also other were-creatures too. Creatures such as bears leopards, snakes, panthers, jackals, owls, foxes, coyotes and all manner of others.

The Navajo Indians believe that by wearing animal skins, a person can change into that particular animal whose skin he is wearing. When they are were-animals, they can travel faster then normal, to meet in caves at night time. This is in order to welcome new initiates to the clan, to plan their ritual killings - from a distance - and also to practice necrophilia with the corpses of females - oh, and the little matter of eating their victims too.

It was during the Medieval Period in Europe that European countries, (especially Eastern European countries), held deeply-seated beliefs in werewolves. During the 15th and 16th, centuries, it was thought that werewolves were actually the servants of the Devil (a bit like witches). Thus, they would make pacts with the Devil and would sell their souls for his protection and help.

In fact, in France, during the 16th Century, edicts were actually issued which banned the practice of Lycanthropy throughout the country. Indeed, the cases that were brought to the court all involved, ritual murders and cannibalism. Many, many people where convicted of killing children, and eating their body parts.

So, all that being said, how does one actually become a werewolf? Well, it is usually through a curse of some sort. (normally a family member). Or the victim has normally been bitten - or scratched by a werewolf - thereby carrying the genes within his or her blood. This is normally the number one way of actually becoming a werewolf. Or there is the family gene, those whose families actually carry the werewolf gene throughout the centuries (this is hereditary).

These hereditary curses usually date back thousands of years and stem from something unfortunate that has happened within the family bloodline. A black magician would normally be the one who has cursed the family, or they could have been cursed by a demon or even God Himself. The only way to break the curse is to remove the family line.

The other way of becoming a werewolf is to enter into some sort of pact with the Devil, using Black Magic. During the Middle Ages, people believed that werewolves would enter a blood-pact with Satan.

By using a Black Magic Belt it was thought that a person could transform themselves into a wolf. Within Polish legend, it was said that a witch could transform a bride or groom into wolves by laying a girdle of human skin across the threshold, during their wedding feast. Later on, the couple would receive dresses of human fur and would regain their human form at will. In fact, magic belts in werewolf legend are not uncommon at all. There were many types of belts that were worn: Human skin of a hanged man, wolf skin, was said to be the real power behind the transformation into that of a werewolf.

Incantations and ointments, too many to mention. The incantations were in the form of poems that had to be said at certain times of the year in order for them to work. These chants would be in conjunction with certain Zodiac events, or full moons. Ointments, and chalms would be used also, to invoke the Moon Goddess.

So, to sum up, there were many, many ways of becoming a werewolf. Some of these 'traditions' date back centuries, but they have all been used at some point or other to transform the human body into something ... that you could scarcely imagine in this day and age.

To this day werewolves in some parts of the world are very real indeed. Who are people, who live in this technological age, with all the advantages that it brings, to deny that such creatures still exist ... in the dark?

More about this author: Wayne Leon Learmond

From Around the Web