The werewolf is one of the most famous creatures of folklore still to this day, though media depictions of the werewolf in modern times greatly differs from the half man-half beast in early European folklore (along with other cultures).
What is a werewolf?
Incase you didn’t already know, a werewolf is a mythological human who has the ability to shapeshift into a wolf by either a curse or by the full moon. Normal man by day. Maneating beast by night. Some werewolves change at will while others don’t have that ability.
History of Werewolf Folklore
Though it’s not too clear as to when the legend of the werwolf began, it was common in Europe during the Middle Ages. The underlying orign can be harked back to Proto-Indo-European Mythology, where the aspect of lycanthropy is an initiation of the warrior class. In northern and eastern Europe, the concept of the werewolf was heavily Influenced by Germanic Paganism, though in other parts-like Slavic Europe and the Balkans-there are related traditions not as influenced by Germanic tradition.
In literature of Acient Greek Mythology, there are quite a few instances of men turning into wolves. For example, Herodotus (an Ancient Greek historian born in the Persian Empire) wrote that Neuri, a tribe he places to the north-east of Scythia, would transform into wolves once a year for several days, and afterwards, returned to their original human selves.
Before the end of the 19th century, Greeks thought that the corpses of werewolves would arise as a wolf or hyena and lurk around battlefields, feeding off dying soldiers (if they weren’t destroyed). Decapitation or exercism were commons ways of dealing with these undead beasts. Related methods were also used for vampires (coming later).
Becoming a Werewolf
Today, it is mostly known that you turn into werewolves by being bitten but it wasn’t always like that. In Ancient Greece, a popular belief was that if you ate meat, mixed of both a wolf and a human, you would become one as it was irreversable. As the years passed, other ways arose, like being concieved under the full moon, being cursed, eating certain herbs, by drinking water that had been touched by a wolf, and by sleeping under the full moon on a Friday.
Disclaimer: I am not passing judgement onto those with any of the following medical condtions.
There are common explanations for the suspicion of this fictional being. One being called ‘clinical lycanthropy,’ where one believes they are an animal, which their were plenty cases of this. In 1589, a German man named Peter Stubbe stated that he owned a belt made of wolfskin that gave him the ability to transform. He claimed to have killed over a dozen people over the course of 25 years, though he didn’t just confess it with free will. He was tortured as his flesh was tore off and his limbs were crushed by stones. On Halloween of 1589, Peter was decapitated, his body burned at the stake. While there was no solid proof of his murders, it was deemed that he was likely delusional or mentally ill. He wasn’t the only one of course, as in the Middle Ages, it was also thought that werewolves were created by witches as they became heavily associated with one another. The accused witch was put to death (often brutally) while the werewolves were dealt with as well.
Other explanations include hypertrichosis, a condition in which unsual hair grows on the face and body. Another condition is porphyria, characterized by an unsual sensitivy to light (as it encourages those inflicted to only be able to go out at night). None of these conditions cause you to become a werewolf, of course but again, in past centuries, it wasn’t hard to be accused of being one.
What do you think of the werewolf legend? Let me know in the comments and thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: The information above is a combination of prior knowledge and research. No works were plagiarized, only referenced as a source of information. While anyone is welcome to comment, I attempt to make this a positive and friendly community where we can share our experiences. Any derogatory or negative comment(s) will be deleted. As always, reader discretion is advised.