Lycanthropy: The Greek term Lycanthropy refers to the transformation process where a human becomes a wolf. It is also a real psychological condition where a person believes he or she is a wolf. >>
Pagan shamans and others once willingly sought out to shape-shift into a wolf. Common Turkic folklore holds a different, reverential light to the werewolf legends in that Turkic Central Asian shamans after performing long and arduous rites would voluntarily be able to transform into the humanoid "Kurtadam" (literally meaning Wolfmen). Since the wolf was the totemic ancestor animal of the Turkic peoples, they would be respectful of any shaman who was in such a form.
The legends of ulfhednar mentioned in Vatnsdœla saga, Haraldskvæði and the Völsunga saga may be a source of the werewolf legends. The ulfhednar were vicious fighters similar to the better known berserkers, who were dressed in bear hides and reputed to channel the spirits of these animals to enhance effectiveness in battle; these warriors were resistant to pain and killed viciously in battle, much like wild animals. Ulfhednar and berserkers are closely associated with the Norse god Odin.

Europe and Werewolf Mania

However, past tales of transformation now became a tragic consequence in Medieval Europe for both wolves and humans. Christianity vilified the wolf and anyone unfortunate enough to be accused of being a werewolf was brutally killed. Quote from werewolf page “France had a multitude of reports of werewolf attacks -- and consequent court trials -- during the sixteenth century. In some of the cases — e.g. those of the Gandillon family in the Jura, the tailor of Chalons and Roulet in Angers, all occurring in the year 1598 — there was clear evidence against the accused of murder and cannibalism, but none of association with wolves; in other cases, as that of Gilles Garnier in Dole in 1573, there was clear evidence against some wolf, but none against the accused. Yet while belief in lycanthropy reached a peak in popularity, it was decided in the case of Jean Grenier at Bordeaux in 1603 that lycanthropy was nothing more than a delusion. The loup-garou eventually ceased to be regarded as a dangerous heretic, and reverted to the pre-Christian notion of a "man-wolf-fiend".”

Some werewolf lore in France is based on documented events. The Beast of Gévaudan terrorized the general area of the former province of Gévaudan in south-central France (it is now called Lozère). From the years 1764 to 1767, an unknown entity killed upwards of 80 men, women and children. The creature was described as a giant wolf by the sole survivor of the attacks, which ceased after several wolves were killed in the area. The fantastic French movie Brotherhood of the Wolf is about the Beast. Some research, which to me seems logical, is that the ‘wolf’ was in actuality a hyena brought back from Africa. I spent time in Kenya and know how brutal hyenas are, killing more people than do lions.

Germany also has dozens of werewolf stories that I encourage you to read about. On sample is the Case Study of a Werewolf, Peter Stubb: The first recorded Werewolf sighting took place around the countryside of German town Cologne and Bedburg in 1591. An age-old pamphlet describes those shivering moments vividly. A large wolf was cornered by people and dogs. The town folk started to pierce it with sharp sticks and spears. Surprisingly the ferocious wolf did not run away or tried to protect itself, rather it stood up and turned out to be a middle-aged man he was Peter Stubbe from the same village. Stubbe was put on a torture wheel where he confessed sixteen murders including two pregnant women and thirteen children.>>
The history behind his downfall was rather bizarre. He had started to practice sorcery when he was only 12 and was so obsessed with it that he even tried to make a pact with the Devil. Wearing a magic girdle he started to attack his enemies, real or imaginary. After several months, he would take the guise of a wolf and continued with his evil acts with more brutality. In the wolf form he used to tear up victims’ throats and suck warm blood from veins. Gradually his thirst for blood grew and he roamed around fields in search of prey. Peter Stubbe might have been insane or a serial killer.>>
How do you know someone is a werewolf?>>
*Has red hair>>
*Born on December 25>>
*Eyebrows joined together in the middle>>
*Index and middle finger the same length.>>
*Love of rare meat.>>
*Hair on palm.>>
* Hair grows beneath skin. >>

Beliefs on How to become a Werewolf>>
Water Hole: Drinking water from certain ponds and or drinking water from a puddle wolf print.>>
Curse: An ill-fated man could become victim of witchcraft or fall under curse of evil spirits. The person then would involuntary turn into werewolf. >>
Bitten by Werewolf: Another common believe was that any one could become one if saliva of a werewolf could find a way to bloodstream; might be from bite or scratch. This is the most common myth in Hollywood>>
Putting on Wolf Skin: An evil-minded person could put on hide of a dead wolf and become a werewolf. In case the complete skin was unavailable, a belt or girdle of wolf hide would supplement it. >>
Occult or Devil Worshiping: A wicked person can start worshiping the Devil and surrender his soul to it. The Devil then would grant him the power to become a werewolf. In some cases it could be any evil spirit answering to devotion. >>
Magic Salve or Ointment: A good number of recorded cases mentions a potent salve or ointment with which werewolf would rub their bodies for transformations. The compositions of those ointments were different, but generally contained plant ingredients like nightshade. Pig fat, turpentine and olive oil were used as solvent for them. Later when the distillation of spirits was perfected, alcohol served the purpose. >>
Rituals: Evidence of ceremonial rituals are often mentioned in the werewolf cases. The rituals were mainly any combination of the voluntary methods of becoming a werewolf. First the afflicted man would locate an isolate place and trace a big circle on the soil. On the center of that circle he made a fire and prepared his magic ointment. (After rubbing his body with the ointment, he would wear the wolf hide and concentrate on prayer to the Devil. At the end of the process the man turned into a wolf and ran in quest of prey.>>
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Full Moon: More of a Hollywood belief than one from the olden days, however, In the novel Satyricon, written about year 60 by the Roman writer, Gaius Petronius, one of the characters recites a story about a man who turns into a wolf during a full moon. Studies have shown that people often act crazy during the full moon. The lunatic thing fit well with werewolf legends. Certainly fun to write about because it adds to the tension of a good werewolf story or movie.

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Scientific Explanations: The realty that wolves often contracted rabies, a viral disease that attacks the brain and nervous system and in essence make the sufferers savage and crazed helped perpetuate the idea that the wolf was evil. Rabies is transmitted from animal to animal and from animal to human. If untreated it is always fatal. The hyper salivation or excess foaming and drooling is due to the fact that swallowing becomes extremely painful. A rabid wolf would act abnormal and boldly attack anyone in its path. In an article in Estonia Naturalist Society, it is recorded that between 1763-1891, rabid wolves attacked seventy people. There is an account in Siberia of one rabid wolf killing over two hundred people. During Medieval Europe a snarling foaming from the mouth rampaging wolf would be seen as a demonic werewolf.>>
There are other scientific explanations for the Medieval beliefs in werewolves. These include hallucinations from ergot contamination, as well as other potent substances such as Belladonna or Nightshade. Ergot infection on food grains like wheat and rye was common in Europe during the middle ages. Ergot is actually a fungus, which grows in place of grains in wet seasons after very cold winters. Alkaloids of this fungus are chemically related to LSD. Like a psychoactive drug, ergot poisoning produces dreamlike changes in mood and thought and alters the perception of time and space. It can create lack of self-control, extreme terror, paranoia and mass hysteria. Continuous exposure to this contamination through bread or other food items could contribute to either an individual believing he is a werewolf or a whole town believing that they have seen a werewolf. This would also explain the hysteria about witches that led to the gruesome executions of thousands of people.>>
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There are other minor explanations such as rare genetic conditions such as porphyra and hypertrichosis. As mentioned earlier there is also the psychological condition known as lycanthropy. Also keep in mind the serial killer of the past. The disappearance of people especially children was common.

Homework: Go see Wolfman. It starts Feb.12. Next we will look at werewolves and wolves today. Also I will post about Lupercalia (Wolf Valentine on my blog on Feb. 14th.)
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