Σάββατο, 30 Ιουνίου 2012

Werewolf part 1

The Myths and Truths Surrounding Werewolf Legend:

So, what actually is werewolf or lycanthropy? Is it a fact based on concrete evidences? Is it a myth, fabrication of feeble minds? Is it an exaggeration of some other things? Well, all these questions have been puzzling mankind for last 5 centuries. Though many ingenious hypotheses have been suggested as possible explanations, definite conclusion can't be drawn. Some experts have tried to observe it as purely supernatural phenomena while others have relied on  scientific observations. Contradictions and debates still persist and will continue till any single theory solves the jigsaw which seems unlikely considering complexity and diversity of the topic. Nonetheless, the werewolf phenomenon has not perished yet; recent werewolf sightings are still reported.
The word werewolf is most likely to derive from two old-Saxon words, wer (meaning man) and wolf. Frequently used Greek terms Lycanthropy refers to the transformation process while Lycanthrope, which is in fact synonymous to werewolf, is the afflicted person. The popular definition of werewolf or lycanthrope is a man who transforms himself or being transformed into a wolf under the influence of full moon.
This web site has followed on scientific ideas while explaining possible sources and causes of werewolf legend. Popular and supernatural beliefs has been also mentioned for instant comparison. The site starts with the origin of the legend citing the oldest recorded werewolf encounter. Then, portraits and  transformation process have been sketched with a brief depiction of an alleged ritual as per historical documents and literatures. Some recorded French werewolf trials have been referred for understanding the trend of general sentiment towards the phenomena during the middle ages. Most important part of the website is the possible explanations of werewolf phenomenon where scientific explanation of lycanthropy has been discussed in details. Another uniqueness of the site is that some important items and concepts related to werewolf has been illustrated. For further research on this topic please visit the web links or read the recommended books on the reference page.
The site has been developed keeping you in mind. Easy navigational links are always with you wherever you go. Larger font with enough space is for your easy on-screen reading. Moreover, important points are highlighted for quick scanning of the materials. You will also find printer friendly version of each pages.
Some information on this web page has been quoted from the Time-Life Book titled Transformation. You will find details of the book on Reference page.
This site is only the starting point of a long journey. If you like to join in, you are most welcome. Your contributions will definitely enrich this site; all worthy contributions will be updated on readers comments page. Feel free to drop any suggestion, observations or contribution through the feedback form. And don't forget to put up your comments on message board for open discussion.

Werewolves - Lycanthropy
Lycanthropy comes from the Greek lykoi, "wolf" and anthropos, "man"

The legend of the werewolf is one of the most ancient and wide spread. Stories of werewolves can be found as far back as history has been written. These shape-shifter myths can be found all over the word from China to Iceland and Brazil to Haiti.
Some of the earliest accounts of werewolves come from Romania and Greek sources. Ovid, in the Metamorphoses, told of King Lycaeon, who was visited by passing gods. Not believing them to be true gods he decided to test them by serving human flesh in one of the many dishes served at a banquet in their honor. Cannibalism being very frowned upon in that part of the world was a major slight indeed. Upon discovering the tainted dish, the gods changed King Lycaeon into a werewolf -- since he obviously liked human flesh, the wolf form would be a more acceptable form to take part in such a vile activity.
The most widely know story of the werewolf would be "Little Red Riding Hood". There are many ancient were tales to worn the fragile, small and easiest of targets -- children. "Little Red Riding Hood" features a wolf who talks to Little Red Riding Hood and then dresses in grandmas clothing to fool the innocent little girl. Not something any 'ol wolf could do.
The full moon has been linked to werewolves. Conversely, unlike movie werewolves, 'real' werewolves change shape voluntarily. In many myths they are witches who take animal form to travel unnoticed using either a potion made from magic ingredients - the fat of dead children, herbs, human blood - or an animal-skin. A 'real' werewolf changes completely, becoming the animal rather than a hairy human. The full moon business seems to be dramatic license. However it is an interesting notion since the full moon has been associated with creating madness in humans and to be a time during which man and beast have a magical connection.

Source : Henry Boguet (1550-1619). Author of the French witch-finder's bible, Discours des Sorciers, and Supreme Judge of Burgundy's St. Claude district, Boguet was France's most cruel inquisitor. Hundreds found themselves at the mercy of his torturers.

In the mountains of Auvergne, a story dating back to 1588 was told of a royal female werewolf. In the story, a nobleman was gazing out of his window and upon seeing a hunter he knew he told him to check back with details of the hunt. While in the forest, despite still being in sight of his master's chateau, the hunter stumbled upon a wolf. In the ensuing struggle, he severed one of the wolf's paws and placed the it in a pouch.
Upon returning to the chateau with his gruesome prize, he opened the pouch to show the nobleman evidence of his encounter. What they discovered was not paw at all, in fact, it the pouch now contained what looked to be a feminine hand bearing an elegant gold ring. The gentleman recognized the ring, sent the huntsman away, and sought for his wife. When he went came upon her in the kitchen, he found her nursing a wounded arm in the kitchen he removed the bandage only to find that her hand had been cut off.
Upon questioning her she finally admitted to being the wolf with whom the hunter encountered, and by her confession, she marked herself for certain execution -- in a matter of days she was burned at the stake.

The Berserkers

In the Folklore of Norseman, there are many legends of warriors called Berserkers. They are band of ancient Norse warriors that are legendary for their savagery and reckless frenzy in battle. Fearing no one, feeling no pain, having superhuman strength and never surrendering are common characteristics.
Preparing for battle these warriors would attire themselves in skins from bears or wolfs. The term Berserker translates from old Norse to be "bear skin". There were also warriors who donned the wolf skins known as "ulfheobar" or "ulfhedinn" (wolf-coats) but they were eventually lumped together to be known as Berserkers.
The feeling was that once dressed with the skins of an animal, the warrior would take on the characteristics of that animal. Ynglingasaga records this tradition, saying of the warriors of Óðinn that "they went without coats of mail, and acted like mad dogs and wolves". A Byzantine emperor described the Berserkers in battle as being possessed by a ferocity and madness seen only in wild beasts. The term "berserk" was derived from the Beserkers.

How to Spot a Werewolf

As with witches, finding a werewolf largely seems to be a matter of looking hard enough. Some of the warning signs, according to the world's myths, are:
  • Red hair
  • Born on the 25th of December
  • Eyebrows join in the middle
  • Index and middle fingers are of the same length
  • Love of rare or raw meat
  • Hairs on the palms of the hands
  • Hair on the inside of the skin (that seems like a tough one to check!)
  • Will change back to a human if you throw a piece of iron or steel over its head when in animal form.

Listing of Were-Creatures/Shape-Shifters from around the world:
American Indians:
limikkin or skin walkers.
Argentina: A fox-like werewolf lobizón or lobisón as well as werejaguars know as runa-uturungu
Brazil: lobisomem. There are also boto, a river dolphin that transforms into a boy, and a uirapuru - a small brown bird that transforms into a boy.
Bulgaria: vrkolak
Canada: bearwalker (thanks to Seth!)
Chili: The chonchon shapeshifter is a witch that transforms into a vulture.
China: Lang Ren
Ethiopia, Morocco and Tanzania: The boudas is a sorcerer/blacksmith that changes into a werehyena. It often wears an ornament from its human form by which it may be recognized.
France: loup-garou is prevalent in France with the Beast of Gevaudan being the most famous documented case. Then there is the bisclavret which is a werewolf that cannot return to human form unless it can put its clothing back on.
Finland: ihmissusi
Greece: vrykolaka is a catchall word for werewolf, vampire or sorcerer. The word lycanthropy, from the ancient werewolf-king Lycaeon, originated here.
Haiti: loup-garou can change into anything, both plant and animal.
Iceland: A hamrammr (from old Icelandic literature) is a werecreature that shifts into the form of the animal it has most recently eaten. Its strength increases with each animal that it consumes. The current (and more correct) word for werewolf is varulfur.
India: rakshasa or raghosh is a shifter who can change into any animal it wants and is characterized by its large size and color of hair (red or blond).
Indonesia (Bali): layak is a spirit that shapeshifts into humans, animals or objects and will cause mishaps, illnesses or even death.
Ireland & Scotland: The selkies are seals that take off their skins to become human. Dark-haired Celts may have their geneology explained via the selkies. Selkies are helpful creatures who watch over fishermen.
Italy: lupo mannero or licantropo s an Italian werewolf. The "Benandanti' were werewolves that left their physical bodies behind to become wolves at which point they would go to the underworld to fight witches.
Japan: The most popular werecreatures in Japanese folklore is the kitsune (fox) and the tanuki or mijina (raccoon dog or badger). The kitsune is usually a female, and the tanuki, a male. Collectively, shapeshifters are called henge.
Kenya, Africa: The ilimu is a man- eating shapeshifter that starts out as an animal, but can shift into the form of a man.
Latvia: vilkacis, meaning "wolf eyes" or "werewolf," is a shapeshifter that is usually evil, but occasionally offers treasures.
Lithuania: vilkatas is the Lithuanian version of the werewolf.
Mexico: nahaul is a werecreature that can turn into a wolf, large cat, eagle or bull.
Native Americans: Many different types of "skin walkers such as the Navajo Indians' skinwalkers, the Mai-Coh and the. Mohawk Indians limikkin.
Normandy, France: lubins or lupins look like wolves, but can speak and are very shy.
Norway and Sweden: eigi einhamir (not of one skin) has the ability to change into a wolf by wearing a wolfskin.
Panama: Tula Vieja has been and continues to be sighted in Panama on a regular basis. The creature takes the form of a very, very old woman or witch (bruja) with a crow's foot for a right hand. This child-eating shifter haunts all places dark and dismal, waiting to take anyone back to Hell with her that she can get her claw/hand on.
Persia: The Persians have a creature similar to the Indian rakshasa that pretends to be a harmless animal. It often attacks travelers.
Philippines: The aswang is a vampire-werewolf who transforms from a human to a canine form at night, and eats human flesh. The aswang also manifests itself as a decaying corpse that has been severed at the waist (in other words...it has nothing from the waist down)... with batwings. They are very closely related to the Berbalang ghouls of legend.
Portugal: The bruxsa or cucubuth is a vampire-werewolf that consumes both flesh and blood. The lobh omen would be your everyday werewolf.
Russia: The wawkalak is a werewolf who has been transformed as a punishment of the Devil. Not considered frightening by friends and neighbors.
Russia, Central: The bodark is a Russian name for the werewolf.
Scandinavia: The varulv much prefers beer to human flesh. Scandinavia is also home to the berserker (bearskin). There is also the ulfheobar (wolfskin), which is usually lumped in with berserker.
Serbia: The wurdalak is a werewolf that died and became a vampire.
Slovakia: The vlkodlak is transformed into a werewolf by the sorcery of another. It usually shies away from people.
South America: Kanima, a jaguar-shaped spirit that seeks and kills murderers.
Spain: The Spanish werewolf, or lob hombre, prefers pretty gemstones to human flesh.
United States: Native Americans have many different types of "skin walkers" (see above). There are wererats that are particularly rampant around Pennsylvania. The wererat skulks around at night, and prefers carrots with ranch dressing to human flesh.

Werewolf by Clyde Caldwell Werewolf by Frank Frezetta Werewolf by Ken Kelly

Werewolf Myths

Werewolf myths have been around perhaps even longer than those of vampires and zombies. Ancient Greek mythology tells of Lycaon, a man transformed into a wolf after eating human flesh. The word werewolf is thought to be derived from the Old English "wer," meaning man. While the specific attributes of werewolves vary across different cultures, the beast itself is generally the same: a part-man, part-wolf creature of the night who preys on humans. But just as with vampires and zombies, most of the myths surrounding werewolves do not hold up to scrutiny.

You must use a silver bullet to kill a werewolf

Source: Silver is identified with the moon and therefore is ideal to slay a creature transformed under the light of the full moon.
Fact: To kill a werewolf, you must use bullets or cartridges with serious stopping power, but they need not be made of silver.
Lon Chaney as The Wolfman,
source of many werewolf myths

Werewolves only appear during a full moon

Source: Long-running superstitions about the full moon's effects on animals and people.
Fact: Werewolves can appear at any time.

A werewolf will revert back to its human form by sunrise

Source: Numerous Hollywood movies.
Fact: A werewolf will remain a werewolf until the day it dies.

You can become a werewolf by performing a magic ritual.

Source: Association of werewolves with black magic, Satanism and the occult.
Fact: You can only become a werewolf by being bitten by a werewolf.

If you are unarmed and attacked by a werewolf, your only chance for survival is to climb an ash tree or run into a field of rye.

Source: The ash tree myth probably stems from Greek mythology, as it was an ash tree that a man of Anthus' family hung his clothes on before swimming across a lake in Arcadia and being transformed into a werewolf. The rye superstition may have come from the fact that a certain rye fungus can cause convulsions and death if ingested.
Fact: Werewolves are poor tree-climbers, but they are not bothered by rye.
Global Legends
Lobisón is the word that stands for Werewolf in north Argentina.
The Lobisón is usually the seventh son in a family (whereas the seventh daughter is doomed to be a witch). When they turn into a hairy creature that resembles both a man and a wolf, the Lobisón (a legend greatly influenced by the Brazilian traditions), wanders in the hills and mountains, feeding mostly upon carrion. However, if they get to meet with a human being, they will instantly attack. The survivors (men and women) will then turn into Lobisones themselves, but it is quite rare, because most people die in the claws and teeth of these ferocious creatures. It is also said that if a Lobison's saliva sprinkles over a man or a woman, he or she will eventually turn into a Lobisón.
(thanks to loboazul for the above information)
In the early 1900s the legend of the 7th son (it had to be 7 boys in a row, no girls in between) transforming himself into a werewolf was so widespread and believed that it was causing a lot of children to be abandoned or given away for adoption, and it is said that in some cases the parents killed their own son. Because of this, the president passed a law in the 1920s by which the 7th son of a family automatically receives the godfathership of the president of Argentina! Through this, the state gives him a gold medal on the day of his baptism (when the president officially becomes his godfather) and a scholarship for all of his studies until his 21st birthday. Supposedly, this ended the phenomenon of people condemning their children for fear of the werewolf. The law is still in effect, and it is popularly known, and the presidents have always attended at least some of the baptisms, especially during election season.
(thanks to Rodolfo C. Ferioli for the above information)
Story continued below

In Brazil, A humam only will become a "lobisomem" if he was the 7th children (male) from the same father and mother. He changes into a "lobisomem", for the first time when he is 13 years old. Just for two hours: from Midnight to 2:00 am. Always on Friday during Lent.
In some places of Brazil (Portuguese colonization is responsable for the legend in that Country), the damned man changes in a crossroad, friday night (usually the 13th), after midnight when the moon is full.
(thanks to Daniel do N A Bento and Marcio de Paiva Delgado for the above information)
The Finnish werewolves are rather melancholy creatures (surprisingly...). In our stories/legends/myths  a person usually turns into a wolf without really wanting it, accidentally (by doing something that'll turn him into a wolf without knowing this might happen) or because some witch has put a spell on him (according to Finns, these witches would naturally be Sami, although the Swedes thought we were pretty good at magic ourselves). The werewolf (who's usually bound to be a wolf for nights and days until something releases him from the spell) then lurks around houses, sometimes eating cattle but rarely people and waits for somebody to recognize him. When somebody does (e.g the wolf's mother), she/he can break the spell by calling the werewolf by his Christian name or giving him some bread to eat. Sometimes after the werewolf had regained his human form, he would still have his tail till the day he died. Some houses actually exhibit sauna benches (or whatever they are called; 'lauteet' in Finnish) that have a hole in them, presumably cut for the ex-werewolf's tail. Finland's southern neighbor, Estonia is also known for its werewolf legends. Estonia is sometimes called 'Viro' in Finnish, and at one time werewolves were called 'vironsusi' ('Estonian wolf') in Finland. It should be mentioned, though, that 'vironsusi' is originally the same word as 'werewolf', meaning 'man-wolf' and connecting it with Estonia is a false etymology due to Estonia's reputation as a werewolf country.
(thanks to Riikka for the above information)
The werewolf is basically a universal myth. In Mexico, the most widely spread version of the werewolf is the one called "nahual", which comes from the Nahuatl (the ancient language of the Aztecs, becoming thus, the universal language in the pre-Hispanic world)word "Nuahualli", meaning warlock. Since the Spaniards did not bring much on werewolves after colonizing Mexico, the ancient local legends on the subject became predominant. The nahual was a warlock who had the capability to shape-shift at will into an animal, preferably a black or dark coyote. It was believed in the pre-Hispanic times, that people were constantly threatened by these evil beings.

Even if the Spaniards who came to Mexican lands in the mid 1500s were not concerned about werewolfery, they were influenced by other European countries that had pretty strong legends on the subject. And so, this allowed for the nahual myth to survive the Colony times and make its way through present time. Some indigenous groups still currently believe that nahuales turn into coyotes or other animals at night, through the use of magic and sorcery, in order to harm other people. Once they have shape-shifted, nahuales can run the lengths with no difficulty to steal corn of chickens, and to fight other nahuales that pretend to invade their territories. Such indigenous people's legends say that once in animal form, they can get killed if wounded, but in case they survive, they will show the wounds or damage done suffered while in animal form

According to modern-day Mexican indigenous beliefs, the nahuales can shapeshift by performing anyone of the following: Jumping over a wooden cross, getting into deep sleep, putting on an animal skin, or covering their bodies with an ointment made of herbs, Not everyone can achieve the transformation. Just a few ones have been nature-granted with the capability to perform the change, but they also need to be skilled warlocks or sorcerers. These legends also tell about the way to kill a nahual or Mexican werewolf: Stoning, or gun-shooting; they can also be killed by using holy water, fire or by hanging them.
In the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, in the surroundings of the mountain known as La Malinche (the wife of the Spaniard conqueror Hernán Cortés)the nahuas (a local indigenous group) believe that witches or "tlahuelpuchi" turn into fearsome coyotes at night, in order to break inside the houses where small children live to suck their blood. On the day after, parents will find their sons or daughters dead, with savage bites on their necks, legs and arms.

To prevent the attacks by tlahuelpuchi witches, parents leave by the bedside in the kid's room a mirror reflecting the sleeping child, a knife or a pair of scissors, all of which are said to have magical properties that scare-off these savage female werewolves.
In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, there are several indigenous groups, having each one similar beliefs of their own. In regards with the werewolf-like characters, the Zapotecs, for instance, say that nahuales are warlocks who shapeshift into ferocious and damaging animals that can produce great evils to people. They believe that nahuales are warlocks who make deals with the Devil in order to be able to turn into coyotes to suck people's blood while they sleep. They can only shapeshift at night. Their powers, according to such legend, include the capability of damaging unborn children, which explains to them why some kids are born dead or with malformations. In order to scare nahuales off, the Zapotecs place garlic on their doors and a knife or a pair of scissors under the pillow.
On the other hand, the Chinantecs, yet another indigenous group living in Oaxaca, also believe in nahuales. To them, nahuales can be both men and women, and they can only achieve the transformation at night, and they get to kill those who see them or even dare to face them. The Chinantecs say that if the nahual is injured in the battle, but manages to escape, on the day after, the man or woman behind the beast will show scars resulting from the wounds inflicted to them while in animal shape.
(thanks to loboazul for the above information)

The Norse legends claim that one can change shape by wearing the skins of the animal one want's to change to.(also used by other cultures, belt made from a wolf etc.). Loki (the god) often changed and had a lot of skins(including a worm  and a flea skin).
(thanks to ice for the above information)
In Portugal, werewolves are called lobis-homems. In the 1400's there was one kind of lobis-homem that was very quite common: The gentle and non-attacking creature. Once fallen under a spell, the lobis-homem would attend a crossroad at night to become a wolf after groveling on the dirt. Then the creature would run into the countryside, howling out loud, without hurting anyone. A shy and sad creature, the Portuguese lobis-homem could be easily recognized, for it was a wolf with a short and yellow-furred tail.

However, there was yet another kind of werewolf in Portugal, with little resemblance to this noble creature. It was the evil and devilish variety, far less-common though, linked directly to the black arts of witchcraft. Evil lobis-homems could be recognized by the shape of their eyes and sometimes because of the presence of the Devil's mark in some part of the body.
(thanks to loboazul for the above information)
The person wishing to tranform goes into the forest, sticking a copper knife into a tree and dances about while saying  incantations. When this ritual is performed, the spirit of the Wolf will take over your soul.