Canine or vulpine Entity of Europe and North America. Although only of tangential relevance, the Werewolf nonetheless crops up with some frequency in cryptozoological literature, as a folk explanation for Alien Big Dogs or the Beast OF Gevaudan or as a source of confusion with sightings of paranormal-looking Hairy Bipeds.
Etymology: From the Old English wer ("man") + wulf ("wolf'), derived from the Greek lycanthropos ("wolf-man"). Adam Douglas argues, however, that the "were-" prefix comes from the Old Norse vargr ("wolf" or "outlaw").
Variant names: Beast OF Gevaudan, Bis-clavret (in Brittany), Bray Road Beast, Garwalf (Norman), Guerulfus (medieval Latin), Lobarraz (Portuguese), Lobis-homem (Portuguese), Lobi-zon, Lope-kummari (in Abruzzi), Loup-garou (French), Loup-varous (in Picardy), Lupe-pa-naru (in Aquileia), Lupu menare (in Naples), Lupu-minare (in Calabria), Lupu-minaru (in Sicily), SKINWALKER, Vaerulf (Danish), Varulf (Swedish), Werwulf (German).
Physical description: Luminous yellow eyes. Sometimes tailless.
Behavior: Nocturnal. Bipedal. Uses front paws as hands. Uses an ointment (said to contain hemlock, aconite, bufogenin, or other hallucinogenic substances) in order to shape-shift into a wolf.
Significant sightings: Lykaion, the legendary king of Arcadia, Greece, sacrificed his baby son in a bloody ritual and was turned into a wolf by Zeus for his crime.
Herodotus wrote in the fifth century B.C. that the Neuri of Scythia (possibly the Milograd culture that flourished near Chernobyl, Ukraine) changed into wolves for a few days every year.
The first writer to identify lycanthropy as a disease was Marcellus Sidetes, the Greek author of a medical poem who lived in Manavgat, Turkey, in the second century A.D. He considered it a form of melancholia in which the sufferer is deluded into thinking he is a wolf and lingers in cemeteries.
One night in July 1958, Mrs. Delburt Gregg saw a shaggy, wolflike creature clawing at her window screen in Greggton, Texas. It had fangs and glowing, slitted eyes. She shined a flashlight at it in time to see it run away into some bushes. Later, a tall man emerged and walked away down the road.
(1) The Gray wolf (Canis lupus) was one of the first wild animals to be domesticated. The process of adopting young wolves by hunter-gatherer groups as companions in the hunt and as guard animals probably occurred in several places as early as 10,000 B.C. Close bonding and mutual dependence with an animal undoubtedly had great magical significance, and those individuals who took on the attributes of a wolf would be seen as skilled hunters and shamans. The earliest shape-shifting myths may well have Neolithic roots.
(2) Lycanthropy is recognized as a psychopathological illness in which an individual imagines he or she is a wild beast and develops a taste for raw or rancid meat. The individual may howl like a wolf, run naked through the woods, and attempt to rape or kill young girls. Historical cases, such as the serial killer Peter Stubb (or Stumpf) of Köln, Germany, tried in 1589,
were taken seriously and treated with a harshness that was severe even for the time. Such a mental illness could be triggered by many different situations, including famine, plague, war, economic disaster, or substance abuse. In at least one case investigated in 1975, this condition was the result of persistent drug abuse.
(3) Weird behavior can be induced by eating rye or other grains infected with the ergot fungus (Clavicepspurpurea or C. paspali). In the Middle Ages, infected rye was often sent to the mill accidentally. Entire towns would eat bread made from the flour and suffer intoxication from a hallucinogenic alkaloid in the fungus. These psychotic episodes were known as ignis sacer (holy fire) or St. Anthony's fire because St. Anthony was the patron saint of a religious order founded to care for ergotism victims. It has been suspected that the Greek cult of Eleusis was based on ingestion of ergot to attain enlightenment. Physical effects of ergotism include frothing at the mouth, uncontrollable rage, constriction of the vocal cords causing barking or howling, a burning sensation in the skin, and a feeling of tremendous excitement. Shape-shifting hallucinations during an ergotism outbreak could easily have contributed to the Werewolf mythos.
(4) Leon Illis has suggested that the condition of congenital porphyria could be the origin of some Werewolf beliefs. Porphyria involves a failure of the bone marrow to form properly. Its symptoms include an aversion to sunlight, tissue destruction of the face and fingers, skin lesions, and a reddish-brown pigmentation on the teeth. Sometimes, excessive facial hair and deranged behavior are displayed. However, porphyria patients do not appear or behave particularly wolflike.
(5) Humans infected by rabies could account for some cases, though this disease and its symptoms were well known in the Middle Ages.
(6) Cults or tribes that dressed in wolf- or bearskins did so in order to take on the boldness, cunning, and ferocity of a wild animal. There is some evidence that a Greco-Roman cult of lycanthropy existed in Britain by the first century A.D. German and Scandinavian followers of Odin called berserkers would consume alcohol and commit violent acts.
(7) Accounts of feral children (Homo FERUS), allegedly raised in the woods by wolves or other wild animals, have undoubtedly added to the legend. The infants Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, were said to have been nursed by a female wolf in a cave on the Palatine Hill until they were discovered by a shepherd.
(8) A literary and cinematic myth representing the fear of reverting to the bestial.
Sources: Herodotus, The Histories, ed. John Marincola (New York: Penguin, 1996), pp. 248-249 (IV. 105); Ovid, Metamorphoses, I. 196-261; Pliny, Natural History, VIII. 34; Pausanias, Description ofGreece, VIII. 2. 1-3; Sabine Baring-Gould, The Book of Were-Wolves: Being an Account ofa Terrible Superstition (London: Smith, Elder, 1865); Montague Summers, The Werewolf (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1933); Robert Eisler, Man into Wof(London: Routledge and Paul, 1951); Mrs. Delburt Gregg, "Werewolf?" Fate 13 (March 1960): 60-61; Leon A. Illis, "On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werwolves," Proceedings of the Royal Society ofMedicine 57 (1964): 23-26; F. G. Surawicz and R. Banta, "Lycanthropy Revisited," Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal 20 (November 1975): 537-542; R. Gordon Wasson, Carl A. P. Ruck, and Albert Hofmann, The Road to Eleusis (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978); Charlotte Otten, ed., A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1986); M. Bénézech, J. de Witte, J. J. Etchepare, and M. Bourgeois, "A propos d'une observation de lycanthropie avec violences mortelles," Annales Medico-Psychologiques 147 (1989): 464-470; Adam Douglas, The Beast Within (London: Chapmans, 1992); D. L. Ashliman, Werewolf Legends from Germany, http://www.pitt.edu/ ~dash/werewolf.html.
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