Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Spooktacular: Werewolves

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Info courtesy of Wikipedia

A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope (from the Greek λυκάνθρωπος: λύκος, lukos, "wolf", and άνθρωπος, anthrōpos, man), is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely, by being bitten by another werewolf, or after being placed under a curse. This transformation is often associated with the appearance of the full moon, as popularly noted by the medieval chronicler Gervase of Tilbury, and perhaps in earlier times among the ancient Greeks through the writings of Petronius.

Werewolves are often attributed superhuman strength and senses, far beyond those of both wolves and men. The werewolf is generally held as a European character, although its lore spread through the world in later times. Shape-shifters, similar to werewolves, are common in tales from all over the world, most notably amongst the Native Americans, though most of them involve animal forms other than wolves.

Werewolves are a frequent subject of modern fictional books, although fictional werewolves have been attributed traits distinct from those of original folklore, most notably vulnerability to silver bullets. Werewolves continue to endure in modern culture and fiction, with books, films and television shows cementing the werewolf's stance as a dominant figure in horror.

Becoming a werewolf

Various methods for becoming a werewolf have been reported, one of the simplest being the removal of clothing and putting on a belt made of wolfskin, probably as a substitute for the assumption of an entire animal skin (which also is frequently described).[15] In other cases, the body is rubbed with a magic salve. Drinking rainwater out of the footprint of the animal in question or from certain enchanted streams were also considered effectual modes of accomplishing metamorphosis. The 16th century Swedish writer Olaus Magnus says that the Livonian werewolves were initiated by draining a cup of specially prepared beer and repeating a set formula. Ralston in his Songs of the Russian People gives the form of incantation still familiar in Russia.

In Italy, France and Germany, it was said that a man or woman could turn into a werewolf if he or she, on a certain Wednesday or Friday, slept outside on a summer night with the full moon shining directly on his face.

In other cases, the transformation was supposedly accomplished by Satanic allegiance for the most loathsome ends, often for the sake of sating a craving for human flesh. "The werewolves", writes Richard Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1628), are certayne sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodies with an ointment which they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certayne inchaunted girdle, does not only unto the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they wear the said girdle. And they do dispose themselves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and most of humane creatures.

Such were the views about lycanthropy current throughout the continent of Europe when Verstegan wrote.

The phenomenon of repercussion, the power of animal metamorphosis, or of sending out a familiar, real or spiritual, as a messenger, and the supernormal powers conferred by association with such a familiar, are also attributed to the magician, male and female, all the world over; and witch superstitions are closely parallel to, if not identical with, lycanthropic beliefs, the occasional involuntary character of lycanthropy being almost the sole distinguishing feature. In another direction the phenomenon of repercussion is asserted to manifest itself in connection with the bush-soul of the West African and the nagual of Central America; but though there is no line of demarcation to be drawn on logical grounds, the assumed power of the magician and the intimate association of the bush-soul or the nagual with a human being are not termed lycanthropy. Nevertheless it will be well to touch on both these beliefs here.

The curse of lycanthropy was also considered by some scholars as being a divine punishment. Werewolf literature shows many examples of God or saints allegedly cursing those who invoked their wrath with werewolfism. Those who were excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church were also said to become werewolves.

The power of transforming others into wild beasts was attributed not only to malignant sorcerers, but to Christian saints as well. Omnes angeli, boni et Mali, ex virtute naturali habent potestatem transmutandi corpora nostra ("All angels, good and bad have the power of transmutating our bodies") was the dictum of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Patrick was said to have transformed the Welsh king Vereticus into a wolf; Natalis supposedly cursed an illustrious Irish family whose members were each doomed to be a wolf for seven years. In other tales the divine agency is even more direct, while in Russia, again, men supposedly became werewolves when incurring the wrath of the Devil.

A notable exception to the association of Lycanthropy and the Devil, comes from a rare and lesser known account of an 80-year-old man named Thiess. In 1692, in Jurgenburg, Livonia, Thiess testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God. He claimed they were warriors who went down into hell to do battle with witches and demons. Their efforts ensured that the Devil and his minions did not carry off the grain from local failed crops down to hell. Thiess was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil's minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as reward for their service. Thiess was ultimately sentenced to ten lashes for Idolatry and superstitious belief.

A distinction is often made between voluntary and involuntary werewolves. The former are generally thought to have made a pact, usually with the Devil, and morph into werewolves at night to indulge in nefarious acts. Involuntary werewolves, on the other hand, are werewolves by an accident of birth or health. In some cultures, individuals born during a new moon or suffering from epilepsy were considered likely to be werewolves.

Becoming a werewolf simply by being bitten by another werewolf as a form of contagion is common in modern horror fiction, but this kind of transmission is rare in legend, unlike the case in vampirism.

Even if the denotation of lycanthropy is limited to the wolf-metamorphosis of living human beings, the beliefs classed together under this head are far from uniform, and the term is somewhat capriciously applied. The transformation may be temporary or permanent; the were-animal may be the man himself metamorphosed; may be his double whose activity leaves the real man to all appearance unchanged; may be his soul, which goes forth seeking whom it may devour, leaving its body in a state of trance; or it may be no more than the messenger of the human being, a real animal or a familiar spirit, whose intimate connection with its owner is shown by the fact that any injury to it is believed, by a phenomenon known as repercussion, to cause a corresponding injury to the human being.


Vulnerabilities
Most modern fiction describes werewolves as vulnerable to silver weapons and highly resistant to other injuries. This feature does not appear in stories about werewolves before the 19th century. (The claim that the Beast of Gévaudan, an 18th century wolf or wolf-like creature, was shot by a silver bullet appears to have been introduced by novelists retelling the story from 1935 onwards and not in earlier versions.)

Unlike vampires, they are not generally thought to be harmed by religious artifacts such as crucifixes and holy water. In many countries, rye and mistletoe were considered effective safeguards against werewolf attacks.[citation needed] Mountain ash is also considered effective, with one Belgian superstition stating that no house was safe unless under the shade of a mountain ash. In some legends, werewolves have an aversion to wolfsbane.

Remedies
Various methods have existed for removing the werewolf form. In antiquity, the Ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the power of exhaustion in curing people of lycanthropy. The victim would be subjected to long periods of physical activity in the hope of being purged of the malady. This practice stemmed from the fact that many alleged werewolves would be left feeling weak and debilitated after committing depredations.

In medieval Europe, traditionally, there are three methods one can use to cure a victim of werewolfism; medicinally (usually via the use of wolfsbane), surgically or by exorcism. However, many of the cures advocated by medieval medical practitioners proved fatal to the patients. A Sicilian belief of Arabic origin holds that a werewolf can be cured of its ailment by striking it on the forehead or scalp with a knife. Another belief from the same culture involves the piercing of the werewolf's hands with nails. Sometimes, less extreme methods were used. In the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein, a werewolf could be cured if one were to simply address it three times by its Christian name, while one Danish belief holds that simply scolding a werewolf will cure it. Conversion to Christianity is also a common method of removing werewolfism in the medieval period. A devotion to St. Hubert has also been cited as both cure for and protection from lycanthropes.

So tell me are you a fan of Werewolves? IF so who is your favorite fictional wolf? Movie or book? Remember all comments count towards as extra entries for the big giveaway.

14 comments:

Amber I @ Awesomesauce said...

Werewolves have become one of my most favorite supernaturals! I love them. I know I am going to leave out some even before I start. But here are some of my favs:

Clay and Elena from The Otherworld Series by Kelley Armstrong

Adam from Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

Riley from Riley Jenson series by Keri Arthur

Rynn and Briggs from The Blue Blood Series by Stacey Kennedy


I will stop now! And I also wanted to say HI! It has been a while, I feel bad for not coming around more.

miki said...

Hi,
whoaw i discover a idea from my own country...i never heard about that idea of ash...perhaps it's a bad translation for " terrils" that would have some meaning at least....

i love the werewolves for the loyalty. My favorite one would be Adam, from the Mercy thompson serie but i also like Derek from the Kate Daniels serie.
(and a lot of ohther shifters too;;;)

isabellle(dot)frisch(at)gmail(dot)com

Anne said...

Warren Smith from Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series. Yeah, he's gay, but he sounds like a perfect best friend.

I second Miki on Derek as my #2 choice from the Kate Daniels series.

acm05atjuno.com

Amy said...

Great post! As a huge fan of werewolves, I first fell for Richard Zeeman in the Anita Blake series. After that I pretty much loved any character from books to television! :)

KainsHottie said...

I am a huge fan of werewolves. My favorite is Adam from the Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson book series.
phaedracamille@gmail.com

Carol L. said...

Very informative post about werewolves. I do love Werewolves in my stories. I actually love them all :) I'm sure going to have to read Mercy Thompson's series after reading the comments. I like Joe from the True Blood series and Terry Spears werewolves also.
Carol L
Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

miki said...

oh yes carol, you should read Mercy Thompson serie, i sure you will love it ( except the last one perhaps it's not as great as all the others^^)

isabelle(dot)frisch(at)gmail(dot)com

Brenda Demko said...

What they said!!! I like Adam but I also like Bran, Sam, and Charles from the Mercy Thompson/ Alpha and Omega series and Kelley Armstrong's Clay. Werewolves are my very favorite supernatural being! I just love reading about them! Thanks for the post! Happy Halloween!

Vivien said...

I love werewolves! My favorite werewolves are also from the Mercy Thompson series. :)

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

jfort357 said...

I am a huge FAN of werewolves!!! My fav is Alcide on True Blood!!! Pure Hotness!!! ;-)

jfort357(at)bellsouth(dot)net

heatherc8 said...

My fave paranormal character is the wolf but I actually like the shape-shitfer wolf and not the werewolf with the giant fangs and standing on two legs kind. I love Missy Martine's series Wolfen Heritage.
chamblinh@gmail.com

Rachel said...

Werewolves are awesome. Two of my fave werewolves actually share the same name---Derek. I love Derek from Kelley Armstrong's The Darkest Powers. He's such a sweetie.
And, I love Derek from TV's Teen Wolf--total hotttie.

rachybee101@live.com.au

Amy said...

I love werewolves that aren't evil. I love Hawke from Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series. He is such an alpha and so sexy and masculine. I love that werewolves mate for life and are completely loyal, at least according to the paranormal romances I've read.

angeldream3[AT]gmail[DOT]com

Maria (pronounced Mariah) said...

First one that comes to mind is Alcide! Love him!

mmafmsith at gmail dot com

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