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Shape-shifters have always been a fascination for horror fans. Since the early middle ages when food for both man and animal were scarce, stories abounded about wolves and human/wolf creatures attacking and killing villagers.
The fan adoration of these tormented beasts has not let up in the least. With new werewolf movies, books and comics surfacing all the time.
They usually appear as a supporting character or enemy of vampires though this seems to be a complete creation of Hollywood story tellers.
5. The Name "Werewolf"
The name of werewolves is thought to stem from one of three main influences. The first train of thought implies that the modern word werewolf evolved from two old english (Saxon) words wer and wulf. The meaning of wer is man and wulf generally meant beast though was thought to have been translated to more accurately mean wolf.
The second idea dictates that it has evolved from another old english word weri which means to wear. It is thought by some that warriors of the north in Europe would sometimes clothe themselves in wolves skin or bears skin to make themselves more frightening. Hence the term werewolf. Or in terms of bear skin they were referred to as berserkers.
The last widely accept theory of the origin of the name came from the old Norse name werg-wolf. The word werg was said to mean rogue in Norse and was used in old English to describe an animal, a wolf in particular, which would destroy a herd of sheep but eat very little of what was killed.
The term lycanthropy comes from ancient Greek and means wolf (lÃ½kos) human (Ã¡nthropos). Werewolves in pop culture are often referred to as lycanthropes.
Image - In Harmony Purchase print
4. How To Kill A Lycanthrope
The silver bullet method is arguably the most famous way of dispatching our favorite furry monster but it is a relatively new introduction to the werewolf story line. It is not recorded in any werewolf stories or tales before the 19th century. In fact the first occurrence seems to have been in 1935 by a novelist retelling a famous tale of a werewolf from 1767.
More traditional methods from older tales include destroying the heart by any means necessary. Without it's heart the werewolf's circulatory system would stop. This is also true for it's brain. If you can remove the head of a werewolf it is said to kill it as well. For obvious reasons.
Different methods of killing it's two main organs can be used with success. Things such as hanging or drowning will destroy the werewolf's brain effectively killing it. The heart could be attacked as well using something like electricity or piercing which would kill the werewolf. Incinerating the monster would be doubly effective as it would destroy everything the werewolf needs to function.
Image - Silver Bullet
3. Recognizing A Werewolf
Recognizing a werewolf wouldn't be difficult if it were always in it's wolf form but what about the times when it is in it's human form? Would you know what clues to look for?
Luckily there are a few telltale signs that someone is a werewolf. The signs can be broken into two main categories and are easy to spot.
The first are the physical signs. Things like hairy palms and an arching uni-brow, a long curved thumbnail and an extra long middle finger can all be physical signs that someone is a lycanthrope. Be wary though, they may be trying to hide their identity so they may be shaving or waxing unusual hair growth. Use physical signs and behavioral signs to identify a potential werewolf.
Behavioral signs are things like increased aggression and agitation. Sleeplessness is said to be a symptom accompanied with strange behavior at night, including a preoccupation with being in cemeteries after dark. It is said that werewolves have to sleep with there mouths open to avoid some form of lockjaw while they sleep.
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More About Werewolves
2. Lycanthropy As A Legal Defense
Peter Stubb- Seems old Peter, after being stretched on the rack, confessed to an astonishing list of crimes back in 1589. After confessing to murder, cannibalism, and an incestuous relationship with a relative he further shocked everyone with the admission that he did so while being a werewolf.
He claimed to have been practicing black magic since the age of twelve and had made a pact with the devil. In return for his allegiance he was offered a magic griddle with which he could assume the form of a wolf.
His execution was no less spectacular being one of the most brutal on record. Click the link for more information from wiki.
Gilles Garnier- Gilles was another cannibal in the late 1500s who claimed the ability to shape shift, unfortunately the skill also involved killing children.
His claims stated that a specter appeared in the woods while he was hunting that claimed to have an anointment that would allow him to change into a wolf. From there it appears he just started hunting everything.
He was tried and Garnier was found guilty of "crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft" and subsequently burned at the stake.
Beast of Gévaudan- Were said to be wolf-like men that attacked former province of Gévaudan in the Margeride Mountains in south-central France from 1764 to 1767. But wait it gets better.
It was said that the creatures attacked their victims by going for the throat and the estimates on the number of attacks is remarkable. Numbers put the attacks at 210 total with 113 being fatal, 98 of the deaths were consumed or partial consumed by the attackers.
A gigantic man-hunt (wolf-man hunt?) was launched which included the royal army in an effort to stop these creatures with an insatiable lust for blood. The attacks stopped when a local hunter killed a wolf which had human remains in it's stomach. It is said that a writer retelling the story many years later introduced the idea that the hunter had killed the wolf with a bullet he had made himself out of silver, leading to the current belief that silver is harmful to werewolves.
Image - Werewolf in a cage
1. Ways of Becoming A Werewolf
The ways to become a werewolf as almost as numerous and fun as a vampires. Interestingly the most common way of becoming a werewolf in modern horror, being bitten by a werewolf, does not appear in any of the ancient werewolf legends or stories. It would seems the "infection" method is an invention of clever hollywood writers.
Some methods of becoming a werewolf include :
- Wear the skin of a wolf freshly killed.
- Drinking rainwater out of a fresh wolf footprint, then eating a wolf brain and finally sleeping in it's lair.
- Sleeping outside during the full moon with moonshine on your face
- As part of a satanic pact.
- Being cursed at birth
- Some witches were said to have achieved shape shifting through using spells and potions
- Demons and devils were said to be able to inhabit humans and change them into wolves in order to attack others
Image - Lon Chaney as the Wolfman in a Universal movie classic.
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Sites used as reference while compiling the information for this article.
- Werewolves: The Myths and the Truths
This web site has followed scientific ideas while explaining possible sources and causes of werewolf legend.
- The Werewolf on Wikipedia
An all purpose werewolf resource with lots of links.
- The Werewolf Page
This site contains an extensive collection of resources pertaining to legend of the werewolf.
In this dark corner of the Internet, you'll find werewolves in the news, and media; new werewolf fiction, films, and reviews.