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What is a Lycan?

Updated on November 4, 2021

In popular legend, the werewolf is a supernatural creature transformed either willingly or unwillingly from a human being. Lycanthropy refers to the transformation of a human into an animal and in certain parts of the world the belief in such transformations is still prevalent.

The superstition of the werewolf has been documented for many centuries. Herodotus, the fifth century Greek historian, recounted the tale of the Neuri, a race capable of changing to wolves once every year.

Many rural African tribes have believed in leopard-men or crocodile-men, and American Indians, such as the Navaho, have tales of mountain lion-men. The tiger men of Africa or the bear warriors of the North American Indian are tribal examples of lycanthropy.

In Europe, where the wolf was one of the largest carnivorous animals, it was believed that people could assume the form and behaviour of a werewolf. European folktales tell of men and women who become werewolves by putting on a wolfskin girdle or by applying a magic ointment. There are also tales of people who became werewolves without wishing to, especially at the time of the full moon.

European magicians of the fourth century sold potions which they said could effect the change. Sixteenth century France was particularly plagued with loupsgarous, or werewolves. The Parliament of Franche Comte passed a law expelling werewolves and many convictions were recorded.

Seventeenth century English magicians claimed to change to werewolves by anointing their bodies with a mystical balm and wearing a girdle of wolf fur.

German peasants in the late nineteenth century believed that mentioning the wolf in December could effect a manifestation and Danish folk were taught to recognise a werewolf by its eyebrows.

The Greeks and Romans believed in wolf-men. Greeks also believed epileptics were werewolves.

The word "lycanthropy" is sometimes used to mean the delusion of certain people that they are wolves.

The word derives from the Greek for werewolf, or wolf-man, a creature believed to hunger for human flesh and blood, but by extension the word is applied to many kinds of animals.


Lycanthropy is often confused with transmigration.

The difference is that the Lycan is an alternative form of the living human. Whilst on the other hand transmigration is the belief that the spirit of a dead human is within an animal.


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