Today, when we speak of werewolves, we may start to think of Jacob Black, especially for Twilight fans and more particularly, the crushing fangirls. Though this hunky character from the romance fantasy film may have won the hearts of devoted Jacob followers, if you think of the actual mythical creature, it is far from hunky. And had you come across one, you’d rather run for your life than follow it. Although it may be hard to believe that the mythical creature actually does exist, there were some reports of werewolf sightings and attacks in the past centuries and even just in the past few years. It makes you wonder, are they real? It’s very frightening if you think of it.
A werewolf is a mythological creature that can transform from a human body into a vicious wolf. Usually, the transformation occurs at night. When in wolf form, these creatures lose their minds and become uncontrollably aggressive, savagely attacking and eating humans and animals. And by day, they’ll be able to return to their human form, but won’t be able to remember anything that happened when they wake up. Though certain memories can be revisited in their dreams. The belief in werewolves is rampant across the world. There are various kinds of werewolves, and there are several stories told about them in the history of werewolves–those topics, we will delve further into in this article.
Kinds of Werewolves
A shapeshifter wolf has the ability to transform into a wolf at will. However, anger and aggressive energy may cause an unintentional transformation. A shapeshifter wolf can either be a “werewolf” which can only transform from human form to wolf form or a “pure” shapeshifter which can transform from human form to any other animal aside from a wolf. This kind of nature is inborn, and one does not acquire this from being bitten by a werewolf.
This creature is a combination of the features of both wolf and human. Although its body is mostly human and can stand on both legs, it has wolf hair covering his body and claws and fangs. Some are human by day and wolfman by night, while others are in their wolfman form at all times. A theory behind that is one begins transforming from human to wolfman on full moons only, increasing to every night over time, and soon transforms into a pure wolfman permanently. Moreover, there will come a point of decline in a wolfman’s control over his mind and emotions, once he has become fully transformed.
Without any control of its transformations, this creature turns into a werewolf during a full moon. This form can cause a human to transition to a werewolf through their bite, that is if the human that was bitten survived the attack.
In Greek Mythology
Though the origin of the werewolf isn’t exactly clear, some scholars believe the creature debuted in the oldest known western prose that is the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the epic, Ishtar, the goddess of love and war makes advances to Gilgamesh, king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk. But Gilgamesh, being aware that she had turned one of her previous lovers into a wolf, jilted her.
Another story involving the werewolf myth is the “Legend of Lycaon” wherein Lycaon, king of Arcadia was turned into a wolf by Zeus, god of the sky and thunder out of anger when Lycaon served him a meal made from the remains of a man whom he had taken hostage and killed.
Werewolves had been a topic in Volsunga. It told about a father and a son who discovered wolf pelts with the power to turn people into wolves for ten days and wore them, leading to a killing rampage. When the father attacked the son, causing a lethal wound, their rampage ended. Luckily, the son survived with the help of a kind raven who gave the father a leaf with healing powers.
In Haraldskvaeoi and Volsunga, there are legends of Ulfhednar which are in connection to the werewolf myths. Ulfhednar is an old Norse term for a warrior with characteristics similar to a berserker. Possessing a lupine aspect, such warriors are capable of performing feats far beyond normal human ability. During battle, they dress in wolf hides and channel the spirits of the wolves, thus, becoming more powerful and ferocious and immune to pain.
In writer and Roman officer, Piny the Elder’s manuscript, Historia Naturalis, quoting a documentation by Euanthes, he wrote about the Anthus clan who lived in Arcadia. Piny’s tale tells of their lycanthropic rites. Every nine years, a male in their clan is selected by lot and brought to a lake in Arcadia. There, the selected male would hang his clothes on an ash tree and swim across the lake. A complete transformation into wolf form then takes place upon reaching the other side of the lake, which he will take the form of for nine years. If he didn’t attack any human within those nine years, then he is free is to swim back across the lake and return to his human form.
16th Century France
Around 16th century, France was reported to be infested with werewolves. There were numerous instances of the brutal acts of murdering and devouring humans and animals.
There was the two peasant serial killers, Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun who have killed and ate several children in 1521. They allegedly swore allegiance to the devil and claimed to have an ointment that turned them into wolves. The Werewolf of Dole, Giles Garnier also killed and ate children in 1573. He, as well, claimed to also have a wolf-morphing ointment. And there were the cases of the Gandillon family in the Jura, the tailor of Chalons, and Roulette in Angers that all occurred in 1598.
They were all burned to death, as it was believed that burning was a means of killing werewolves.
The Bedburg Werewolf
The Bedburg Werewolf, Peter Stubbe may be the most notorious of them all, having devoured many citizens of Bedburg in the 15th century.
Hunters claimed they saw him shift from a wolf to a man when they were out on their hunting and had him cornered, thereafter, he was blamed for the gruesome killings of animals; men; women; and children.
Stubbe was brought to trial, and it was after being tortured on a rack that he confessed the crimes he committed including sorcery; consort with the devil; and the use of a magic belt to transform himself into a werewolf that the devil, himself, gave to him. He was found guilty and he was burned to death.
Australia’s Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital
Legend has it that during a full moon, the mythical creature can transform from its human form to wolf form. In a study conducted by Australia’s Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital, they found that of the 91 violent acute behavior incidents at the hospital between August 2008 and July 2009, 23 percent happened during a full moon. The patients showed wolf-like behaviors, as they attacked staff–biting, spitting, and scratching them. Though most were under the influence of drugs and alcohol that time, it was unclear why they acted in an intense violent behavior during a full moon.
Are Werewolves Real?
Although there are some reports on werewolf sightings and attacks over the centuries and even just in the past few years, some would argue that these creatures were just used to explain the unexplainable, particularly in the olden days. In addition, some werewolf characteristics may just be confused with medical conditions.
An excellent example of a medical condition that can be linked to these werewolf characteristics would be Peter the Wild Boy. Found naked on all fours through a forest in Germany in 1725, he was thought to be either a werewolf or raised by wolves. He ate with his hands and was unable to speak. He lived his life as a pet when he was adopted by the courts of King George I and King George II. Later on in 1978, was the discovery of the condition, Pitt-Hopkins syndrome which causes lack of speech; seizures; distinct facial features; difficulty in breathing; and intellectual challenges. Peter likely had this condition.
Other medical conditions that may be confused with some werewolf characteristics are clinical lycanthropy, the psychiatric syndrome wherein a person is in delusion that he either has the ability to transform into or is a non-human animal; hypertrichosis, the genetic disorder of excessive hair growth; rabies; and hallucination, caused by hallucinogenic substances.
In modern times, werewolves are just seen as horror icons like in the movies, The Wolfman; Wer; and Female Werewolf, or dreamy characters in movies even. Nevertheless, werewolf legends make rather interesting and horrifying tales. As for the werewolf sightings, there’s probably not much chance that you’d ever run into one. But let’s just hope we don’t.