While many people have heard of the stereotypical werewolf, not many people realize that there are real werewolf transformation stories that exist within many modern cultures throughout the world today.
The Source of Werewolf Transformation Stories
Historians have traced the concept of human shape shifters back as early as 600 B.C. to the biblical time of King Nebuchadnezzar.
King Nebuchadnezzar's Curse
The king believed that he was, in fact, a wild beast and grew out his hair to fill that role. It wasn't until almost a thousand years later that medical science identified the psychological and physical condition as "lycanthropy". Throughout the centuries, people afflicted with the psychological side of this illness often only became convinced that they were werewolves even though there was no physical evidence to support it.
In other cases, the condition was purely medical. The afflicted person grew hair at a faster rate and over a larger portion of the body than normal. For these folks, more often it was the community that became convinced that the person was a werewolf. Throughout the 1500s and 1600s, communities and cultures around the world experienced many werewolf sightings, and they accused and convicted both the innocent and the insane of being werewolves. These accusations were often tied closely to religious beliefs of the time. Recorded cases in France, Russia and other countries provide disturbing glimpses of murderers and the insane being diagnosed with this supernatural illness and convicted.
How the Werewolf Transformation Takes Place
Even today, there is a fair portion of the population that believes that there are creatures who can "shape shift" from human form to animal form. There are even more people who at least believe that beasts do exist that have not yet been identified by modern science. The field of cryptozoology is based on this premise. For those who believe in shape shifting, or the transformation from human to animal form, the transformation process is detailed in myths and legends throughout the centuries and throughout many human cultures.
Transformation as a Curse
In many stories, becoming afflicted by a physical transformation into some sort beast is a form of a curse from the gods. The 8 A.D. poem Metamorphosis by Ovid describes the god Jupiter cursing King Lycaon by transforming him into a wolf-man. Such a mutation would take place instantly and would last permanently. According to the story, the King still maintained a human appearance, but in wolf form. Throughout the world, the werewolf curse remains a part of the local culture. For example, in Russia, Romania and even Italy such a curse is related to children being conceived on specific days such as a new moon, Christmas Eve or Easter. In other parts of the world, this conception curse is based on numbers, not timing. For example, some myths from Brazil and Spain maintain that the sixth or seventh child in a family will be cursed with becoming a werewolf.
Infected by What You Eat
In some parts of the world, people believe the werewolf transformation is caused by certain food or drinks. Throughout Southeastern Europe, a common belief is that a special white and yellow flower with white sap will cause lycanthropy. Another fascinating legend in Germany is that a certain stream in the Harz Mountains is cursed. Locals believe that anyone who drinks from it will turn into a werewolf. One particular tale is of Countess Hilda van Breber who drank from the stream before learning that it was cursed. The legend says that a number of children went missing in the area until the creature was trapped in a house one evening after stealing a child. The Count entered the house and shot the creature. Upon getting a clearer view of the werewolf, he realized it was his own wife.
Other Causes of Werewolf Transformations
Other werewolf transformation stories around the world ascribe different causes for the affliction. Some of these include the following.
- Wearing objects or clothes: In some cultures, there are tales of people who wear the skin of animals in order to transform. In other stories, the skin is worn as a "belt" for the transformation to take place.
- Witchcraft and spells: Many societies, especially during the middle ages, believed that witches could transform into werewolves through the use of spells or rituals.
- Exposure to a full moon: Some societies believed (or believe) that sleeping outside under a full moon or on specific days of the year will cause someone to turn into a werewolf.
- Satanic possession: Throughout the middle ages, one theory that became popular was that the werewolf transformation was due to possession by evil spirits or satanic forces.
There are still many people and cultures around the world that very much believe in the reality of supernatural werewolf transformations. In may communities, this is a very serious concern and creates a great deal of anxiety for the safety of small pets, farm animals and even children. You can check out more werewolf stories from around the world by visiting Werewolf Legends.