A to Z Challenge Folklore

Cursed Werewolves #folklore #AtoZChallenge

Y is for Yahoo

Learn more about the challenge here.

yahoo n a crude, brutish, or obscenely coarse person from the name of a race of brutish creatures resembling men in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Collins English Dictionary

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A-Z Challenge here.

As there were werewolves in animation shows I watched as a child, I’m not sure where I specifically encountered the werewolf for the first time.

Werewolf. Image credit

Folklore

Pliny the Elder, The Natural History [read online]

WOLVES; THE ORIGIN OF THE STORY OF VERSIPELLIS.

In Italy also it is believed that there is a noxious influence in the eye of a wolf; it is supposed that it will instantly take away the voice of a man,1 if it is the first to see him. Africa and Egypt produce wolves of a sluggish and stunted nature;2 those of the colder climates are fierce and savage. That men have been turned into wolves, and again restored to their original form,3 we must confidently look upon as untrue, unless, indeed, we are ready to believe all the tales, which, for so many ages, have been found to be fabulous. But, as the belief of it has become so firmly fixed in the minds of the common people, as to have caused the term “Versipellis”4 to be used as a common form of imprecation, I will here point out its origin. Euanthes, a Grecian author of no mean reputation, informs us that the Arcadians assert that a member of the family of one Anthus is chosen by lot, and then taken to a certain lake in that district, where, after suspending his clothes on an oak, he swims across the water and goes away into the desert, where he is changed into a wolf and associates with other animals of the same species for a space of nine years. If he has kept himself from beholding a man during the whole of that time, he returns to the same lake, and, after swimming across it, resumes his original form, only with the addition of nine years in age to his former appearance. To this Fabius5 adds, that he takes his former clothes as well. It is really wonderful to what a length the credulity6 of the Greeks will go! There is no falsehood, if ever so barefaced, to which some of them cannot be found to bear testimony.

So too, Agriopas, who wrote the Olympionics,7 informs us that Demænetus, the Parrhasian, during a sacrifice of human victims, which the Arcadians were offering up to the Lycæan8 Jupiter, tasted the entrails of a boy who had been slaughtered; upon which he was turned into a wolf, but, ten years afterwards, was restored to his original shape and his calling of an athlete, and returned victorious in the pugilistic contests at the Olympic games.

Werewolf. Image credit.

Werewolves Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm [1816]

A soldier related the following story, which is said to have happened to his grandfather. The latter, the grandfather, had gone into the forest to cut wood with a kinsman and a third man. People suspected that there was something not quite right about this third man, although no one could say exactly what it was.

The three finished their work and were tired, whereupon the third man suggested that they sleep a little. And that is what they did. They all laid down on the ground, but the grandfather only pretended to sleep, keeping his eyes open a crack. The third man looked around to see if the others were asleep, and when he believed this to be so, he took off his belt (or, as others tell the story, put on a belt) and turned into a wolf.

However, such a werewolf does not look exactly like a natural wolf, but somewhat different.

Then he ran to a nearby meadow where a young foal was grazing, attacked it, and ate it, including skin and hair. Afterward he returned, put his belt back on (or took it off), and laid down, as before, in human form.

A little later they all got up together and made their way toward home. Just as they reached the town gate, the third man complained that he had a stomachache. The grandfather secretly whispered in his ear: “That I can well believe, for someone who has a horse, complete with skin and hair, in his belly.”

The third man replied: “If you had said that to me in the forest, you would not be saying it to me now.”

Werewolf. Image credit

The Wolf Stone by Alexander Schöppner 1874]

In a valley in the Fichtel Mountains a shepherd tended his flock in a green meadow. Several times it happened that after driving his herd home he discovered that one of the animals was missing. All searching was in vain. They were lost and they remained lost.

Watching more carefully, he saw a large wolf creep out of the forest thicket and seize a lamb. Angrily he chased after him, but the enemy was too fleet. Before he could do anything about it, the wolf had disappeared with the lamb. The next time he took an expert marksman with him. The wolf approached, but the marksman’s bullets bounced off him. Then it occurred to the hunter to load his weapon with the dried pith from an elder bush. The next day he got off a shot, and the robber ran howling into the woods.

The next morning the shepherd met an old neighbor woman with whom he was not on the best of terms. Noticing that she was limping, he asked her: “Neighbor, what is wrong with your leg? It does not want to go along with you.”

“What business is it of yours?” she answered, hurrying away.

The shepherd took note of this. This woman had long been suspected of practicing evil magic. People claimed to have seen her on the Heuberg in Swabia, the Köterberg, and also on the Hui near Halberstadt.

He reported her. She was arrested, interrogated, and flogged with rod of alder wood, with which others suspected of magic, but who had denied the charges, had been punished. She was then locked up in chains. But suddenly the woman disappeared from the prison, and no one knew where she had gone.

Some time later the poor, unsuspecting shepherd saw the hated wolf break out of the forest once again. However, this time it had not come to attack his herd, but the shepherd himself. There was a furious struggle. The shepherd gathered all of his strength together against the teeth and claws of the ferocious beast. It would have been his death if a hunter had not come by in the knick of time. In vain he fired a shot at the wolf, and then struck it down with his knife. The instant that blood began to flow from the wolf’s side, the old woman from the village appeared in the field before them, writhing and twisting terribly. They finished killing her and buried her twenty feet beneath the earth.

At the place where they buried the woman they erected a large stone cross, which they named the “Wolf Stone” in memory of these events. It was never peaceful and orderly in the vicinity of the stone. The Malicious Messenger (der Tückebote) or the Burning Man (der brennende Mann), in the language of the people, still goes about his dangerous business here.

Werewolf. Image credit

This was another fun one to research. I even got around to reading and reviewing this book that’s been on my TBR for a while:

The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings by Brad Steiger

In the spiritual traditions of many early cultures, shamans were expected to seek the assistance of their spirit helpers, who appeared most often in the form of their totem animals. In certain instances, in order to explore more effectively the spiritual dimensions, shamans may even have shape-shifted into the persona of their totemic animal to become for a time a wolf, a raven, an owl, or whatever creature had granted its power to their quests.

The werewolf of ancient tradition runs on all fours and has discarded all vestiges of clothing before the process of transmutation begins. If the shape-shifter should be killed while in the form of a wolf, he or she would return to human shape and be naked.

When those individuals who have become werewolves against their will are not under the power of the curse that forces them to become ravenous beasts, they experience all the normal human emotions of shame and disgust for the deeds that they must commit under the blood spell. They may long for death and seek ways to destroy themselves before they take the lives of more innocent victims. However, they soon discover to their dismay that the Grim Reaper can only be summoned to their door by certain means—and self-destruction is not one of them.

On the other hand, those who have become werewolves of their own choice and who sought the power of transmutation through incantations, potions, or spells, revel in their strength and in their ability to strike fear into the hearts of all who hear their piercing howls on the nights of the full moon.

…Many scholars have stated that in the original version of the tale, the beast was a werewolf. While there is no folklore that suggests a werewolf can be redeemed by the love of virtuous maiden, the tale could represent love and compassion as antidotes for the bestial impulses within all humans. Variations of “Beauty and the Beast” abound throughout the world. In certain regions of the Middle East, Beast is a boar, complete with large, curved tusks. Among some African tribes, he is a crocodile.

*More can be read in the book.

Werewolf. Image credit

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft by Judika Illes

European werewolves, similar to Navajo skin-walkers, may not look exactly like real wolves. They may walk upright and have no tail, which sounds suspiciously like a person. Other descriptions suggest that werewolves have a human body but a wolf’s head, like an Egyptian deity or like a masked human.

How do you become a werewolf?

  • Ancestry may be blamed. Someone from a family full of werewolves may be more likely to be one.
  • Simply sleeping in the moonlight may do the trick.
  • Taking off one’s clothes and howling in the moonlight is considered effective, too.
  • The notion that being a werewolf is contagious is popular nowadays but derives more from movie traditions than from any folk wisdom. It may derive from confusion between vampires and werewolves.
  • In the Balkans, there’s a special werewolf flower. Pick it and transform.
  • Various spells refer to magical belts which when worn help one transform.
  • European werewolves allegedly concoct salves similar to witches’ flying ointments to effect transformation.
  • Curses cause transformation, as do evil spells.
  • A fairly international tradition recommends that you drink rainwater collected from a wolf’s footprint.

*More can be read in the book.

Werewolf. Image credit

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

lycanthropy The transformation of a human being into a wolf. There are two types of lycanthropy: a mania in which a person imagines himself to be a wolf and exhibits a craving for blood; and the magical-ecstatic transformation of a person into a werewolf (“man-wolf,” from the Old English wer, man, plus wolf), usually accomplished with ointments or magical charm (see charms).
Werewolf lore has existed since antiquity. In some legends, the werewolf is a person born under a curse, who cannot prevent himself from his hellish metamorphosis, which happens on nights of the full Moon. The person, usually a man, but sometimes a woman or a child, acquires the shape of a wolf and all its attributes, and roams about the countryside attacking and eating victims. In most tales, the werewolf is wounded, and the wound sympathetically carries over to the human form and reveals the identity of the werewolf.
In other legends, the werewolf is a sorcerer or witch who deliberately transforms himself at will to do evil
and lay waste to his enemies.

*More can be read in the book.

Werewolf. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane

Loup Garou

A WEREWOLF originating in French folklore, the loup garou (“a man who turns into a wolf”) of Caribbean island folklore appears as a great human-wolf hybrid with a chain about its neck, walking on its hind legs.

Werewolf

A werewolf (“man wolf”) is person with the ability to transform into a wolf or a wolf-human anthromorphic hybrid; this folklore is present in many cultures worldwide and dates back to man’s earliest day. The ability to transform may be innate, a curse placed on the individual, or by magical means, be it an item or a spell. The first recorded story of a lycanthrope (the ability to transform into a wolf) was the Greek tale of Lycaon written by Ovid in his tale Metamorphoses; although older unrecorded oral traditions date back even further in Icelandic, Norse, Scandinavian, and Teutonic traditions.

Werewolves are feared no matter how they came into being because of their proclivity for violence, ravenous appetite, and wanton destruction; there are many tales of a single werewolf slaughtering an entire herd of cattle or sheep in a single night; crashing into people’s homes, snatching up the children, and fleeing off into the night. In both instances the creature destroys anything and anyone who gets in its way. Typically, while transformed, the creature is nearly indestructible and immune to most weapons.

*More can be read in the book.

Werewolf. Image credit

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John & Caitlín Matthews

Werewolf

The name werewolf comes from the addition of the Old English wer ‘man’ and the word ‘wolf’. A werewolf is a human being who has the ability to turn into a wolf, although the term can also be used generically to describe a human who turns into another kind of animal under conditions of sorcery or enchantment. Werewolves act entirely like a wolf while they are in that shape, and will prey upon any human or other animal.

The ability or misfortune to become a werewolf was conveyed in different ways: by curse, enchantment, sleeping in the light of a full moon, being conceived under a new moon, eating wolf meat, drinking where wolves have drunken or putting on a wolfskin. The werewolf effect takes place in the hours of darkness and subjects conceal their wolf skin and hide their activities during the day, completing the Jekyll and Hyde persona of werewolf existence. Those who are injured as werewolves may be easily discovered the next day since the human subject will have a wound in the same place, thus rousing suspicion of those who had not already noticed the tell-tale signs of werewolfdom – the hairy brows that meet in the middle, the variegated eyes, the long canine teeth and generally vulpine appearance. Once a werewolf, there are very few remedies to help you achieve a cure.

Lycanthropy is the medical term for when the supposed victim believes himself to be a wolf, behaving in gait and appetite like one who is indeed transformed.

*More can be read in the book.

Werewolf. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Werewolf. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

In folklore, we find three types of werewolves: those who choose to become werewolves by use of magic, potions, or other kinds of sorcery; those who are cursed to be become werewolves either by malicious foes or because they did something horrific like eating a child; and those who become werewolves through rituals meant to enhance their strength, speed, and understanding of the natural world either as warriors or as healers.

We find the willing werewolf a lot in Eastern Europe and Germany, in tales where girdles – usually made of human flesh – is used to turn the person into a wolf. Sometimes, they use potions and lotions to achieve the same effect.

The cursed werewolf, or unwilling werewolf, is found as early as Greek mythology where Lycaon offered a meal which involved human flesh to Zeus and others and was cursed by the god he offended to become a wolf. That’s where we get the term “lycanthrope” to describe this condition from.

As for the third type, which is sometimes seen as not a true transformation, rather a spiritual animal companion idea, comes from shamanism in various countries, including early Norse traditions of the berserkers who worshipped Odin.

Many tales involving werewolves, especially during the Inquisition and witch trials across Europe, involved men who did horrific things – like eating children. These men, as women were only seen as witches seduced by Satan, were seen as less than those who were persecuting them and thus they were called “werewolves”. It is thought that the accused were actually violent serial killers, some perhaps mentally ill, and not true werewolves.

The word “werewolf” comes from the Old English “wer” which means “man” and “wolf”, thus “man-wolf”. This in itself shows that it was thought that only men were capable of turning into werewolves.

Folktales about werewolves are about bloodthirsty creatures who mostly attack livestock, and in some cases, children. These monsters are usually those who choose to become werewolves. Though there are tales of those who are tricked or cursed into the state, who must struggle against the bloodthirsty nature of the wolf who overtakes them – or, perhaps, it is a struggle against the bloodthirsty monster within which feels freed once in animal form.

People have tried to rationalise werewolves as mass hallucinations, food poisoning, someone suffering from rabies or another disease. But whether through drugs or genetics, werewolves and the belief in them can be found all over the world.

Werewolf in two forms. Image credit

Werewolves in Modern Culture

There are a lot of different sources to choose from, but I decided to go for those that show a variety in how the curse works.

Teen Wolf

Alpha Scott in regular werewolf form. Image credit.
Alpha Peter in bipedal werewolf form. Image credit.
Alpha Talia in full wolf werewolf form. Image credit.

Werewolves are the predominant supernatural species in the Teen Wolf universe, and they were the first supernatural creature to be introduced in the series. They are shapeshifters who have the ability to transform from an ordinary human appearance to a partially-lupine form that includes glowing eyes (which are either gold, blue, or red depending on rank or other factors) pointed ears, mutton chops, claws and fangs, and a ridged brow. In rare cases, Werewolves can also have such advanced shapeshifting abilities that they can actually turn into a real wolf, or can transform into a large, monstrous, bipedal wolf-man.

Along with shapeshifting, all Werewolves possess superior strengthspeedagilityhealing, and senses, among other powers.

In the supernatural community, being a Werewolf is considered a gift, but it is a gift that has a cost—because a Werewolf’s powers are derived from the moon, the full moon will cause their abilities and emotions to be so heightened that many lose control of themselves, which can cause death and destruction if not handled properly.

Learn more here.

The Vampire Diaries

A werewolf starting to turn. Image credit.
Elena faces a werewolf. Image credit.

Werewolves (also called LycanthropesLoup GarouRougarouBeasts, or even just Wolves for short) are a supernatural shapeshifting species of individuals who unwillingly transform into large, fearsome, and extremely hostile wolves on the night of the full moon. They were created by the witch Inadu as revenge against her tribe for killing her. Even in their human form, werewolves possess superhuman physical prowess, though not to the same level as a vampire, and their abilities are not as powerful compared to those they possess on the full moon while transformed. These creatures are the most dangerous enemies of vampires due to their venomous bite, which is lethal to them. Werewolves are also hardwired to kill vampires on sight in their wolf form, though they still hunt human prey whenever there are no vampires to kill.

Lycanthropy is an inherited genetic condition due to a curse, and a person can only be a werewolf if they are born to at least one werewolf parent; they cannot be turned by a bite or scratch. Furthermore, the werewolf gene must be “triggered” by taking the life of a living person or supernatural being, such as another werewolf. This can either be intentionally or by accident, in order to gain access to their enhanced physical abilities, though this comes at the cost of transforming into a wolf during every full moon. Untriggered werewolves, however, can kill vampires without activating their curse.

Learn more here.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Werewolf. Image credit

Werewolf was a human who suffered from lycanthropy, an infection that caused them to transform into lupine creatures, particularly during full-moon nights.[1]

It acts on pure instinct. No conscience, predatory and aggressive.”―Rupert Giles[src]

A person became a werewolf after they were bitten by another werewolf,[1] infecting the blood with werewolf saliva.[2] It did not matter if the original werewolf was transformed or not at the moment the bite took place.[1] Scratches did not change a person,[2][3] nor was the condition genetically passable to offspring.[4]

From the point of being bitten and on, the victim transformed into a lupine creature and remained so from sunset to sunrise during the three nights of the full moon.

Learn more here.

Harry Potter book series by JK Rowling

Werewolf appearing similar to real wolf. Image credit.
Werewolf with more human form from movie. Image credit.

You have only ever seen me amongst the Order, or under Dumbledore’s protection at Hogwarts! You don’t know how most of the wizarding world sees creatures like me! When they know of my affliction, they can barely talk to me!“— Werewolf Remus Lupin regarding his affliction[src]

werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope,[1] was a creature which normally resembled a human being but, upon the complete rising of the full moon, became an uncontrollable, fearsome and deadly wolf.[1] This condition was caused by infection with lycanthropy, also known as werewolfry.[3] Werewolves were almost indistinguishable in appearance from the true wolf. The real difference was in behaviour.[1]

Learn more here.

There’s a werewolf in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (My Review)

“…where a huge grey animal, like a dog but far larger, growled and drooled, and stood over him, an animal with flaming eyes and white fangs and huge paws”

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

Hotel Transylvania films

Wayne Werewolf. Image credit.
Wayne Werewolf covered by his pups while trying to sleep. Image credit.

Wayne Werewolf[3] is a werewolf, as his name suggests, and one of the main characters of the Hotel Transylvania movie films. He is the husband of Wanda Werewolf and father of WinnieSunny and his many other werewolf pups.

“There’s a reason they call it a litter.” (referring to his pups going crazy)

Learn more here.

Werewolves in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Werewolves

Two kinds.
The first kind fully turn into wolves. They hunt and destroy Vampires. Their venom is toxic to the undead. They cannot turn others into wolves – they are born with the gene. Witches cursed several bloodlines to be wolves if they kill any living being. They also instantly get a mortal enemy in Vampires. They turn on the full moon.
The second kind of werewolf can turn at any time. They get claws and furry faces and bright eyes. Emotion triggers the transformation. So does the full moon. They turn others by biting humans. Not all survive the bite. They are constantly fighting other packs over territory.
Both kinds are susceptible to injury by silver.
Mortal enemies:
Type 1 – Vampires.
Type 2 – Hunters from the Council (sees them as evil rats that need to be exterminated)

Werewolf translated to Afrikaans: Weerwolf.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Any werewolf stories you’d like to share? Did you know that there’s a theory that the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood was actually a werewolf? Which kind of werewolf is your favourite? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

4 thoughts on “Cursed Werewolves #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I’ve never been a werewolf fan and don’t like the nightmares they cause, but my middle daughter grew up reading every single Goosebumps book that came out. She loves werewolves, vampires, and zombies. She’s also afraid of the dark. ;-O

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