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“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.”
~ The Wolf Man (1941)
The magical ability to assume the form and characteristics of a wolf is known as lycanthropism, or lycanthropy. A common belief throughout all folklore and myth is that all werewolves are forced to shift during the cycle of the full moon - to some this is a gift, others a curse. Cures and remedies against werewolfism were varied and ranged from physically exhausting alleged sufferers to exorcism and/or the use of the toxic herb wolfsbane! However, in the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein, a werewolf could be cured if one were to simply address it three times by its Christian name, while one Danish belief holds that merely scolding a werewolf will cure it! Bad werewolf, bad! 🐺
A werewolf is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. by a bite or scratch from another werewolf).
The magical ability to assume the form and characteristics of a wolf is known as lycanthropism, or lycanthropy.
A common belief throughout all folklore and myth is that all werewolves are forced to shift during the cycle of the full moon, to some this is a gift, others a curse.
There was no widespread belief in werewolves in medieval Europe before the 14th century, though the belief in the ability to transform into a wolf goes back much further.
Werewolves were said to bear tell-tale physical traits even in their human form. These included the meeting of both eyebrows at the bridge of the nose, curved fingernails, low-set ears and a swinging stride. One method of identifying a werewolf in its human form was to cut the flesh of the accused, to see if fur would be seen within the wound. A Russian superstition maintains that werewolves in human form can be recognised by bristles under the tongue!
Traditionally, there were three medieval preferred methods to cure a victim of lycanthropism: medicinally (usually via the use of the herb wolfsbane), surgically, or by exorcism. Unsurprisingly, many of these cures proved fatal to the patients. However, In the German lowlands of Schleswig-Holstein, a werewolf could be cured if one simply addressed it three times by its Christian name, while a Danish belief held that simply scolding a werewolf would cure it!
Along with a vulnerability to the silver objects (usually a silver bullet), the association of the full moon as a cause of transformation from human to werewolf became part of the canon of werewolf lore only fairly recently in the twentieth century, mostly reinforced by 20th century movies.
The Dark Grey Wolf tartan, by designer Carol A.L. Martin, was created after an encounter with a wolf somewhere between Calgary and Banff, Canada.
For more on the very extensive werewolf lore, click the yellow eyes!