The old werewolf myth

Trivia / No. 1

The term werewolf (from the Germanic: wer(e) 'man')

describes the mystery that under special circumstances a person can turn into an animal at night and reassume his human form at dawn. Most legends tell of men who mutate into an animal (usually a wolf) on certain nights due to their family genetic makeup or as a result of an injury they received from such a creature. The being into which they pass is described as ominous and predatory. Even family members are attacked by it, since the being apparently has no memory of its other existence. As soon as he is back in human form, the person concerned can no longer remember his nocturnal hunt. The memory can return in the form of dream images, but that rarely seems to be the case. The longer a person is affected by this phenomenon, the shorter the intervals between the changes in shape, until he is finally completely taken over by the shape of the animal.

Henry Hull in The Werewolf of London (1935)

Transformations between humans and animals can be traced back very far in history. Even hybrids from cave paintings can be interpreted accordingly. The oldest written evidence is the Gilgamesh epic, in which the goddess Ishtar transforms a shepherd into a wolf. From Greek literature, for example, we know Lykaon, who was transformed into a wolf by Zeus. The origin of the werewolf legends can be found in the cultic festivals of the Scythians, during whose festivities one united with a wolf-shaped god by wearing a wolf's skin. Herodotus reports (IV, 105) that ... the Scythians and the Hellenes living in the Scythian land claim that once a year each of the neo-ney transforms into a wolf for a few days and then returns to the human condition. This cult came from the Scythians to the Germanic peoples, later, when the origin was forgotten, only spread as a legend.

Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941)

Another original theory says that the term described people who suffered from an extreme form of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the so-called wolf disease. Those suffering from a genetic defect were feared by the superstitious people, especially in the early Middle Ages. Likewise, rabies sufferers were mistaken for werewolves, as here the disease occurs through the bite of an animal. The symptoms of this disease fit the description of werewolves: seizures in which the sick person begins to bite wildly; Fear of water, but at the same time strong thirst, which leads to spastic swallowing spasms, etc. The people in the Middle Ages saw in this a transformation of the bitten into the very animal by which it was bitten.

A historical drawing of lupus erythematosus as it was once considered as a non-fatal disfiguring skin disease. Public Domain

A woman with SLE

Werewolf hysteria occurred in many parts of Europe, especially in the Middle Ages. Many sagas and stories, but also films, are based on the werewolf imagination. One version of this says that people who are bitten by a wolf mutate into a werewolf during a full moon, which is said to be 2 meters tall.

In a lunar eclipse, on the other hand, all werewolves they see die.

Werewolves are also often said to have the ability to recover from injuries very quickly. The only way to kill a werewolf is to shoot him with a silver bullet.

According to some novels, werewolves are the declared archenemy of vampires.

The subject is often treated ironically in new works, for example Christian Morgenstern, who lyrically declines it in his "gallows songs" ("the Weswolf" etc.) and Terry Pratchett, in which the werewolf Angua as a representative of an ethnic minority in the " Wache "(The Watch) is recorded.




(Text source: Paranormale Mysterien & Spiritualität, Facebook)

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