Werewolf Legends Essay, Research Paper
According to an ancient superstition a werewolf is a man who is transformed, or who transforms himself, into a wolf in nature and appearance. The werewolf, sometimes transformed under the influence of a full moon, roams about at night, devouring infants or corpses. Stories of such transformations are given in the works of several classical writers and the superstition was common throughout Europe in late medieval times, many men were accused and convicted of being werewolves. The term lycanthropy refers to the delusion that one has become a wolf.
There are many traditional beliefs and legends about the werewolf one of the most famous , and one of the first stories of were wolf is “The Story of Lycaon”. The story of Lycaon, which originated in Greek mythology, has been viewed as one of the first werewolf stories ever. According to legend, Lycaon was a cruel leader of a cult. Rumors of the atrocities committed by Lycaon and his cult made their way back to the God Jupiter, who decided to investigate. He found these rumors to be fact, and decided to reveal his identity to the cult. The members immediately paid homage to Jupiter, however, Lycaon didn’t believe that he was a real God and prepared a feast for him consisting of human flesh. If Jupiter truly was a God, he would recognize the meal and decline to eat it, since cannibalism was a great sin. Jupiter immediately noticed what the feast consisted of. To avoid Jupiter’s wrath, Lycaon fled to the countryside. Once there he found out what Jupiter had in store for him slowly he began to transform into a man-wolf. The term “lycanthropy” was derived from Lycaon’s name. Another story is the one of “The Beserkers”. In the Folk Tales of the Norseman, there are legends of warriors called “Beserkers”. When engage in battle , these warriors would go into a frenzy, fearing no one, feeling no pain, having superhuman strength and never surrendering. Before a battle the warriors would dress with a shirt made of bear or wolf skin.(The term Beserker translates to “men in bearskin coats” and the warriors who donned the wolf skins were known as “ulfheobar”, but today both groups are both described as Beserkers.) The feeling was that once dressed with the skins of an animal, the warrior would take on the characteristics of that animal. A Byzantine emperor described the Beserkers in battle as being possessed by a ferocity and madness seen only in wild beasts. The term “berserk” was derived from the Beserker Another story is “The Beauty is a Beast”. In the mountains of Auvergne, a story was told of a royal female werewolf. In the story, a nobleman was gazing out of his window and noticed a hunter he knew. He asked him to check back with details of the hunt. While in the forest, the hunter encountered a wolf, and in the ensuing struggle, he severed one of the wolf’s paws. He placed the paw in his knapsack, and returned to the castle with his prize. When he opened the knapsack to show the nobleman evidence of his encounter, they discovered that there was no paw at all. In fact, the knapsack contained a woman’s hand wearing a gold ring. Recognizing the ring as that of his wife’s the nobleman decided to question her about her daily activities. When he went into her room, he found her concealing her arm. Once uncovered, the lack of a hand revealed her true identity. Upon further questioning she admitted to being the wolf with whom the hunter encountered, and by her confession, she marked herself for certain execution.
There are many legends about werewolves all around the world. In Argentina Lobis n is the word that stands for Werewolf in north Argentina. The Lobis n is usually the seventh son in a family (whereas the seventh daughter is doomed to be a witch). When they turn into a hairy creature that resembles both a man and a wolf, the Lobis n (a legend greatly influenced by the Brazilian traditions), wanders in the hills and mountains, feeding mostly upon carrion. However, If they get to meet with a human being, they will instantly attack. The survivors (men and women) will then turn into Lobisones themselves, but it is quite rare, because most people die in the claws and teeth of these ferocious creatures. It is also said that if a Lobison’s saliva sprinkles over a man or a woman, he or she will eventually turn into a Lobis n. In the early 1900s the legend of the 7th son (it had to be 7 boys in a row, no girls in between) transforming himself into a werewolf was so widespread and believed that it was causing a lot of children to be abandoned or given away for adoption and it is said that in some cases the parents killed their own son. Because of this, the president passed a law in the 1920s by which the 7th son of a family automatically receives the godfathership of the president of Argentina! Through this, the state gives him a gold medal on the day of his baptism (when the president officially becomes his godfather) and a scholarship for all of his studies until his 21st birthday. Supposedly, this ended the phenomenon of people condemning their children for fear of the werewolf. The law is still in effect, and it is popularly known, and the presidents have always attended at least some of the baptisms, especially during election season.
There is also a legend about were wolf in Brazil. In Brazil, A humam only will become a “lobisomem” if he was the 7th children (male) from the same father and mother. He changes into a “lobisomem”, for the first time when he is 13 years old. Just for two hours: from Midnight to 2:00 am. Always on Friday during Lent. In some places of Brazil (Portuguese colonization is responsible for the legend in that Country), the damned man changes in a crossroad, Friday night (usually the 13th), after midnight when the moon is full.
In Finland they have also legends. The Finnish werewolves are rather melancholy creatures In our stories/legends/myths a person usually turns into a wolf without really wanting it, accidentally (by doing something that’ll turn him into a wolf without knowing this might happen) or because some witch has put a spell on him (according to Finns, these witches would naturally be Sami, although the Swedes thought we were pretty good at magic ourselves). The werewolf (who’s usually bound to be a wolf for nights and days until something releases him from the spell) then lurks around houses, sometimes eating cattle but rarely people and waits for somebody to recognize him. When somebody does (e.g the wolf’s mother), she/he can break the spell by calling the werewolf by his Christian name or giving him some bread to eat. Sometimes after the werewolf had regained his human form, he would still have his tail till the day he died. Some houses actually exhibit sauna benches (or whatever they are called; ‘lauteet’ in Finnish) that have a hole in them, presumably cut for the ex-werewolf’s tail. Finland’s southern neighbor, Estonia is also known for its werewolf legends. Estonia is sometimes called ‘Viro’ in Finnish, and at one time werewolves were called ‘vironsusi’ (’Estonian wolf’) in Finland. It should be mentioned, though, that ‘vironsusi’ is originally the same word as ‘werewolf’, meaning ‘man-wolf’ and connecting it with Estonia is a false etymology due to Estonia’s reputation as a werewolf country.
The werewolf is basically a universal myth. In Mexico, the most widely spread version of the werewolf is the one called “nahual”, which comes from the Nahuatl (the ancient language of the Aztecs, becoming thus, the universal language in the pre-Hispanic world)word “Nuahualli”, meaning warlock. Since the Spaniards did not bring much on werewolves after colonizing Mexico, the ancient local legends on the subject became predominant. The nahual was a warlock who had the capability to shape-shift at will into an animal, preferably a black or dark coyote. It was believed in the pre-Hispanic times, that people were constantly threatened by these evil beings. Even if the Spaniards who came to Mexican lands in the mid 1500s were not concerned about werewolfery, they were influenced by other European countries that had pretty strong legends on the subject. And so, this allowed for the nahual myth to survive the Colony times and make its way through present time. Some indigenous groups still currently believe that nahuales turn into coyotes or other animals at night, through the use of magic and sorcery, in order to harm other people. Once they have shape-shifted, nahuales can run the lengths with no difficulty to steal corn of chickens, and to fight other nahuales that pretend to invade their territories. Such indigenous people’s legends say that once in animal form, they can get killed if wounded, but in case they survive, they will show the wounds or damage done suffered while in animal form According to modern-day Mexican indigenous beliefs, the nahuales can shapeshift by performing anyone of the following: Jumping over a wooden cross, getting into deep sleep, putting on an animal skin, or covering their bodies with an ointment made of herbs, Not everyone can achieve the transformation. Just a few ones have been nature-granted with the capability to perform the change, but they also need to be skilled warlocks or sorcerers. These legends also tell about the way to kill a nahual or Mexican werewolf: Stoning, or gun-shooting; they can also be killed by using holy water, fire or by hanging them. In the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, in the surroundings of the mountain known as La Malinche (the wife of the Spaniard conqueror Hern n Cort s)the nahuas (a local indigenous group) believe that witches or “tlahuelpuchi” turn into fearsome coyotes at night, in order to break inside the houses where small children live to suck their blood. On the day after, parents will find their sons or daughters dead, with savage bites on their necks, legs and arms. To prevent the attacks by tlahuelpuchi witches, parents leave by the bedside in the kid’s room a mirror reflecting the sleeping child, a knife or a pair of scissors, all of which are said to have magical properties that scare-off these savage female werewolves. In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, there are several indigenous groups, having each one similar beliefs of their own. In regards with the werewolf-like characters, the Zapotecs, for instance, say that nahuales are warlocks who shapeshift into ferocious and damaging animals that can produce great evils to people. They believe that nahuales are warlocks who make deals with the Devil in order to be able to turn into coyotes to suck people’s blood while they sleep. They can only shapeshift at night. Their powers, according to such legend, include the capability of damaging unborn children, which explains to them why some kids are born dead or with malformations. In order to scare nahuales off, the Zapotecs place garlic on their doors and a knife or a pair of scissors under the pillow. On the other hand, the Chinantecs, yet another indigenous group living in Oaxaca, also believe in nahuales. To them, nahuales can be both men and women, and they can only achieve the transformation at night, and they get to kill those who see them or even dare to face them. The Chinantecs say that if the nahual is injured in the battle, but manages to escape, on the day after, the man or woman behind the beast will show scars resulting from the wounds inflicted to them while in animal shape.
The Norse legends claim that one can change shape by wearing the skins of the animal one want’s to change to.(also used by other cultures, belt made from a wolf etc.). Loki (the god) often changed and had a lot of skins(including a worm and a flea skin).
In Portugal, werewolves are called lobis-homems. In the 1400’s there was one kind of lobis-homem that was very quite common: The gentle and non-attacking creature. Once fallen under a spell, the lobis-homem would attend a crossroad at night to become a wolf after groveling on the dirt. Then the creature would run into the countryside, howling out loud, without hurting anyone. A shy and sad creature, the Portuguese lobis-homem could be easily recognized, for it was a wolf with a short and yellow-furred tail. However, there was yet another kind of werewolf in Portugal, with little resemblance to this noble creature. It was the evil and devilish variety, far less-common though, linked directly to the black arts of witchcraft. Evil lobis-homems could be recognized by the shape of their eyes and sometimes because of the presence of the Devil’s mark in some part of the body.
In Russia the person wishing to tranform goes into the forest, sticking a copper knife into a tree and dances about while saying incantations. When this ritual is performed, the spirit of the Wolf will take over your soul.
There are many possible explanations for werewolves one of them is The “magic salve” that was used by humans to transform into wolves was a strong hallucinogenic. When rubbed over he body, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and causes effects similar to LSD. A person under the salve’s effect could imagine that he was anything, or anyone. One reason that people during the Medieval Times imagined themselves as werewolves, as opposed to other things, is because of the mass hysteria over werewolves during this time. Another explanation of werewolves comes from within the human brain. Temporal lobes in the brain control sensations in the human body, and any irritation of the temporal lobes can cause hallucinations. Also, if a person has shrunken temporal lobes, they can be subject to complex partial seizures. These seizures can lead to fixed delusions. Such delusions can include a person thinking that they are a wolf. Also, a lack of nutrition or a hit on the head can cause complex partial seizures. During the period from 1520 to 1630 there were over 30,000 werewolf trials in France alone. Most of the people who were tried as being werewolves were poor, and came from lowlands with elevations less than 500 feet above sea level. A recent theory is that many of the werewolf accusations were a result of a fungus found in their rye crop. Rye bread was a staple for the poorer people of France, and after cold winters the rye developed the Ergot fungus. Unbeknownst to them, the fungus was a strong hallucinogenic. This theory contests that the werewolf hysteria was a result of mass hallucination since most of the accusers and the accused were poor. The wealthy staple was the more expensive wheat, which was immune to the Ergot fungus. This explains why the wealthy were immune from the werewolf hysteria.
Another Theory is “Disclaimer to Ergot Theroy” This theory explains that people would hallucinate due to eating bread made from ergot infected rye, and therefor accused of demonic activities, being possessed, or being werewolves due to their behavior. This is clever, but inaccurate and loosely based on the chemistry & production of the hallucinogenic drug L.S.D. Ergot Fungi (Claviceps purpurea), which grows on rye wheat, rice, and other grasses, is a source for chemicals called Ergot alkaloids. These chemicals can be “hydrolyzed” into another chemical, Lysergic Acid, and then converted into Lysergic Acid Diethylmide (L.S.D.) using a very difficult and dangerous chemistry procedure. Ergot is extremely poisonous and is separated from grains when harvested. Eating or coming in contact with this fungi can result in extreme sickness, arms turning black and falling off or death. The chemicals found in this fungi can have a very mild hallucinogenic and sedating effect, but one would have to consume a large amount of the ergot to get enough of these chemicals in to their system for the effect. Therefor, being poisonous, would not be possible without dying first. Another argument is that a chemical process might happen when baking. This is also unlikely due to the fact that heat destroys ergot alkaloids and other chemical compounds. Chemically speaking, it is more likely that these people were werewolves rather than “tripping” on rye bread. This information is to enlighten and remind you that anything is possible in this world.