What is a lycanthrope? A Shifty Creature
For centuries mankind has been fascinated with creatures of all shapes and sizes. One of the more frequent topics is what is a lycanthrope? Various cultures have their own version of this enigmatic creature and how to become one. Journey with me as we delve into a shifting past.
What Is a Lycanthrope?
The official definition of Lycanthrope is a person affected by lycanthropy. Better known as a werewolf or alien spirit in the physical form of a blood thirsty wolf. These beings are able to shapeshift into other forms either through a curse or birth.
The term werewolf can be broken down into its components. Were meaning man and wolf. Thus a wolf man. Lycanthrope comes from the Greek word Lycanthropos or wolf person.
Originally the people were able to shift in and out of forms at will. Slowly over the years with retelling and new imaginings they became locked to the idea of changing only at the full moon.
Basically the term covers any being that can shift from their original form into the shape of a wolf or wolf like creature. Some shapeshifters can change into the form of all animals. This makes them associated with lycanthropes but not actually true forms of the creature.
The appearance of a werewolf can vary depending on the culture telling the stories. For the most part the main constant is a hybrid human and wolf shape. Some stories lean more to the wolf form. Claiming the creature looks and acts like a standard wolf while in transformation. Others say you can easily identify a lycanthrope based upon the hideous mutation of both forms. Not being fully wolf or man.
In Viking Lore Ulfhednar were berserker warriors that wore wolf skins instead of the traditional bear skin. They were as wild animals on the battlefield. Resistant to pain, had superhuman strength and speed. Killing their victims in a brutal and vicious fashion.
Most tales tell of werewolves having superhuman speed and strength. They typically roam the night in the guise of a wolf or the wolf hybrid.
Very few tales tell of them retaining human thoughts or emotions while in transformation. Waking with blood soaked hands or face with no recollection of what happened seems to be a frequent occurrence. Could you imagine waking to find yourself covered in blood and no idea what had happened or whose blood it was?
In the beginning the tales were strongly tied to curses from divine beings. Such as in the Ovid when Lycaon was punished by the God Zeus. Attempting Zeus’ true divinity, Lycaon killed a child and fed the flesh to Zeus. For this criminal act Zeus punishes him by cursing him with lycanthropy.
There is also a story of a man who removed his clothes and hung them on an Ash tree near a lake to swim to the other side. When he emerged from the water he was in the form of a wolf. In order to return to normal he had to remain in the form of the wolf for 9 years without killing any humans. Upon completion of this sentence he was to swim back and retrieve his clothes and human form.
During Medieval times werewolves took on a dual form. Germanic cultures believed that werewolves were associated with witchcraft. The creatures being the result of a curse or a spell. These cultures include France, Baltic, and German speaking European cultures.
On the other hand the Slavic cultures, central and eastern Europe, Hungary, Romania and the Balkans, believed the creatures were associated with revenants or vampires.
Modern interpretations often mix the two cultures at will. Creating an entirely new variation of the story.
Creation and Remedies
Just as there are many variations of what werewolves or lycanthropes are, there are many variations on how to become one or cure one.
Methods of Becoming One:
- Remove clothes and put on belt of wolf skin or entire wolf pelt
- Rub body with magic salve
- Drink Rain water from Werewolf footprint
- Sleep outside on a Summer night with full moon shining directly on your face on a Wednesday or a Friday
- Satanic allegiance or ritual
- Bites or scratches from a werewolf
- divine punishment
- Address 3 times by its Christian name
- Striking forehead or scalp with knife
- Pierce its hands with nails
- Convert to Christianity
- Kill the Werewolf that created it
It is common that a werewolf corpse had to be decapitated or destroyed to prevent it from rising again. Often thought to rise and drink the blood of dying soldiers in the battlefield. It was thought that you needed to decapitate the corpse while doing an exorcism and then throw the head in a stream or form of running water.
The most frequent occurrence of lycanthropic stories in our modern age is pop culture. They appear in books and film most often. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula the villainous Dracula is able to turn into a wolf like beast at will.
The number of books portraying werewolves is too large to list them all. Many of these have also been made into movies such as The WolfMan and Werewolf in London.
Occasionally in video games such as Elder Scrolls, The Wolf Among Us, Diablo, The Sims and even Pokemon. They typically appear as an enemy for you to vanquish as the noble hero. Although in the Sims 3 Supernatural expansion you can play as one yourself. Taking a fun and playful look at the stereotypical monster.
We have almost all heard of werewolves in some form or another in our lifetimes. Each person has formed their own view as what the creatures look like and act like. Now we know that another word for werewolf is lycanthrope. What is your take on the popular myth? Please Comment below.