Things That Go Bump In the Night – Werewolves

“Picou tells me that he saw the were-wolf only this day se’nnight,” said a peasant; “he was down by the hedge of his buckwheat field, and the sun had set, and he was thinking of coming home, when he heard a rustle on the far side of the hedge. He looked over, and there stood the wolf as big as a calf against the horizon, its tongue out, and its eyes glaring like marsh-fires. Mon Dieu! catch me going over the marais to-night. Why, what could two men do if they were attacked by that wolf-fiend?”

The Book of Were-wolves, Sabine Baring-Gould

The werewolf has been with us since the dawn of history.  Almost every culture has some tradition of a skin-changer or half-man, half-beast.  Bears, lions, tigers, foxes, snakes, and deer all have a corresponding were-creature. It is the wolf that has captured European imagination to create the monster known as the werewolf.

The werewolf’s bite wasn’t always the way to become a werewolf.  You could become one by drinking the morning’s dew out of the paw print of a wolf.  Or you could wear a wolfskin belt to initiate the transformation.  Other times the shapeshifting was accomplished by rubbing on a special unguent or ointment.  You could sleep under the light of the full moon on certain days to unleash the beast within.  And of course you could always claimed to have entered a pact with Satan or received a punishment from God.

There are many physical traits that reveal the person sitting next to you is a werewolf.  They may have coarse hair on their palms.  Their index finger may be longer than their middle finger.  Or their eyebrows may meet over the bridge of the nose.  The sympathetic wound was also a was also a way to recognize the werewolf.  Any injury done to the beast would show up on the human’s corresponding body part.

As with how to become a werewolf, methods of killing a werewolf have morphed.  Silver is not a traditional way to kill a werewolf.  That myth appears to have entered popular culture in a 1935 novel about the Beast of Gevaudan and reinforced by The Wolf Man (1941).  Most ways to kill a mortal wolf would also kill a werewolf.  The werewolf could also be cured of his condition.  A werewolf could also be released from his curse if he did not eat human flesh for anywhere from seven to ten years after his transformation.  Addressing the werewolf three times by his Christian name while in wolf form, or even scolding him would cure it.

2 Replies to “Things That Go Bump In the Night – Werewolves

  1. Or their eyebrows may meet over the bridge of the nose.

    I’ve always suspected Mr. Snark of being a werewolf… 😉

    Great post. Very informative. I’d never heard of the Christian name scolding. *G*

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