The werewolf has been a dreaded creature of myth for centuries. Werewolves are typically known as human beings that turn into wolves during a full moon. As many people believe full moons to possess some kind of power over human minds, the belief that it could possibly turn a human into a werewolf is simply naive. Anyone who happens to show such traits are either mentally unstable in some form (like lycanthropy) or could be (in rare cases) possessed.

What possibly started the werewolf belief

   The term werewolf can be attributed to an ancient European tribe known as the Yulannu Wood Lords during the 2nd millenium B.C. who celebrated the winter solstice Yuletide festival. They were the precursors to the Dianic moon cult and they were also known as weres. Their totem pole had a wolf at the head, which was their totem-animal as many other tribes use different animals as their tribal identities. Being known as weres, their identity could be called the were-wolf and they were known to worship the moon.
   Werewolves in the mythical sense go back as far as the 5th century B.C. when the Neurians wore wolf-skins once a year during their festivals. To the outsiders, that could obviously be seen as something dreadful. Lycanthropy, a form of madness which makes people think they are wolves, goes back to the writings of Ovid around the birth of Christ. In mythology and literature, wolf-skins are often worn either for warmth or for war-gear.

The Church's view of the werewolf

   The Church's official description of the werewolf first appeared in 1605, by Richard Verstegan:

   The werewolves are certain sorcerers who, having anointed their bodies with an ointment which they make by instinct of the devil, and putting on a certain enchanted girdle, do not only into the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own thinking they have both the shape and nature of wolves.

   The Bible states:

Leviticus 26:22 - I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number.

Deuteronomy 32 - I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them.

Matthew 7:15 - Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 10:16 - Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

   These lines helped to fuel the fire of the 15th century Inquisitions. During these times, the Gypsies were common in the areas and the Church needed to find some way to rid the world of Gypsies and scare the townspeople from straying into the forest. It was during these times that fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood came into being. Wolves and witches, the evil beings that inhabit the forests and love the mysterious night. Yes, the fear of witches started around the same time and in the same manner but I won't deal with that here, but the Gypsies were seen as both.

The night, the moon, the wolf and the occult

   When dealing with the mysteries of the night and moon, I think it can be summed up best in the words of Laurence Gardner:

   The moon is the realm of the Goddess, represented by those such as Kali and Diana, and is consequently anathema to the One-God Christian faith. And so the wolf, being essentially a nocturnal creature, is dubbed with its own lunar significance, while also being associated with the oak cult of the druids. Apart from denoting time, periods and cycles, the waxing and waning of the moon (which governs magic in the western tradition) causes the tides to flow. The wiccan peak or 'high-tide' of psychic energy is determined by the full moon, which is when werewolves are reckoned to take on their wolf form. The wolf's link with the night is also expressly significant since the night corresponds to the subconscious and the shadows. At night visibility is limited and even familiar objects become only vaguely defined, so there is uncertainty in the air. Resultantly darkness has become associated with things that are hidden and are, therefore, occult - a word which means quite simply 'hidden'. In the Christian tradition, however, something hidden is regarded as something secret, while secrecy itself is considered to be sinister since it challenges Church supremacy. By virtue of this, darkness becomes sinister, leading to such expressions as 'the dark side' when referring to a negative or foreboding aspect. Ultimately then, the werewolf was emblematic of the man who, according to Church doctrine, had strayed in the night having been overcome by dark forces.

   Like I said, I think that last quote cuts right to the point on a lot of things I'd normally spend days writing.

Werewolf hunts - courtesy of the Church

   You can probably see how easy it was to label any outsiders as heretics, witches and werewolves, thereby giving an excuse to murder anyone not conforming to the Church's supremacy. From 1525-1625, there were approximately 30,000 werewolf trials in France which were mainly for gypsies and poor people from the rural areas. Like the famous witch trials, all one would have to do is say they saw someone turn into a wolf and that person would be burned at the stake.

The silver moon

   But where does silver fit into all of this? Werewolves are theoretically able to be killed only by a silver bullet or blade. The Inquisitors associated werewolves with the element of the moon - silver!
   As you can see, there is nothing fantastic about werewolves. Like so many other mythical creatures, the werewolf was an imaginary "exaggeration" conjured up to scare the unlearned into church while allowing a reason to rid the country side of heretics. Heretic actually stems from the Greek word hairesis, which means choice! Enough said?
   This article on the werewolf is based largely on the work of Laurence Gardner. For a little more explanation, read Mythical Creatures and the Ring Lords.

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