A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope (from the Greek λυκάνθρωπος lykánthropos: λύκος, lykos, "wolf", and ἄνθρωπος, anthrōpos, "man"), is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sources for belief in lycanthropy are Petronius and Gervase of Tilbury.
The werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore which developed during the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism. Belief in werewolf develops parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerges in what is now Switzerland in the early 15th century and spreads throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the "witch-hunt" phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolfery being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. The case of Peter Stumpp (died 1589. He was a Rhenish farmer, accused of being a serial killer and a cannibal, also known as the "Werewolf of Bedburg"). led to a significant peak in both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.
After the end of the witch-trials, the werewolf became of interest in folklore studies and in the emerging Gothic horror genre; werewolf fiction as a genre has pre-modern precedents in medieval romances and develops in the 18th century out of the "semi-fictional" chap book tradition. The trappings of horror literature in the 20th century became part of the horror and fantasy genre of modern pop culture.
According to legend, a Werewolf is a man who turns into a wolf when there is a full moon. The only way to kill one is to shoot it through the heart with a silver bullet.
A werewolf is person believed to have been transformed into a wolf or to be capable of assuming the form of a wolf. [Middle English, from Old English werewulf : wer, man; + wulf, wolf;]
Word History: The meaning wolf in werewolf is current English; the were is not. Werewulf, "werewolf," occurs only once in Old English, about the year 1000, in the laws of King Canute: "lest the madly ravenous werewolf too savagely tear or devour too much from a godly flock." The wer- or were- in wer(e)wulf means "man"; it is related to Latin vir with the same meaning, the source of virile and virility. Both the Germanic and the Latin words derive from Indo-European *wīro-, "man." Wer- also appears, though much disguised, in the word world. World is first recorded (written wiaralde) in Old English in a charter dated 832; the form worold occurs in Beowulf. The Old English forms come from Germanic *wer-ald-, "were-eld" or "man-age." The transfer of meaning from the age of humans to the place where they live has a parallel in the Latin word saeculum, "age, generation, lifetime," later "world."
To Become a Werewolf
What many people today think of as a "werewolf" is actually a "shapeshifter". Some shapeshifters turn exclusively into wolves from human form, but these are not actual werewolves. These shapeshifter-wolves have become popularly known as "werewolves" because of the Twilight book series.
Real werewolfism is a curse. Those afflicted have little to no control over their actions when in wolf form and little to no control over their transformations.
There are three ways to become a werewolf
- Be born to parents with werewolf genetics
- Be bitten by a werewolf
- Be "cursed"