Time for Supernatural Friday-Werewolf, Part 2.
The word werewolf is thought to derive from the Old English wer (or were)-pronounced as wear, wiar, war, and wulf. Wer translates as "man." The second half, wulf, is the ancestor of modern English "wolf." in some cases, it also has the general meaning, "beast." An alternate etymology also derives the first part from Old English, weri, meaning to wear or wearer of wolf skin. related to this is the Old Norse ulfhedar, which denoted lupine equivalents of the berserker, said to wear a bearskin in battle. There are other sources that claim that it came from warg-wolf. Warg is cognate with Old Norse vargr, meaning "rogue," "outlaw," or "wolf." No doubt, in Norse society, an outlaw was called vargr, or wolf, as hje might have slaughtered sheep or even human members of a "herd."
Werewolves in European folklore had tell-tale signs in their human forms that they were werewolves. Traits like meeting of both eyebrows over the bridge of the nose. curved fingernails, low set ears, and a swinging stride. One way to tell a werewolf in its human guise, was to cut the flesh when it is a human and you would see fur in the wound. A Russian superstition says that you can tell a werewolf by the bristles under his or her tongue.
Appearance of a werewolf varied from culture to culture, though they are distinguished from real wolves as having no tail (a trait thought characteristic of witches in animal forms), are often larger, and retain human eyes and voice. After returning to human form, they are weak, debilitated, and undergo painful, nervous depression. Many historical werewolves are writen that they suffered severe melancholia and manic depression, being conscious of their crimes. One universally reviled trait in medieval Europe had the werewolf devouring recently buried corpses, documented extensively, particularly in the Annales Medico-psychologiques in the 19th century.
Fennoscandian werewolves were old women whompossessed poisen coated claws and could paralyzed catle and chilodren with their gaze. Serbian vulkodlaks had the habit of congrgating annually in the winter months to strip off their wolf skins and hang from limbs of trees. They would take another's skin and burn it, releasing it from the curse. Haitian je-rouges try to trick mothers into giving away their childrenbyn waking them at night and askig their permission to take the child. This way the disoriented mother might say yes or no.
The werewolf can not be harmed by crucifixes or holy water, like vampires can be. But in many countries, it is thought rye and mistletoe are considered effective safeguards against a werewolf. Also mountain ash is believe to work. One Belgian legend states that no house is safe from an werwolf unless beneath the shade of a mountain ash tree. Werewolves have an aversion to wolfsbane, too. Werewolves can transformed during the winter solstice, Easter, and the full moon. And in Hungary, werewolves and vampires were closely related.
Various methods have existed for removing the werewolf form. In antiquity, the Greeks and Romans believed in the power of exhaustion to cure people from being lycantropes. The said werewolf would be subjected to long periods of physical activity to purged them of the malady. In medieval Europe, there were three ways to cure a person of being a werewolf. Medicinally (usually by use of wolfsbane), surgically, or by exorcism. Unfortunately, many of these cures proved fatal to the patients. Another came from a Silcian belief of Arabic origin: cure the monster by striking it on the forehead or scalp with a knife. Another way involved the piercing of a werewolf's hands with nails. In the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein, a werewolf could be cured by addressing it three times by its Christian name. A Danish belief calims to simply scold it will cure the werewolf. Converting to Christianity was a common method of removing werewolfism in medieval times. A devotion to St. Hubert has also been cited as both cure for and protection from lycanthropes.
Some werewolves could not change back to human form if an article of clothing is taken from them. In Bisclavret by Marie de France, the nobleman, Bizunch, for reasons not described in the poem, had to transform into a wolf every week. His wife stole his clothing needed to restore his human shape, as she was cheating on him. He escapes the king's wolf hunt by imploring the king for m,ercy and accompanies the king thereafter. His behavior at court was considered very gentle, that his hateful attack on his wife and her lover was deemed justifiable, and the truth revealed.
The Beast of Gevaudan, a loup-garou, terrorized the genreal area of the former province of gevaudan, now called Lozere, in south-central France, from 1764 to 1767. This monster killed upwards of eighty men, women, and children. It was described as a giant wolf by a sole survivor of the attacks. The murders ceased after several wolves in the area had been hunted and killed. Strangely enough, a TV show was done to prove what this "werewolf" was. It was determined that it might have actually been a hyena, maybe even trained to kill. Was this the sole survivor, or one of the hunters, who owned this creature?
Thye 1th Century Belarusian Prince Usiaslau of Polatak was considered to have been a werewolf, capable of moving at superhuman speeds. This was recounted in The Tale of Igor's Campaign.
Clinical lycanthropy (where a human considers themselves a wolf) is a mental disorder--due to psychological causes as opposed to supernatural means in myths and folklore. This is a deep depression that becomes aviolent form of insanity. Many werewolf cases in history were works of Lycanthropic Disorder victims. The Book of daniel describes King Nebuchanezzar as suffering from depression that deterioted over a sever-year period into a frank psychosis at which he imagined himself to be a wolf. Robert burton referred in Anatomy of Melancholy, that those suffering an advanced form of melancholy and believing to be werewolves, hid during the day time but at night, would go abroad, barking, howling, and they would have unusually hollow eyes, plus scabbed legs and thighs, very dry and pale.
Werewolves are a frequent subject of modern fictional books, movies and TV shows. Though these werewolves are distinct in their attributed traits from those of original folklore, like vulnerability from silver weapons. This feature did not appear in stories about werewolves, not until the 19th century. The claim that the Beast of Gevaudan was slain by a silver bullet, did not appeared in the origianl accounts, but later by novelists retelling the tale from 1935 onwards.
Two American werewolves talked about today in nonfiction books and even movies or TV shows are the Beast of Bray Road and the Werewolf of Henrico (in my books, plus online).
A good website to check up on some good werewolf movies (even where the werewolf is not the main character--some are good, some are terrible, and some I had never seen myself, but a good way to enjoy a Saturday night viewing): http://www.werewolf.com/vb/showthread.php?t=897 . There is currently a werewolf movie out in theaters: Red Riding Hood.