Friday, March 18, 2011

Supernatural Friday-Werewolf-Part 1

Today for Supernatural Friday, we're going to talk about that shapeshifter, the werewolf.
The belief in humans that turn into wild predatory animals exists in all major world cultures. So werewolves are just one way to shift into the shape of an animal. Modern science believes that the stories may have come about as a result of the physical or mental characteristics of humans under the influence of real-life illnesses that made them look or act like wolves.

For the supernatural version, there is several ways to make the change, according to the myths. One is, of course, the full moon. Another way is by being cursed or bitten—like those criminals cursed by priests then became werewolves. Though the bitten part is very rare, unlike the movies or fiction books.. A third way (and I read a book that had something found on a medieval manuscript) is by taking a belt made of wolf fur and chanting some words during the full moon to shift into the wolf form. Another way said they were possessed by demons. Some lycanthropes (according to tales from the 17th century) assured people that they really were wolves and that their fur grew inside their body. Also to drink rainwater of the paw print of a wolf or drink from enchanted streams also affected metamorphosis. There is a tale of a baroness who drank from a spring in Germany that caused her to become a werewolf and that her husband when hunting one night, cut off her paw and found her wife back in their home, her hand missing. This is the same spring legend says that Hitler urged his “little werewolves”, or Gestapo, to drink from. In Italy, France and Germany, it was said that a man could turn into a werewolf if he, on a certain Wednesday or Friday, slept outside on a summer night with the full moon shining directly on his face. In other cultures, individuals born during a new moon or suffering from epilepsy were considered likely to be werewolves.

The Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and many other tribes believe in the existence of skinwalkers - malevolent witches capable of transforming into wolves, coyotes, bears, birds, or any other animals. The witch might wear the hide or skin of the animal identity it wants to assume, and when the transformation is complete, the human witch inherits the speed, strength, or cunning of the animal whose shape it has taken.
Skinwalkers are considered evil. They do many horrible things—make people ill and even commit murders. They are grave robbers and necrophilics. Often a greedy person kills a sibling or other relative so they can be initiated as a skinwalker. Practitioners of witchcraft are believed to be real in the Navajo community. Few Navajo want to cross paths with naagloshii, otherwise known as skinwalkers. They will not speak of these beings, especially with strangers, so not to attract the attention of one.
Lycanthropy is often confused with transmigration; but the essential feature of the were-animal is that it is the alternative form or the double of a living human being, while the soul-animal is the vehicle, temporary or permanent, of the spirit a dead human being. Still, humans reborn as wolves are often classed with lycanthropy, as well as these instances labelled in local folklore.

There are also tales of humans descending from animals. This is common reasons for tribal and clan origins. One story has the animal assuming human shape so their human descendents retained their human shapes, while another one has a human marrying a normal animal. North American indigenous traditions mingle the idea of bear ancestors and ursine shifters. Bears would shed their skin and mate with human women in this guise. The resulting offspring might be monsters and yet again, may be born as beautiful children with uncanny strength, even become shapeshifters themselves.

One being, Pan Hu from various Chinese legends, is depicted as a supernatural dog, or a canine shapeshifter. Supposedly, he married an emperor’s daughter and founded at least one race. He can become human in shape in all parts of him, except for his head. The Chinese stories write that the race descended from him are monsters with combined human and canine anatomy.

The shamanic Turkic peoples believed they are descendants of wolves. The Turkic myth of Asena tells how in Northern Chinese village Chinese soldiers raided it, but left a baby behind. An old she-wolf with a sky-blue mane, Asena, discovered the child and nursed him. Afterwards, the wolf gave birth to half wolf, half human cubs. These were the start of the Turkic people.

In Middle Ages of Europe, not only were those accused of being witches prosecuted and burned at the stake, but those accused of being werewolves done the same. It was thought that lycanthropy was practiced by witches too. The stories were told that the witches morphed into wolves and roamed the countryside to frighten people, killing and devouring them, too, besides livestock of the humans. Lycanthropes were even believed to be minor demons, and some whose killer instincts were considered exceptionally strong, were thought to be the Devil himself. Even if the werewolf was not a morphed witch, it was still related to witchcraft: tales were told about witches who arrived at Sabbats mounting these creatures. The evil and wicked acquired, according to Paracelsus, a 16th century alchemist, the shape of a wolf upon death, or could become such creatures if they were cursed by a priest, remaining morphed for seven years.

There is so much more to go into werewolves, and I may do so next week, continue on werewolves. So, tune in next week for Supernatural Friday.

A note: if werewolves did exist, a good time to catch one might be this Saturday night, March 19th. It seems that the moon will be closer to earth that it has been since 1993—the moon’s orbit will bring it so close to earth, that it will appear larger, and fuller, than it has been in almost two decades. People say that the change in the moon’s orbit may have caused the earthquake in Japan—or worse—another natural disaster of even more epic proportions is brewing.


perisquire30 said...

Fantastic post, Pamela! I can't wait to see what's in store for part 2.

Leslie Brown said...

Great post! I don't know if you've seen Red Riding Hood, but the tale of the baroness who became a werewolf is in it, although in an altered form. Gary Oldman's character is a overzealous priest who's haunted by his wife's transformation and keeps her hand in a box to remind him of her betrayal. BTW, really bad movie. Wait for Netflix.

Marne said...

Very interesting, Pamela. I've always been fascinated by what authors and Hollywood do with the werewolf. Can't wait for part 2.