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Lycanthropy

The Werewolves of California

Lycanthropy is the ability or power of a human being to undergo transformation into a wolf, or wolf-like characteristics. The word lycanthropy is sometimes used generically for any transformation of a human into animal form, though the precise term for that is technically "therianthropy". Sometimes, "zoanthropy" is used instead of "therianthropy" (Guiley, 192). Guiley, R.E. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves & Other Monsters. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-4685-9.

The word has also been linked to Lycaon, a king of Arcadia who, according to Ovid's Metamorphoses, was turned into a ravenous wolf in retribution for attempting to serve human flesh (his own son) to visiting Zeus in an attempt to disprove the god's divinity.

There is also a mental illness called lycanthropy in which a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, an animal and behaves accordingly. This is sometimes referred to as clinical lycanthropy to distinguish it from its use in legends.

 

The Wolf Man (1941)

Lon Chaney Jr. as the wolfman

Plot Synopsis: Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela's mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Larry, transformed by the full moon, heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen.

In North and Central America, and to some extent in West Africa, Australia and other parts of the world, every male acquires at puberty a tutelary spirit (see Demonology); in some Native American tribes the youth kills the animal of which he dreams in his initiation fast; its claw, skin or feathers are put into a little bag and become his "medicine" and must be carefully retained, for a "medicine" once lost can never be replaced. In West Africa this relation is said to be entered into by means of the blood bond, and it is so close that the death of the animal causes the man to die and vice versa. Elsewhere the possession of a tutelary spirit in animal form is the privilege of the magician. In Alaska the candidate for magical powers has to leave the abodes of men; the chief of the gods sends an otter to meet him, which he kills by saying "O" four times; he then cuts out its tongue and thereby secures the powers which he seeks.

The Malays believe that the office of pawang (priest) is only hereditary if the soul of the dead priest, in the form of a tiger, passes into the body of his son. While the familiar is often regarded as the alternative form of the magician, the nagual or bush-soul is commonly regarded as wholly distinct from the human being. Transitional beliefs, however, are found, especially in Africa, in which the power of transformation is attributed to the whole of the population of certain areas. The people of Banana are said to change themselves by magical means, composed of human embryos and other ingredients, but in their leopard form they may do no hurt to mankind under pain of retaining forever the beast shape. In other cases the change is supposed to be made for the purposes of evil magic and human victims are not prohibited.

A further link is supplied by the Zulu belief that the magician's familiar is really a transformed human being; when he finds a dead body on which he can work his spells without fear of discovery, the wizard breathes a sort of life into it, which enables it to move and speak, it being thought that some dead wizard has taken possession of it. He then burns a hole in the head and through the aperture extracts the tongue. Further spells have the effect of changing the revivified body into the form of some animal, hyena, owl or wild cat, the latter being most in favour. This creature then becomes the wizard's servant and obeys him in all things; its chief use is, however, to inflict sickness and death upon persons who are disliked by its master.

Also see: Werewolf here now for more on the beast of the full moon

And ... ALSO SEE: WHO’S THAT HOWLING OUT IN THOSE WOODS? “CHERE! AIN’T NAUGHT BUT DE LOUP GAROU!!”

And: The American Werewolf

Also: Vampires & Werewolves: Are They Mostly Ghostly or Really Rather Real?


The curse of the werewolf find out more here now!

Although the term lycanthropy properly speaking refers to metamorphosis into a wolf (see werewolf), lycanthropy is in popular practice used of transformation into any animal, even though the proper term is therianthropy. In India and the Asian islands the tiger is the most common form; in North Europe, the bear (see berserker); in Japan, the fox, tanuki (raccoon dog), and sometimes a wolf; in Africa, the leopard, hyena, or lion; and in South America, the jaguar. Though there is a tendency for the most important carnivorous animal of the area to take the first place in stories and beliefs as to transformation, the less important beasts of prey and even harmless animals like the deer or rabbit also figure prominently among the were-animals. Other cases are the were-shark of Polynesia and were-crocodile of Indonesia and Egypt.

Many Native cultures feature skin-walkers or a similar concept, wherein a shaman or warrior may, according to cultural tradition, take on an animal form. Animal forms vary accordingly with cultures and local species (including bears and wolves), for example, a coyote is more likely to be found as a skinwalker's alternate form in the Great Plains region. Skinwalkers tend to be totemic.

In modern folklore and fiction the Wendigo found in the stories of many Algonquian peoples is sometimes considered to be similar to lycanthropes, in that humans could transform into them. The original legends varied significantly, however, and the fit may not be very close.

The Cajuns of Louisiana also believed in a similar creature with the variant name of Rougarou.

Modern folklore from Wisconsin describe a werewolf or man-wolf creature called the Beast of Bray Road.