Nature does find a way to create something new and different
in wildlife as well as people. There are many instances over the years where people who
were too hairy or acted just a little too beastial were accused of being a werewolf. That
was not a small deal in early times when witches were burned at the stake and
people still honestly believed in faeries and vampires. It was not uncommon for
the accused to be locked up and then killed for the benefit of the community.
So what really is a werewolf? Well like most folklore there is
is a variety of answers to that question. Basically anyone that has the ability to change
their shape into something other than human, primarily an animal of some sort, is considered
a lycnanthrope. Also many people automatically hear the word lycnanthropy and think of
werewolves. This is a mistake, it covers all of the animals, wolves being one of the ones
that we hear the most about.
Now, of course this asks more questions than it answers. Can they change shape at will? Are these individuals subject to the cycles of the moon? Do they become half wolf half man or to full wolf when they change? How many other kinds of animals are included in lycanthropy? Is it contagious or is it something you are born with, or both? The answer to all of the questions are yes, no, all of the above and none of the above. Am I being vague enough for you yet? Alright then, lets start with a few of the different legends then.
One of the tales indicates that being a werewolf is contagious. That being bit or scratched, possibly even sexual intercourse, could transfer the contagion on to another person. At this point stories vary, some say that you will steadily progress to a state where you will become a wolf. The movie "Wolf" with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer is a good representation of this particular legend. Other stories indicate that once they have become infected that they can come to control it, and can change into a wolf at will. These individuals can lead a full rich life, but live with this secret.
One common theme with most, but not all, is the werewolves' tie with Luna. The moon cycles play in intregal role in many of the legends forcing a "change" or a period of much higher activity. The form they take during this time of aggressiveness, again, can vary. A full wolf or a "wolfman" is common in legends. Realize that these legends don't always include a different form. Sometimes they are "taken" by the beast just in mind only and the only change you see is a very bestial attitude. In previous centuries this would have been enough to cause concern in the community that that individual was a werewolf. You can see how legends can come from rumors.
We covered this briefly above, but lycanthropy does not necessarily mean just werewolves. There are stories and legends in Africa of weretigers and werelions and Native Americans have tales of werebirds, a hawk or an eagle. Many old cultures around the world have shown people that are animal aspected from Eygpt to Germany to Alaska and the Amazon. Humans may have a great mind, but we all carry, to a certain extent, a respect for the animals that share this planet with us. They are built to live in their habitat, and some are very proficient at being predators. Even the small can be sacred, in some countries the rat is worshipped just for it sheer survival instinct and tenacity. Given all of this, it would not be too far fetched for people to want to be like an animal.
Behind every legend and folklore there is a shred of truth, even if imagined. Werewolves are no exception. There is a condition called Werewolf Syndrome or the medical term is Hypertrichosis or Hirsutism. A similiar condition is Hyperandrogenism. Werewolf Syndrome is usually just related to excess hair. It is more common in females, but males can have intense cases. This means there is hair practically everywhere, heavily in the torso area up to inlcude most if not all of the face. The picture to the right is a good depiction, he was a soldier in the 1800's. You will hear it called Hirsutism more often in the instances of women. You can imagine this could be very awkard for the women and the circuses with the bearded lady are some of these cases.
Hyperandrogenics are a little more extreme. This goes beyond just the hair. This is mainly for women although in very very rare instances it might be documented for men. This is the condition of the body creating too many male hormones. Every human has hormones of the opposite sex. Males by far produce more testosterone than women but without it women would not have a sex drive at all, and we all know better than that, Males produce estrogen, etc. Hyperandrogenism will affect most of the male hormones. The women will have symptoms like, more muscular build and body mass, oily skin, deepening of the voice, male sweat changes, increase in libido as well as the increase in hair in the chest, face, and nether regions. This can happen in men as well and it can get very intense for that individual. He is restless, aggressive, and has a beastial look to him. As you can imagine, these rare occurances of this disease might have been the beginnings of the tales that have given us lycanthropy.
There are several sites on the net of real live occurances of
supposed werewolves. One of the best that I have found derives most of the documentation
from Germany. If you are interested click
Today werewolves and other lycanthropy are more looked at
as folklore and fantasy, with a variety of stories, games and even role playing systems based
off the idea. If you are new to the idea of gaming, click Here
and I will explain. Almost all of these have origins of the original folklore from years ago. One
of the more popular systems for role playing is made by a company called White Wolf. The system is
called Werewolf:The Apocalypse. This is a good example of weaknesses and strengths of the folklore
of old. In this systems werewolves are vulnerable to silver, they have the ability to change in
to various forms, and are mortal enemies with vampires. They also have a healing factor that
could almost keep up with Wolverine, making them very hard to kill.
There is quite a bit of literature for this storyline. It includes, vampires, different types of weres (cats, rats, bears, ravens, etc.), wraiths, mummies, faeries, and even what they call mages, humans that can warp reality itself. If you are interested go to the bottom of the page and click on the White Wolf banner and check it out.
For those of you who already know what I am talking about and you
as the Game Master want to brand your resident Get of Fenhris with the totem glyph right on his ass
so that next time he won't just jump into the fray and kill everything in sight and completely
forget about the importance of a totem (I have to remember to breathe while I do this), I have
the answer for you. Below are the files for Garou and Bastet glyphs. All of the glyphs that are
known are in the files. For those or you that have no idea what I just said, glyphs are symbols
that mean something, Garou are werewolves and Bastet are werecats. White Wolf has created a
whole series of glyphs for their werecreature system and this
is what contained in the files that are listed below. I put a sample glyph to the left of the links.
Please, if you have one that is not included, send it to me so that I can keep this up to date.