We’re familiar with werewolves, right? Spooky shapeshifting creatures that howl at the full moon and can infect others with a single bite?

As we’ve hit October, the spooky season comes along with it. So we decided to have some fun and dive into the folklore behind werewolves for the next few weeks!

So let’s begin with werewolf beliefs, characteristics, and (believe it or not!) werewolf trials of the 16th century!

Werewolves are people who can turn into wolves – some can do it on command, while others have no choice when the full moon occurs. In all cases, however, it was believed that werewolves could not control their urge to kill people and other animals. 

The first mentions of werewolves are found in the Gilgamesh epic, Nordic folklore, and Greek mythology.

Belief in werewolves really ramped up during the same time as the belief in witches during the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. Many times, they were directly connected with witch trials. Werewolf trials were actually held between the 15th and 18th centuries. 

France seemed to have a lot of trouble with werewolves during the 16th century, which led to many convictions and executions.

Confessions were given after torture sessions. Many admitted that they made a deal with “a man in black” or were working with Satan. Some even admitted to turning into a wolf in order to go down to hell and fight demons.

People were burned at the stake, hanged, sentenced to life imprisonment or sent to psychiatric hospitals.

Because so much violence was associated with werewolves, it’s thought that these werewolves were actually serial killers.

There were many ways to become a werewolf – stay tuned for next week’s email – but there were just as many signs to recognize werewolves, even in their human forms:

·      Injuries – it was said that any injuries werewolves got in wolf form were present in human form as well.

·      Fur – people thought that if you cut someone and there was fur within the wound, they were a werewolf

·      Bristles – if you checked under someone’s tongue and there were bristles there, that was evidence of being a werewolf.

When in wolf form, they supposedly looked very similar to wolves except that they were larger, had no tail, and kept their human eyes and voice. In Sweden, people thought that werewolves ran on three legs and extended the fourth behind them to make it look like a tail.

Werewolves also had the common trait that after they returned to their human forms, they would be weak and experience nervous depression for a time.

By the mid 17th century, belief in werewolves started to fall out of the public consciousness. It did remain strong, however, within the Holy Roman Empire.

What do you think? Do you think werewolves are cursed by the full moon and in league with dark forces? Or are they just a way to characterize murders that happened during the 16th and 17th centuries?