Werewolf – Lycanthropy
Lycanthropy comes from the Greek lykoi, “wolf” and anthropos, “man”
The legend of the werewolf is one of the most ancient and wide spread. Stories of werewolves can be found as far back as history has been written. These shapeshifter myths can be found all over the word from China to Iceland and Brazil to Haiti.
This humanoid creature of myth and folklore had the incredible ability to shapeshift. In numerous accounts they are said to shift into the form of a wolf or a human-wolf-hybrid. Some legends have them being able to shift at will and others after being cursed, scratched or bitten.
Earliest Accounts of Werewolves
Some of the first accounts of werewolves come from Ancient Greek literature. Ovid, in the Metamorphoses, told of the Arcadian King, Lycaeon. King Lycaeon was visited by Zeus. Not believing him to be a true all-knowing god, he decided to test Zeus by serving him human flesh in one of the many dishes served at a banquet in their honor. And not just any flesh — Lycaeon served up his own sons’ flesh. Yikes! His son Nyctimus was just one of 50, so I perhaps King Lycaeon felt he had plenty more where that came from.
Unsurprisingly, this was not a very smart move… Murder and cannibalism was a major slight indeed. Upon discovering the tainted dish, Zeus changed King Lycaeon into a werewolf. Zeus feeling that since Lycaeon obviously had a penchant for human flesh, the wolf form would be a more acceptable form to take part in such a vile activity. Zeus then brought his son Nyctimus back to life.
Nyctimus succeeds his father as king of Arcadia. His rule was cut short by the floods in the age of Deucalion, which some speculate was caused by his brothers and their lack of respect for the Gods.
Well Know Werewolves
The most widely know story of the werewolf would be “Little Red Riding Hood”. The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced to sometime preceding the 17th century, and could be found in various European countries. Being so wide-spread makes this tale relevant to the werewolf-trials of the time (similar to the witch trials). There are many ancient were-creature legends to warn the fragile, small and easiest of targets — children. “Little Red Riding Hood” features a wolf who talks to Little Red Riding Hood and then dresses in grandmas clothing to fool the innocent little girl. Not something any regular ‘ol wolf could do.