Every culture adds their own new piece to the werewolf legend, but what elements haven’t quite caught on with the rest of the world?
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Werewolf Festival (First century CE)
Marcellus Sidetes, a physician born around the end of the 1st century CE in Asia Minor, wrote a medical poem that spanned 42 books. Nearly the entire corpus was lost, with only two fragments surviving. One fragment, preserved by Aetius of Amida, is called De Lycanthropia and describes a werewolf festival in which men lose their minds to the ‘wolf-madness’.
God’s Police Force (1691)
In 1691 Latvian peasant Old Thiess, an 86-year-old man, was accused of being a werewolf. He pled guilty to the charges immediately but claimed that he and his fellow werewolves were in fact agents of God who fought the Devil and his sorcerers called the ‘Hounds of God’.
Werewolf births (1865)
In The Book Of Werewolves, Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould recounts an uncommon method of creating werewolves that originated in Denmark: “If a female at midnight stretches between four sticks the membrane which envelopes the foal when it is brought forth, and creeps through it, naked, she will bear children without pain; but all the boys will be werewolves.”
White Wolf Dream (1910)
In 1910, Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst, treated a young patient known as Wolf Man. A member of a wealthy Russian family, Wolf Man had delusions that he could transform into a wolf and would run through the woods during the night. Freud traced his patient’s obsession with wolves to a dream he had as a young boy about seven white wolves in the tree that stood outside his bedroom.
Nazi Werewolves (1939-45)
During World War II a small group of ‘underground’ Nazi ground troops were known as werewolves. The extensive German folklore behind the creature, and common folk belief in ‘Germanic legends of man-eating wolves’, helped to spread fear among the Allies of the werewolf soldiers.
Banner image source: wiki/Museo del Prado
Read our full feature on the history of Werewolves in All About History 86, available now.