How do you become a werewolf? Most of us think first of the Hollywood movie tradition – that if you’re bitten by a werewolf, you’ll automatically turn into one. This method is actually quite rare among the many lupine* legends and lore from around the world. Because I write novels about shapeshifters, I collect shapeshifter trivia. Today I dusted off some of the more interesting ways and means of becoming a werewolf – all of them involuntary!
|*LUPINE – adjective meaning|
“of, like, or relating to a wolf
In 14th century Normandy, the varouage was an excommunicated person who became a werewolf between Christmas and Candlemas or during Advent. During this time, the sinner was either redeemed – or doomed to belong to the devil and run as a wolf forever. (By the way, in Finland, if you were lucky enough to break the spell, you were still stuck with a wolf’s tail for the rest of your life!)
From Russia to France, if you didn’t go to church or offended God in some other way, you could be officially cursed with lycanthropy. This was said to happen to those who failed to attend annual confession – do this 10 years in a row and you’re automatically a werewolf.
Because they would not accept Christianity, St. Patrick is said to have cursed the ruler of a Welsh tribe and all his followers to become wolves! It’s said that the curse lasted 7 years, but other versions of the story have them turning into wolves EVERY 7 years for the rest of their lives. This is similar to the curse delivered by Saint Natalis (or Naile), who condemned an Irish clan to werewolfism for some long-forgotten sin. Forever after, every member of the clan would spend 7 years of their lives as a wolf.
In Romania, this legend went a step further. Children conceived on Christmas Eve were cursed to become werewolves because their parents were supposed to have abstained from sex at that time!
Birth order could also determine your fate. If you were the seventh boy of seven boys born in a row (no girls inbetween), then you would become a werewolf. This belief was so prevalent in Argentina (where the werewolf is called a lobizon) that seventh sons were commonly abandoned, given up for adoption or even killed! In 1920, the president of Argentina countered this by declaring all seventh sons to be his official godchildren.
A Polish legend says that if a witch lays a belt of human skin across the threshold of a house in which a marriage is being celebrated, any member of the wedding party that steps over it is immediately transformed into a wolf. The wolves are forced to serve the witch for a year, then regain their human form and return to their lives.
Legend also says that a “lycanthropic flower” grows wild in the Balkan Peninsula, with a sickly death-like scent and white or yellow blooms. If you pick these flowers, you become a wolf!
Not even water is safe. If you unknowingly drink from a "lycanthropic" river or stream, you could become a werewolf. In some European legends, especially in Scandinavian countries, lycanthropic water is said to possess a "lurid sparkle" and a faint smell that is like nothing else. Other legends say that drinking from any body of water where a wolf pack has recently satisfied their thirst will cause you to become a shapeshifter!
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