Moons, Blood Moons, and Werewolves - is there a connection?

The Blood Moon is simply the coppery-red color
of a total lunar eclipse. But it's a favorite trope in
horror and paranormal fiction.
Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.
~ Curt Siodmak

That poem was written for the 1941 film, The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. And it's been used several times since, including in the 2010 incarnation of this movie, starring Anthony Hopkins and Benicio De Toro.

Everyone "knows" the basic werewolf story: A hapless human is cursed to turn into a ravening beast during the full moon. But did you know that the idea of the lunar influence came mostly from Hollywood? Filmmakers wrote the moon into their early werewolf movies – and you have to admit, it's a great idea – but most of the old folktales and legends don't contain it. And historically, the moon isn't mentioned in accounts of actual werewolf trials of centuries past.

Traditionally, if you were a werewolf, you could change form whenever you wanted to. In Sweden, men became werewolves by drinking magic beer and chanting a spell. The oldest legends have humans putting on a whole wolfskin to cause themselves to change form. This is similar to the skinwalker legends of Native Americans, where a pelt was placed against the skin. In some stories, only a belt made of wolf fur was needed. The moon never plays a role!

In the Balkans, all you had to do to become a werewolf was drink the water from a wolf’s footprint. Or drink from a body of water where a wolf pack had just satisfied their thirst. Some rivers and streams were said to be lycanthropic – enchanted so that a single sip of their water would turn you into a wolf. If you could't find any magical water, you could simply eat the brains of a wolf (eeyeeew!) in order to gain the ability to shapeshift. But again, no moonlight was necessary.

The moon did prove useful in one European story. In Germany, Italy and France, it was said that both men and women could become shapeshifters by sleeping outside and allowing the full moon to shine on their faces for the entire night (especially on a Wednesday or a Friday). The story didn't mention if the spell was permanent or perhaps only lasted until the next full moon.

The moon didn’t matter a bit, however, if you were one of the unlucky folks to be made a werewolf by someone else. Often, the person doing the hexing was not a witch but a priest! From Russia to France, if you didn’t go to church or offended God in some other way, you could be officially cursed to become a werewolf.

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 werewolf forever. 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! But at least you didn’t have to fear the moon.

Handy field guide
by Bob Curran
I collect werewolf folktales and legends, and I have many books and stories on the subject. One of my recent favorites has been Werewolves: A Field Guide to Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and Man-Beasts by Bob Curran. It's an easy place to start if you want to investigate the connection between the moon and the old wolf-man myths. And Curran has some excellent theories on why the moon became associated with werewolfism.

As a paranormal romance author, I have a passion for wolfen shapeshifters, and my first series revolves around a family of them, the Macleods. Driven from Scotland when wolves were being exterminated there, they found sanctuary in the wilds of northern Canada. They call themselves Changelings, and they’re extremely long-lived. Able to become wolves at will, regardless of what the moon might be doing at the time, they spend most of their time as humans in a human world, hiding in plain sight.

2013 Release
2012 RITA Award
Finalist
However, having been raised on a diet of horror movies as a kid, I just had to give a nod to pop culture tradition. And so there is ONE occasion in a Changeling’s long, long life that the moon has power over them: their very first Change always occurs on a full moon! 

And because a human can become a Changeling if they’re bitten by one (another nod to the classic horror genre), the moon becomes a serious complication in the first book of the series:  CHANGELING MOONThe advent of the full moon also becomes a ticking clock in my most recent werewolf story as well:  FIRST BITE.

Love werewolves? Love the moon? Or just love a good legend? Enter my Rafflecopter contest below and you could win Kindle ebook copies of all 3 books  - my own Changeling Moon and First Bite, plus Bob Curran's Werewolves: A Field Guide to Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and Man-Beasts.  Giveaway is open to US, CANADA and the UK.  (Note -  If you do not own a Kindle, there are a variety of free Kindle reading apps that can be downloaded to various devices such as iPad, computer or smart phone.) 

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