Werewolf

Werewolf  n : These are creatures that are said to turn from humans into wolves.  The plant wolfsbane (monkshood) and shooting the animal with blessed silver bullets, were said to be a deterrent for these creatures.

In the middle of the Dark Ages, Europe's population lived in very real fear of werewolves.  The signs that were used to determine whether or not someone was a werewolf included:

- hairy hands or feet

- small and pointed ears that were generally sited quite low and towards the back of the head

- thick eyebrows that meet in the middle

- protruding teeth

- red tinged, curled fingernails

- long third fingers

- persons who drank at a wolves watering hole.

- persons who ate wolves or their brains

- persons who were killed by wolves

Hollywood has helped to add a few characteristics of its own to the legend of the werewolf.  Many werewolf films suggest that a full new moon is the trigger for a person to change into the wolf.  There is also the suggestion that a werewolf bite may turn someone into a werewolf.

Indeed there is a rare but well recognised psychological condition called lycanthropy that could to some extent explain the phenomenon.  Persons suffering from this disorder often believe that they actually can turn into a wolf.  They are often reported behaving in a wolf-like manner by howling at the moon or attacking people using their teeth and fingernails.  This particular disorder, although rare is occasionally still reported in Europe.

There is also a theory that in medieval times persons may have believed they could turn into wolves because of hallucinogenic drugs, derived from plants such as deadly nightshade and henbane.  Ergot a grain-contaminating fungus, which secretes a compound similar to LSD, which promotes illusions and feelings of shape shifting, has also been offered up as a theory for the phenomena.

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