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(līkăn`thrəpē), in folklore, assumption by a human of the appearance and characteristics of an animal. Ancient belief in lycanthropy was widespread, and it still exists in parts of the world. Certain African tribes have their "leopardmen" and the like, and literatures all over the world have tales of men changing to animals. One of the most widely held of these superstitions is the belief in the werewolf (a person who either willingly or unwillingly changes into a wolf, eats human flesh or drinks human blood, then returns to his natural form). The lycanthrope, akin to the vampire, is thought to undergo his change by means of witchcraft or magic. In the Middle Ages the church condemned lycanthropy as a form of sorcery and often ruthlessly punished the supposed offenders. The term is also applied to a form of insanity in which a person believes himself to be an animal and behaves accordingly.
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Werewolf of Eschenbach, 1685. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The transformation of a human being into the form of a wolf. From the Greek lukos, a wolf, and anthropos, a man. Such a human, transformed, is known as a werewolf. This, in turn, comes from the Anglo-Saxon wer, man, and wulf, wolf. There are many folk tales of werewolves in all countries of the world where wolves are, or were, found. In other countries that have not known the wolf, there are folk tales of such things as weretigers, -bears, -leopards, -panthers, or -foxes.

Some people believed that the transformation took place solely in the mind of the person. In other words, no physical changes took place; the affected person simply believed that the changes had taken place. Yet there were many well documented cases—several in France in 1598, for example—that seemed to prove otherwise.

During the time of the trials for witchcraft at the end of the sixteenth century, there were a number of cases of lycanthropy. Geiler von Kayserberg's book on witchcraft, Die Emeis (Strasbourg, 1517), contains an illustration of a man being attacked by a werewolf. The Révérend Père M. Mar. Guaccius's Compendium maleficarum (Milan, 1626) has an engraving of a witch turned into a wolf. Various German works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also show such pictures. In many of the British witch trials evidence was presented of witches transforming themselves into a variety of animals: rabbits, hares, cats, dogs, mice, crows, and wolves. In 1573, Gilles Garnier of Dole, France, admitted to becoming a werewolf and killing a ten-year-old girl, tearing her body to pieces with his teeth and claws. In 1589, Peter Stumpf of Bedburg, near Cologne, under torture admitted that he changed into such an animal with the aid of a magic belt that the devil had given him. He could change back into a man, he said, by removing the belt. Among others, Stumpf killed his own son and twelve other children, plus two young women and various livestock. He was sentenced to be horribly tortured then burned alive at the stake, along with his daughter.

Vergil, the Roman poet, in his Eclogues (c. 20 BCE), wrote, "Often have I seen Moeris turn into a wolf and hide in these woods: often too have I seen him summon the spirits from the depths of the tomb and transfer crops elsewhere." Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) spoke of one of the clan of Anthius, who was chosen by ballot of the family and led away to a certain pool in the region of Arcadia. There he hung his clothes on an oak tree, swam across the pool, and went into the woods on the far side to transform into a wolf. He remained in that form for nine years before swimming back across the pool and changing back into a man. According to William Stokes (Religion of the Celts, 1873), St. Patrick cursed a certain race in Ireland so that every seven years they and their descendants would become werewolves.

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References in periodicals archive ?
"Demonologues et lycanthropes: Les theories de la metamorphose au XVI siecle." In Metamorphose et bestiaire fantastique au Moyen Age, edited by Laurence Harf-Lancner, 71-105.
Rowling's conception of the lycanthrope blends aspects of several of these traditions.
Freeland differentiates between "art horror"--a category suggested by Noel Carroll (1990)--and "realist horror," stressing the emphasis on the supernatural (vampires, zombies, lycanthropes, etc.) in the former, and on "naturalized" or "ordinary" monsters (human psychopaths, serial killers, etc.) in the latter.
And before you can say bad moon rising, they find themselves besieged inside a deserted farmhouse with their sergeant's guts held in with superglue and local zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby) informing them their attackers are lycanthropes - and hungry.
The Quileute wolf pack fears the hybrid infant could pose a serious threat to their existence and the lycanthropes prepare to kill Bella and her unborn child.
Edward has a rival for Becca's affections - buff best friend Jacob White (Chris Riggi), a werewolf and runs with a pack of extremely camp lycanthropes. However, Becca doesn't reciprocate Jacob's desire.
However, Edward has a rival for Becca's affections - buff best friend, Jacob White (Christopher N Riggi) - who happens to be a werewolf with a pack of extremely camp fellow lycanthropes. When the vampire elders led by Daro (Ken Jeong) threaten Bella's safety, Edward and Jacob join forces to protect her with a little help from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Krystal Mayo) and Lady Gaga.
Rowling herself seems unclear as to whether her lycanthropes are a race or a group of diseased individuals.
Following a history of ideas that goes as far back as Voltaire's use of the word 'vampire' to describe stock market traders, Marx repeatedly invokes a Gothic lexicon of the undead, lycanthropes, and dripping blood to characterize capital's damage to human subjects.