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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 ?
For the personal reading lists of dedicated lycanthropy fantasy fiction fans it should be noted that "The Awakening: Part One" is also available in a Kindle format ($4.
Thus, while Vandover could never devolve into a true animal, he can act like an animal (as his episodes of lycanthropy suggest) by reverting to a baser form of man.
The essay "Metamorphosis and Lycanthropy in France-Comte, 1521-1643" by Caroline Oates offers plenty toward such a project.
By making these miniatures and their cultural context more available to scholars, I hope to right the present imbalance between the primarily textual treatments of medieval lycanthropy and the possibilities for equally fascinating iconographic ones and show the bold and innovative character of the artists who painted these werewolves.
Silver is traditionally understood as a cure for lycanthropy or fatal to the vampire, particularly because of its purifying properties; the vampire, then, is still considered abject, impure, unclean, and unholy due to its liminality.
Silence helps to bring the man/werewolf and woman together into a heteronormative relationship, thus curing Sangree's case of lycanthropy.
According to Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould's seminal work on lycanthropy and metempsychosis for badly damaged folk, 'The Book of Were-Wolves', published in 1865, I am doing fine at repressing my nature.
Especially in Nightwood, and in the last chapter adequately entitled "The Possessed," Robin's final and violent metamorphosis in the chapel into a dog is reminiscent of the myth of lycanthropy.
In a paragraph remarkable as much for its literary grace as for its insight, Rochberg observed that just as Hesse's protagonist suffered less from genuine lycanthropy as from a "sickness of the soul" triggered by his being caught "between two ages, two modes of life," so Schoenberg was a comparable "genius of suffering" whose "internal experiences, particularly those recorded in his works from 1908/09 on, present us with an almost precise parallel to [Harry] Haller's spiritual journey into hell.
He takes the lycanthropy business so seriously that he has a couple of sharpened silver fingernails.
The body count escalates, as does the collective sense of panic, with the arrival of famed lycanthropy expert Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who warns the villagers that the werewolf dwells among them.