Werewolves are creatures that we find in many different cultures around the world. The most classically known origin story for the beasts comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In it’s first book, Jupiter goes to Earth to observe humans after hearing of their evil nature. He reveals himself to the Arcadians who immediately start worshipping, all except their king, Lycaon. He does not believe the god’s immortality and seeks to put it to the test. Lycaon kills a messenger from another city and cooks him with the intent to force cannibalism on the god. Jupiter immediately sees through this attempt at trickery and casts a curse upon Lycaon, dooming him to change into the form of a wolf. The Metamorphoses details the characteristics of Lycaon’s transformation from human to wolf,
His arms descend, his shoulders sink away, To multiply his legs for chase of prey. He grows a wolf, his hoariness remains, And the same rage in other members reigns. His eyes still sparkle in a narr'wer space: His jaws retain the grin, and violence of his face” (Ovid).
This story gives us the origin of the lycanthrope, lykos, similar to Lycaon, meaning wolf and andthrōpos meaning man. Later in the Metamorphoses, there are accounts of men that roam the woods in the form of wolves.
The theme of lycanthropy as punishment for cannibalism is also present in the Native American culture, where they are known as Windigos. These creatures originally were human but due to cannibalism, they become an ice monster, with similar characteristics to a werewolf, which craves human flesh. The most frightening part of this myth is that there is a culture-specific mental illness indigenous to the Northern Algonkian people called Windigo psychosis. This disorder develops in cold winters when food is scarce and families are isolated. The people who fall victim to this madness will start believing that they are being transformed into the Windigo. They then start thinking of the people around them as food, driving them to madness. One source said that, “Victims of Windigo psychosis experienced extreme anxiety and sometimes attempted suicide to prevent themselves from becoming Windigo monsters,” (O’Neil). The extreme hatred of one’s urges is common in myths about werewolves, because the victim of the curse is able to recognize that what they do or what to do is wrong.
The last type of werewolf is that which contracts the disease through a bite and transform with the full moon. There is a commonly held idea that humans are affected by the full moon. Urban legends exist saying that there is an increase in crime rates and ER activity because of the full moon. European mythology concerning werewolves often states that they transform under the full moon after being bitten by the creature. This variant of werewolf has no control over their change and the cause is not their fault, making them especially scary due to the fact that an innocent person can fall victim to the curse. The full moon werewolf is...