Werewolves page 5
According to Armenian lore, there are women who, in consequence of deadly sins, are condemned to spend seven years in wolf form. In a typical account, a condemned woman is visited by a wolfskin-toting spirit, who orders her to wear the skin, which causes her to acquire frightful cravings for human flesh soon after. With her better nature overcome, the she-wolf devours each of her own children, then her relatives' children in order of relationship, and finally the children of strangers. She wanders only at night, with doors and locks springing open at her approach. When morning arrives, she reverts to human form and removes her wolfskin. The transformation is generally said to be involuntary, but there are alternate versions involving voluntary metamorphosis, where the women can transform at will.
The 11th Century Belarusian Prince Usiaslau of Polatsk was considered to have been a Werewolf, capable of moving at superhuman speeds, as recounted in The Tale of Igor's Campaign: "Vseslav the prince judged men; as prince, he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of Great Sun, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed. For him in Polotsk they rang for matins early at St. Sophia the bells; but he heard the ringing in Kiev."
There were numerous reports of werewolf attacks – and consequent court trials – in sixteenth century France. In some of the cases there was clear evidence against the accused of murder and cannibalism, but none of association with wolves; in other cases people have been terrified by such creatures, such as that of Gilles Garnier in Dole in 1573, there was clear evidence against some wolf but none against the accused. The loup-garou eventually ceased to be regarded as a dangerous heretic and reverted to the pre-Christian notion of a "man-wolf-fiend." The lubins or lupins were usually female and shy in contrast to the aggressive loups-garous.
Some French werewolf lore is associated with documented events. The Beast of Gévaudan terrorized the general area of the former province of Gévaudan, now called Lozère, in south-central France. From the years 1764 to 1767, an unknown entity killed upwards of 80 men, women, and children. The creature was described as a giant wolf by the sole survivor of the attacks, which ceased after several wolves were killed in the area.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century witchcraft was prosecuted by James I of England, who regarded "warwoolfes" as victims of delusion induced by "a natural superabundance of melancholic."
Main article: Skin-walker
During the Norse colonization of the Americas, it is thought by Woodward that the Vikings brought with them their beliefs in werewolves, which would manifest themselves in the folklore of some Native American tribes.
The Naskapis believed that the caribou afterlife is guarded by giant wolves which kill careless hunters venturing too near. The Navajo people feared witches in wolf's clothing called "Mai-cob".
When the European colonization of the Americas occurred, the pioneers brought their own werewolf folklore with them and were later influenced by the lore of their neighbouring colonies and those of the Natives. Belief in the loup-garou present in Canada, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and upstate New York, originates from French folklore influenced by Native American stories on the Wendigo. In Mexico, there is a belief in a creature called the nahual, which traditionally limits itself to stealing cheese and raping women rather than murder. In Haiti, there is a superstition that werewolf spirits known locally as Jé-rouge (red eyes) can possess the bodies of unwitting persons and nightly transform them into cannibalistic lupine creatures.
Origins of werewolf beliefs
Many authors have speculated that werewolf and vampire legends may have been used to explain serial killings in less rational ages. This theory is given credence by the tendency of some modern serial killers to indulge in practices commonly associated with werewolves, such as cannibalism, mutilation, and cyclic attacks. The idea is well explored in Sabine Baring-Gould's work The Book of Werewolves.
Until the 20th century, wolf attacks on humans were an occasional, but widespread feature of life in Europe. Some scholars have suggested that it was inevitable that wolves, being the most feared predators in Europe, were projected into the folklore of evil shapeshifters. This is said to be corroborated by the fact that areas devoid of wolves typically use different kinds of predator to fill the niche; werehyenas in Africa, weretigers in India, as well as werepumas ("runa uturunco") and werejaguars ("yaguaraté-abá" or "tigre-capiango") of southern South America.
In his Man into Wolf (1948), anthropologist Robert Eisler drew attention to the fact that many Indo-European tribal names and some modern European surnames mean "wolf" or "wolf-men". This is argued by Eisler to indicate that the European transition from fruit gathering to predatory hunting was a conscious process, simultaneously accompanied by an emotional upheaval still remembered in humanity's subconscious, which in turn became reflected in the later medieval superstition of werewolves.