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In keeping with the season of all things monstrous, I dusted off some of my favorite myths about werewolves. It’s a topic that comes naturally to me, as the author of four shapeshifter novels, and a mom whose kids and their friends quested after the ultimate werewolf costume every October.
Ask anyone on the street how to become a werewolf, and the number one response (besides sidling away from you with one finger hovering over 911 on speed dial) is “being bitten by a werewolf”. This method is a fairly modern invention, however. Myths and legends show many different paths to werewolfery, and here are just a few of them.
1. Your parents were werewolves
This is an easy one. If Mom AND Dad were lycanthropes (that’s the ten-dollar word for werewolves), you would probably inherit the tendency. Apparently it’s a recessive gene, and having just one furry parent might not do the trick.
2. You’ve been cursed by a priest
From Russia to France, if you didn’t go to church, you could be officially cursed with lycanthropy by your local religious leader. This was also rumored to be the fate of those who failed to attend annual confession – if you did this 10 years in a row, you risked spontaneously becoming a werewolf. In 14th century Normandy, excommunicated persons were believed to turn into werewolves during the Christmas season. During this time, each sinner was either redeemed or doomed to belong to the devil and run as a wolf forever.
(PS - In Finland, if you were lucky enough to break the spell, you were still stuck with a wolf’s tail for the rest of your life!)
3. You’ve offended the Devil
Yup, in some stories, being TOO good would get you a lot of excess hair too. Apparently it was safest to be not too bad, not too good, but “just right”. It's unclear where the sweet spot is, however.
4. You’ve been captured by a witch
A Polish legend says that if a witch lays a belt of human skin across the threshold of a house in which a marriage is being celebrated, any member of the wedding party that steps over it is immediately transformed into a wolf. The wolves are forced to serve the witch for a year, then regain their human form and return to their lives.
5. You picked the wrong flowers
Legend says that a “lycanthropic flower” grows wild in the Balkan Peninsula, with a sickly death-like scent and white or yellow blooms. If you pick these flowers, you become a wolf! Simply brushing against wolfsbane blossoms (aconitum or monkshood) was believed to cause you to shapeshift as well—but it’s NOT a myth that it’s far more likely to cause your demise. (An unfortunate gardener in the UK died in 2014 from handling these poisonous purple perennials without gloves!)
6. You were born on the wrong day
Seriously, what were you thinking? In Italy, it was bad luck to be born on the winter solstice, December 20-21, and a surefire way to become a shapeshifter. In many other European countries, it was believed that children born on December 24th, Christmas Eve, were destined to become werewolves when they grew up. Apparently it was a divine punishment for competing with the Christ child! In Romania, however, this legend went a step further. Children conceived on Christmas Eve were cursed to become werewolves because their parents were supposed to have abstained from sex at that time!
8. You drank the wrong water
In some European legends, especially in Scandinavian countries, accidentally drinking from a "lycanthropic" river or stream would cause you to become a werewolf. This water is said to possess a "lurid sparkle" and a faint smell that is like nothing else. Other legends say that drinking from any body of water where a wolf pack has recently satisfied their thirst will cause you to change. As for drinking the rainwater that collected in a wolf’s paw print? Honestly, becoming a werewolf might not be your only problem….
8. You looked a wolf in the eye
This is a bad idea on several levels, but in some old stories, locking eyes with a wild wolf could cause you to turn into a wolf yourself within a few days. Handy hint – Stay away from the zoo!
9. You slept outside during a full moon
In Germany, Italy, and France, it was said that both men and women could become shapeshifters by sleeping outside and allowing the full moon to shine on their faces for the entire night. This was especially effective on a Wednesday or a Friday. (There’s a reason why friends don’t let friends pass out on the front lawn after a party.)
10. You drank magic beer
Really? The warning about the water wasn’t enough? In 1555, bishop Olaus Magnus penned a collection of Nordic folklore and history. In it, he reported that you could become a werewolf by sharing a mug of specially crafted beer with a known shapeshifter while repeating the words of an ancient spell. According to Magnus, the werewolves of Livonia held a huge gathering every year in which they would drink a great deal of beer before going out to ravage the countryside.
"Werewolf" Novels by Dani Harper
As a paranormal fantasy and romance author, I have a passion for shapeshifters, and my very first series centers around the Macleod family. Long-lived and able to become wolves at will, they call themselves CHANGELINGS. Centuries ago, they were forced to flee the wolf exterminations in Scotland and start a new life in the wilderness of northern Canada.
Today, that wilderness has been largely settled, and an entire community has sprung up around the Changelings. The Macleods and their pack live as humans most of the time, hiding in plain sight. They have jobs and pay bills and go to school and mow the grass and do all the things that humans do. But don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re tame! There are sacred places in the hills, and wolves rule the forests at night….
You can check out ALL my stories on my Amazon Author Page.
My readers know I just can't go anywhere without a giveaway! And I've got a great prize just in time for Halloween fun --- The game of ULTIMATE WEREWOLF by Bezier! Check out all the details at http://beziergames.com/collections/all-games/products/ultimate-werewolf-deluxe-edition. Plus I've included a signed copy of the first book in my shapeshifter series, CHANGELING MOON (a RITA Award Finalist).
Enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter below.