Saturday, July 8, 2017
Monday, June 20, 2016
Is a type of unclassified marine animal either wholly or partly serpentine.Sightings of sea serpents have been reported for hundreds of years, and continue to be claimed today. Cryptozoologist Bruce Champagne identified more than 1,200 purported sea serpent sightings. It is currently believed that the sightings can be best explained as known animals such as lungfish, oarfish, whales, or sharks (in particular, the frilled shark). Some cryptozoologists have suggested that sea serpents are relict plesiosaurs, mosasaurs or other Mesozoic marine reptiles, an idea often associated with lake monsters such as the Loch Ness Monster.
In 1028 AD, Saint Olaf is said to have killed a sea serpent in Valldal, Norway, throwing its body onto the mountain Syltefjellet. Marks on the mountain are associated with the legend. In Swedish ecclesiastic and writer Olaus Magnus's Carta marina, many marine monsters of varied form, including an immense sea serpent, appear. In his 1555 work History of the Northern Peoples, Magnus gives the following description of a Norwegian sea serpent:
Those who sail up along the coast of Norway to trade or to fish, all tell the remarkable story of how a serpent of fearsome size, 200 feet long and 20 feet wide, resides in rifts and caves outside Bergen. On bright summer nights this serpent leaves the caves to eat calves, lambs and pigs, or it fares out to the sea and feeds on sea nettles, crabs and similar marine animals. It has ell-long hair hanging from its neck, sharp black scales and flaming red eyes. It attacks vessels, grabs and swallows people, as it lifts itself up like a column from the water.Sea serpents were known to seafaring cultures in the Mediterranean and Near East, appearing in both mythology (the Babylonian Labbu) and in apparent eye-witness accounts (Aristotle's Historia Animalium). In the Aeneid, a pair of sea serpents killed Laocoön and his sons when Laocoön argued against bringing the Trojan Horse into Troy.
The Bible refers to Leviathan and Rahab, from the Hebrew Tanakh; 'great creatures of the sea' (NIV) are also mentioned in Book of Genesis 1:21. The Book of Amos 9:3 speaks of a serpent to bite the people who try to hide in the sea from God.
Hans Egede, the national saint of Greenland, gives an 18th-century description of a sea serpent. On July 6, 1734 his ship sailed past the coast of Greenland when suddenly those on board "saw a most terrible creature, resembling nothing they saw before. The monster lifted its head so high that it seemed to be higher than the crow's nest on the mainmast. The head was small and the body short and wrinkled. The unknown creature was using giant fins which propelled it through the water. Later the sailors saw its tail as well. The monster was longer than our whole ship", wrote Egede. (Mareš, 1997)
Reported sea serpent sightings on the coast of New England have been documented from 1638 onwards. An incident in August 1817 led a committee of the Linnaean Society of New England to give a deformed terrestrial snake the name Scoliophis atlanticus, believing it was the juvenile form of a sea serpent that had recently been reported in Gloucester Harbor. Sworn statements made before a local Justice of the Peace and first published in 1818 were never recanted. After the Linnaean Society's misidentification was discovered, it was frequently cited by debunkers as evidence that the creature did not exist.
A particularly famous sea serpent sighting was made by the officers and men of HMS Daedalus in August 1848 during a voyage to Saint Helena in the South Atlantic; the creature they saw, some 60 feet (18 m) long, held a snakelike head above the water, and Captain Peter M'Quahe's report said "something like the mane of a horse, or rather a bunch of seaweed washed about its back." The sighting caused quite a stir in the London papers, and Sir Richard Owen, the famous English biologist, proclaimed the beast an elephant seal. Other explanations for the sighting proposed that it was an upside-down canoe, or a giant squid.
A sea "monster" was repeatedly sighted in 19th-century County Clare, Ireland, including one in 1850 when it was seen, "sunning itself near the Clare coast off Kilkee". In September 1871, the "large and frightening sea monster" was seen by several people near Kilkee, who "all had their nerves considerably upset by the dreadful appearance of this extraordinary creature."
Another sighting took place in 1905 off the coast of Brazil. The crew of the Valhalla and two naturalists, Michael J. Nicoll and E. G. B. Meade-Waldo, saw a long-necked, turtle-headed creature, with a large squarish or ribbon-like dorsal fin. Based on its dorsal fin and the shape of its head, some (such as Bernard Heuvelmans) have suggested that the animal was some sort of marine mammal. A skeptical suggestion is that the sighting was of a giant squid swimming with one arm and fin visible, but this is problematical, as there are no reports of squid swimming in such a manner, and no apparent reason why one would.
On April 25, 1977, the Japanese trawler Zuiyo Maru, sailing east of Christchurch, New Zealand, caught a strange, apparently unknown creature in the trawl. Photographs and tissue specimens were taken. While initial speculation suggested it might be a prehistoric plesiosaur, analysis later indicated that the body was the carcass of a basking shark.
On October 31, 1983, about 2:00 p.m., five members of a construction crew saw a 100-foot-long sea serpent off Stinson Beach, which is just north of San Francisco, California. A flagman named Gary saw it first swimming towards the cliffside road which the work crew was repairing. He radioed another member of the work crew, Matt Ratto, and told him to grab the binoculars. Ratto began looking at the sea serpent when it was 100 yards offshore and less than a quarter of a mile away. Ratto said, "The body came out of the water first." He added, "It was black with three humps." He continued, "There were three bends. like humps and they rose straight up." He further described it as a "humpy, flat-backed thing". He also made a sketch of the animal which appeared to be a round headed, blunt nosed, snake-like creature followed by 3 vertical arches or coils sticking out of the water. Another eyewitness, Steve Bjora, said "The sucker was going 45 to 50 miles an hour." He also described the animal saying, "It was clipping. It was boogying. It looked like a long eel." Marlene Martin, the Caltran safety engineer who was over seeing the work crew also saw the animal. She said, "It shocked the hell out of me" adding, "That thing's so big he deserves front page coverage." She went on to say, "It was hard to describe how big it was. I have no creative imagination. It was a snake-like thing that arched itself up and was so long it made humps above the water." Martin first saw it near Bolinas and saw it swim the whole way to Stinson beach then watched it turn around and head towards the Farallone Islands. Martin said, "It had a wake as big as a power boat's and it was going about 65 miles an hour. It looked like a great big rubber hose as it moved. If someone had gotten in its way it would have plowed right though them." Before it went underwater Martin saw it lift its head and a portion of its body directly behind its head out of the water then open its mouth. Martin said, "It was like it was playing." She described the animal as a "giant snake or a dragon, with a mouth like an alligator's." She continued, "It was at least 15 or 20 feet in circumference, but it was hard to tell how long it was. I mean, how long is a snake? Marlin Martin concluded by saying, "He should have the whole damn ocean. It's his territory. He's the King of the Sea!
On February 5, 1985, twin brothers Bill and Bob Clark sighted a 60+ foot long sea serpent in San Francisco Bay that crashed onto a submerged rocky ledge only 20 yards away from where they were sitting in their car. It was around 7:45 a.m. and the water was calm. The Clark brothers were sitting in their car drinking coffee when they noticed a group of seals in the water. Then they noticed what they thought was another seal approach the group. The group of seals began to swim away and one of them headed for the seawall where the Clarks were parked. The seals were followed by the creature and according to Bob, "Bill started saying it was moving strange. He said it was not a seal, it's a snake." Bob continued, "We watched it coming in, undulating in a vertical manner. Where most snakes undulate side to side, this was up and down, creating humps in the water. Bob said, "The seals were leaping through the water in front of it. I think it was going to eat them. It was behind the seals arched above the water line and I could tell it was a large animal when the arch appeared to stay in one spot. I could see the body moving through the arch." The Clarks said the water was so clear that morning they could easily see the creature as it undulated at amazing speed like an uncoiling whip. They both estimated the length of the creature to be at least 60 feet. As it swam over the submerged rocky ledge it stopped dead in its tracks then it appeared to slide a few feet across the water creating a light spray. It apparently got struck on the rocks. Bob said the animal turned clockwise and exposed the midsection. "It turned over like a corkscrew in midsection. We could see the belly of the animal. It reminded me of an alligator stomach, creamy white, soft leathery looking, but with a tint of yellow in it." He continued saying, "After it twisted over and showed the underbelly, another section behind the underbelly came up about three feet out of the water. I got an excellent view of a fin-type appendage, which opened up like an accordion fan. It stayed up about five seconds, long enough for me to tell my brother, 'Bill, I'm going to look at it as long as I can so I can remember it.' " After it twisted the midsection off of the submerged rocky ledge, Bill said they watched the creature sit "motionless in the water for five or ten seconds". Then it began to swim away, using a "violent, downward thrust of its upper neck which sent a pack of coils backwards towards the midsection. After a few seconds of undulations, the creature moved rapidly, just below the surface of the water northward toward deeper water in the middle of the Bay." Bill concluded his account by saying, "I don't care if anyone believes me. I know what I saw. It was too mind-blowing and close to me not to say something about it."
Skeptics have questioned the interpretation of sea serpent sightings, suggesting that reports of serpents are misidentifications of animals such as cetaceans (whales and dolphins), sea snakes, eels, basking sharks, frilled sharks, baleen whales, oarfish, large pinnipeds, seaweed, driftwood, flocks of birds, and giant squid.
While most cryptozoologists recognize that at least some reports are simple misidentifications, they claim that many of the creatures described by those who have seen them look nothing like the known species put forward by skeptics and claim that certain reports stick out. For their part, the skeptics remain unconvinced, pointing out that even in the absence of outright hoaxes, imagination has a way of twisting and inflating the slightly out-of-the-ordinary until it becomes extraordinary.
A recent posting on the Centre of Fortean Zoology blog by Cryptozoologist Dale Drinnon notes his check of the categories in Heuvelmans' In The Wake of the Sea-Serpents, in which he extracted the mistaken observation categories as a control to check the Sea-serpent categories by using the reports he created identikits for the mistaken observations and enlarged them to possibly 126 of Heuvelmans' sightings, making the mistaken observations the largest section of Heuvelmans' reports. His identikits include oarfish, basking sharks, toothed whales, baleen whales, lines of large whales for the largest sea serpent "hump" sightings and trains of smaller cetaceans for the "Many-finned, elephant seals and manta rays. Each of these categories was given a percentage of the whole body of reports, ranging between 1% and 5% with the whales at an average 2.5%, figures which he considers comparable to the regular Sea-serpent categories of Super-eel and Marine Saurian, each of which he breaks into a larger and a smaller sized series following Heuvelmans' suggestion in In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. Drinnon offered further analysis the 2010 CFZ yearbook. In this article he modified Coleman's categories (below), adding a possible Giant otter category to the Giant Beavers and modifying several others, bringing the total to 17 categories to broaden the coverage. The broadened coverage allows more instances of outsized versions of conventional fishes such as sturgeons and catfishes, left off Coleman's list. In a separate and earlier CFZ blog, Drinnon reviewed Bruce Champagne's sea-serpent categories and argued that several referred to known animals, the whales in particular. Drinnon basically recognises the Longneck, Marine Saurian and Super-eel categories in this blog as well, with the modification that the Marine Saurian as spoken of by Champagne is more likely a large crocodile akin to the saltwater crocodile and that there has been a suggestion that an eel-like animal is involved in certain "Many-finned" observations. The whale categories he identifies are: BC 2A-Possible Odobenocetops, BC2B, Atlantic gray whale or Scrag Whale, BC 4B, as being similar to an unidentified large-finned beaked whale otherwise reported in the Pacific, and BC 5, the large Father-of-All-the-Turtles, as a humpback whale turned turtle.
Cryptozoologists have argued for the existence of sea serpents by claiming that people report seeing similar things, and further arguing that it is possible to classify sightings into different "types". There have been different classification attempts with different results, although they share some common characteristics.
Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans
- Megophias megophias : A large sea lion-like creature with a long neck and long tail. Over 200 feet (61 m) long. Only the male has a mane. It is cosmopolitan.
- Long Necked or Megalotaria longicollis: A 60-foot (18 m), long-necked, short-tailed sea lion. Hair and whiskers reported. Cosmopolitan.
- Merhorse or Halshippus olai-magni: A 60-foot (18 m), medium-necked, large-eyed, horse-headed pinniped. Often has whiskers. It is also cosmopolitan.
- Many-Humped or Plurigibbosus novae-angliae: A 60–100-foot (18–30 m), medium-necked, long-bodied archaeocete. It has a series of humps or a crest on the spine like a sperm whale's or grey whale's. It only lives in the North Atlantic.
- Super Otter or Hyperhydra egedei: A 65–100-foot (20–30 m), medium-necked, long-bodied archaeocete that resembles an otter. It moves in numerous vertical undulations (6-7). Lived near Norway and Greenland, and presumed to be extinct by Heuvelmans.
- Many Finned or Cetioscolopendra aeliani: A 60–70-foot (18–21 m), short necked archeocete. It has a number of lateral projections that look like dorsal fins, but turned the incorrect way. Compare to the armor on Desmatosuchus, but much more prominent.
- Super Eels: A group of large and possibly unrelated eels. Partially based on the Leptocephalus giganteus larvae, later shown to be normal sized. [This is a controversial identification of a larval specimen made without benefit of examining the specimen. This "identification" was done by the paperwork and the specimen was missing by then.] Heuvelmans theorized eel, synbranchid, and elasmobranch identities as being possible. Cosmopolitan.
- Marine Saurian: A 50–60-foot (15–18 mĥ) crocodile, or crocodile-like animal (Mosasaur, Pliosaur, etc.)
- Yellow Belly: A very large, 100–200-foot (30–61 m) yellow-and-black-striped, tadpole-shaped creature. Dropped.
- Father-of-all-the-turtles: A giant turtle. Dropped.
- Giant Invertebrates: Giant Venus's girdle and salp colonies. Added. It is not clear if Heuvelmans intended them to be unknown species or extreme forms of known species.
Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe
- Classic Sea Serpent: A quadrupedal, elongated animal with the appearance of many humps when swimming. Essentially a composite of the many humped, super otter, and super eels types. The authors suggest Basilosaurus as a candidate, or possibly Remingtoncetids.
- Waterhorse: A large pinniped, similar to the long necked and merhorse. Only the males are maned, but females appear to have snorkels. Both of their eyes are rather small. They are noteworthy for being behind both salt and fresh water sightings.
- Mystery Cetacean: A category of unknown whale species including double finned whales and dolphins, dorsal finned sperm whales, unknown beaked whales, an unknown orca, and others.
- Giant Shark: A surviving megalodon.
- Mystery Manta: A small manta ray with dorsal markings.
- Great Sea Centipede: Same as the many finned. The authors suggest the flippers may either be retractile, and the "scaly" appearance could be caused by parasites.
- Mystery Saurian: Same as the marine saurian.
- Cryptic Chelonian: A resurrection of the father-of-all-turtles.
- Mystery Sirenian: Late surviving Steller's Sea Cow.
- Giant Octopus, Octopus giganteus or Otoctopus giganteus: A large cephalopod living in the tropical Atlantic.
- 1A Long Necked: A 30-foot (9.1 m) sea lion with a long neck and long tail. The neck is the same thickness or smaller than the head. Hair reported. It is capable of travel on land. Cosmopolitan.
- 1B Long Necked: Similar to the above type but over 55 feet (17 m) long and far more robust. The neck is of lesser thickness than the head. Only inhabits water near Great Britain and Denmark.
- 2A Eel-Like: A 20–30-foot-long (6.1–9.1 m) heavily scaled or armored reptile. It is distinguished by a small square head with prominent tusks. "Motorboating" behavior on surface. Inhabits only the North Atlantic.
- 2B Eel-Like: A 25–30-foot (7.6–9.1 m) beaked whale. It is distinguished by a tapering head and a dorsal crest. "Motorboating" behavior engaged in. Inhabits the Atlantic and Pacific. Possibly extinct.
- 2C Eel-Like: A 60–70-foot (18–21 m), elongated reptile with no appendages. The head is very large and cow-like or reptilian with teeth similar to a crabeater seal's. Also shares the "motorboating" behavior. Inhabits the Atlantic, Pacific, and South China Sea. Possibly extinct.
- 3 Multi-Humped: 30–60 feet (9.1–18.3 m) long. A possible reptile with a dorsal crest and the ability to move in several undulations. The head has a distinctive "cameloid" appearance. Identical with Cadborosaurus willsi.
- 4A Sailfin: A 30–70-foot (9.1–21.3 m) beaked whale. It is distinguished by a very small head and a very large dorsal fin. Only found in the North West Atlantic. Possibly extinct.
- 4B Sailfin: An elongated animal of possible mammalian or reptilian identity reported to be 12–85 feet (3.7–25.9 m) long. It has a long neck with a turtle-like head and a long continuous dorsal fin. Cosmopolitan.
- 5 Carapaced: A large turtle or turtle-like creature (mammal?) reported to be 10–45 feet (3.0–13.7 m) long. Carapace is described as jointed, segmented, and plated. May exhibit a dorsal crest of "quills" and a type of oily hair. Cosmopolitan.
- 6 Saurian: A large and occasionally spotted crocodile or crocodile-like creature up to 65 feet (20 m) long. Found in the Northern Atlantic and Mediterranean.
- 7 Segmented/Multi limbed: An elongated mammalian creature up to 65 feet (20 m) long with the appearance of segmentation and many fins. Found in the Western Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Is the name given to a carcass of an unidentified large marine animal that was reportedly washed up on Bungalow Beach in The Gambia.The carcass of the Gambo was reported to have been discovered by 15-year-old Owen Burnham and his family on the morning of June 12, 1983. Owen, a wildlife enthusiast, decided to take measurements and then make sketches since he did not have a camera at the time. According to later testimony, he did not think to take a sample until after he realized he could not identify it in any books. According to Owen, local villagers called it a "dolphin", but that was likely only because of the superficial similarity.
The carcass was later decapitated by local villagers, and the head was sold to a tourist. Its body was then buried and attempts to relocate it have failed.
After Owen mentioned the carcass in a newspaper article three years after the event, it caught the attention of cryptozoologist Karl Shuker who requested more information on the carcass. According to Owen, the carcass showed little or no signs of decomposition and measured around 15 feet (4.6 m) in length. The coloration was brown on top and white below, and the skin itself was smooth. The most specific measurements were taken on the head, which was 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in length. It had a beak measuring 2.5 feet (0.76 m) long, 5.5 inches tall, and 5 inches (130 mm) wide with 80 uniform and conical teeth. A small pair of nostrils were present at the tip of the beak. The somewhat domed head measured 10 inches (250 mm) tall and 1-foot (0.30 m) wide, and had small eyes. The front pair of flippers measured 1.5 feet (0.46 m) long by 8 inches (200 mm) wide. One of the rear flippers was badly damaged and nearly torn off, revealing some intestine. The waterlogged and bloated body was around 6 feet (1.8 m) long with a 5-foot (1.5 m) girth. No fin was present on the top of the animal. The tail was long and pointed, and measured around 5 feet (1.5 m) in length.
There has been a great deal of speculation as to what the carcass could have been in life. Some, such as paleontologist Darren Naish, question whether the carcass ever existed in the first place. Naish expresses doubt that the carcass was real, and finds it suspicious that no sample was taken. Cryptozoologist Chris Orrick proposed that it was a severely mangled Shepherd's Beaked Whale that was twisted so that the dorsal fin and genital slit lined up, giving the appearance of a torn off limb. Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe speculated that it may be an unknown form of Beaked Whale. Another common suggestion is that the carcass is some sort of surviving prehistoric reptile. Shuker proposed initially that it was either a pliosaur or a thalattosuchian crocodile, but later referred to it as "the last of the mosasaurs." A 2006 expedition by the Centre for Fortean Zoology failed to uncover any remains of the creature at the alleged burial site. They also learnt from local people that the carcass was possibly that of a dolphin.
"Gambo" has been connected to many sporadic reports of crocodile-like sea serpents.
Is a cryptid, an animal said to have been seen on Papua New Guinea in the early 20th century. It is said to resemble a tapir or giant sloth, having a long, proboscis-like snout, and some theories suggest it may be the descendant of an extinct marsupial belonging to the family Palorchestidae.Totally separate from that cryptid (to which the name 'Monckton's Gazeka' was confusingly applied by person(s) unknown) is the 'real' Gazeka, which was the creation of the English comic actor, George Graves, who introduced it as a bit of by-play in the musical, The Little Michus at Daly's Theatre, London, in 1905. A contemporary magazine described it thus: "According to Mr. Graves, the Gazeka was first discovered by an explorer who was accompanied in his travels by a case of whiskey, and who half thought that he had seen it before in a sort of dream." Graves's idea became a fad of the season and George Edwardes mounted a competition to encourage artists to give sketches of what the beast might look like. Charles Folkard won the competition, and the Gazeka suddenly appeared in the form of various items of novelty jewelry, charms, etc., and was taken up by Perrier, the sparkling water makers, for a series of advertisements. Children attending matinée performances at Daly's during the 1905–06 Christmas holidays were presented with "a materialized Gazeka, the Unique Toy of the Season" The Gazeka also featured in a special song and dance in the entertainment Akezag, at the London Hippodrome at Christmas, 1905.
Firby-Smith, a schoolboy in P.G. Wodehouse's 1909 novel Mike, has the nickname "Gazeka" because of a supposed physical resemblance.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sources for belief in lycanthropy are Petronius (27–66) and Gervase of Tilbury (1150–1228).The werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore which developed during the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism. Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the "witch-hunt" phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolfery being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. The case of Peter Stumpp (1589) led to a significant peak in both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.
After the end of the witch-trials, the werewolf became of interest in folklore studies and in the emerging Gothic horror genre; werewolf fiction as a genre has pre-modern precedents in medieval romances (e.g. Bisclavret and Guillaume de Palerme) and developed in the 18th century out of the "semi-fictional" chap book tradition. The trappings of horror literature in the 20th century became part of the horror and fantasy genre of modern pop culture.
The term lycanthropy, referring both to the ability to transform oneself into a wolf and to the act of so doing, comes from Ancient Greek λυκάνθρωπος lukánthropos (from λύκος lúkos "wolf" and ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos "human". The word does occur in ancient Greek sources, but only in Late Antiquity, only rarely, and only in the context of clinical lycanthropy described by Galen, where the patient had the ravenous appetite and other qualities of a wolf; the Greek word attains some currency only in Byzantine Greek, featuring in the 10th-century encyclopedia Suda. Use of the Greek-derived lycanthropy in English occurs in learned writing beginning in the later 16th century (first recorded 1584 in The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot, who argued against the reality of werewolves; "Lycanthropia is a disease, and not a transformation." v. i. 92), at first explicitly for clinical lycanthropy, i.e. the type of insanity where the patient imagines to have transformed into a wolf, and not in reference to supposedly real shape-shifting. Use of lycanthropy for supposed shape-shifting is much later, introduced ca. 1830.
Slavic uses the term vlko-dlak (Polish wilkołak, Czech vlkodlak, Slovak vlkolak, Serbo-Croatian вукодлак - vukodlak, Slovenian volkodlak, Bulgarian върколак/vrkolak, Belarusian ваўкалак/vaukalak, Ukrainian вовкулака/vovkulaka), literally "wolf-skin", paralleling the Old Norse ulfhéðinn. However, the word is not attested in the medieval period. The Slavic term was loaned into modern Greek as Vrykolakas. Baltic has related terms, Lithuanian vilkolakis and vilkatas, Latvian vilkatis and vilkacis. The name vurdalak (вурдалак) for the Slavic vampire ("ghoul, revenant") is a corruption due to Alexander Pushkin, which was later widely spread by A.K. Tolstoy in his novella The Family of the Vourdalak (composed in French, but first published in Russian translation in 1884).
Greek λυκάνθρωπος and Germanic werewulf are parallel inasmuch as the concept of a shapeshifter becoming a wolf is expressed by means of a compound "wolf-man" or "man-wolf".
Indo-European comparative mythologyThe werewolf folkore found in Europe harks back to a common development during the Middle Ages, arising in the context of Christianisation, and the associated interpretation of pre-Christian mythology in Christian terms. Their underlying common origin can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European mythology, where lycanthropy is reconstructed as an aspect of the initiation of the warrior class. This is reflected in Iron Age Europe in the Tierkrieger depictions from the Germanic sphere, among others. The standard comparative overview of this aspect of Indo-European mythology is McCone (1987) Such transformations of "men into wolves" in pagan cult was associated with the devil from the early medieval perspective.
The concept of the werewolf in Western and Northern Europe is strongly influenced by the role of the wolf in Germanic paganism (e.g. the French loup-garou is ultimately a loan from the Germanic term), but there are related traditions in other parts of Europe which were not necessarily influenced by Germanic tradition, especially in Slavic Europe and the Balkans, and possibly in areas bordering the Indo-European sphere (the Caucasus) or where Indo-European cultures have been replaced by military conquest in the medieval era (Hungary, Anatolia).
In his Man into Wolf (1948), Robert Eisler tried to cast the Indo-European tribal names meaning "wolf" or "wolf-men" in terms of "the European transition from fruit gathering to predatory hunting."
A few references to men changing into wolves are found in Ancient Greek literature and mythology. Herodotus, in his Histories, wrote that the Neuri, a tribe he places to the north-east of Scythia, were all transformed into wolves once every year for several days, and then changed back to their human shape. In the second century BC, the Greek geographer Pausanias relates the story of Lycaon, who was transformed into a wolf because he had ritually murdered a child. In accounts by the Bibliotheca (3.8.1) and Ovid (Metamorphoses I.219-239), Lycaon serves human flesh to Zeus, wanting to know if he is really a god. Lycaon's transformation, therefore, is punishment for a crime, considered variously as murder, cannibalism, and impiety. Ovid also relates stories of men who roamed the woods of Arcadia in the form of wolves.
In addition to Ovid, other Roman writers also mentioned lycanthropy. Virgil wrote of human beings transforming into wolves. Pliny the Elder relates two tales of lycanthropy. Quoting Euanthes, he mentions a man who hung his clothes on an ash tree and swam across an Arcadian lake, transforming him into a wolf. On the condition that he attack no human being for nine years, he would be free to swim back across the lake to resume human form. Pliny also quotes Agriopas regarding a tale of a man who was turned into a wolf after tasting the entrails of a human child, but was restored to human form 10 years later.
In the Latin work of prose, the Satyricon, written about 60 C.E. by Gaius Petronius Arbiter, one of the characters, Niceros, tells a story at a banquet about a friend who turned into a wolf (chs. 61-62). He describes the incident as follows, "When I look for my buddy I see he'd stripped and piled his clothes by the roadside... He pees in a circle round his clothes and then, just like that, turns into a wolf!... after he turned into a wolf he started howling and then ran off into the woods."
There was no widespread belief in werewolves in medieval Europe before the 14th century. There were some examples of man-wolf transformations in the court literature of the time, notably Marie de France's poem Bisclavret (c. 1200), in which the nobleman Bizuneh, for reasons not described, had to transform into a wolf every week. When his treacherous wife stole his clothing needed to restore his human form, he escaped the king's wolf hunt by imploring the king for mercy and accompanied the king thereafter. His behaviour at court was so much gentler than when his wife and her new husband appeared at court, that his hateful attack on the couple was deemed justly motivated, and the truth was revealed.
The German word werwolf is recorded by Burchard von Worms in the 11th century, and by Bertold of Regensburg in the 13th, but is not recorded in all of medieval German poetry or fiction. References to werewolves are also rare in England, presumably because whatever significance the "wolf-men" of Germanic paganism had carried, the associated beliefs and practices had been successfully repressed after Christianization (or if they persisted, they did so outside of the sphere of literacy available to us).
The Germanic pagan traditions associated with wolf-men persisted longest in the Scandinavian Viking Age. Harald I of Norway is known to have had a body of Úlfhednar (wolf coated [men]), which are mentioned in the Vatnsdœla saga, Haraldskvæði, and the Völsunga saga, and resemble some werewolf legends. The Úlfhednar were fighters similar to the berserkers, though they dressed in wolf hides rather than those of bears and were reputed to channel the spirits of these animals to enhance effectiveness in battle. These warriors were resistant to pain and killed viciously in battle, much like wild animals. Úlfhednar and berserkers are closely associated with the Norse god Odin.
The Scandinavian traditions of this period may have spread to Rus, giving rise to the Slavic "werewolf" tales. 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."
The situation as described during the medieval period gives rise to the dual form of werewolf folklore in Early Modern Europe. On one hand the "Germanic" werewolf, which becomes associated with the witchcraft panic from around 1400, and on the other hand the "Slavic" werewolf or vlkodlak, which becomes associated with the concept of the revenant or "vampire". The "eastern" werewolf-vampire is found in the folklore of Cebral/Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Romania and the Balkans, while the "western" werewolf-sorcerer is found in France, German-speaking Europe and in the Baltic.
Early Modern history
There were numerous reports of werewolf attacks – and consequent court trials – in 16th 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.
Werewolvery was a common accusation in witch trials throughout their history, and it featured even in the Valais witch trials, one of the earliest such trials altogether, in the first half of the 15th century. Likewise, in the Vaud, child-eating werewolves were reported as early as 1448. A peak of attention to lycanthropy came in the late 16th to early 17th century, as part of the European witch-hunts. A number of treatises on werewolves were written in France during 1595 and 1615. Werewolves were sighted in 1598 in Anjou, and a teenage werewolf was sentenced to life imprisonment in Bordeaux in 1603. Henry Boguet wrote a lengthy chapter about werewolves in 1602. In the Vaud, werewolves were convicted in 1602 and in 1624. A treatise by a Vaud pastor in 1653, however, argued that lycanthropy was purely an illusion. After this, the only further record from the Vaud dates to 1670: it is that of a boy who claimed he and his mother could change themselves into wolves, which was, however, not taken seriously. At the beginning of the 17th century witchcraft was prosecuted by James I of England, who regarded "warwoolfes" as victims of delusion induced by "a natural superabundance of melancholic". After 1650, belief in Lycanthropy had mostly disappeared from French-speaking Europe, as evidenced in Diderot's Encyclopedia, which attributed reports of lycanthropy to a "disorder of the brain. although there were continuing reports of extraordinary wolf-like beasts (but not werewolves). One such report concerned the Beast of Gévaudan which 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 only part of Europe which showed vigorous interest in werewolves after 1650 was the Holy Roman Empire. At least nine works on lycanthropy were printed in Germany between 1649 and 1679. In the Austrian and Bavarian Alps, belief in werewolves persisted well into the 18th century.
Until the 20th century, wolf attacks on humans were an occasional, but still 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 uturuncu") and werejaguars ("yaguaraté-abá" or "tigre-capiango") in southern South America.
An idea is explored in Sabine Baring-Gould's work The Book of Werewolves is that werewolf legends may have been used to explain serial killings. Perhaps the most famous example is the case of Peter Stumpp (executed in 1589), the German farmer, and alleged serial killer and cannibal, also known as the Werewolf of Bedburg.
In Asian Cultures, the "were" equivalent is a weretiger or wereleopard. These beliefs stemmed from fears that these werecats were supernatural.
Common Turkic folklore holds a different, reverential light to the werewolf legends in that Turkic Central Asian shamans after performing long and arduous rites would voluntarily be able to transform into the humanoid "Kurtadam" (literally meaning Wolfman). Since the wolf was the totemic ancestor animal of the Turkic peoples, they would be respectful of any shaman who was in such a form.
Lycanthropy as a medical condition
Some modern researchers have tried to explain the reports of werewolf behaviour with recognised medical conditions. Dr Lee Illis of Guy's Hospital in London wrote a paper in 1963 entitled On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werewolves, in which he argues that historical accounts on werewolves could have in fact been referring to victims of congenital porphyria, stating how the symptoms of photosensitivity, reddish teeth and psychosis could have been grounds for accusing a sufferer of being a werewolf. This is however argued against by Woodward, who points out how mythological werewolves were almost invariably portrayed as resembling true wolves, and that their human forms were rarely physically conspicuous as porphyria victims. Others have pointed out the possibility of historical werewolves having been sufferers of hypertrichosis, a hereditary condition manifesting itself in excessive hair growth. However, Woodward dismissed the possibility, as the rarity of the disease ruled it out from happening on a large scale, as werewolf cases were in medieval Europe. People suffering from Down syndrome have been suggested by some scholars to have been possible originators of werewolf myths. Woodward suggested rabies as the origin of werewolf beliefs, claiming remarkable similarities between the symptoms of that disease and some of the legends. Woodward focused on the idea that being bitten by a werewolf could result in the victim turning into one, which suggested the idea of a transmittable disease like rabies. However, the idea that lycanthropy could be transmitted in this way is not part of the original myths and legends and only appears in relatively recent beliefs. Lycanthropy can also be met with as the main content of a delusion, for example, the case of a woman has been reported who during episodes of acute psychosis complained of becoming four different species of animals.
The beliefs classed together under lycanthropy are far from uniform, and the term is somewhat capriciously applied. The transformation may be temporary or permanent; the were-animal may be the man himself metamorphosed; may be his double whose activity leaves the real man to all appearance unchanged; may be his soul, which goes forth seeking whom it may devour, leaving its body in a state of trance; or it may be no more than the messenger of the human being, a real animal or a familiar spirit, whose intimate connection with its owner is shown by the fact that any injury to it is believed, by a phenomenon known as repercussion, to cause a corresponding injury to the human being.
Werewolves were said in European folklore to bear tell-tale physical traits even in their human form. These included the meeting of both eyebrows at the bridge of the nose, curved fingernails, low-set ears and a swinging stride. One method of identifying a werewolf in its human form was to cut the flesh of the accused, under the pretense that fur would be seen within the wound. A Russian superstition recalls a werewolf can be recognised by bristles under the tongue. The appearance of a werewolf in its animal form varies from culture to culture, though it is most commonly portrayed as being indistinguishable from ordinary wolves save for the fact that it has no tail (a trait thought characteristic of witches in animal form), is often larger, and retains human eyes and voice. According to some Swedish accounts, the werewolf could be distinguished from a regular wolf by the fact that it would run on three legs, stretching the fourth one backwards to look like a tail. After returning to their human forms, werewolves are usually documented as becoming weak, debilitated and undergoing painful nervous depression. One universally reviled trait in medieval Europe was the werewolf's habit of devouring recently buried corpses, a trait that is documented extensively, particularly in the Annales Medico-psychologiques in the 19th century. Fennoscandian werewolves were usually old women who possessed poison-coated claws and had the ability to paralyse cattle and children with their gaze.
Becoming a werewolf
Various methods for becoming a werewolf have been reported, one of the simplest being the removal of clothing and putting on a belt made of wolfskin, probably as a substitute for the assumption of an entire animal skin (which also is frequently described). In other cases, the body is rubbed with a magic salve. Drinking rainwater out of the footprint of the animal in question or from certain enchanted streams were also considered effectual modes of accomplishing metamorphosis. The 16th century Swedish writer Olaus Magnus says that the Livonian werewolves were initiated by draining a cup of specially prepared beer and repeating a set formula. Ralston in his Songs of the Russian People gives the form of incantation still familiar in Russia. In Italy, France and Germany, it was said that a man or woman could turn into a werewolf if he or she, on a certain Wednesday or Friday, slept outside on a summer night with the full moon shining directly on his or her face.
In other cases, the transformation was supposedly accomplished by Satanic allegiance for the most loathsome ends, often for the sake of sating a craving for human flesh. "The werewolves", writes Richard Verstegan (Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, 1628),
are certayne sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodies with an ointment which they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certayne inchaunted girdle, does not only unto the view of others seem as wolves, but to their own thinking have both the shape and nature of wolves, so long as they wear the said girdle. And they do dispose themselves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and most of humane creatures.The phenomenon of repercussion, the power of animal metamorphosis, or of sending out a familiar, real or spiritual, as a messenger, and the supernormal powers conferred by association with such a familiar, are also attributed to the magician, male and female, all the world over; and witch superstitions are closely parallel to, if not identical with, lycanthropic beliefs, the occasional involuntary character of lycanthropy being almost the sole distinguishing feature. In another direction the phenomenon of repercussion is asserted to manifest itself in connection with the bush-soul of the West African and the nagual of Central America; but though there is no line of demarcation to be drawn on logical grounds, the assumed power of the magician and the intimate association of the bush-soul or the nagual with a human being are not termed lycanthropy. Nevertheless, it will be well to touch on both these beliefs here.
The curse of lycanthropy was also considered by some scholars as being a divine punishment. Werewolf literature shows many examples of God or saints allegedly cursing those who invoked their wrath with werewolfism. Such is the case of Lycaon, who was turned into a wolf by Zeus as punishment for slaughtering one of his own sons and serving his remains to the gods as a dinner. Those who were excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church were also said to become werewolves.
The power of transforming others into wild beasts was attributed not only to malignant sorcerers, but to Christian saints as well. Omnes angeli, boni et Mali, ex virtute naturali habent potestatem transmutandi corpora nostra ("All angels, good and bad have the power of transmutating our bodies") was the dictum of St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Patrick was said to have transformed the Welsh king Vereticus into a wolf; Natalis supposedly cursed an illustrious Irish family whose members were each doomed to be a wolf for seven years. In other tales the divine agency is even more direct, while in Russia, again, men supposedly became werewolves when incurring the wrath of the Devil.
A notable exception to the association of Lycanthropy and the Devil, comes from a rare and lesser known account of an 80-year-old man named Thiess. In 1692, in Jürgensburg, Livonia, Thiess testified under oath that he and other werewolves were the Hounds of God. He claimed they were warriors who went down into hell to do battle with witches and demons. Their efforts ensured that the Devil and his minions did not carry off the grain from local failed crops down to hell. Thiess was steadfast in his assertions, claiming that werewolves in Germany and Russia also did battle with the devil's minions in their own versions of hell, and insisted that when werewolves died, their souls were welcomed into heaven as reward for their service. Thiess was ultimately sentenced to ten lashes for Idolatry and superstitious belief.
Various methods have existed for removing the werewolf form. In antiquity, the Ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the power of exhaustion in curing people of lycanthropy. The victim would be subjected to long periods of physical activity in the hope of being purged of the malady. This practice stemmed from the fact that many alleged werewolves would be left feeling weak and debilitated after committing depredations.
In medieval Europe, traditionally, there are three methods one can use to cure a victim of werewolfism; medicinally (usually via the use of wolfsbane), surgically or by exorcism. However, many of the cures advocated by medieval medical practitioners proved fatal to the patients. A Sicilian belief of Arabic origin holds that a werewolf can be cured of its ailment by striking it on the forehead or scalp with a knife. Another belief from the same culture involves the piercing of the werewolf's hands with nails. Sometimes, less extreme methods were used. In the German lowland of Schleswig-Holstein, a werewolf could be cured if one were to simply address it three times by its Christian name, while one Danish belief holds that simply scolding a werewolf will cure it. Conversion to Christianity is also a common method of removing werewolfism in the medieval period. A devotion to St. Hubert has also been cited as both cure for and protection from lycanthropes.
Connection to revenants
Before the end of the 19th century, the Greeks believed that the corpses of werewolves, if not destroyed, would return to life in the form of wolves or hyenas which prowled battlefields, drinking the blood of dying soldiers. In the same vein, in some rural areas of Germany, Poland and Northern France, it was once believed that people who died in mortal sin came back to life as blood-drinking wolves. These "undead" werewolves would return to their human corpse form at daylight. They were dealt with by decapitation with a spade and exorcism by the parish priest. The head would then be thrown into a stream, where the weight of its sins was thought to weigh it down. Sometimes, the same methods used to dispose of ordinary vampires would be used. The vampire was also linked to the werewolf in East European countries, particularly Bulgaria, Serbia and Slovenia. In Serbia, the werewolf and vampire are known collectively as vulkodlak.
Hungary and Balkans
In Hungarian folklore, the werewolves used to live specially in the region of Transdanubia, and it was thought that the ability to change into a wolf was obtained in the infant age, after the suffering of abuse by the parents or by a curse. At the age of seven the boy or the girl leaves the house and goes hunting by night and can change to person or wolf whenever he wants. The curse can also be obtained when in the adulthood the person passed three times through an arch made of a Birch with the help of a wild rose's spine.
The werewolves were known to exterminate all kind of farm animals, especially sheep. The transformation usually occurred in the Winter solstice, Easter and full moon. Later in the 17th and 18th century, the trials in Hungary not only were conducted against witches, but against werewolves too, and many records exist creating connections between both kinds. Also the vampires and werewolves are closely related in Hungary, being both feared in the antiquity.
Among the South Slavs, and also among the Kashubs of what is now northern Poland, there was the belief that if a child was born with hair, a birthmark or a caul on their head, they were supposed to possess shape-shifting abilities. Though capable of turning into any animal they wished, it was commonly believed that such people preferred to turn into a wolf.
Serbian vulkodlaks traditionally had the habit of congregating annually in the winter months, when they would strip off their wolf skins and hang them from trees. They would then get a hold of another vulkodlaks skin and burn it, releasing from its curse the vulkodlak from whom the skin came.
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.
Americas and Caribbean
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".
Woodward thought that these beliefs were due to the Norse colonization of the Americas. 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 and Lower Peninsulas 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. The Haitian jé-rouges typically try to trick mothers into giving away their children voluntarily by waking them at night and asking their permission to take their child, to which the disoriented mother may either reply yes or no. The Haitian jé-rouges differ from traditional European werewolves by their habit of actively trying to spread their lycanthropic condition to others, much like vampires.