WereWolves-Possible Explanations of Werewolf Phenomenon

Possible Explanations of Werewolf Phenomenon

General Explanation of Werewolf Phenomenon
Was the werewolf phenomenon really a matter of delusion-or drug induced madness? There was no lack

of effort to explain the werewolf behavior down through the ages. Some asserted that it was caused by an excess

of melancholy or an imbalance in humors, the liquid
or fluid part of the body. Many doctors believed that such melancholy could lead to insanity, hallucination and delusion. One physician recommended that the lycanthrope should be treated with baths, purging, bleeding, dietary measures; to promote a state of mental calmness, rubbing opium into the nostrils. In his 1621’s work entitled Anatomy of Melancholy Robert Burton, the clergyman and scholar, considered lycanthrope to be a form of madness, and he blamed every thing from sorcerers and witches to poor diet, bad air, sleeplessness and even lack of exercise. 

Whatever would be the explanation, the frightened common folk preferred magical explanations. Thus, for some, the werewolf was the projection of a demon, which made its victims appear as a wolf in his own eyes and to those around him. For others, the werewolf was a direct manifestation of the Devil. Early seventeenth century French author Henri Bouguet believed, as did a great many people of that day, that Satan would leave the lycanthrope asleep behind a bush, go forth as a wolf, and perform whatever evil might be in that person’s mind. According to Bouguet, the Devil could confuse the sleeper’s imagination to such an extent “that he believes he had really been a wolf and had run about and killed men and beasts.”

The Mysteries of Magic, written by nineteenth century French occultist Éliphas Lévi, postulates the existence of a phantom – a body that acted as mediator between a living organism and the soul. “Thus in case of a man whose instinct is savage and sanguinary, his phantom will wander abroad in lupine form, whilst he sleeps painfully at home, dreaming he is a veritable wolf.” Lévi believed that the wounds so often reported in the cases of werewolves could be attributed to the out-of-body experience. He saw the human body as a subject to magnetic as well as nervous influences and capable of receiving the wounds suffered by the metamorphosed shape.

Scientific Explanation of Werewolf Phenomenon:

Modern physicians diagnose the lycanthrope as suffering from 1. Schizophrenia, 2. Organic Brain Syndrome with psychosis, 3. Psychotic Depressive Reaction, 4. Hysterical Neurosis of the dissociative type, 5. Manic-depressive Psychosis and 6. Psychomotor Epilepsy. Science has found a chemical basis for lycanthropy. Hallucinogenic plants and fungus-infected grain had caused many of the so-called lycanthrope to believe that they had turned into wolves. The main ingredients of the ointments used by the werewolves were belladonna or nightshade that could produce hallucination and delusions of bodily metamorphose. 

The diet of medieval peasants may have been another source of lycanthropic delusions. Bread was frequently made from ergot infected grains. Ergot is a fungus of which alkaloids are chemically related to LSD (LysergicAcid Diethylamide, a strong hallucinogenic psychoactive drug. The drug produces dreamlike changes in mood and thought, and alters the perception of time and space. It can create a feeling of lack of self-control, extreme terror and blur the feeling between the individual and the environment.) Like this modern drug, ergot infected grains can induce powerful and long lasting hallucination. In 1951, nearly 135 people had to be hospitalized and 6 died from ergot poisoning in the French town of Pont St. Esprit. They ate bread made from fungus infected rye. The victims had horrible visions of being attacked by tigers and snakes and of turning into beasts. This incident suggests that organic hallucination, rather than supernatural causes, may explain the werewolf phenomenon.
Something else has to be considered as well: the distinct possibility that some so-called werewolves were in fact the tragic victims of rare diseases like Rabies and Porphyria. A strain of virus carried by dogs, wolves and other animals including vampire bats causes Rabies. The virus strikes the central nervous system and produces uncontrollable excitement and painful contractions of the throat muscles’ intervention, which prevent the victim from drinking. Death usually occurs within three to five days of the first symptom. The second disease, Porphyria is a rare genetic disorder that results in a deficiency of heme, one of the pigments in the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. At the 1985 conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, biochemist David Dolphin suggested that the untreated symptoms of Porphyria match many of the traits associated with the classic lycanthrope. One of them is severe photosensitivity, which makes venturing out into daylight extremely painful and thus dooms the sufferer to a life of shadows and darkness. As the condition advances, the victim’s appearance grows increasingly morbid. Discoloration of the skin and an unusual thick growth of facial or body hair occur. There is a tendency for an abnormal change in skin and formation of sores. Eventually the disease attacks cartilage (the soft bone) and causes a progressive deterioration of the nose, ears, eyelids and fingers. The teeth, as well as the fingernails and the flesh beneath them might turn red or reddish brown because of deposition of Porphyrin, a component of Hemoglobin in the blood. Porphyria is often accompanied by mental disturbance, from mild hysteria to delirium and manic-depressive psychoses.

copy rights by Sk. Nur-Ul-Alam 


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