Animal spirits

In North and Central America, and to some extent in West Africa, Australia and other parts of the world, every male acquires at puberty a tutelary spirit; in some Native American tribes the youth kills the animal of which he dreams in his initiation fast; its claw, skin or feathers are put into a little … Read more

Animal ancestors

Stories of humans descending from animals are common explanations for tribal and clan origins. Sometimes the animals assumed human forms in order to ensure their descendants retained their human shapes, other times the origin story is of a human marrying a normal animal. North American indigenous traditions particularly mingle the idea of bear ancestors and … Read more

A modern case of lycanthropy

Harvey Rostenstock, M.D. and Kenneth R. Vincent, Ed.D. The American Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 134, No. 10. October 1977 Case Report A 49-year-old married woman presented on an urgent basis for psychiatric evaluation because of delusions of being a wolf and “feeling like an animal with claws.”  She suffered from extreme apprehension and felt that … Read more


Some superstitions found in witchcraft and modern black magic are interlinked with lycanthropic beliefs.  During the Middle Age, lycanthropy was thought to be practiced by witches. The witches were believed to morph themselves into wolves that roamed throughout the European countryside frightening people, killing and devouring the travelers. Lycanthropes were even believed to be minor … Read more

Ergot poisoning

Ergot poisoning has been proposed to explain werewolf episodes in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries as both a cause of an individual believing that he or she is a werewolf and of a whole town believing that they had seen a werewolf. Ergotism was known by a variety of names: St. Anthony’s Fire, … Read more

The wolf

Our purpose is to analyze the reason for the wolf to be the creature of choice for metamorphosis. Usually, a person is deemed to take the form of the most dangerous beast of prey of the region: the wolf or bear in Europe and northern Asia, the hyena or leopard in Africa, and the tiger … Read more


Hypertrichosis is a medical term referring to a condition of excessive body hair. It can be generalized, symmetrically affecting most of the torso and limbs, or localized, affecting an area of skin. It may be mild or severe. In most cases, the term is used to refer to an above-average amount of normal body hair … Read more


In 1964, in an article, On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werewolves, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, L. Illis proposed that porphyria might be an explanation for werewolf legends. Later, Nancy Garden argued for a connection between porphyria and the vampire belief in her 1973 book, Vampires. In 1985, David … Read more