Of (Were)Wolf And Man

Werewolves would seem to be the next sensible topic after having already dealt with Vampires. Lycanthropy, the real-life condition of believing one has transformed into a were-wolf, has been reported as still existing, at least in a study conducted in the twentieth century, although it is described as a psychosis.

Much of what we think we know about werewolves has – surprise surprise – been invented in modern times by Hollywood and by certain bestselling horror and fantasy authors. Take for example this whole business about Lycanthropy being an infection that can be passed on through biting: a modern invention! The fact of the matter is that before Hollywood came along, traditional folklore was consistent in saying that the way to become a werewolf was through Magickal rituals – either voluntarily or involuntarily.

So for example you could be made subject to a curse, either by a black magician* or by falling foul of some superstition. However it is remarkable that many ways of becoming a werewolf are through voluntarily conducted rituals – “Self Initiation In The Werewolf Tradition,” as it were: e.g. drinking water from a wolf’s paw print, sleeping outside on the night of the full moon, etc.

We are therefore faced with the fact that a great many lycanthropes were in fact people who deliberately wanted to become wolves: and moreover, there are and have been occultists in the modern era wanting to do just that. Why should they want to? Why indeed did people of old want to? Simply – in order to derive benefit from taking on the characteristics of the Wolf – or other animal as appropriate.

The classic example is that of the Berserker, who by magic ritual purported to take on the strength and stamina of a bear or wolf when going into battle. The Berserker did not physically transform, but there is plenty of evidence to say that they did take on the characteristics – such as ferocity – of the animal in question.

Amongst modern occultists who advocate animal transformation – commonly referred to as “shapeshifting” – include shamans. One has to remember that in shamanism a “power animal” has an importance equivalent to “the Holy Guardian Angel” in ceremonial magick, so that a shaman in attempting shapeshifting by becoming possessed by his or her power animal is attempting to contact the higher self. Does a physical transformation take place? Despite the fantastical nature of the idea, when one takes clairvoyance into account it is at least reasonable that it appears to happen, especially if the onlookers are all caught up in the energy of the transformation ritual.

Another occultist who practiced this kind of magick was Austen Osman Spare – who called it “Atavistic resurgence.” His idea was that we all contain within ourselves the karmas from all previous stages of evolution, including animal stages. It was thus possible to magickally draw on this in order to take on the characteristics from a previous animal stage. Interestingly although Spare never claimed that he himself transformed in appearance, he did claim that his magickal use of atavism did on at least one occasion result in the apparition of bizarre thought-forms in the air around him.

Finally, it may be noted that one magical order did provide a full framework for creating Transformation rituals – the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It is theoretically possible for an Adept to work a transformation ritual by creating an astral form and then taking it on for a while, then banishing it.

So all in all, perhaps the real psychosis of Lycanthropy is that there are some unfortunates who tried to take part in magical transformation or shapeshifting rites, but were not spiritually prepared for it – and then suffered the consequences.

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