Being interested in cryptozoology with your main focus on werewolves usually doesn’t lead to parades, canonization and general celebration. Luckily I’ve never been interested in parades, canonization and general celebration, but merely to understand the truth about the true nature of the universe. Werewolves are not my only interest, I read a lot about history, biology, botany, ethnology, linguistics, religion, mythology, geography, geology, psychology, philosophy, astronomy and many other things.
There are very few things that don’t interest me at all, but it’s only my interest in cryptozoology that makes people judge me and decide that I’m unintelligent, uninformed and bat-shit crazy.
Unfortunately you are often met with such incredible amounts of negativity if you so much as breathe a word about your interests. People must be carrying enormous amounts of hatred and anger they aren’t allowed to express normally, but to a cryptozoologically inclined person you can say anything. No rules, no ethics, just pour out all your stored up hatred and desire to repress.
I am however not so masochistic that I actually comment on cryptozoological threads in the most troll-infested forums, but simply to read them is very destructive. The most common troll-comments are of course brilliant gems such as “how can someone be so stupid?” or “idiots like you should be locked up”, while others aggressively maintain that there are no werewolves since science hasn’t discovered them.
But please, are you only allowed to take an interest in what we already know? If people had done so always we would still be living in caves, cowering in fear of the thunder and lightning.
All I’m saying is that what is observed looks like werewolves and since we are unfamiliar with its nature and origin we should try and find out.
Historic and cultural damage
Werewolves have been done a huge disservice throughout Hollywood’s and history’s perpetuation of the werewolf as a transformed human being. Sure, there may be some truth in the shapeshifter mythos. Folkloric traditions have always claimed that a highly developed shaman can assume the form of practically any animal. We find examples of this within the Norse beliefs in berserkers and ulvhedins and among several native American tribes, such as the Navajo’s Skinwalkers. In these cases however, it would seem that the shapeshifting has to do with the creation of a tulpa, to use a Tibetan word. Sources from the Norse Ynglinga saga claim that the shaman’s body remained unaffected but in a state of trance or sleep, while the shapeshifter in question was a type of manifested thought-form inhabited by the shaman’s soul.
From the Ynglinga saga:
Odin could transform his shape: his body would lie as if dead, or asleep; but then he would be in shape of a fish, or worm, or bird, or beast, and be off in a twinkling to distant lands upon his own or other people’s business.
I’m going to go through some of the “explanations” the more intelligent but uninformed disbelievers of the werewolf tend to give.
Common explanations that aren’t
The word lycanthropy stems from Greek and literally means wolf-man. It’s a misused word that people think means the process of changing from human into animal, which is actually called therianthropy. Lycanthropy would then be the metamorphosis of a man changing into a wolf, specifically, but it’s also a mental illness in which the sufferer believes himself being transformed into a wolf, even though no physical can be observed. These delusions can sometimes respond well to medication where as other times they can last for years. To further complicate matters, therianthropes are also a subculture of people claiming to possess the soul of a non-human entity. They refer to themselves as Otherkin.
Ergot is a fungus that can form on cereal, most commonly rye. During the Middle Ages ergot poisoning was relatively common. The symptoms were spasms, itching, nausea, gangrene in hands and feet and in some cases even madness and psychosis. The Lyserg acid in ergot is used in the manufacturing of LSD.
It would seem likely that some of the “werewolves” of the medieval witch-trials in Europe could have been caused by ergot poisoning. With today’s food control ergotism is exceptionally rare and usually only occurs in cattle.
Hypertrichosis is a disease that leads to excess hair growth, especially in areas that are normal hair-free, such as forehead and palms. Very severe forms of the disease have been called “werewolf syndrome”, which has caused even more confusion among the public.
The symptoms of hypertrichosis are excess hair. It doesn’t in itself lead to psychological problems or madness. In some cases hypertrichosis can also be a sign of…
Porphyria is a group of rare inherited or acquired disorders which means that certain enzymes participating in the production of for example heme, the pigment in red blood cells, are not functioning properly. It causes skin problems, neurological problems or both. Porphyria has been called “vampire syndrome” since the skin and the mucous membranes become hypersensitive to light and gets damaged by it. The most severe form of the disease, congenital erythropoietic porphyria or Gunther disease causes severe skin damage and deformity. The disease is so rare that only one person in 2-3 million gets it, and it doesn’t explain the American werewolf sightings at all since there are no cases of Gunther disease in the U.S.
Let me go over these “explanations” and point out their weaknesses. Lycanthropy is a madness that is not accompanied by physical change. Ergotism is so rare it’s practically non-existent today. Hypertrichosis gives increased hair growth but not extended snout or the lust for human flesh. Porphyria might in extreme cases together with hypertrichosis, bad light and briefness of the sighting possible be interpreted as a werewolf. The problem in this case though is that porphyria sufferers are rarely seen by the roadside gnawing on roadkill.
It’s too outrageous to claim that the hundreds of werewolf sightings in America could be explained by diseases as rare as these. The sufferers have a hard enough time being sick and should not have to be accused of being werewolves or vampires. Leave them alone!
Hoaxers and other saboteurs
Hoaxers, people who create fake “evidence”, are a big nuisance in the cryptozoological world. I see two types of hoaxers; those who do it for fame and money and those who just do it out of spite. The Bigfoot world has seen its share of hoaxers belonging to both categories. The second category seems to be driven by
a) their own disbelief and their hatred of those who won’t comply with their opinions, or
b) fear of the implications if cryptids were to be proven to exist, and therefore would do anything to steer the research in the wrong way, make sure no one takes it seriously and generally delay, prevent and increase the cost of the truth being exposed.
Hoaxers only discredit cryptozoology and make it even harder for the researchers to focus on their research since they always have to waste their energy on defending their research, their field, their intelligence and their person.
Why must it be so hard?
It’s as if people with no interest in football should do everything in their power to sabotage every game. Destroying the field by driving around on it, follow and harass the players. There are plenty of people with no interest in sports, and yet no one does this. Why?
Is it because more people are interested in football than cryptozoology which makes football legit?
Should one then assume that you have to be like everybody else to be allowed to be yourself?
Feels a little bit like Catch 22 to me…