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Are Rabies Responsible For Werewolf Myths?

May 15th, 2010 § 9

A lot of our old folktales come from the fact that people in the Middle Ages didn’t have the scientific knowledge to logically explain certain medical conditions, so they assumed that it was simply magic. From their ignorance came forth many of the myths and folktales we know so well. But what about werewolves? Is it possible that rabies gave birth to werewolves?

The most common way in which someone contracts the disease rabies is by being bitten by an infected animal (like werewolf stories). Usually, they are bitten by a dog that had contracted the virus from a wild animal. An animal with the virus will suddenly become insane, incredibly aggressive and savage, acting much like a demon.

The most common symptoms a human that has contracted rabies first experiences are anxiety, disorientation and the desire to be left alone somewhere quiet, warm and away from bright light – sort of like a wolf’s den. After a while comes the fear of water and swallowing. Then delirium, the overwhelming hallucinations and mad ravings that often includes attacking and biting others.

If that wasn’t bad enough, these people occasionally have breaks in their madness, moments of total sanity. The sufferer is painfully aware of how they are acting and behaving, that they are acting like they are half-human, half-beast.

Now, pretend that you are living way back in the day before rabies was known, before science was what it is now – what would you think? You wouldn’t think it was a medical condition, people back then didn’t often use science as an explanation for events, but rather religion and superstition. One would simply assume that it was some form of magic, that the person suffering had become possessed by some kind of animalistic demon.

There are a handful of theories like this about vampires and how vampire hysteria reached the level it did. The same theories could apply to werewolves and the panic they caused in the Middle Ages. After all, there were nearly thirty thousand cases of lycanthropy reported between 1520 and 1630; obviously not all of those people were werewolves. But it is possible that many of them were simply suffering from rabies, and appeared to be animalistic monsters, when in truth they were just sick.

- Moonlight

About the Author

One of the writers for werewolves.com, as well as vampires.com.

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9 Responses to Are Rabies Responsible For Werewolf Myths?

  1. jin kazama says:

    i wanna become as a warwewolf

  2. AlphaWerewolf says:

    Do not say that.

    Just because you want to be a werewolf is not a reason to go messing with some rabid wolf or animal. Rabid animals are VERY DANGEROUS and if you get the disease, you have only a day or two to recognize the symptoms before rabies becomes too untreatable and you die.
    This is serious. I saw a show where a man got bit by a rabid coyote. He became delirious and insane. His doctor wife recognized the symptoms of rabies before it was too late and he was saved. Barely . . .

    So stop being stupid and realize some things, like putting dangerous things like belladonna and nightshade on your skin, and getting bitten by a rabid animal. or others stupid and dangerous ways to become a werewolf will not work and will just harm you, and possibley kill you.

    • the werewolf says:

      poeple would do anything to be a werewolf even if it means doing stuipd things so you cant stop them you can tell them its stuipd but its there choice not yours even i want to become a werewolf ill do anything to become a werewolf even get rabies.but ill try other ways this is the last on my list have a long list

  3. the werewolf says:

    im going to get rabies well there is no chance i will because i live in the city so no wild animals there danm i wanted to be a werewolf someone help me

  4. André says:

    I don’t think that rabies was really responsible for the “creation” of the werewolf. If you read “Der Werwolf” by Wilhelm Hertz, you will find that the portrayed werewolves, while often bloodthirsty and savage, acted by no means rabid. Quite the opposite, they were often cunning and in other cases even fools (considered how easy some of them got catched). Yes most or at least many of the portrayed werewolves in Middle Europe were quite blood-thirsty but if they had really acted rabid many of them wouldn’t have gone undetected for so long. In addition the most common form of shapeshifting during these times seemed to have been via an ointment or a girdle, sometimes a wolf-fur or a combination of those. So not the mark of a rabid beast.

    • Tom says:

      the similarities between the behaviors of rabid people and wolves to werewolves are too great to dismiss. infection by rabies is the model for werewolves (and vampires). the rabies virus taps into our emotional neural circuits and releases them in order to actively (!!) transmit the virus to others — i.e “turn” victims. yet, we still don’t know the neural receptor the virus uses to do this. pretty sad after all these thousands of years of human writing about rabies.

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