Mount Lykaion’s Curse
Hey guys, it’s time again for another ancient werewolf tale. This time we are going way back to ancient Greece. The time of vengeful and fearful gods and goddesses, a time of ghastly curses and harsh revenge.
Our tale today takes us to the mysterious top of Mount Lykaion, a remote spot in Arcadia in the Peloponnesus peninsula. This place is home to many a rumor and story; the lower slopes of the mountain were covered in thick forests which were home to deadly wolves, the upper slopes were bare and rocky and were believed to be a place where dark rituals took place. But I digress, our story is from the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE – c. 18 AD). It is the tale of King Lycaon.
King Lycaon ruled this mountain top and is one night visited by the feared god Zeus. Zeus convinces the people of Arcadia that he is in fact a divine being, the true god himself, but Lycaon doesn’t believe it is Zeus and he decides to kill this stranger. Lycaon isn’t able to kill the god so instead he murders a prisoner and cooks his flesh, serving it as a meal to his unwelcome guest. When Zeus finds out he has been eating human flesh he is filled with uncontrollable rage and burns the palace to the ground, and then turns Lycaon into a wolf. This transformation would last 9 years, after which Lycaon would turn back into a man, unless he ate human flesh while in wolf form. If he had eaten human meat then he was stuck in wolf form forever.
Now this is just one version of the story, a Greek traveler named Pausanias records a different version of the tale. He said that Lycaon goes to Mount Lykaion, where Zeus was born. There at the temple of the gods, King Lycaon offers a human baby as a sacrifice.
Zeus does not accept this sacrifice and as a punishment he turns Lycaon into a wolf. Ever since, anyone who leaves a sacrifice at temple Zeus Lycaeus also turns into a werewolf. But if the person stays away from human flesh for 9 years they will turn back into a man. King Lycaon never becomes a man again.
There are many arguments between scholars over these stories. Many have different views on it and believe different versions of it. Either way, it’s a damn good ancient story. How many of you werewolf fans are planning a trip to Arcadia now? Haha.
Side note: There are many different spellings/versions for these names – King Lycaon, King Lykaon. Mount Lykaion, Mount Lycaeus, Mount Lykaon…etc.
One of the writers for werewolves.com, as well as vampires.com.