The Good Dr. Johann Weyer
In the 16th century when witch and werewolf trials were still going very strong and countless individuals were wrongly killed due to mass hysteria, most people supported it; they felt that these evil beings needed to be destroyed. However, there were in fact some brave men spoke against it. The Dutch physician Dr. Johann Weyer (1515-1588) was one of these skeptics that wished to put a stop to the unnecessary werewolf and witch executions.
Dr. Johann Weyer (sometimes known as Weir) was one of the first to suggest that that there might be some form of mental or medical condition responsible for the behavior of those labeled as werewolves. In the 16th century people didn’t have the medical knowledge to explain common ailments, so when someone acted strangely or committed terrible acts, it was blamed on the supernatural and these individuals were often believed to be werewolves, witches or some other evil creature. But Dr. Weyer wasn’t buying into that, he used his great mind to come up with another explanation.
Often regarded as the man that first used the term “mentally ill,” Weyer used it to describe the actions and illusions of some of the alleged witches and werewolves. He is believed to have been a genuinely intelligent and humane doctor that wanted nothing more than to find an explanation for the supposed condition. Pointing to some of the French werewolf cases, he argued that such individuals were deluded and that the confession of beast-like behavior and stories of meeting the Devil and using magical salves to turn into a wolf were little more than the outpourings of disturbed minds, that those confessing to being a werewolf were simply insane, not actually werewolves. He went on and added that these people needed medical help, not punishment.
As the Enlightenment took hold in Europe, more and more people followed Dr. Weyer’s line of thinking. Mental conditions, harsh living conditions and severe loneliness and solitude were all to blame when it came to these supposed werewolves, not the supernatural.
Thanks to Dr. Johann Weyer and many others, the view on werewolves began to change slowly for the better and innocents weren’t constantly being labeled as werewolves and put to death.