The transformation of a human being into an animal. The belief is an ancient one. The term derives from the Greek words lukos, a wolf, and anthropoid, a man, but it is employed regarding a transformation into any animal shape. It is chiefly in those countries where wolves are numerous that we find such tales concerning them. But in India and some parts of Asia, the tiger takes the place of the wolf. In Russia and elsewhere it is the bear, and in Africa the leopard.
Magicians and witches were credited with the power of transforming themselves into wolves and other animal shapes, and it was asserted that if the animal were wounded, then the marks of the wound would be discovered upon the wizard’s body. The belief was current in many tribal cultures that every individual possessed an animal form, which could be entered at death or at will. This transformation was effected either by magic or natural agency.
As mentioned, the wolf was a common form of animal transformation in Europe. In ancient Greece, the belief was associated with the dog, which took the place of the wolf. Other similar beliefs have been found in India and Java. In the former country we find the werewolf in a kind of vampire form.
From The Occultism & Parapsychology Encyclopedia:
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