978-1-85592-574-8 / 9781855925748

The Beast Within/a History of the Werewolf


Publisher:Trafalgar Square



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About the book:

Most people know about werewolves only from the fevered imagination of some Hollywood scriptwriter. But where did the image of a mild human transformed into a snarling animal come from? Why is the terrible change supposed to take place at the full moon? And why should silver bullets be supposed to lift the curse brought on by a dreadful midnight encounter? This book is about the history of one of our most potent symbols. It ranges from early Palaeolithic animal cults to modern psychiatric wards. It examines lycanthropy in Classical Greece and Ancient Egypt, in Celtic, Norse and even Christian mythology - a bloodline which produced the Monsters and Dog-Heads of the Middle Ages (and fascinating accounts of beneficent werewolves), and the zenith of the witchcraft trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, when alleged werewolves were burnts for their diabolical practices. Many rational "scientific" explanations have been proposed to account for werewolves, such as undiagnozed psychiatric illness or the ingestion of naturally occurring hallucinogens; other authorities invoke shamanistic cults or the tricksters and shape-shifters of many mythologies. But while lycanthropy remains a powerful force in many traditional societies, in the West the werewolf lives on above all in the cinema, whether in the guise of Lon Chaney or in films like "Wolfen". This book brings history, mythology, culture and psychiatry to bear upon a compelling story.

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