There are many aspects to the Werewolf myths. From the biological roots of hypertrichosis and porphyria, through to the effects of post traumatic stress disorder suffered by Viking battle veterans. Environmental factors also played a part such as the ergot contamination of grains in the middle ages. Ergot is a form of fungus that has effects similar to LSD, and is very potent. These days grain is checked for this type of contamination at several different points along the food chain to avoid this happening. The last documented case of this occurring was in France in 1951 when people ate bread made from ergot contaminated rye and had visions of being attacked by wild animals and of “Turning into beasts”. Research correlating weather patterns and Witchcraft and Werewolf trials has shown that on the occasions people have been accused of being both have been connected with the ideal conditions for the fungus to flourish on the grain crops.
One explanation that has been overlooked outside the magickal community is the projection of the Etheric body in the form of a wolf. The Etheric body is the densest of several of the energy fields that surround our physical form. The Mage Violet Firth, better known as Dion Fortune, described it in her book ‘Psychic Self Defence’ as “A body of magnetic stresses in the framework of whose meshes every cell and fibre of the physical body is held in as in a rack”. This substance is considered to be able to be malleable by the mind and capable of being projected, as a barely visible cloud connected to the physical body by a thin strand or cord. This is why it is easy to confuse it with the Astral Body which is supposed to be made out of ‘finer’ material. However, because of it being more closely linked to the physical plane and body, it is supposed to be capable of moving things around and be solid enough to be mistaken for a physical body. Because of its close connection to the physical body any injury done to it can be mirrored in the person’s physical form.
In the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th it was believed that during sleep the Etheric double separated from the body in order to refresh the body like a rechargeable battery. But in magickal practice it was also believed that, with a certain amount of training, it could be projected on the earth plane in any form the projector willed. Looked at this way it gives a whole new dimension to the Werewolf legend in addition to explaining aspects of Werewolf myths such as that a Werewolf kept its form inside it’s human body, and that Werewolves keep to the shadow. The latter belief could well be bases on the way light, particularly sunlight, can dissipate the type of magnetic energy or ‘fluid’ of which the Etheric body is made up.
In some systems of magick the energy making up the energy body could be consciously extruded, much like Spiritualist Mediums were thought to do to enable the forces they were working with to take on physical form. But in the case of Witches, Cunning People, and folk magick practitioners the Etheric double, or a portion of it, was shaped and sent out to gather information or to carry messages. This is the origin of the old Witchcraft spell in which the practitioner says “I shall go forth, I shall go forth in the form of a hare”. In traditional Scottish Witchcraft this use of the Etheric double was called “Sending the Fetch”.
It is entirely possible that European Shamanic spiritual paths that existed in the countryside, especially those with strong Norse roots which incorporated the shapeshifter God Loki and his wolf offspring Fenrir, used thoughtforms of wolves as their etheric ‘Fetch’.
Creating this type of thoughtform involves a concentration of the mind, a connection with Divinity or the Elemental kingdom, and the ability to enter an altered state to integrate the conscious and subconscious mind. Violet Firth, whom we met earlier, accidentally stumbled on the technique when brooding on someone who had upset her while she was trying to sleep while thinking about Norse Mythology. The result was the materialisation of a large wolf on the bed beside her. She pushed it off the bed and it disappeared through the northern wall of the room she was in. Violet realised that the longer it remained on the physical plane the stronger it would become and the harder it would be to disperse. She managed to re-absorb it eventually, but during the time it was around on the physical plane it was seen by several other people and had other more synchronistic effects on chances for revenge on the person who had distressed her.
Violet also commented that she felt the time she had to take the thoughtform back into herself was limited as the wolf thoughform would have gained enough strength and self-awareness to function as a separate entity. When looked at in the context of Werewolf folklore wolf thoughtforms could explain a lot about the principles underlying the stories and accusations. However actually being able to make one requires a lot of understanding and practice of consciously extruding etheric matter. Just willing to do it is unlikely to allow it to happen spontaneously. This is why Witches were closely associated with Werewolves because their training in Shamanic and practical matters covered these sorts of phenomena. As did Violet’s training in magickal matters in various Ritual Magick schools in the first half of the 20th century.
Even someone with the psychiatric condition Clinical Lycanthropy, where they believe they have transformed into, or are, a non-human animal is unlikely to be able to do this based purely on belief no matter what they claim. This condition is extremely rare, although recognised as a specific illness throughout history. In the second century CE the Alexandrian Paulus Aegineta attributed someone’s belief that they were a Werewolf to an ‘imbalance of humours’, while in his 1597 book “Daemonologie” King James the 1st (or 6th depending if you were English or Scottish) blames Werewolf behaviour on “an excess of melancholy” rather than any supernatural phenomena. These days Clinical Lycanthropy is considered as part of the same spectrum of psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, and clinical depression combined with cultural influences. Interestingly brain scans of some people with this condition have shown unusual activity in the areas of the brain thought to be responsible for representing body shape. Which means they may genuinely be feeling that the transformation into a Werewolf has happened or is in the process of happening.
There are a few sites on the internet purporting to teach how to become a Werewolf using the magickal methods outlined earlier. Personally I would advise avoiding using these techniques until you have reached a level of inner balance and harmony where your sense of self is strong enough to do this without serious psychological effects that may be permanent. Contacting some archetypal aspects of your persona is not to be done lightly and if you want to try it you are best getting one-on-one experience with a group that knows what they are doing. This usually means a magickal order of some sort, or one of the Chaos groups that have trained and experienced psychologists and similar disciplines as part of their membership.