So you’re some kind of a dork who either has lycanthropy and doesn’t want to learn how to live with it, or else you want to cure someone else who has it. How do you go about becoming fully human again?
Time for another list! I’ll give an overview of various methods in pop culture and in folklore before I discuss in further detail exactly why lycanthropy was never considered something to be “cured” until pop culture came around. Note that this will be similar to but not the same as the Weaknesses list.
As always, I’m sure I’m missing more than a few wacky pop culture things. But if they aren’t on the list from folklore, you can rest assured they didn’t come from folklore, whatever they might be.
Did NOT appear in folklore:
- Killing the werewolf who turned you – This is absolutely not a thing for a whole slew of reasons, mostly because the whole “curse transmitted by bite” thing was never in folklore to begin with.
- Just inject a nondescript cure – This happens now and again in things (like Van Helsing ). Often they won’t really specify what’s in the syringe, only that hey, it’s a cure. Or else it’ll be a potion or something.
- Wolfsbane – Nope. Not much more to say here except that another reminder of how the whole “wolfsbane and belladonna” dealios were never around in folklore in any capacity, whether as a weakness or as a “cure.”
- Silver (charms or otherwise) – Again with silver not being a werewolf weakness in any way. It wasn’t used to cure them, either.
- Exorcism – This was used sometimes in witch trials, but never directly in something involved with werewolves. Werewolves in folklore and/or historical accounts during the Early Modern period, when lycanthropy would’ve been associated with Satan, were generally either executed or committed to a monastery to be watched over and taken care of by the monks.
Appeared in folklore:
- Death – Here we have the absolute most common way to “cure” a werewolf, if it can even be considered that. If you do manage to actually kill one (good luck), congratulations, you cured it. This held true in most folklore as well.
- Killing the witch/person who cursed you – This was the case for Guillaume de Palerne, in which the werewolf returns to his human shape when the one who cursed him is killed. This was, of course, also a werewolf that was bound to be stuck in a permanent wolf form, not an actual shapeshifting werewolf as are much more common in media today, and this was one of the only instances of that occurring in folklore. So – don’t get your hopes up with it working!
- Removing the magic item that made you turn – This is the case in Norse legends such as the tale of Sigmund and Sinfjotli, who donned wolf skins and became wolves until they managed to get those skins off again. It was also the case with Melion, who put on a cursed ring and became stuck in a wolf form.
But, overall? Those things that make lycanthropy only curable by death? They’re being very accurate to the overwhelming majority of the original folklore.
Now, of course, there are some weirder, more obscure ways that some sources will tell you. Montague Summers, for instance, does in fact mention some of those stranger things you see here and there, like curing a werewolf by “reproach[ing]” them “by name as a werewolf.” Or else if they’re “thrice addressed by their Christian name, or struck three blows on the forehead with a knife, or that three drops of blood should be drawn,” among a few others. Then there’s also that old one of someone throwing a piece of iron over the werewolf’s head.
Why did those not go on the list? Because I can’t find any instances where those were actually mentioned directly in a primary source (we’re back onto source checking now), so I don’t think they deserve any kind of special highlighting.
What does deserve special highlighting here though is that when it comes to folklore, most werewolf stories weren’t concerned with “curing” the werewolf, because lycanthropy was not considered a “disease” or “infection” like it is today, as I covered in a werewolf fact already.
Why is this? Because in folklore, you get a few kinds of werewolves: the good werewolves who have no need or desire to be “cured” (nor do we even know if they theoretically could be – it simply is not a concern that’s ever raised!), the werewolves who became this way through a ritual or item and are going to return to human form after a time period is up or when that items is removed, and lastly, the ones that fall into neither category and just… are werewolves.
Long story short, it isn’t a concern or even something brought up as plausible in most of the original legends and older stories. You do have exceptions, of course, like Melion and Guillaume de Palerne, as already covered.
“Curing” it was largely something that came through those legends wherein it was a curse that someone wanted lifted, such as Melion, in which the knight put on a cursed ring. In those cases, the werewolf itself is such a unique example that their situation can’t be applied to other werewolves. Sigmund and Sinfjotli putting on the cursed wolf skins and couldn’t remove them? That’s hardly a situation most werewolves find themselves in.
There were a few (very few) situations in which it could be “cured”/the curse lifted, but do you know what most of those involved? Death.
And yes, now we’re back onto the stereotypical “the werewolf must always die” syndrome of 95% of modern werewolf media. Hooray. That’s something we really need to get away from and I have strong feelings on it.
At any rate, there you have it! Why would you want to cure lycanthropy, anyway? How could you not like all the amazing benefits it brings? Just learn to control it or something, seriously.