Becoming a werewolf is not a difficult matter. In fact, there are no less than three ways that one may become a werewolf. The first is by simply inheriting it from one or both parents, the second and most well-known is through being bitten or clawed by a werewolf, and the third is through the use of one of over twenty-eight magic spells and potions. With all of these various ways in which werewolves may be brought into this world, it is no wonder that the International Werewolf Hunters’ Association (IWHA) has not been able to eradicate them, even after over a millennium of diligently working toward that goal!
Born to be Wild
In order for someone to be born a werewolf, at least one of the individual’s parents must have been a werewolf at the time of their conception. Unless there is a generation-skip or first-born-shall-be curse at work, lycanthropy is one hundred percent heritable and—in most cases—apparent from birth by the presence of a pentagram at some location on the infant’s body. The child will transform on the first full moon after birth, and every full moon after for the rest of their life.
Exceptions do exist, however. Aside from the magical circumstances mentioned above, there are the so-called “late bloomers.” A late bloomer is an individual who has at least one werewolf parent, but does not fully develop their own powers until sometime after birth—usually during or shortly before puberty. While most late bloomers show absolutely no sign whatsoever of their lycan blood until their powers finally begin to develop, there are a few who exhibit some or all of the typical werewolf traits—superhuman strength and speed, greatly enhanced healing factor, wolf-like senses of smell and hearing, lupine instincts, and/or a pentagram somewhere on their bodies—but do not have the ability to shapeshift.
While late bloomers are rare, there are certain circumstances which can increase one’s chances of possessing that trait. The first is having a human parent and the second is having at least one or more late bloomers in one’s family. These are natural triggers, but there is also a magical one: a deliberately cast power suppression spell. These spells are usually cast for the protection of the infant in question so that, should anything happen to the lycanthrope or lycanthropes who brought them into this world, they will be able to successfully pass for human until they are old enough to defend themselves. The use of such magic is controversial within the werewolf community, but all agree that these are desperate and terrible times and that protecting one’s children is always a top priority…no matter what the cost.
It’s Not Nice to Bite…
The second way in which an individual may become a werewolf is the most famous and—in this day and age—the most frightening: being bitten or clawed by a werewolf. How does this work, you ask? What is so special about a werewolf’s fangs and claws that allows such a thing to occur?
Actually, it is not the fangs and claws themselves, but the powerful wild magic which flows through the physical and spiritual being of werewolves—and, in fact, all werebeasts. This wild magic is the product of the coexistence of two fully self-aware halves of a single consciousness within a single body, much like how the magnetic field surrounding a magnet is the product of the coexistence of the two opposing poles. Normally, this power lies safely locked within the werewolf in question, with only other werebeasts having the ability to sense it.
When a werewolf’s fangs or claws make contact with human blood, however, it causes a magical chain reaction which causes a small fraction of that werewolf’s wild magic to shoot off into the victim. This spark of wild magic then travels through the blood and into the soul, causing the birth of a lupine consciousness from the individual’s core essence—or true nature. After the birth of the individual’s wolf half, the newly turned werewolf’s soul begins to generate its own wild magic and the second effect of that initial spark makes itself known.
Remember how I said that that first spark of wild magic travels through the bloodstream? Well, before it can reach the soul, it must travel through every vein, artery, and capillary of the body. The road to the soul is a slightly…circuitous…rout, due to it being the most important part of any living creature.
As the spark travels through the bloodstream, it leaves even smaller traces of wild magic in the blood and living tissues of the individual. This magic may not be capable of doing much all on its own, but when the new werewolf’s wolf half is born and their soul begins to generate its own wild magic, the trace magic left behind by the initial spark reacts and begins to cause their body to change to fit their newly transformed soul and be able to properly use and contain the wild magic that it now generates. It is during this time that the mark of the pentagram appears somewhere on the newly-turned individual’s body.
This entire period of physical and spiritual transformation—known simply as “the transition”—varies in length depending on the time until the next full moon. If the individual is bitten on the night of the full moon, the transition will ease along for a full twenty-eight days. If the individual is bitten only two or three days before the full moon, the transition will speed along rapidly instead.
Even after a newly turned werewolf experiences that first excruciating transformation during their first full moon, they are not done changing just yet. Over the next six to twelve months, the fledgling lycanthrope will continue to go through a very gradual series of physical changes, leading up to one final swift and violent surge of development: The Great Shift.
The first symptom of the Great Shift is constant, persistent thirst. This is followed over the next few days by an increase in lupine cravings and random involuntary transformations, both full and partial. As the Great Shift nears its end, the individual will begin to suffer from persistent dryness and itchiness of the skin, hair loss, and will lose at least one tooth prior to the final transformation. Finally, at night fall on the third day, the individual will transform into their full wolf form for the first time.
During this pivotal transformation, the last of the individual’s hair, their remaining teeth, and—most disturbingly of all—their skin will all be completely shed and grow back again as they change. After this, they will be stuck in their full wolf form for three nights and two days. At sunrise on the third day, they will automatically change back to human form. When this happens, their hair will be the exact same length that it was prior to the great shift aside from two differences: 1) It will be a bit thicker than it was before the Great Shift, and 2) if they had thinning hair or full-on hereditary baldness, it will be completely cured. The reason for the second change is a mystery for some, but others have a simple common sense answer: wild wolves don’t go bald.
Eye of Newt and Hair of the Dog
Of course, human beings can also be transformed into werewolves through the use of magic. Mages both benevolent and malevolent have concocted several different spells and potions over the millennia meant for that purpose. Sometimes administered as a last-ditch cure and others intended as a terrible punishment, these magical methods work in the exact same way as a bite or scratch: seed the body and the blood, then transform the soul. The sequence of developmental events is exactly the same as for one who has been changed through a bite or scratch as well.
Though these spells and potions have mostly been used for curing and cursing, they have, of late, become the go-to solution for a very odd group of individuals: humans who want to become werewolves, or moonstruck as they are sometimes known. Yes, even a world where werewolves are hunted and persecuted, such individuals do exist. They keep their forbidden dreams secret, pursuing them in the shadows lest they be shunned and ostracized by their neighbors, friends, and families. For these strange folks the call of the wolf is sweet music to their ears, the most luxurious fur coat is the one grown under the light of the full moon, and being human is anywhere from depressingly boring to physically painful. Out in the country and in small towns these individuals are pretty much on their own, but in the big cities there are often small, tightknit underground communities of werebeasts and moonstruck who aid and support each other.
It is crucial for a newly-turned werewolf to have the aid and support of others, because learning to handle one’s powers and dealing with the various changes that one must go through is not always easy. Those who have become werewolves voluntarily will have a better time of adjusting than those who were turned accidentally or forcefully, but there are certain things that are easier to learn or deal with through the aid (through books or one-on-one instruction) of fellow shapeshifters. One of these things is learning to enter one’s soul’s wilderness and forge that all-important bond with one’s wolf half…
And here’s where we leave off for now, dear readers. Join us next Sunday for “Lycanthropy Part 2: The Wolf Half and the Soul’s Wilderness.” Until then, you can check out The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner on Amazon.com (print and Kindle ebook editions, ebook available to borrow through Prime and the new Kindle Unlimited) and Createspace.com (print edition only). Also, if you enjoy stalking your favorite internet folk on the Twitter, you can follow me at @DanielleVFreman (if you don’t already ;D). So long, and have a wonderful week!