A newly turned werewolf’s first full moon can be a traumatic and terrifying experience. Not only does the individual suffer through the most excruciatingly painful transformation that they will likely ever experience, but they also completely (or almost completely) lose control of their actions. For some, this means waking up with blood on their hands—possibly right beside the half-eaten corpse of their unfortunate prey—with no recollection of anything beyond the change. For others, it means coming out of the change with the taste of blood still on their tongues and spotty memories of the hunt and the kill. Either way it isn’t pretty…but why is this so often the case?
The Beast Within
For the answer, we must take a closer look at the changes that one’s soul undergoes when one is transformed into a werewolf. As you may recall, when the spark of wild magic which initiates the change reaches the soul, it causes their wolf half to be born from their core essence. Before a proper bond is forged between the two halves, the wolf half’s influence is reduced to a few (sometimes annoying, sometimes disturbing) pangs of bestial instinct while the individual is in human form. When the full moon rises, however, its power pulls the individual’s wolf half to the forefront and grants it complete or almost complete control, with the human half now relegated to the “back seat influence” role for the night.
The only way to eliminate this effect is for the two halves of the soul to forge a bond of acceptance and understanding where each fully embraces the other. One accomplishes this by entering their soul’s wilderness—where the wolf resides—and steadily building up a good relationship with their inner beast. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy.
Because an individual’s core essence is the basis of their entire personality—their true nature, as it were—and our personalities are often reshaped to some extent after birth by life experiences and social conditioning, the two halves are not always perfect analogues of each other. For instance, an individual who was born with a naturally short temper which he has learned to control over time will have quite a bit of trouble at first dealing with his hot-headed inner wolf. Without proper guidance, the individual in question would more than likely attempt to subjugate the wolf as if he was a common dog and he his master. Invariably, this approach fails horribly and only makes a difficult situation even worse by engendering animosity in each half against the other.
Another case of poor handling of one’s wolf half occurs when one allows one’s inner wolf to take total control of one’s life and identity. Sometimes this happens because the individual is either foolish or insane enough to believe that being a werewolf means completely surrendering one’s humanity to their inner beast. More often, though, it occurs when the individual has hit rock bottom in terms of trying to deal with the animal side of their nature and simply gives up on holding onto their humanity.
In either case—attempted subjugation or total surrender—the soul is thrown into a dangerous imbalance and one puts oneself at risk of going feral. A werewolf who has gone feral is essentially mentally ill. Their human half has, for whatever reason, become severely weakened and their wolf half is now completely in charge. Unfortunately, werebeasts do not function well while running on half a soul.
With the human half weakened, the amount of wild magic generated by the werewolf’s soul is greatly diminished, making the monthly change from human form to werebeast form much more difficult. This leads to the individual becoming stuck in werewolf form. The lack of response and input from the human half also causes the wolf half to go mad from loneliness. Even an inner wolf which is relatively docile will become a dangerous, bloodthirsty monster because of this.
In the early stages of going feral, a werewolf can be brought back into their right mind through the correct aid and treatment, followed by proper training. However, the window for recovery is very small—just three months at most. After that, the only option available to end their torment is to kill the unfortunate werewolf.
Walking on the Wild Side
Sometimes bucolic, sometimes exotic, the soul’s wilderness is the home turf of one’s inner wolf. Though one cannot usually fully explore this place until one deliberately enters it through meditation, the fledgling werewolf experiences their first glimpses of this place in their dreams. Actually, it is just one specific dream.
Dubbed “The Midnight Run,” this dream consists of racing through one’s soul’s wilderness at top speed as a wolf. This dream often first occurs within twenty-four hours of being bitten, scratched, or magically transformed, but having the dream right after one’s first shift is just as common—especially for those changed only days before the full moon. While stalking and killing prey is not an uncommon inclusion, it is by no means mandatory. It is through this dream that the werewolf’s wolf half makes first contact with their human half…which can lead to a very awkward start if this dream does include a hunt and a kill.
Meditation is the path most often used to enter this realm voluntarily in order to commune with one’s wolf half. Like most meditative exercises, a quiet spot where one is unlikely to be disturbed is the ideal location to begin the journey. From there, one must make oneself comfortable and calm the mind and spirit, clearing away any fearful or distracting thoughts which might get in the way. When a state of calm readiness has finally been attained, one must then reach deep down inside and allow one’s mind to drift into this wild sanctuary.
A werewolf’s soul’s wilderness is the sort of wild place than the individual would feel most at home, and can take many forms depending on their personality, interests, likes, and dislikes. For some, a lush forest of conifers with a dense undergrowth of shrubs and ferns may be their ideal wilderness. For others, a barren desert or a rocky plateau peppered with scrub brush and lupine might be just perfect. The actual wildness of this wilderness also varies, from totally untamed like a normal woodland or plain, to orderly and organized like a well-cultivated garden.
In addition to the variety of basic biomes, there are also different levels of realism and fantasticality that can be at work. One werewolf’s wilderness may be totally indistinguishable from any similar environment in the real world, while another’s may look like some sort of physically impossible dreamscape. Some have found an apparent link between a werewolf’s full potential strength and how realistic or dreamy their soul’s wilderness happens to be. Generally, those with more down-to-earth and believable wildernesses tend to be less powerful than those with stranger and more fanciful ones. If this theory holds true, then a werewolf with a wilderness which resembles a Dadaist painting would most certainly be the most powerful lycanthrope in the world.
Though most werewolves’ wildernesses only consist of a single biome, there are also those whose souls’ wildernesses are composed of two or more different environments linked together. These multi-layered wildernesses usually consist of two (a dual wilderness) or three (a trinity wilderness) different areas, but rarely one may have four or more (a lattice wilderness). The rarest type of multi-layered wilderness is the nearly mythical prism wilderness, in which a werewolf has ten or more different layers to their wilderness all at once. All werewolves with multi-layer wildernesses tend to be trouble magnets, often getting pulled into crazy adventures—whether they want them or not—and rarely ever live peaceful, uneventful lives. No one knows just exactly why that is, but some postulate that it may be a hunger for excitement—conscious or unconscious—which taps into their natural reserves of wild magic and uses it to latch onto and pull trouble to them like a lasso. This hunger for excitement is also used as the main explanation for the very presence of multi-layered wildernesses: The more of the real world an individual wants to explore, the more there is to explore in their inner world as well.
Forging the Bond
When entering one’s soul’s wilderness, one arrives clothed and in human form. On the first few visits one may have to search around a bit before running into their wolf half, but this is mostly due to the wolf simply not expecting any company. In time, the wolf half seems to learn when their other half is entering the wilderness and will be awaiting their arrival.
In cases where the individual in question became a werewolf voluntarily or is otherwise comfortable with the fact that they are a werewolf—such as in the case of a well-adjusted born werewolf—that first meeting will be rather peaceful. There may be a bit of an argument or a little name calling, but rarely does it come to blows. For those who did not want to be werewolves and are horrified or disgusted by what they have become, however, things pan out quite a bit differently. More often than not there will not only be repeated heated arguments, but knock-down, drag-out brawls between the two halves of the soul. This is especially true for individuals whose wolf and human halves are apparently mismatched due to the circumstances outlined above.
With time, patience, and repeated sessions, their differences are eventually ironed out and the two halves begin to behave civilly toward each other. Given even more time and patience, the two halves slowly begin to befriend each other. As their bond grows, the two halves eventually embrace each other and it begins to show in the werewolf’s experiences in the outer world. Suddenly, one finds that one is able to control one’s actions more easily while transformed and, while human, one feels one’s lupine nature to a much greater extent…and feels more comfortable with that part of oneself as well. This is the point at which the two halves have finally begun to come into balance with each other.
Those who have been changed from human to werewolf are the ones most in need of a visit to their souls’ wildernesses, since born werewolves (aside, of course, from late bloomers) generally are naturally sufficiently in tune with their wolf halves to be able to control themselves when changed. However, even a well-balanced born werewolf can benefit from the deeper bonding that only a trip to that inner world can provide. After many years of meditation, a werewolf may even gain the ability to enter their soul’s wilderness in their sleep. Usually this occurs because their wolf half actively desires the company of their human half, but sometimes it is the other way around. Born werewolves and those whose marks take certain forms—the so-called “wild signs”—are more likely to develop this rare and mysterious ability than others, but even those factors are no guarantee.
After the bond reaches the point where a werewolf can comfortably cope with their lupine instincts and their wolf and human halves are sufficiently balanced, the individual is finally ready to learn how to change at will. Learning to shapeshift is not always easy, however, and there are many quirks, conditions, and assorted oddities associated with it…
Well, that was enlightening. Join us next Sunday for the final part of this exploration into the world of werewolves, “Lycanthropy Part 3: Shapeshifting for Dummies.” Until then, you can see how Wolfsbane Bendis copes with his own inner wolf in The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner, available now on Amazon.com (ebook and print editions) and Createspace.com (print book only). Also, if you would like to be pestered with updates about my progress with the upcoming second book, Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire, and be the first to know when the next post on this very blog hits the net, you can follow me on Twitter at @DanielleVFreman (no, it’s not a typo, @DanielleVFreeman was already taken…-_-; ). Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful week!