Werewolf mythologies are found in cultures across the world, from tales in early Norse folklore to the Beast of Gévaudan in eighteenth-century France. The legend of the rougarou, a bayou-dwelling werewolf, comes from the French werewolf myth of the loup garou, and is even still common in present-day Louisiana! The Greeks may even have adopted their societal ideas around lycanthropy—werewolf-ism—from an ancient Phoenician cult.
In some mythologies, lycanthropy is passed through genetics, or through biting humans while in wolf form. In others, like several of the French legends, people claiming to be werewolves claimed to have a wolfskin or belt which allowed them to transform. Werewolf legends clearly have a place in the human psyche; since 1850, thirteen people have been reported to strongly believe they are, or can, transform into a werewolf.
As one of the only mythical creatures that shifts between human and beast, werewolves are unique to the pantheon, and are often representative of the “two sides” of humanity. They’re considered symbolic of the human struggle to discard or pull away from the part of us that is innately wild—the instinctively primitive Id. But they can also be symbolic of imbalance with that part of us, or imbalance with the natural world, and a reminder or a call to come back into balance.
Out of balance, loss of control can lead to violence or destruction, and relationship with nature can be twisted or distorted. But when we are in balance—whether its the internal balance of our Id, Ego, and Superego, or an external balance with the natural world around us—those things that are outside of our control (like turning into a wolf at the full moon, for instance) are manageable.