Halloween Guest Post: Were-Beasties by Vonnie Winslow Crist

Guest author Vonnie Winslow Crist

Guest author Vonnie Winslow Crist

Werewolves and other shape-changers are popular Halloween creatures. But why do these were-beasties appear in the folklore and legends of so many cultures?

Perhaps it’s because we like to be frightened! Shape-shifters often morph after the sun sets – the time of day when our ancestors had to walk home down lonely roads or through dark forests. Even today, we imagine the silent padding of a creature following us down a dim-lit path. A creature that was human moments before, and now views us as prey. In Thriller, Michael Jackson’s girlfriend flees from the singer in werewolf form, but by the end of the video, Michael appears normal except for his eyes. Likewise, in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, kind Professor Remus Lupin turns into a werewolf who would gladly devour Harry and friends if given a chance. The viewer/ reader knows the beast still lurks in the man.

Maybe that duality of human nature is the reason shape-shifters are such a powerful and wide-spread legend. One moment we’re friends with someone, and the next we’re so angry that, for a split second, we could kill them. Were-beasts can’t or don’t stop the killing urge. Their animal instincts control them and they act and react in violent ways. The character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an example of two natures, one human and one beast, contained in a single being.

The prefix wer comes from the Old English word for man. So whether a werewolf, were-bear, were-crocodile, were-hyena, were-jaguar, were-tiger, or a were-boar, the shape-changer is part human and part animal. Usually, the shape-shifter came by his or her ability through magic or sorcery: a curse or enchantment, being conceived on the night of the new moon, drinking from a pool of water where a wild beast drank, sleeping in the light of a full moon, being bitten or scratched by a were-beast, eating tainted meat, or wearing animal skins. (Fur-wearers beware!)

In Greek mythology, Zeus created the werewolf. In the 1500s in France, many people were executed after they were accused of being lycanthropes. Even Christian saints got mixed up in the were-beast mythology. With a fatal silver bullet or arrow being the usual way to gain release from weredom, were-beasts were told to pray to St. Hubert (656-727 A.D.) the patron saint of archers, dogs, hunters and hunting, forest-workers, and trappers. St. Hubert was called upon to cure rabies (and werewolves) up to the 1900s.

I included a race of were-cats in my Young Adult fantasy adventure novel, The Enchanted Skean. The Hunters are were-panthers, were-lions, and were-leopards who can control when they change into their human and big-cat forms. Enemies of dark magic, they help the protagonist, Beck, and his comrades fight an evil mage and his band of thugs. But in the book, Hunters can be killed when in human form by swords, and alas, some of these courageous warriors meet their end in battle.

So as Halloween approaches and shadows seem to follow even the bravest amongst us, beware the were-beasties that prowl alleyways, backyards, and forests. Let’s hope should you meet a shape-shifter, they can control their beastliness like my Hunters – or that you can out-run whichever were-creature is stalking you!

Skean front coverAbout the guest writer: Vonnie Winslow Crist is author of a YA fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, 2 speculative story collections, The Greener Forest and Owl Light, and other books. A firm believer that the world around us is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic, Vonnie celebrates the power of myth in her writing.

Read an excerpt of The Enchanted Skean

Learn more about Vonnie and her writing: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com  and http://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com
Become her fan: http://facebook.com/WriterVonnieWinslowCrist  and http://goodreads.com/vonnie_winslow_crist
Follow her: http://twitter.com/VonnieWCrist
Purchase Vonnie’s books: http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-Amazon and http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-UK-Amazon

The Wicked, Weird and Whimsical Words Halloween Blog Tour runs every other day October 23-October 31.  Join us all five days for Halloween fun!  Be sure to say hello on any post to be entered in a giveaway at the end of the tour!

Leave a comment


  1. Thanks for hosting me. I hope your readers enjoy the were-beast post. Happy Halloween to all!

  2. Really interesting article – I never knew that about St Hubert!

  1. Happy Halloween | Whimsical Words

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