What's the Deal with the Silver Bullet?

Similar to the wooden stake theory surrounding vampires, the silver bullet is considered to be the one and only way to destroy a werewolf. Why?

In both film and book media, Werewolves, with the exception of Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf as well as a few choice others, are portrayed as something hideous and vicious and horrible. Under the casting of a full moon, they transform into an aggressive, hairy beast with superhuman strength, razor sharp claws and teeth, and obtain a disposition fueled by a hunger for flesh. Aided by exceptional hearing and a keen sense of smell, they are stealth, quick, and able to strike without notice. These traits alone ensure that no hiding spot is truly safe.

Killing these terrible beasts with standard weapons can be most trying and will typically result in failure, especially when considering their uncanny ability to almost instantaneously heal. However, like any rogue monster, they have a weakness…the silver bullet.

The Origin of the Werewolf

The first reputed werewolf was in 1591 in Bedburg and Cologne Germany. His name was Peter Stubbe and the legend tells of sorcery, evil pacts, brutal acts and eventual execution.
 
Becoming a Werewolf

The influence by modern horror media have ingrained the most familiar and common method, by being bitten. However, being primarily of European origination, folklore discusses other specific ways, dictated depending upon locale.

* One of the earliest beliefs was by making a pact with the devil himself in order to fulfill a cannibalistic desire or craving for human flesh. Supposedly, in exchange for one’s soul, the devil offered fulfillment. The horrendous metamorphosis was one of his charlatan tricks.

* Being cursed is another method. This curse can be either human or God related and it is the latter which is usually as some form of punishment for invoking wraith. In Greek mythology, the werewolf originates with King Lycaon, who attempted to poison Zeus by feeding him human flesh. Wise Zeus wasn’t fooled and condemned Lycaon to a life as a wandering wolf, thus the lycan word origination.

* Other reputed ways include drinking the rain water puddle lying in a paw print.

* Wearing a wolfskin belt while nude.

* Sleeping outdoors with the moon directly hitting the face on certain Wednesdays and Fridays.

Why does it take shape only during a full moon?

Leonie Calver, a clinical research toxicology nurse at Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital in Sydney, Australia has researched this human associated lunar phenomenon and in her Medical Journal of Australia documented study, she cites, “our findings support the premise that individuals with violent and acute behavioral disturbances are more likely to become present to the emergency department during the full moon. With the proven lunar gravitational pull controlling tides, one theory suggests that the very same philosophy applies to the water within the human brain, forcing liquid levels to rise and lower and thus causing ill will to become prevalent. This transformation may be the reasoning behind the proverbial lunatic, the celestial associated word.

Is there a cure?

There are three alleged methods for curing a werewolf.

* Medicinally using wolfs bane.

* Surgical removal (subtraction of what is not distinguished, but the lore does inform that killing the person in the process is the typical result).

* Exorcism.

Various associated medical conditions have been discussed in an attempt to explicate and it is Dr. Lee Illis 1963 study entitled On Prophyria and the Aetiology of Werewolves that is most compelling. This document argues that since the standard symptoms of rabies are uncannily similar to that of raging werewolf, this could very well be the reasoning for the werewolf legend. And, being a highly contagious disease, this could explain why being bitten by the afflicted would infect and potentially create a new werewolf.
A couple other closely looked at medical conditions are Hypertrichosis (a disorder dealing with excessive hair growth) and Porphyria (a circumstance where the body fails to create heme, a vital molecule required for carrying iron proteins). The prior basically makes one hairy, but the latter is far worse, usually resulting in pigment loss and making one painfully photosensitive. In the later stages, thick hair growth, sores, and skin and cartilage change accompany red colored nails and teeth. Typically, varying degrees of mental illness are also prevalent and it is these combined symptoms that may have contributed to the archaic beliefs.

Is simply killing the beast enough?

Folklore dictates that if the werewolf’s head is not separated from the body, much like a vampire, they will arise and begin to hunt again. To verify absolute death, toss the removed head is into a brook. It should sink and remain under the surface, held down by the weight of sin.

So, why does it have to be a silver bullet?

The silver aspect made its way into lore in the nineteenth century when it was reputed that a silver bullet was used to kill the Beast of Gevaudan. This large toothed, foul smelling, crimson haired, man eating wolf-like animal roamed the south central Margeride Mountains of France between 1764 and 1767. Much like the alleged Yeti of the Hymilayas, it is probably mere legend and a more creditable explanation might be that of an oversized and since extinct Hyena.

Nonetheless, silver supposedly has associations to both the human soul and the moon, and is believed to have mystical properties similar to that of wolfsbane, a substance all werewolves are allergic to, causing a burning from the inside out. The bible even mentions this precious metal in Psalm 12:6: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in of earth, purified seven times. This purification is absolute and Satan is unable to afflict. Therefore, if a werewolf had made a pact, as legend would have you believe, with the dark Lord himself and became impervious to manmade weapons, an absolute purifier would be needed in order to make a harmless weapon more destructive. In its pure form, Silver has both the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metal elements. This aspect intertwined with the alleged divine properties is what makes the metal well suited for disposing of a werewolf.