werewolf

A mother and her children.

Most countries have a version of the werewolf and a creature sitting on people’s chests at night giving them nightmares. These are the versions from Denmark.

If a pregnant woman wanted an easy birth she could crawl naked through the amniotic sac of a horse during a full moon. This was because people believed horses have the most painless birth of all animals.

She would get an easy birth, but if she had a son he would be a werewolf, and a daughter would be a mare (as in nightmare). Children born this way were sometimes called marewolves (mareulve), combining the two words.

Danish werewolves only had three legs and transformed every night. The werewolf could end his curse in a few different ways. He could eat the heart of a male fetus, so this kind of werewolf often attacked pregnant women. If someone else said to him “You’re a werewolf” the curse would be lifted from him, but be transferred to the person who said it. The safest way to end the curse was for someone to call out his Christian name while he was in wolf form. That would force him to turn into a human, and then a priest could bless him and he would never have to transform again.

Like werewolves the mares walked around during daytime as normal women, but at night they turned into nightmarish creatures who could enter houses as mist. They would hug or sit on people, giving them horrible nightmares. The victim would be able to see them, but they’d be invisible to everyone else. They could be sort-of cured too. If a person saw someone having a horrible nightmare they could throw cold water on them and the mare would appear as a normal person. People could also plug the hole the mare had entered though and trap her in the room. The victim would see her as this terrifying creature all night, but in the morning she would transform into her normal self with no memory of what had happened. She would stay human until someone unplugged the hole at which point she would remember everything and turn into a mist, going back to her mare ways. If she had children during her time as a human she would return at night to make sure they were okay.

Women could also be werewolves if they got hold of a wolf pelt, and men could become mares if they desired someone too much, or was envious of another person’s possessions. Sometimes they became mares randomly, and my favorite male mare story also shows how far a mare could travel in a night:


A Danish farmer walked into his stables at night and saw his horse having a terrible nightmare. He threw cold water on it and suddenly he saw a naked man sitting on it. The man looked at him and said “You shouldn’t have done that. I have a wife and children back in England, but now I’m stuck here”