Let me begin today’s post by clarifying that this is not a detailed explanation of anything. There are serious blogs I could write about this subject, but not today. Today’s post is just a Halloween theme to keep you looking over your shoulder, under the bed, double checking the doors and windows at dusk and laughing at yourself for all of these extra-precautions.
Across every ancient realm and society there are legends of shapshifters, skinwalkers and werewolves. In studying the various cultures, from Ireland to Turkey to Native American to Romanian to Chinese, there are similarities and differences in the legends. There is the traditional were’wolf’ legend which, depending on the country you’re in, can either be the transformation from human to healthy full-fledged wolf, or a half-human half-wolfish monster. In Canada there is a legend of a were-bear and in Mexico you could acquire the magical power to change into a wolf, large cat, eagle or bull. Some countries believe people have the ability to change into a fox. In Haiti its believed with the correct power you can change into any animal or plant you wish. In some european countries, you can be cursed, causing you to change into a wolf or other animal against your will.
However, being bitten by a healthy ‘wild’ animal will not cause you to become that animal or any mutated version of it on the next full moon. Most ancient cultures were ‘afraid of the dark’ and everything they perceived to lurk there. For the most part down through the ages, healthy wild animals rarely attack humans. Wolves are the most misunderstood animal on the planet with bears and large cats running a close second. Combine a fear of the dark with the size, strength and obvious wild nature of these animals into the minds of people who didn’t know any better, there forms formidable creatures in the mists.
In many cultures there are people with magical knowledge such as shaman and witch/wizard, who are purported to have the power to change or at least appear to change into other forms. When you combine witches, wizards, shaman and others who know how to use magic, with fear and lack of knowledge about wild creatures you have the makings of many (though not all) shapeshifting legends. I have read accounts from 100s of years ago, where people committed atrocious acts which today would qualify them as serial killers. Many of these people either believed they were being controlled by the spirit of a mutated wild animal or at least said they were in hopes of making a plea that they couldn’t control themselves. This is true even in modern times, the infamous Son of Sam said dogs were telling him who to kill.
Time, imagination, cultural, religious, spiritual legends and rituals, combined with fear of the unknown can and have caused many a monster to be born. However, it’s my personal belief that every legend, from fairies and leprechaun, to vampires, werewolves, even the Loch Ness monster are all born of at least a grain of truth. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction and ‘there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ Are shapeshifters, skinwalkers and were-animals real? I’ll let you decide for yourselves.