In mythology, folklore and speculative fiction, shape-shifting is the ability to physically transform through an inherently superhuman ability, divine intervention, demonic manipulation, sorcery, spells or having inherited the ability.
The concept remains a common trope in modern fantasy, children’s literature and popular culture. So, shape-shifting is the perceived ability to transform from one being or thing into another, whether physically or mentally.
When the term shape-shifter comes to mind, many of us will think of the classical Lycanthrope, who changes from man to wolf under the light of a full moon.
While, that is indeed true, we will not cover that here, due to the large list of shape-shifters that are out there. Instead, this page will focus on specific examples of shape-shifters from across the globe.
Spirits – Many gods or goddess are known for their shape-shifting abilities, and even demons from time to time are known to change form. However, there are also lesser spirits that can change shape. Such as the elemental spirits like the faeries, djinns, and yokai.
- Encantado – A river spirit, which name means “enchanted”, that can assume the form of a river dolphin (boto) and that of a human. These spirits are known for their musical talents, charm, curiosity, and love for parties. Encantados are also known for abducting humans, particularly those that they are fond of.
- Puca – Also known as Pooka, is an Irish shape-shifting goblin that can take the form of many animals and occasionally a human. The puca commonly appears as a horse, a goat, a giant bunny, a dog, a bull, and sometimes as humans. No matter what the form though, the puca is always dark black with glowing golden or red eyes. The puca if respected was a kind and helpful creature, but also mischievous.
- Leshy – A Slavic forest spirit that takes care of the forest and causes mischief with humans. It is said that the Leshy can imitate voices, lure people away, leave people astray, and making people sick. This spirit is also capable of changing it’s size and can assume the form of any animal, such as a wolf, bear, hare, horse, birds, or even things like a flaming fir tree and a talking mushroom.
- Selkies – Seal shapeshifters from the Orkeney and Shetland folklore. The beings are regarded as gentle and kindly creatures. Many stories tell of selkies coming to land and shedding their seal skin. If any person manages to steal the selkies skin then the selkie could no longer return to the sea and would be forced to marry that person. In many cases though the selkie would eventually find her skin and return to sea.
- Kitsune – As well as their Korean (Kumiho) and Chinese (Huli Jing) counterparts, are shapeshifting fox spirits from Japanese mythologies. Depending on the foxes age, wisdom, or power, they can have up to nine tails. It is said at a certain age the kitsune will gain the ability to take on human form. They can take on either male or female form, but most stories depict them as beautiful women, or older men. Kitsunes are also known for duplicating others. Kitsunes also have a range of powers from possession and invisibility to illusions and “fox-fire”.
- Tanuki – A raccoon dog with the ability to shapeshift, known for it’s love of sake and it’s overly large testicles. However, like the kitsune, the tanuki has incredible shapeshifting ability. The tanuki can take the shape of anything, including inanimate objects.
European – The classical bloodsucking un-dead creature that we all know and love. At some point of it’s existence it was known for it shape-shifting ability, particularly that of a bat.
They were also known to take the forms of wolves, and even turn into mist or clouds of dust. They could change their size, and control animals like owls, wolves, rats, foxes, bats, and moths.
Aswang – A fearsome vampire creature from the Philippines, the Aswang was described as a flying upper torso of a woman with bloodshot eyes. They are said to take the form of human women during the day, and have jobs relating to meats (ie. butcher).
At night, they can assume their monstrous form or that of pigs, dogs, cats, and birds, and go out to feast on human remains. Other simular creatures are the manananggals, amalanhig, the Ekek or Wakwak, and sigbin.
- Beserkers – Ancient norse warriors who donned animal skin and fought with the fury equivalent to that of a beast. While they are not known to physical change shape, many report that they have the mentality of an animal.
- Skinwalkers – Evil shamans from Navajo lore, that can assume the shape of any animal by donning its skin.
- Reptilians – According to modern accounts, some people believe that there is an alien race of intelligent bipedal reptilian creatures take on the human form. There are many conspiracies on whether or not some of these beings hold power within our civilization.
Weebky / ABC Flash Point News 2020.