Shapeshifting can serve many purposes, but is traditionally believed to play a role in healing and protecting indigenous communities.
To give you just a little bit more information about this practice, here are 5 facts about shapeshifting that you might not have heard of before and shapeshifting’s overall importance to Native American culture.
1. SHAPESHIFTING IS THE TRANSFORMATION OF A HUMAN INTO ANIMAL FORM
Shapeshifting is a way that people can become fully in tune with their natural instincts, bonding them with an animal they most identify with. Traditionally, Shapeshifters might transform into wolves, bears, or eagles in order to help heal or protect their communities.
Shapeshifting not only provides benefits for individual communities, but deepens the bond between human, nature, and wild animals -- an important component of indigenous teachings, beliefs, and spirituality.
2. ANYONE CAN SHAPESHIFT
Traditionally, hunters might shapeshift more often than others. Elders and healers might also be more likely to shapeshift in order to protect their tribes.
However, anyone who can train themselves to let their ego go and become shapeless can take on the qualities of their chosen animal. All it takes is practice, diligence, and self awareness.
3. SHAPESHIFTING OCCURS DURING DANCES, RITUALS, AND OTHER CEREMONIES
The shapeshifting process most often occurs during Native American song, dance, hunting rituals, and other ceremonies.
Dancers might dress themselves in feather or animal pelts to activate their instinctual animal spirit while they move. Shapeshifting isn’t just about moving as the animal would, it’s about becoming that animal. These dances offer the opportunity for an out-of-body experience by asking us to fully free our mind, heart, and soul.
It takes a special headspace to shapeshift and people might participate in these activities when there is a special need for shapeshifting, such as a hunt, a need for protection, or a time of healing for a community.
4. SHAPESHIFTING MEANS BEING TRULY CONNECTED WITH OUR ANCESTORS AND ALL LIVING THINGS
The shapeshifter is associated with freedom, strength, and being in touch with your instincts.
Shapeshifting occurs through a true appreciation of our ancestors, our spirituality, and our connection to all living things. By learning and utilizing these lessons, the shapeshifter is blessed with the gift of shapeshifting into the animal that most aligns with their qualities: cunning, courage, loyalty, strength, kindness, passion.
In this way, shapeshifting is not only a ritual or sacred practice, but an important part of learning about oneself and moving forward on one's personal journey.
Every shape-shifting experience will bring richness to your life because it allows you to see the world from a different perspective. When humans limit themselves to only their own view of the world, it limits empathy, compassion, and respect for other viewpoints -- which are all crucial components of our society and our world.
5. SHAPESHIFTING IS SIMILAR TO, BUT NOT THE SAME THING AS A SPIRIT ANIMAL
While a spirit animal is an animal that presents itself to us in order to help us on our journey, shapeshifting is the process of actually having an experience which transforms us mentally from human to animal.
No person is limited to just one spirit animal. You can have many spirit animals who appear to aid you on your journey at each stage of your life.
Each shapeshifter is different, but will likely have one animal that they are easily able to shift into, allowing them to leave their human constraints behind.
Shapeshifting and spirit animals have similar meanings and lessons to teach us about ourselves, such as:
- Our core values
- Who we are as a person
- Our mental state / wellbeing
- Our connection to the Creator and to all living things
- Our own sense of self awareness
While these teachings definitely go together hand-in-hand, they have drastically different experiences to offer us and each holds a unique place in Native American culture.