Shape Shifting
Written by
Catrina Barton
April 2012
Written by
Catrina Barton
April 2012

One of the biggest parts that goes into writing a book is research. You can either view it as a boring, chore, or as an exciting new adventure. Either way it's often a requirement for pretty much any book. You can spend hours, weeks, or months depending on the subject and how much you need to know to make your book seem authentic.

I've spent the past several days scouring the internet for research on the many aspects of shape shifting all over the world. Asia in particular, has some awesome mythology behind shape-shifting.

For instance did you know that shape shifting comes in three main forms?

Mental (M-Shift) - A change in psychological state, where a person thinks and behaves more like their animal. This form is rarely used, because let's face it, anyone acting like this would be committed. Right? But it could be fun to play with if you have the right setting for the characters.

Spiritual (S-Shift) - A change in spiritual state, often broken down by type (astral shifting, auric shifting, etc). The spiritual self, astral body, or aura change to resemble the animal. This is the form that Native American and Indian tribes lean towards the most. It could prove a fun aspect to play with for just about any kind of plot.

Physical (P-Shift) - A change in physical state, physically changing to become more like, or entirely like, their theriotype animal. Controversial, and largely thought to be impossible {except in books, movies, and animes}. This form is the most widely used and therefore widely recognized form. Who doesn't want to change into a real animal right?

Three main forms of shifting leave us writers a whole lot of room for creating legends for our characters to explain how they transform.

However, depending on where in the world your characters are located, will determine the extent you can play with the legends. In my opinion were-wolves while good, are way overdone these days. So, let's take a look at were-cats instead. {Who doesn't love those affectionate balls of fur?}

In India the were-tiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock, who might at any time turn to man-eating.

Chinese legends often describe were-tigers as the victims of either a hereditary curse or a vindictive ghost.

In both Indonesia and Malaysia there is another kind of were-tiger, known as Harimau jadian. The power of transformation is regarded as due to inheritance, to the use of spells, to fasting and willpower, to the use of charms, etc. Save when it is hungry or has just cause for revenge, it is not hostile to man; in fact, it is said to take its animal form only at night and to guard the plantations from wild pigs.

In Africa in reference to were-cats who turn into lions, the ability is often associated with royalty. Such a being may have been a king or queen in a former life, or may be destined for leadership in this life.

European folklore usually depicts were-cats who transform into domestic cats. Some European were-cats became giant domestic cats or panthers. They are generally labelled witches, even though they may have no magical ability other than self-transformation. During the witch trials, the official Church doctrine stated that all shape-shifters, including werewolves, were witches.

As you can see there are many different versions of were-cat {aka Ailuranthropy = human/feline transformations.} Some say they are good, and non threatening to natives, others say they are dangerous to everyone. It leaves authors a lot of play room when developing legends to suit their novels or movies.

Move over were-wolves and make room for the cats to come out and play.

Which legend is your favorite? Which transformation is your favorite? Why do you think P-shifting is the most popular form used in novels and movies? Feel free to respond in comments. I'd love to hear your insights and opinions.

This is another awesome post about Ailuranthrophy you should check out.

Reference Materials: and

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