Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Legendary Shapeshifters from Around the Globe!



They are the stuff of legends. Creatures who, by whatever means, can change their shape and form often from one species to another have stirred the imagination since man first sat around fires telling stories. The names and causes and other details may change, but the fact that so many cultures around the world told such similar stories without ever coming in contact with each other lends a certain credence to the existence of these shapeshifters.

Take a look at the list below of just a few of these powerful beings, and let us know your favorites in the comments!

#1 Selkies-Ireland and Scotland

The selkie is said to spend his days protecting fisherman at sea in the form of a seal, but this special creature has a secret. When they remove their pelts, they become human. If a person captures their pelt and hides it away, the selkie is forced to remain in human form and often falls in the “love” with the human who took their sealskin.

Many a tragic story has been told of a human man or woman who has fallen in love with a captured selkie and raised a family only to have the selkie discover it’s pelt by accident. Once the pelt is returned, they are driven by need to return to the sea, forsaking their human love to return to their watery homes.

It isn’t always a love story, however. Male selkies, in a similar fashion to sirens, are said to seduce lovelorn women into the sea. No one knows what becomes of these women, for they are never heard from again.

Still, they are deeply romanticized to this day, inspiring songwriters, authors, and artists, as seen in the image below by Hbruton of DevianArt.

#2 The loup garou of Haiti

The “loup garou”, a French phrase generally translated as “werewolf”, seems to have traveled to every colony and climate that the French have. In France and in the American Creole traditions, the loup garou is generally a man or woman cursed to become a wolf at night devouring the flesh of humans.

In Haiti, however, the loup garou takes on a different form. It is said that the loup garou may become any plant or animal but it most commonly takes on the form of a bird. The beast roams the night seeking to harm children specifically, and to this day, many on the island will tell you that they know of someone who has lost a child to a loup garou attack.

While most modern Western intellectuals will tell you that these stories cover violence enacted against children by actual humans, the locals will tell that if you see a bird atop a home at night, the loup garou is stalking your child.

#3 The Bruxsa-Portugal

In the the bruxsa was said to have been a powerful female witch. Upon death, the witch becomes a vampire-like shapeshifter who thirst for the blood and flesh of children and men leaving women to fight the ferocious beasts who are almost impossible to kill.

These daywalking vampires can take on the form of a rat, wolf, or bird to enable their hunts, and are most powerful between Midnight and 2:00 am. They meet at the crossroads one night per week during this time to worship Satan, and each time they worship, their power is increased.

As I mentioned, these creatures are almost impossible to kill, and so those women who believe their children or husbands are in danger spend their energy in prevention and protection. They drive iron spikes into the floor around their beds, and sew garlic into their children’s clothing to keep the terrible creatures at bay.

#4 The Ilimu-Kenya

Unlike most of it’s shapeshifting brethren, the ilimu does not begin as a man. Rather, the ilimu is an animal who has been possessed by a demon who forces the animal to change into a human to feast on the flesh of man.

The beasts, however, can also return to their animal forms to kill and it was thought that the pair of lions on which the film The Ghost and the Darkness was based were possibly ilimus.

#5 The hamrammr-Iceland

While the term is a very old one, the hammrammr may be one of the most interesting creatures I’ve ever encountered in my scholarly studies. The hamrammr is a human being, you see, with a special gift. He can shapeshift into the last animal that he ate!

Not only does this keep the process lively and the transformations difficult to predict, but the hamrammr grows stronger with each animal he consumes. Let’s say for instance that the hamrammr has been consuming and shapeshifting for decades. The last thing he eats is a rabbit. You now have a rabbit with the combined strength of hundreds of men!

Let that image run around in your brain for a while. Amusing, yes?

What’s more interesting is that the hamrammr often takes on the characteristics of the animal into which he has transformed so he can be as timid and mild as a house cat or as vicious as a mother bear on the rampage. Regardless of its shape, however, the hamrammr will attack if provoked so take care!

Photo: Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski Public Domain

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