Today’s spiritual paradigm is shifting away from standard religious dogma as people explore other methods to connect with higher realms and seek enlightenment. This evolution is clear in the abundance of metaphysical sites on the Internet. Alongside this spiritual exploration, the fascination with lycanthropy, shapeshifters, and werewolves continues to captivate individuals seeking understanding and connection with the mystical.
As a Spiritual Warrior and Seeker of the Way, I write about different aspects of this new paradigm. In a previous post titled: Animal: Spirit, Power, and Totem, I explored various aspects of spiritual seeking. In another post: Wolf Spirit, I delved into the essence of the wolf spirit within. This one is going to talk about a different side of the wolf within.
Lycanthropy – Shapeshifting – Werewolves, some facts
Lycanthropy is a name given to a condition wherein a person believes they transform into a wolf and back again. It comes from the Greek terms lykoi for wolf and anthropos for man. A literal translation for lykoi-anthropos is ‘wolf man’. Psychiatrists have diagnosed this belief as a disorder where the afflicted person believes they are a wolf. This ‘disorder’ is thought to be linked to a once widely held belief that lycanthropy is a supernatural state where a person, usually a shaman, takes on the physical characteristics of an animal.Psychiatry tells us that this ‘delusion’ is most likely to occur among those members of the community who believe in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation.
Ancient Stories and Legends about Lycanthropy, Shapeshifting and Werwolves
Ancient stories tell of people who turn into creatures that prey on humans and animals alike. Early Greek history has examples of werewolf myths, possibly linked with Olympian religious traditions. One area rich in wolf mystique was Arcadia, where a cult of the Wolf-Zeus existed. This belief existed among the Romans as well. Their version was of a versipellis or turnskin and was a person who, through magic, could turn into a wolf.
During the dark and middle ages in Europe, rumors, legends, and stories about werewolves gained widespread popularity. Unscrupulous robber barons and thieves may have taken advantage of simple agricultural communities by donning wolf skins and giving the appearance of shapeshifting into wolves. Clinical psychiatry links the lycanthropic ‘disorder’ to beliefs which include animal guardian spirits, vampires, totemism, witches, and werewolves. ‘Vampires’ are another example (extreme though it may be) of lycanthropy.
Through to modern day, the idea that a person can become a wolf has persisted as a theme. One that has provided fiction writers and Hollywood with material for popular entertainment for everyone to enjoy. The legend of the werewolf (wer is the Old English term for man, again, literally man-wolf) has been successfully integrated into modern media entertainment.
The ‘Twilight’ series, written by Stephanie Meyer, shows this theme in modern entertainment. This series of books became extremely popular, leading Hollywood to turn the books into feature films.
A person who believes they can shift from person to animal and back (lycanthropy), is referred to as a Theriomorph or shapeshifter.
More Details on Lycanthropy – Shapeshifting – Werewolves
Shapeshifting extends beyond the written or electronic entertainment media. The legends, folklore and fairy tales from many countries reveal a continuing belief in shapeshifters. Throughout northern Asia and Europe, people believed that individuals would take on the appearance of the most feared predators in the region, like the wolf or bear. In China, Japan, and India, the feared predator was the tiger, whereas in Africa, it was the hyena or leopard.
Spiritual aspects of Shapeshifting
Spiritually speaking, a person who undergoes lycanthropic or theriomorphic transformation can see characteristics of certain animals or spirit guides within their own personality. Yet, for a spiritual seeker on the path, these shapeshifters adopt their animal form in the spirit realm. These spiritual warriors identify with the animal spirit within and incorporate the attributes of their spirit animal into their daily interactions with others. The animal spirit guides provide lessons for the seeker to follow to encourage their spiritual development towards enlightenment. By blending with their animal spirit guide on the spirit plane during a meditation session, one can genuinely say they have become a shapeshifter.
An example of a spirit guide is the wolf. The Grey Wolf or Timber Wolf is a teacher who brings lessons of cooperation and community to the spiritual warrior. One shapeshifter describes the transformation as follows:
The transition, change or shift is difficult to describe to someone who has not experienced the alteration within themselves. Defining spiritual transformation involves merging human and animal personalities, fostering cooperation between them. This naturally influences your actions, words, and how you live your life. Other shapeshifting seekers clearly distinguish between the spiritual forms of their human and animal guides to maintain their balance within the physical world and blend in with ‘normal humanity’. ransitioning between the human spirit and the animal side occurs through your own willpower or when the inner animal senses your need for its guidance and protection.
The Sceptic’s View of Lycanthropy
It is the delusional belief by a person that they can turn into an animal, predominantly a werewolf. During the Middle Ages in Europe, people thought that witchcraft or magic was the primary reason for shapeshifting. Yet, modern theories suggest that the fungus, ergot, contaminated rye bread consumed by the poor classes. This potentially caused hallucinations and delusions about becoming a werewolf. Stories of humans turning into animals are widespread and occur in all cultures, indicating a shared fear of the wildest local beast or desire for animal powers such as great strength or the ability to fly.
The Sceptic’s View of Werewolves
A werewolf is a human who can change to a wolf and back again, according to folklore. The beast is thought to eat human flesh or blood to survive. No documented cases exist of humans turning into a wolf and back again. Recorded instances exist of humans who believed they were werewolves. This type of delusion is referred to as lycanthropy.
Speculation leans towards a genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis, excessive body hair. It leads towards individuals being thought to resemble wolves. This may have given the legend of the werewolf a boost. Additionally, other disorders can have a similar effect, including adrenal virilism, basophilic adenoma of the pituitary, masculinising ovarian tumours, or Stein-Leventhal syndrome.
Lycanthropy – Shapeshifters
Sceptics refute the possibility of shapeshifting occurring in human beings. Spiritualists state that humans become an amalgam of human and animal spirits on the spirit plane. This way of thinking does not disprove the sceptic’s view because spiritual seekers do not claim to undergo a physical transformation, as commonly portrayed in books and movies like Twilight.
Many cultures’ myths, legends, and folklore support the spiritual beliefs in animal spirit guides. On the flip side, shamanistic rites and rituals affirm the concept of the soul undergoing transfiguration as the spiritual warrior embarks on a journey of discovery and enlightenment.
One website describes the spiritual seekers’ connection to the animal spirit as follows:
The act of honouring an animal is not an act of worship. It is acknowledging inner power and being brothers and sisters of the Universe. It is a sign of our gratitude for their help. The energy of the animals, birds and other creatures that assist us should be honoured. For too long, we have subjugated these creatures who are our equals in the system of the Universe. Native Americans often leave tobacco scattered on the ground as a gift. You could also burn incense in honour of the animal. When honouring animal wisdom and energy, always leave a gift of some sort to thank them. Remember to say “Thank you.” For all the help they give us, they deserve our gratitude.
Wolf Spirit is a teacher of humankind, a pathfinder. Wolves can teach us many things, including how to know and understand ourselves and others.
Update: Support Wolf Conservation.
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When you purchase a Wolf item from Wolf Stuff, I may receive a small affiliate commission, which helps me keep Timberwolf HQ online.
On 3 December 2023, we encountered this tree on a walk through Muir Woods north of San Francisco (California). I see a wolf. Please leave comments below to tell me what you see. (For a larger image – right click and open the image in a new tab)