List of Shapeshifters from Around the World

Listing of Were-Creatures/Shape-Shifters from around the world

Shamen Shapeshifter

Shamen Shapeshifter by Stephanie Lostimolo 2012

 

In folklore, mythology or even fiction, shapeshifting is the act of metamorphosing from one physical form into another. This amazing feat can be accomplished in several ways : magical spells, magic powers of a talisman, divine intervention (whether for good or bad intention), or, that’s just the nature of the mythological beast.

Therianthropy, or the transformation of a human into animal form and vice-versa. But there are also legends that include transformation into plants and objects (I have yet to find any of these).

The telling of shapeshifters in myth and legend have been present from as far back as is recorded. It is a common theme in almost all cultures and tales can be found every corner of the world. With that in mind, I have an ongoing list. If you know of something that I am missing, let me know! I’ll keep adding as I find new ones in the hopes of making it as comprehensive as possible.

  • Argentina : A fox-like werewolf Lobizón or Lobisón as well as Werejaguars know as Runa-uturungu
  • Brazil : Lobisomem. There are also Boto, a river dolphin that transforms into a boy, and a Uirapuru – a small brown bird that transforms into a boy.
  • Bulgaria : Vrkolak is a Bulgarian Werewolf that after death turns into a vampire
  • Canada : Bear Walker is from First Nations folklore of that area. It’s an evil sorcerer who walks around in the form of a bear.
  • Chile : The Chonchon shapeshifter is a Kalku, or sorcerer that transforms into a mythical bird that announces bad luck. It has the shape of a human head with feathers, talons and big ears that it uses as wings.
  • China : 狼人 láng rén is the Chinese werewolf. 狐狸精 Huli Jing, a fox spirit which usually appears as a beautiful young woman; most are dangerous, but some are featured as the heroines of love stories.
  • Ethiopia, Morocco and Tanzania : The boudas is a sorcerer/blacksmith that changes into a werehyena. It often wears an ornament from its human form by which it may be recognized.
  • France : loup-garou is prevalent in France with the Beast of Gevaudan being the most famous documented case. Then there is the bisclavret which is a werewolf that cannot return to human form unless it can put its clothing back on.
  • Finland : ihmissusi
  • Greece : vrykolaka is a catchall word for werewolf, vampire or sorcerer. The word lycanthropy, from the ancient werewolf-king Lycaeon, originated here.
  • Haiti : loup-garou can change into anything, both plant and animal.
  • Iceland : A hamrammr (from old Icelandic literature) is a werecreature that shifts into the form of the animal it has most recently eaten. Its strength increases with each animal that it consumes. The current (and more correct) word for werewolf is varulfur.
  • India : rakshasa or raghosh is a shifter who can change into any animal it wants and is characterized by its large size and color of hair (red or blond). Ancient Indian mythology tells of Nāga, snakes that can sometimes assume human form.
  • Indonesia (Bali) : Leak or Leyak is a spirit that shapeshifts into humans, animals or objects and will cause mishaps, illnesses or even death.
  • Ireland & Scotland : The selkies are seals that take off their skins to become human. Dark-haired Celts may have their geneology explained via the selkies. Selkies are helpful creatures who watch over fishermen.
  • Italy : lupo mannero or licantropo s an Italian werewolf. The “Benandanti’ were werewolves that left their physical bodies behind to become wolves at which point they would go to the underworld to fight witches.
  • Japan : The most popular werecreatures in Japanese folklore is the kitsune (fox) and the tanuki or mijina (raccoon dog or badger). The kitsune is usually a female, and the tanuki, a male. Collectively, shapeshifters are called henge.
  • Kenya, Africa : The ilimu is a man- eating shapeshifter that starts out as an animal, but can shift into the form of a man.
  • Latvia : vilkacis, meaning “wolf eyes” or “werewolf,” is a shapeshifter that is usually evil, but occasionally offers treasures.
  • Lithuania : vilkatas is the Lithuanian version of the werewolf.
  • Mexico : nahaul is a werecreature that can turn into a wolf, large cat, eagle or bull.
  • Native Americans : Many different types of “skin walkers such as the Navajo Indians’ skinwalkers, the Mai-Coh and the Mohawk Indians limikkin.
  • Native Hawaiians : There are several shapeshifting legends out of the Hawaiian islands including the famous volcano goddess Pele who could shift into whatever appearance she wanted. There are also several shark-shifter legends.
  • Normandy, France : lubins or lupins look like wolves, but can speak and are very shy.
  • Norway & Sweden : eigi einhamir (not of one skin) has the ability to change into a wolf by wearing a wolfskin.
  • Norway & Sweden : Varulv (or varulf) is similar in looks to the traditional werewolf lore. However, the change is not brought on by a bite or blood. In many of the Varulv legends, the creature become a werewolf voluntarily. Usually with the use of a certain article of clothing, such as a belt, like the belt described in old 1582 werewolf story of Peter Stubbe and his Magical Belt.
  • Panama : Tula Vieja has been and continues to be sighted in Panama on a regular basis. The creature takes the form of a very, very old woman or witch (bruja) with a crow’s foot for a right hand. This child-eating shifter haunts all places dark and dismal, waiting to take anyone back to Hell with her that she can get her claw/hand on.
  • Persia : The Persians have a creature similar to the Indian rakshasa that pretends to be a harmless animal. It often attacks travelers.
  • Philippines : The aswang is a vampire-werewolf who transforms from a human to a canine form at night, and eats human flesh. The aswang also manifests itself as a decaying corpse that has been severed at the waist (in other words…it has nothing from the waist down)… with batwings. They are very closely related to the Berbalang ghouls of legend.
  • Portugal : The bruxsa or cucubuth is a vampire-werewolf that consumes both flesh and blood. The lobh omen would be your everyday werewolf.
  • Russia : There are two types of distinctive werewolves in Russian Mythology. The first, the wawkalak, is a werewolf who has been transformed as a punishment by the Devil whom they have angered. Recognized by friends and family, the wawkalak are not considered as evil or frightening. Unable to stay in any one place for long, the wawkalak are distended to roam from home to home and town to town searching out food, shelter and love.
  • Russia (Slavic) : Volkolak translates as lycanthrope. This is unusual in that the person can turn into a wolf or bear. Volkolak have been know to change willingly and against their will as a curse.
  • Russia, Central : The bodark is a Russian name for the werewolf. This type of Russian werewolf is actually a person that chooses to be one and goes through ceremony to force the change.
  • Scandinavia : The varulv much prefers beer to human flesh. Scandinavia is also home to the berserker (bearskin). There is also the ulfheobar (wolfskin), which is usually lumped in with berserker.
  • Serbia : The wurdalak is a werewolf that died and became a vampire.
  • Slovakia : The vlkodlak is transformed into a werewolf by the sorcery of another. It usually shies away from people.
  • South America : Kanima, a jaguar-shaped spirit that seeks and kills murderers.
  • Spain : The Spanish werewolf, or lob hombre, prefers pretty gemstones to human flesh.
  • United States : Native Americans and Native Hawaiians have many different types of “skin walkers” (see above). There are also wererats that are particularly rampant around Pennsylvania. The wererat skulks around at night, and prefers carrots with ranch dressing to human flesh.

 

4 Comments:

  1. Very interesting! But in Russian, it’s “volkolak” (or maybe “valkalak” ’cause it’s pronounced this way).

  2. Sorry, but Bali called it as Leak or Leyak. I’m from Indonesia anyway. That’s why I noticed

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