In most ancient cultures, what sets apart gods and demigods from regular mortal men is the ability to change shape. The gods often displayed themselves by assuming the shape and ability of certain totem animals. "Strong as an ox" might be an attribute assumed for strength. "fierce as a lion or a wolf". You get the picture. Other attributes were speculative. The Egyptian god Thoth/Djehuti is shown as a baboon or an ibis. Why? Baboons in art are shown saluting the god at sunrise -- howling and waving. The Ibis? Thoth is god of writing and hence wisdom. The ibis with his long curved beak might be seen to be writing in the sand of the shores as it picks out food. Not proven -- just my visionary guess.
Before I get too far removed from topic, let me mentioned that the stereotypical werewolf or man under a curse to shift, kill, and howl at the full moon wasn't the kind of shifter I studied. That kind, to me, seems to be more in the realm of fantasy. If a person actually changed shape they would need pretty remarkable DNA and pliant bodies. Shifts would take too long to be of much use in a stress or battle situation and after a few shifts, tissue might break down, as metal does in metal fatigue.
More impressive is the ability to project an image into the thoughts of a viewer. A adept could "shift" instantly back and forth undamaged, assume animal qualities and spirit from the familiar animal and would act as well as look like one. He/she would become the animal. Shamans and priests, because they were in league with the spirit and the gods were given permission to assume the shape of the god either through costume or shifting. Many legends involve shifting. There are Irish cycle legends of werewolves, Norse tales of berserkers which came from bears more than bare of shirt as some say. In modern times there are comic-book heroes who shift such as Mystique and Hulk. I applied shapeshifting to the concept of the Egyptian Gods. What if the animal-headed gods were just depictions of shifting ability stylized in art.
A long time ago a friend and I tried shifting. We'd gotten bored with the usual card readings and Ouija boards (LOL!)
TRY IT - WARNING! This might go nowhere (likely scenario) or you might scare yourself. (less likely, but possible) We lit a candle in a dark room and put up a mirror. We sank into semi-trances (so we could still open our eyes and see what the mirror reflected. We both concentrated on past lives, then on what we might look like as demons. Slowly the images in the mirror blurred and others superimposed over them. I found an auburn-haired male from the Recency era that I'd written in a story. Then I found a woman with dark hair and olive skin, but hawkish features. My friend found something between a dark goddess and something quite fierce and ravenous - human but also a fanged animal.
Yes we upset ourselves. I don't think we tried that again.
My point is this: If we were as complete rookies in the spirit world able to do this so we could see it in a mirror, it's not such a leap of faith that with practice and training someone could present a shift that others saw.
Above is a wonderful picture of Sekhmet or her ancestress Menhit; a beautiful black woman who looks humble enough seated in the sand. She projects the image of the lion goddess. This is a perfect image of inner strength and ferocity called up when needed.
I asked my readers on my Children of Stone site to mention other authors they like who write about shifters. Here are a few answers.
Amber Daniels I really liked yours because it was refreshing to read about a shifter that wasn't big cats or werewolves. But my all time favorite would have to be the feral warrior series by Pamela Palmer
Sandy Fosdick Anita Blake series. I love Nathaniel and Micah
Jeri Chavis TorranceAliya DalRae has many great stories with shapeshifters.
When I wrote Children of Stone I decided to have shifters - lots of them. In Voices in Crystal, elder prince Hordjedtef, a high priest of Djehuti (Thoth) who has never liked Marai, knows he is to instruct and train the shepherd turned sojourner. Instead, he decided to change shape to intimidate him. Marai learns he has that power too in a classic face-off.
On purpose, Marai sulked privately at the elder's comment.
“As for helping you, I will do that. Great Djehuti intends no restriction on the seeking of knowledge. Your course toward initiation will be different than most, however. Normally, as I’m certain my protégé informed you, the pursuit of wisdom takes a lifetime of devotion and study. In your case, I will unlock what was hidden in your heart with a series of daily inquiries and examinations. Then, we will see what we will see.” Hordjedtef’s voice grew dismissive again. “You do know, man of the wilderness, that if I unlock these thoughts there will be a price. Quite often, it is madness. It might cause death if your heart seizes from the shock of what you learn. You will see so many things for which you may not be prepared."
I know that. Every day I live shows me that. But, you think I’m a fool and I’ll let you think that. God of wisdom, hmph! Thoughts of thrashing about the plaza and into the living quarters like an enraged bull began to fill the former shepherd’s thoughts.
Idly drumming his fingers on his knee, Marai watched the transformation of priest into ibis begin once more.This must be his plan, to make me mad and force me out; see what I can do. Maybe I could do Gugulanna the Bull of Heaven. Maybe it won’t be too great of a sacrilege, he paused to watch the second transformation become even more complete than the first. Speckled feathers were forming on a head of a bird where the old mans’ head had been.
If the Lady I have loved hears my prayer, speed it to the Bull of Heaven. Let me teach this over decorated turd a lesson!
Marai sent a silent prayer into the universe, wondering if it would even be received or if the bull god would squash him like a bug. He visualized a sculpture he had seen on a high-walled temple when he had been a child: the snout, the muscle, the lapis lazuli beard. As he imitated what he thought he had seen the elder do, he sent thoughts to the priest to distract him from appearing as a bird.
I’m no pretty toy for you to control or own. His thoughts lowed like the bull in his imagination. Your gods are not mine. They have no power over me. He breathed out once, then twice. He took a deep breath again and then felt the thoughts race through him like chattering whispers.
Yes. He thought of other moments as a strange and enchanted bliss surrounded him: quiet moments when he and Ariennu had been together, after lovemaking. She loved to toy with the two loose tendrils of his silvery hair. She called them his “horns”. Now these curls formed into a crescent shape, emerging from his head as the animal form overtook him. With a third breath; he rose to his feet, moved closer to the old man and blew his breath on the bird in front of him.
Nothing else mattered to him now. He felt the massiveness, smelled the animal odor, sensed the stately male feel and the tug of immense sexuality, pure white like silver, yet darkly proud. The lapis beard and the other effects never appeared. Marai felt his shape evolving into that of a white bull with a glowering black face.
It’s not Gugulanna the Bull of Heaven, it’s something else; feels more right though. He tried to make sense of the shape but the only thoughts that came to him were:
You annoy – me – bird.
His humanity had become the foreign shape as an annoying swamp bird hopped around before him, its wings flapping and curved beak prodding his wonderful flanks. With an irritated snort, the bull lunged forward, hooves striking down once at the ibis head; horns lowered to gore anything else still vertical. Then, the feeling ebbed almost as soon as it formed. Marai felt his thoughts clear. He leaned heavily on the dark stone table that separated him from the old man.
The elder had drawn back into his chair. He winced in slight discomfort, but fiercely guarded himself, his hands raised in a pose of dispelling.Marai barely noticed the fine crack that stretched across the table where his fist had crashed down on it. The carved alabaster cup that had held the elder’s tea lay shattered on the floor.
“Look, you!” Marai bellowed with a voice that was both human and bull-like. He slammed his fist down on the table again with a force that widened the crack. “I know what this is about, so don’t you come at me. You rage at your own gods!” he bent into the old man’s face. “Your teacher knew very well why I was picked out among all men the Neter might have chosen. He also knew why you were not.”
Another of my favorite shifting scenes is in Opener of the Sky - Book 3 Children of Stone. Without too many spoilers let me say that Ariennu and Naibe (nicknamed MaMa and Baby One) are held by the sorcery of Prince Maatkare Raemkai a rather sadistic and narcissistic young warrior. They attempt an escape but things don't go as planned.
This was a centering and safe place for the disciples of Wepwawet who presented as a wolf/dog.
He must be from the wolf school with all of his skill with a bow, the howling, the…Oh goddess…shape shifting that’s so fast no bones bend or skin stretches...he just is. I led us both to his safe space…He came here to cleanse himself? Our dinner host was his witness while we were cleaning up?
Ariennu sensed something wasn’t right in the tonality of the Children’s voices. Sounds like a man imitating…like…She tensed, all of the hair on her arm rising as she heard the great wolf/dog’s panting approach to the opening of the chapel. The sound of his clawed feet tip-tapped on the hardened earth floor of the path. The panting merged into an evil titter; breathing in the dark; a faint growl that grew stronger and more threatening.
Push on if you must
Or go this way
Either way leads to pain
You see, I know what they sound like,
Your little friends
These voices in your crystal eye.
The black furred hand/paw touched her arm just before it faded into illusion
Naibe ran around the stone box. This time she grabbed Ari and hid in her cloaking arms. The women clung to each other, wide-eyed. Before the shroud of silence covered them Ari saw the silhouette of a black wolf/dog thin like smoke. In its place Ari thought she saw a gold armlet flashing in the slight available light of a distant torch.
Oh. He’s here? She hardened her resolve, crouching and ready to fight.In the distance the women heard a faint scampering snapping, growling, yodel-howling, circling and finding the way.
They’re coming Ari. Dogs…He has power over dogs. He’s sending dogs.
Naibe grabbed Ariennu harder, as if it would help her gain more invisibility.
I know Baby, I know…the elder woman listened silently for a long time as the sounds circled, grew louder and finally paused outside the room where they had become the most confused. Footsteps.
Maatkare stood in the doorway, golden wrist and arm bands glimmering in ambient torchlight.
“I know what you tried to do.” He began to pace, trying to seem thoughtful “Maybe I would have done the same thing too if I had been in your situation. But now you’ve caused a good man to die because you outwitted him with your little trick.”
The sound of dogs growling grew louder. His thought voice growled too, half human half dog as if he had become one of them.
Easy brothers…he started, then spoke aloud
“Perhaps I should let them come at you. They are my trick, Red Sister. See if you like it.” Maatkare’s dark hand swept the air in front of him.
Ari sensed an almost-whisper. Suddenly, black ravenous shadows emptied past him around his torso and over his shoulders; into the chamber pouncing, snarling and biting. Ariennu felt herself knocked back hard by the weight of several animals standing around and towering over her. She shrieked angrily, struggling against their bodies.
“Call them off! Damn you!” she swung, kicked and shoved, but accomplished nothing.
“You’re afraid…tsk, tsk…fearless Lady Ariennu…worried by some puppies.”
“Am not…get them off me…”
“About to soil yourself, you naughty ka’t” he chortled, toeing the threshold and gesturing. “Just a very small sample of what I can do, if you come to annoy me.”
Puppies? Ari froze, her eyes clearing a little. The clawing and biting beasts had become gregarious, yipping puppies. They frolicked happily about her prone body then left, heading past the prince and out the doorway as they vanished. It had been a magnificent illusion.
Instinct Theory - Contact by Ian C. Bristow
5.0 out of 5 stars
What if we're the bad guys?
Because Earth has been wasted and the environment/resources have been depleted, Scientists have been looking for another planet to inhabit. Now they've found one! There's a problem. It's inhabited by sentient humanoids who've evolved to about a pre-Christian early medieval stage.
Earth is sending a team to do research and make contact to see what the possibilities are.
In this series starter, Madelyn is a cultural scientist on the team. But bad luck starts almost instantly. Someone tries to kill her. The attempt is thwarted but as she recovers she realizes that in true Western European Imperialistic fashion, people of Earth intend to conquer or destroy the inhabitants. Those on the team who oppose this idea are now the problem. I loved the world and character building and all the tension leading up to the Cliffhanger ending and will eagerly jump into the second installment to see how this is resolved. Great Sci-Fi, Great Fantasy!
Troubled Waters: Mermaid Tales Kindle Edition by Chandra Trulove Fry (Author), M.L. Garza (Author), B.G. Hing (Author), Jeff Ducker (Author), Kasandra Sheckles (Author), RM Olivia (Author), C.L. Williams (Author), Cynthia Staton (Author), Victoria Taylor (Author), Kish Knight (Author) 1-16-20https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083Z8XZL8/
Monster Mate: Lion Shifter Romance (MateMatch Outcasts Book 4) Kindle Edition by Ariana Hawkes (Author) 1-19-20https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083W55B3D/
Vindicator: A Sci-Fi Alien Romance (Braxtharian Warriors Book 1) Kindle Edition by Nikki Landis January 21, 2020https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZY824K5/
Wings of Earth: 5 - Stranger Bedfellows: A hard sci fi space opera Kindle Edition by Eric Michael Craig (Author) 1-21-20 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08289BK1D/
Better the Devil you know (The Broken Halos series Book 6) Kindle Edition by Maya Daniels (Author) 1/26/20https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B082VS1XWR/
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