Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Magic of Shapeshifting

One of the best ways to connect with power animals is through the art of shapeshifting. In the shaman's world, animals are kin, an ancient belief reflected in mythology and in animism -- the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings. It is a mental world where the seen and the unseen; the material and the spiritual merge. As their helping spirits, the shamans "might use animals, anything that grows," says Osuitok Ipeelee, an esteemed Artic Inuit sculptor. "It was well known that the animals the shamans controlled had the ability to turn into humans. When a shaman was using his magic he had a real change of personality. When the animals entered into him he'd be chanting loudly; if a shaman was turning into a certain animal, he'd make that animal sound. Once he was filled inside, he'd begin to change; his face and his skin followed."1

Shapeshifting is more than just transforming into an animal as is often depicted in shamanic accounts and tales. It is the ability to shift your energies to adapt to the demands and changes of daily life. We all learn which activities, behaviors, and attitudes support or hinder our survival and growth. It is a natural and instinctual ability that we all share. The minimal development of this talent is the ability to mimic. We often mimic for the purpose of learning something or to blend in with our social or physical environment. It implies changing one's pattern of appearance or behavior, rather than just using what you already have. Actors, for example, are known for their ability to take on the characteristics of another person or thing. 

A shapeshifter is one who manipulates their aura to access a higher or inner power in order to grow and learn. The human aura is the energy field that surrounds the human body in all directions. All shapeshifting occurs on an energy level. If everything is broadcasting its own energy pattern and if you could match and rebroadcast the same pattern, then you would take on the appearance and qualities of the thing you were matching. The only constraining factor is the degree of belief, connection, and energy. To experience this for yourself, try the following simple exercise: 
  1. Create sacred space as you would for other spiritual work, dim the lights, and sit comfortably erect in a chair or on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths.
  3. Call upon an animal that you have an affinity with. Visualize and invite this animal spirit to come into your body and consciousness.
  4. Meditate with it. Be open to the feelings and sensations of being that animal. It is not uncommon to be and see the animal at the same time.
  5. Simply observe whatever happens for a few minutes, and then thank the spirit animal and release it.  
Shapeshifting to any degree will help you develop a kinship with your animal relatives. Learning to shift your consciousness, to align with and adapt your energies to power animals, opens your heart and mind to the wisdom and strength of the animal world. You must empty yourself so that spirit can embody you. "Become like a hollow bone," a Lakota elder once advised me in the sweat lodge.

1. Dorothy H. Eber, "Recording the Spirit World," Natural History Magazine, Sept, 2002, p. 54.