ferine: (Walks-Between-Worlds)
Would you purchase and wear a suit of authentic woman skin if you're a MtF pre-op to practice a spiritual ceremony to channel your inner female? Or FtM with a man skin?

How is it different to do so with a wolf pelt and face, strapped to your body, to channel your inner wolf? Or a fox? Or a lynx? Acquired from fur farm 'leftovers'. it's still feeding the industry. It's still blood money, blood trade, and feeds the industry. No amount of burnt sage will end the suffering of the animals used by perpetuating the trade.

(A post I made to AHWw in '95 that's, unfortunately, still topical):

To The Wind (an anti-fur farm rant)
The lynx lay in the cage, its pale amber eyes dwindling.
It had never known the freedom that was less than a mile away...
Green hills, uncut forest, small fields ripe with berries and flowers.
The only life accompanying the cat were parasites, insects, and
disease. In neighboring cages were its brothers and sisters, some
dead, some clinging to life despite the futility of the effort.

I opened the chicken-wire cage and let the cat sniff my hand. It was
too weak to move its head, and growled softly. I reached in and
removed the animal, its bones sharp against my hands. The flies
swarmed and the stench was pungent. I cradled the lynx and carried it
to a flowering grassy field far away and yet so close.

We sat together in the grass watching the world. The lynx murred and
mustered the strength to raise its head, watching the dance of a
nearby bumblebee. I smiled and stroked its fragile body. The cat
looked up as if scanning the heavens. As we sat, I suddenly realized
that this one moment of freedom was worth a lifetime to the one who
had never before experienced it. Tears welled in my eyes as the lynx
made a motion to join the wind. In the effort the body broke and I
rocked with its fading warmth

~ Walks-Between-Worlds
ferine: (Default)
(cut & pasted from google groups archives)

By Ron Cass Poirier Nov. 15th, 1993

Regarding werewolf symbolism:

One obvious symbol of the werewolf is that of change. They can
shift shape and "adapt" to new surroundings. They are frequntly unable to
restrain this shape shift - particularly when angry. This is the beast
within/beside coming out. A higher-order werewolf would be able to
control his or her beast, but I think would still feel most comfortable
expressing anger when the time came to express it while in monster form.

Shapeshifting: in the werewolf psyche, shapeshifting is in fact a
way of being HONEST, not deceptive as most mythical shapeshifters tend to
be. A good example of the dishonesty of shapeshifters would be the
doppleganger myth, a truly terrifying monster with the ability to exactly
copy the appearance and mentality of another specific person. The movie
"Zelig" is a good example of the doppleganger myth - while Zelig is not in
fact a monster, he is a person who cannot be trusted to be who he appears,
as he will simply shift shape and identity when it seems to be more

The doppleganger is "evil" because it cannot be counted upon,
because it is deceptive (it does not show its true self - in fact Zelig
has a problem in that he gradually comes to HAVE NO TRUE SELF). A
willingly evil doppleganger might use its powers to masquerade as someone
who it is not, for its own personal gain. In an amoral stance, killing or
displacing the person duplicated is not seen as evil to the doppleganger,
and so this may be viewed as an acceptable option - but not to society.

Now examine the werewolf. The werewolf is not a shapeshifter of
duplicity (CAUTION! My opinions only - my interpretation of a myth.
Obviously, the werewolf can be viewed as VERY duplicitous, appearing as a
human to enter a cottage and then attack the surprised human. Look at the
Little Red Riding Hood story...) Rather, the werewolf is a shapeshifter
of HONESTY. When he/she is angered, it is obvious - because the physical
form is that of a monstrous beast. When he/she is on the hunt,
aggressive, raging - all very human emotions, not evil in and of
themselves - it is obvious. When he/she is relaxed, calm, at peace -
then, too, it is obvious because the form is human (MY INTERPRETATION
ONLY!!! I admit that I can imagine a "monster" werewolf (or bat) romping
(flying) happily through wooded glades... perhaps our new interpretation
can allow for this, as in expressing joy at one's own body, the physical,
or something similar - this meaning that in monster form one cannot be
sure if a werewolf is angry or not, merely that he or she is feeling
strong emotions... Maybe strong emotions one way or the other, meaning
that a werewolf in love is "doomed" to take the form of the wolf when the
feelings become intense, with interesting psychological and literary
repurcussions... All optional, of course.) This shows shapeshifting to
be a valuable guide in determining the inner workings of the werewolf.
The werewolf is INTENSELY emotional, but also capable of controlling
his/her emotions to the point where he/she is the true master. There is a
certain emotional honesty there that is not present with the vampire, who
can freely hide hatred and spring a cunning trap, or even the human, fully
capable of duplicity as I am sure we are all aware ("I don't know which
species is worse, ours or theirs - you don't see them fucking each other
over for a percentage!" - Ripley, "Aliens"). This duplicity, this
"hiding of the beast", enables humans to function in society and vampires
to excell at it (they have willingly accepted their beast but refuse to or
cannot master it). The emotional honesty of the werewolf gets them into
trouble with society as a whole. While they are trying to save the
people, the hidden beast of society is moving against them and hating them
for the danger the potential masters represent.

- Ron P. ^*^
Werebat peering down from the branches
at these quizzical quadruped canines...

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: j...@nick.csh.rit.edu (Jochen Reber)
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1993 20:22:12 GMT
Local: Mon, Nov 15 1993 2:22 pm
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

My interpretation of being a werewolf would be slightly different:

Werewolves are usually despised because their second nature is a dangerous
beast, which can kill humans and is unable to controll. Honesty or not,
everything dangerous and uncontrollable is considered as evil.

I don't think you can see their shapechanging ability as a way
of expessing their feelings, but as a curse which binds them. The honesty
is lost at the moment when the transformation is complete, because then,
the human part has no controll over the emotions of the werewolf anymore,
and the wolf is in total control.

For me, it is hard to see a werewolf as one being. It is rather two personali-
ties combined in one body, which constantly changes form. These personalities
have nothing to do with each other, as one is a "civilized" human where as
the other is a "wild beast". Therefore, this one being cannot be totally
honest, because one part of it always betrays the other.


Jochen "Joe" Reber // "Wise men are instructed by reason;
j...@nick.csh.rit.edu // men of less understanding, by experience;
// the most ignorant by necessity;
// and beasts by nature," -- Cicero

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: rpoirier@kirk (Ron Cass Poirier)
Date: 16 Nov 1993 09:29:13 GMT
Local: Tues, Nov 16 1993 3:29 am
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

In article <1993Nov15.202212.26...@ultb.isc.rit.edu> writes:
> In article <2c7fbpINN...@dns1.NMSU.Edu> talkreligion writes:
> My interpretation of being a werewolf would be slightly different:

Most people would have a different interpretation. Than my own, I

> Werewolves are usually despised because their second nature is a dangerous
> beast, which can kill humans and is unable to controll. Honesty or not,
> everything dangerous and uncontrollable is considered as evil.


> For me, it is hard to see a werewolf as one being. It is rather two personalitites
> combined in one body, which constantly changes form. These personalities
> have nothing to do with each other, as one is a "civilized" human where as
> the other is a "wild beast". Therefore, this one being cannot be totally
> honest, because one part of it always betrays the other.

You subscribe to the "Jeckyll and Hyde" werewolf model. This is
certainly acceptable - but I tend to think of werewolves as more
misunderstood than inherently evil, as are the wolves themselves. My
werewolf (bats are truly more relevant to me but they are nonexistant in
most literature (werebats)) myth centers more on the "misunderstood
monster" hypothesis. This in no way means your own interpretation is not
credible - after all, we're talking about a made-up beastie here in the
first place, so you can make it act and think however you want (Eastern
dragons are good, while Western dragons are evil, for an example). The
"Jeckyll and Hyde" model is, by the way, an excellent one from a
psychological point of view - the classic monster from the ID.
Unfortunately, it is also rather boring after a while. It forces the
werewolf into a cut and dried position - this discussion began with a
search for more meaning to the werewolf myth, a search for expansion.
Anne Rice did this for vampires - severing a lot of old ties and creating
some new ones. Modern writers are free to play with werewolves as much as
they want - I was only trying to show an example of some other possible
things for the werewolf to symbolize.

Another thing about the "Jeckyll and Hyde" werewolf model is that
it does ignore many of the earliest werewolf tales, I'm talking
pre-Hollywood here. For example, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood
(originally a werewolf story as I am told) WILLINGLY plots his evil deeds
of deception. Old style werewolves knew their beast in their human form,
too. Remember, Hollywood werewolves come to us after the writing of the
original "Jeckyll and Hyde" story, and are certainly (IMHO) affected by

- Ron P.

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: rpoirier@kirk (Ron Cass Poirier)
Date: 16 Nov 1993 09:58:21 GMT
Local: Tues, Nov 16 1993 3:58 am
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

Another possible werewolf "interpretation":

What does Anne Rice do with vampires? I think a big part of it is
that she strips them of psychological "meaning", inherent symbolism, etc.
They simply ARE. Walking corpses that need blood to survive. There is
nothing inherently evil or anything else about this at all. A man who
simply has the ability to change shape into a wolfen form (or a bat form)
is also inherently nothing at all. Free to choose his own actions.

So - what does this do? Actually, plenty. Even if the werewolf
has no inner set of "rules" to live by, (and forbidding the rational mind
to take over is, in fact, a rule of sorts!), the psychology of the
lycanthrope would still be or become very different from that of the
average human. Werewolves would be stronger, more powerful, possibly even
invulnerable, and have abilities that normal humans would find
inaccesible. This would affect the way they think. Arrogance? A sense
of responsibility to use those gifts the "right" way? Desire to show off
power? Dionysian joy at romping through the woods, chasing rabbits and
deer and...? This would be the "Super-hero (or villain)" type werewolf -
really just a normal man with enhanced abilities, perhaps prejudiced
against by society because of popular myth. There would be a lot to write
about in this genre, more so than mere "Jeckyll and Hyde" werewolves. So
I prefer "Superhero" werewolves - so sue me! Rice's vampires are similar
to this genre.


- Ron P.
^*^ ^*^

^*^ ^*^

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: g...@dcs.ed.ac.uk (Graham Brown)
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1993 11:28:57 GMT
Local: Tues, Nov 16 1993 5:28 am
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

> You subscribe to the "Jeckyll and Hyde" werewolf model. This is
> certainly acceptable - but I tend to think of werewolves as more
> misunderstood than inherently evil, as are the wolves themselves.

Agreed, werewolves are neither human or wolf as such even sugesting that
they are "good" or "evil" is wrong as they are relative concepts. Consider
a wolves point. In Britain wolves, bears, boars were hunted into extinction
if a werewolf took this view of the human race as an "evil" which should be
fought, mauled, torn to bits at every opportunity then she is on a crusade
against an overwhelming oppressor of part of her nature, the fact that her
nature duality are warring is half the point. As human we see the beast as
evil when in all reality, considering the actions of human and wolf, the
humans have done ultimately more damage than good. I say rip em up.
Considering the lack of wolves in the U.K. ( there are some in reserves
in Scotland but they are not aborigional ) has anyone considered the idea
that the race may be degenerating into weredogs, personally I would be more
concerned with meeting a were-pitbull then a werewolf as they are more
Graham (a English werewolf in Scotland).

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: dwil...@cis.ohio-state.edu (darren wilson)
Date: 16 Nov 1993 14:36:22 -0500
Local: Tues, Nov 16 1993 1:36 pm
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

Graham Brown wrote in article <cgl18a....@dcs.ed.ac.uk> :

>has anyone considered the idea
>that the race may be degenerating into weredogs, personally I would be more
>concerned with meeting a were-pitbull then a werewolf as they are more
> Graham (a English werewolf in Scotland).

I big howl from the U.S. Grahem. I agree with you here but I don't know
that much about the actual nature or "personality" of wolves. I do know
however about feline traits. Could someone maybe post something about the
habits and nature of wolves in general and maybe we can come up with
what an actual werewolf might act like or do. This of course would be
without the preconcieved ideas of Hollywood and fiction.

D. Wilson

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: j...@nick.csh.rit.edu (Jochen Reber)
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1993 20:21:27 GMT
Local: Tues, Nov 16 1993 2:21 pm
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

In article <cgl18a....@dcs.ed.ac.uk> g...@dcs.ed.ac.uk (Graham Brown) writes:

>> You subscribe to the "Jeckyll and Hyde" werewolf model. This is
>> certainly acceptable - but I tend to think of werewolves as more
>> misunderstood than inherently evil, as are the wolves themselves.

>Agreed, werewolves are neither human or wolf as such even sugesting that
>they are "good" or "evil" is wrong as they are relative concepts. Consider
>a wolves point.

Agreed. "Good" and "evil" are always relative terms. But, they seem also
only apply to humans. If you consider the charactericts usually aplied for
evil (extreme egoism, ruthlessness, powerhunger, rudeness), than you realize
than no animal could qualify for them. So, it is just ridiculous to see a
wolf (or werewolf in human form) as evil.

It is clear that wolves and werewolves can be dangerous and can threaten human
lifes. But that humans usually consider every thing dangerous as evil is
more the fault of mankind than the fault of the wolf.

I really think we have to totally redefine our set of values if we want to
judge werewolves, as it applies at the moment only for a human society.

Jochen "Joe" Reber // "Wise men are instructed by reason;
j...@nick.csh.rit.edu // men of less understanding, by experience;
// the most ignorant by necessity;
// and beasts by nature," -- Cicero

Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
From: jbogg...@owlnet.rice.edu (Jennifer Carolyn Boggess)
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1993 22:19:13 GMT
Local: Mon, Nov 22 1993 4:19 pm
Subject: Re: Respect (or lack thereof)

In article <2ca6h9INN...@dns1.NMSU.Edu>, rpoirier@kirk (Ron Cass Poirier) writes:
|> In article <1993Nov15.202212.26...@ultb.isc.rit.edu> writes:
|> . . .
|> after all, we're talking about a made-up beastie here in the
|> first place, so you can make it act and think however you want (Eastern
|> dragons are good, while Western dragons are evil, for an example).
|> . . .

Not true. (At this point the *YOU HAVE HIT A NERVE* sign should
be flashing. :)) Plenty of legends about cruel, selfish, or
(more frightening) simply aloof and uncaring Oriental dragons
exist, and there are a few - granted, not many, but a few -
Western legends involving helpful or even caring Occidental
dragons. Even the South American dragon isn't 100% good in
all the legends; no matter what culture you find the dragon in,
it can't be perfectly pinpointed as a "good" critter or an
"evil" varmint.

Sorry for the non-werewolf digression; I just had to fix that.
- Boggles

For the complete conversation, click here.
ferine: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] tornir, Tornir, you... how do you do the voodoo that you do so well?

Yes, the legend that is Tornir has unearthed another tidbit for me that dejanews didn't store. This one really blows my mind, because I don't remember it at all.

From alt.horror.werewolves Sat Sep 30 11:40:33 1995
Path: hermes.louisville.edu!newsjunkie.ans.net!newstf01.news.aol.com!newsbf02.news.aol.com!not-for-mail
From: gunnergirl@aol.com (GunnerGirl)
Newsgroups: alt.horror.werewolves
Subject: For Spyder (and other Windigowak that happen along)
Date: 30 Sep 1995 00:34:48 -0400
Organization: America Online, Inc. (1-800-827-6364)
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Sender: root@newsbf02.news.aol.com
Message-ID: <44ihd8$ac7@newsbf02.news.aol.com>
References: <42akvm$oo9@ixnews7.ix.netcom.com>
NNTP-Posting-Host: newsbf02.mail.aol.com
X-Newsreader: AOL Offline Reader

Hey Spyder,

Haven't heard from you in awhile and I just wanted you to know I hadn't
forgotten about you. Here's a poem for you:

The wind calls
To a heart that knows no rest
An ancient heart,
On an endless quest.

The wind knows no home
Yet does not complain
Hunted and feared for its nature
Yet the Wendigo feels no shame.

Your friend,
ferine: (Walks-Between-Worlds)
[livejournal.com profile] shewolfen and [livejournal.com profile] krdbuni summed up my past and present observations in response to the previous entry with much more eloquence that I. >;-)

These people, either from the newsgroup or its associated (fairly private) IRC channels (always hosted by [livejournal.com profile] mrbearguy), are still my dear friends. There is a lot to be said for that. We grow, we change, yet there is a bond that is truly unshakeable. Many if not most friendships forged on-line, particularly now, suffer a high turnover rate.

An aside regarding the various #ahww (including #folks) IRC incarnations: something telling was how the channels were run. Everyone was given Ops unless someone caused trouble or never said a word. I've never seen another chat channel do this, ever. There was a real sense of trust and being on an even playing field, so to speak. I never felt like certain people were more elite or special due to them being the few with Op control. In fact, I didn't think of Ops as a result, and it allowed for a laid-back atmosphere.

Of course there were arguments on IRC and on the newsgroup. As fierce individuals, we clashed; yet at the end of the day, our commonality brought us together. Even during the best of times we still had trolls pop up on the group, but they most often left immediately or after a short time. The most frequent "problem" was from White Wolf role-players who assumed we were some sort of in-character Werewolf the Apocalypse rp group. Usually they were polite after we explained ourselves and they left. Usually.

Those of you who came into AHWw after '97, what was it like? What became of it?

As the old adage goes, "you can never go home again". What was is, and can't be again. Too many people are on-line in general now, for one thing. Also, too many people raised by and forming their identity on the 'net.

Scenes come and go. Beliefs, sadly, become trendy fads sometimes. Terms, words, superfluous fluff, bell and whistles, smoke and mirrors, all mask the simplicity of being an animal person. None of that matters: the slick websites, the fancy forums, the lexicons and rules one must strictly adhere to or else be ostracized. What matters is one's realness, one's heart, one's humility, and the company of (and reality check and support of!) true friends.

Now then, Reemul. Here are a few blurbs I wrote a while back:


ferine: (Walks-Between-Worlds)
The full moon tonight, closest to the Earth for the year, is merely coincidence. >;-)

I wanted to share this, to give others an opportunity to speak their mind about the old AHWw, and about their experience with and views of [livejournal.com profile] reemul.

The following is a selection of my fond memories from alt.horror.werewolves, cut and pasted from google newsgroup archives on-line (for reference, my nickname was Walks-Between-Worlds, or Walksie for short):








Rose-colored glasses be damned, pre-'97 AHWw was a godsend to stumble upon.

The "therian" scene is different. It's not nice anymore. Gone is the sense of wonder, the tolerance of different interpretations of and individual takes on animalness, and the sense of humor.

The current crop on-line who invest so much time and energy into the slew of forums and communities appear so hell-bent on proving he or she is right about anything and everything while everyone else is inferior (save for those they consider "respected elders/teachers/OPs" whose asses they kiss for an illusory sense of 'net power).

As an amusing aside, the "respected old timers" nowadays are those who have only been in the on-line animal folk scene maybe four or five years, eight at the most.
ferine: (Default)
On the Subject of Shifting
by Reemul

What is this thing called "shifting"? Honestly, i don't know. I seriously doubt anyone could really say one way or another just what shifting is. Even the term "shift" is a flippant label, used for ease of conversation for an event which even those who participate don't really understand. If it were something we could reduce to facts and place in little neat boxes, essays like mine would not be necessary to stimulate conversation and introspection. That is the true purpose of this work, to promote discussion and thought about this complex subject. I don't claim to know all there is to know. The following is merely an attempt to forward ideas formulated over several years of personal experience, observation, and conversations on and about the subject of shifting. There is an old adage, "Ask a dozen Were's to define a shift, and you'll wind up with 13 answers." This could not be more true.

Shifting is a catch-all term to describe some kind of change. Even in everyday use, this holds true. For a spiritual lycanthrope, it is a reference to a change in mental state, a change in spiritual or aural makeup, or a change in physical form. The techniques, methods, results and stories about shifting are endless. Shifting, while the term is new, is not a new concept. Changing ones mental and spiritual state is a time honored rite, which probably has roots across the entire globe. Of course even as we here have different methods and reasons behind our madness, so to does the concept we call shifting vary from culture to culture and from age to age throughout history. Needless to say, this phenomenon in it's variety is not common in the modern day. Various cultures and groups still use ecstatic trances, possessions and altered states to their own ends, but often pale imitations of old glories if anthropologists are to be believed.

Shamans, especially the "classic shamanism" practiced by siberian and arctic tribes, could be said to use a form of shift when they ply their trade. Their moments of ecstacy when their Power Animal or Spirit Guides take over their body to use their Power, or when the shamans spirit leaves it's body to enter the Otherworld could be ancient forms of what we might term a shift if looked at from our perspective. While often these spirits the shaman deals with are external and are used as messengers and guides during his trances and so forth, some are used in a more intimate way, or rather, they use the shaman. The shamans spirits are not limited in form, as they can appear as, "...bears, wolves, stags, hares, all kinds of birds... of great worms, but also as phantoms, wood spirits, earth spirits, hearth spirits, and so on... Their forms, names, and numbers differ from region to region." Shifting is often seen in the light of a "possession" of the shaman by these spirits, often handed down by a shamans teacher or ancestors who were also shamans. Here, during the shamanic trance, the behaviors of the spirits are manifested through the shaman during his dance. While this might be looked at as possession, Mircea Eliade, in his book on shamanism, prefers, "... to term it a 'taking possession of his helping spirits by a shaman'. It is the shaman who 'turns himself' into animal..." For further evidence of this, even the name of a tutelary spirit animal of the shaman of the Buryat tribe translates into "metaphorphosis" or "to change oneself/to take on another form". This animal is so linked to the shaman, "... it is in a manner his "double", his alter ego. This alter ego is one of the shaman's "souls", the "soul in the animal form" or more precisely, the "life soul."" For the shaman though, this transformation, or possession of the animal spirit by he shaman is but a tool, a means to an end. The vocation of the shaman, as healer, mediator, guide for the souls of the dead, may or may not require this human/spirit relationship which a spiritual lycanthrope may see as core to his or her being, shamanism being a wide and varied tradition, with only a basic set of tenets and similarities across cultures. The shamanic spirits come with many titles; tutelary, guardian, helping, all these bely the "use" of spirits as a means to an end.

Vodoun, as well as other western versions of the Yoruban religions, could also be looked at as using a "shift" in their rituals and practices. Their possession, or as they put it "being a Horse/acting as a Horse" for the Loa involves a superimposition of a spiritual entities psyche so to speak over their own. For a moment, they are the Loa. The Loa however are not Totems, nor Spirit guides, nor are they PowerAnimals. The Loa are manifestations of their gods, and anyone who is blessed to act as a Horse may do so for any one of the numerous Loa. The intricate connection between the person and the Totem is not seen as strongly, i feel, in Vodoun between the priest and the various Loa. It is my understanding though, that Loa are not the only spirits which may be channeled, but include the spirits of ancestors (especially so in Santeria) and even animals. As a final note on the lengthy topic of Vodoun and it's religious rites, which i would not dare to go into detail here, i will say that in my talks with two priestesses, the participants in fact seem to go through some sort of "shift" as we understand it. The context is very different however, as we would shift into our "totem" or "wereside" animal, and they would act as a Horse for one of many Loa/ancestors with little preference but the whim of their patron spirits. The end result may be similar, but the road getting there is very different.

The Berserkr of the Norse could be said to shift as well. The channeling of the Bear energies into their lives, often for battle, means opening up to a part of themselves normally held in reserve. The Berserkr, with their ties to Bear, and the Ulfhednar with their ties to Wolf seem very close cousins to a spiritual lycanthrope and his tie to a particular animal. Where the Norse seemed limited to two predators, there seems to be no modern equivalent, species run the gambit. When they shift, there do seem to be many parallels. One Ulfhednar noted, while in a berserk rage, "You will notice a marked improvement in sight, hearing, and smell. The improvement in smell is, perhaps, the most remarkable of these altered senses... Physical endurance will improve, especially in running. You will gain certain instinct benefits, including the ability to accurately second guess an opponent." This same Ulfhednar also noted, that in his daily life he, "...[would] experience memories of hunting with the pack... and even experience deep love for your brothers and sisters in the pack." Some of these experiences and emotions are very close to those of some of us who shift to Wolf. To contrast this, a Berserkr notes that, during a berserkrgangr, "...Everything will appear to become crisper and brighter, as if you have entered a bright froom from a dark place... There is more clarity and awareness to the vision. You may be aware of objects and people to your sides and behind that you couldn't possibly really see." Further along, "The physical body will tense, and the hands may form into claws as a result of this tensing...The breathing may become rapid...the face will flush red...You will start to assume animal posture." The physical demands put on the body can seem to be quite dramatic as the animal nature shows itself. As a final note by the Berserkr, "These changes can occur in a matter of minutes or seconds, or they may come on so gradually that you are "there" in a long-term mild state without being fully aware of it." To bring this all together, the collective "berserkers", the Berserkr and Ulfhednar, tied to Bear and Wolf, are excellent examples of what can be called "shifters". The bringing together of the Bear, or Wolf, and the Human is the forming of a synergy, where the new whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Norse traditions kept them to the battlefield. There is little calling for such in this day and age. One must find new pursuits.

While these examples cross cultural and time boundaries, they are by no means an authoritative study on the phenomenon. In fact, it could be argued that they are not related to the modern phenomenon we know of as "shifting" at all! Of course, modern points of view color how each of us views the world around us. I am no exception to this. A modern group of Asatruar might think that we are all in fact Berserkr's by our description of how we might shift. The same might hold for a Vodoun Hougan. Someone who mentally shifts he might think is really just acting as a Horse for a Wolf spirit perhaps. Be that as it may, our usage of certain words binds us to a certain way of thinking. This being said, on to some explanations of shifting:

The Aura is a field of study which is heavily under debate in the scientific and non-scientific field. This piece is not to go over the various points in favor or against, but rather will assume that for our purposes, auras, be what they will, do exist.

What then is an aura-shift? Without getting into pseudo-technical discourses on the nature of the spirit, an aura shift is a change in the basic energy/animus/whathaveyou which is part of every living (and possibly non-living) thing. This change may be genuine, or cosmetic, the difference may be irrelevant. An aura change can basically be expressed by whatever sense is used to reveal the aura. If one can see an aura, for example, an aura-shift would involve "seeing" the aura change, presumably to the animal of ones type. There have been cases of using mirrors to gain a fuller effect of an aura-shift, seeing ones face and head change, rather than the hands or other exremities. Seeing an aura is not a cut and dry procedure. As such, most aura-shifts are "felt" rather than seen.

I have decided to place the phenomonon of "phantom limbs" here with the aura-shift. Phantom limbs, fur, paws, tails, muzzles, etc i all put here for ease of conversation. These "phantom" parts, and i use quotes kind of tongue in cheek, are really just that. Imagine your hand is still a hand, but in your mind, it may feel to you like a paw. Perhaps in that state between waking and sleep, you feel the remnant of a tail. These little quirks seem common once you scratch the surface. They may be related to feelings by amputees, of still having feeling in a limb which is no longer there, having an itch the bottom of a foot they lost possibly even years ago. Their body "remembers" that there should be a foot there, and reacts as such. As far as the Aura is concerned, that foot is still there, since it is part of the spiritual makeup of that person perhaps.

What place do dreams have in the experience that is shifting? To be certain, dreams, as well as Dreams, for what the difference is worth, play a role in a persons psyche and outlook on the world. Dreams can definitly be broken down into two groups, lucid and non-lucid. Whether one is more valid or more important than the other is not for this essay to deal with. That is something to really be decided by the individual, as are most things when dealing in this area.

Dreams are said to be the subconscious' method of speaking to us of our fears, our loves, our apprehensions. If this is so, shifting while dreaming can take on many meanings, each dependent on the individual dream and surrounding metaphors. A non-lucid dream which has a person shift in some way or another can take a number of meanings, each probably as unique as the dream itself.

The difference between a dream and a Dream is an arbitrary and subjective one, despite the objections of those who would place a rigid line between the two. It is the person themself who decides on the importance of a dream, based on the subjective effect it has on them during their waking rememberance of it. A Dream is said to be a revelation, a glimpse of wisdom from within, or without. Perhaps dream-shifting is a form of Dream, a sign from the inner animal, a message from the Totem. If this is so, a Dream from this source would definitly not be solely confined to shifting, but could take a magnitude of forms and vistas, as many as there are nights to sleep and to dream.

As i said before, the difference and importance placed on any dream in particular is a subjective one. Surely some dreams affect us in the waking world in ways we would not expect, and these we often call Dreams. For an aspiring shifter, or even one who is many years down his path, a dream involving shifting is a momentous one. It can be seen as a validation of the desires and hopes in ones heart.

On the subject of lucid dreaming, we enter a whole new realm. It could be argued that a lucid dream shift might be better handled in a talk on spirit-shifting, but i choose to deal with it here. Lucid dreams, in some way are a conscious, or semi-conscious form of dreaming. One can texture the persona they react with, or in some cases the environment around them, in the dream, with varying success. It would seem to be a simple matter for someone versed in lucid dreaming to enact a shift while dreaming. In this way, they can enact, at will, what they cannot while awake. Does this limit the value of the lucid dream shift? In a way, this can be so, compared to a non-lucid dream shift. Compared to other forms and styles of shifting, this may not be so. While non-lucid dream-shifts can be messages from the inner self, the Totem, the sub-conscious or what have you, a lucid dream-shift is an objective effort, within dream, to achieve a specific end. That they both take place in the context of a dream is really the only aspect tying the two together.

The subject of the mental-shift is a wide and varied one. It is perhaps the most variable type of shift in terms of what can be experienced, and in what methods can be used to achieve a shift. Because of this, i will break down this section into three parts. First, what makes a mental shift different from any other type of shift? Second, what leads into a mental shift? Basically, there how's and the where's.

What then is a mental shift? It's hard to nail down a hard and fast description, as everyone who experiences one, will see it from a different view, and have their own definition. In this case, words are limiting, but we have to make due. A quick and dirty definition might be "a oneness with a persons Totem, spirit guide, or power animal, that goes beyond the normal everyday parameters of the relationship with that state of mind, or being, or spirit, (each person sees it differently) brought about either by intent or by accident, and accompanied with some kind of sensory phenomenon not normally seen in everyday life." The intensity, duration, and effects of this shift vary from person to person, and no doubt from shift to shift in that person, assuming it is not a one time occurance.

Not an easy matter to speak about, to be sure. What does all this mean? A mental shift might be described as losing oneself in the animal for a while. By shifting, one loses part of their humanity for a bit, and lets the animal take over to some degree. The mental processes rework themselves to a degree that sensory inputs may be changed, causing visual or aural distortions, or even visions themselves. If strong enough, one could feel some sort of displacement of their body, or parts thereof. None of these are criteria for a mental shift, but are mere possibilities of experience. Each person will have a unique time with this. Often felt is a strong bond with the animal while shifted. This may be due to the animal being "close to the surface" as the case may be. This is really the key, in my mind, to the validity of a mental shift. Without a strong feeling of closeness with the animal, it is little more than a unfocused ecstatic event or altered state. No actions are necessary when shifted. One could simply be in a state close to sleep when it occurs, and simply lie there. Imitation of the animal is NOT an indication of a mental shift. We can no more act like animals than they can act like us. We are human, with human bodies and human minds. In a sense, they become us, instead of us becoming them. Of course, this is not to say that crawling around invalidates a mental shift. Hardly the case. But, one should not require certain behaviors to be present.

What degree does the animal "come to the surface" in a mental shift? That is a hard question to answer with any degree of certainty. To be sure, in hearing various stories of shifting, and from personal experiences, it varies. It varies a great deal. Each person will experience a strength of animal that is unique. Some may still be in the saddle so to speak, even while they feel enormously close to their animal, and may have "phantom limbs" and some such, while others may have their human-ness take a back seat while the animal takes over the personality and actions. They in effect, for the time of the shift, are the animal.

What initiates a mental shift? Again, it varies. Variety seems to be a mantra. For some, it is accidental. For some, ceremonies and ritual may be the key. For others, it is a familiar place, or familiar faces. Still others can initiate a mental shift at will.

A mental shift is really the only type of shift which can be presented to someone other than the person experiencing it. Since it will generally occur while awake, and involves the conscious mind of the individual, and can, in some cases, be done voluntarily, others can view the effects of the shift as observers. If the shift allows interaction with the outside world, the shifted person may be able to express himself from within this altered state. The exact nature of this expression may vary from person to person, and shift to shift, and could travel the range of intensity from heavily human to heavily animal in strength.

This is all well and good. It can be taken from all this that mental shifting encompasses a huge range of control and behavioral factors. One other aspect remains, quite possibly one that is even of more importance. We've talked about How's, but now it's time to tackle the Where's. "Where?" do you ask? Basically, where does the animal come from? Is the animal a part of us, or some kind of external force? Could it be both, neither, more? Is mental shifting merely a "channeling", or a possession by some kind of animal "spirit" (whatever that may be)? Is it a summoning forth of a part of ourselves which is tied in some way to the world around us? This is not the limit of possibilities, by all means. Theories include reincarnative soul migration, where one is "remembering" a previous lifetime, to transspeciation, not unlike a transgender situation, where one was simply born into a body with the wrong soul, in this case, an animal soul, to misincarnation, where one is born into the wrong body altogether, meant to be one, but born as another. Shifting would then be simply the animal soul's way of expressing it's true nature.

What then do we do with this hodge-podge? To be honest, i really don't know. I've basically broken things down into an "external" and an "internal" point of origin, which may color how we approach our animal, and in turn how we approach mental shifting. While the end result may be the same for someone who say, believes they were a Fox in a past life, and can call upon that ancestral force during a shift, and someone who follows an archetypal Fox spirit guide and believes they channel said spirit during a shift, the processes and attitudes which lead to these phenomenon will be quite different. One could be said to "invoke" the spirit, the one who follows an external spiritual force. The other could be said to "evoke" a part of him or herself, this being the one who believes the animal is stems from within.

Of course, directions in this matter are really irrelevant. When i say "inside", "outside", it's more for convenience. What is important is how the person sees their animal becoming a part of them for the shift. An externally derived spirit may be thought of as residing within the person, but the spirit is still called upon as an external force, it is invoked. Someone with an animal spirit which is believed to be internal may talk about their animal as though it were a separate being, apart from themself, but they may do this only out of convenience, to distinguish the facets of their own core being. In the end, it's all semantics, but at the beginning of ones path, means a great deal as a person finds out about themself and the world around them.

But, in the end, whether or not the animal within is a spirit entity contacted and cajolled into possessing a host, or if one is a transpecieist, or if one believes they were chosen at birth by an archetypal force of nature, it may not really matter. This is not about "my totem is better than yours, because [insert reason here]...". There is a saying about not seeing the forest for all the trees which is appropriate in this instance. We are all colored by our preconceived notions about how the world works around us. Our perceptions of the animal, how it operates and where it comes from are all affected by this.

In my mind, the mental shift is the one with the greatest variability and the most promise of any type of shift. It's possiblity of interaction with the waking world around us makes it a storehouse for experience and a vista into our own mind and spirit, as well as the spirit and possibilities of our animals.

The phenomonon we call here a spirit-shift is possibly one of the easiest to define with some ease. For the purposes of this discussion, a spirit-shift is a shift in mentality or form which takes place in the context of a Vision, Journey, or some out of body event, such as an Astral Travel. In this respect it is much like a dream-shift, in that it occurs in the tapestry of ones own mind and stream of consciousness. It differs from a mental-shift in the dreamlike quality of the encounter, and the fact that it occurs not in the everyday waking world which our senses tell us about, but in the meditative state of the inner mind during it's exercises or ceremonies.

During the shamanic journey, or the vision quest, one enters a new land, a subjective land of metaphors and semi-conscious threads of reality, wants, hates and desires. Usually, one on such a journey or quest will maintain a conscious or lucid mind, so a shift in form will be a choice made by the seeker. Where the journey comes from, whether it be the tapestry of our own mind, or is a metaphor for our understanding of the universe around us, is really not important. What is important is the decisions we make when presented with the obstacles and enigmas while there. The decision or stimulus to shift is a response to condition we meet there, and can be a metaphor for how we deal with problems in our real life. It may also be, when lucid, a decision to deal with problems in a new way, outside of societal norms.

The shamanic journey has a long tradition in the world. It is used to this day to deal with problems faced by the shaman (known by a variety of names), the tribe, the nation, or even an individual. The vision quest is a personal act, done to advance the self. While these are simple definitions, and do not encompass the whole range of experiences possible in this line of work and down these paths, they are enough for a talk on spirit-shifting. To speak of all the possibilities would fill an entire book, and is beyond the point. Changing ones physical shape during a shamanic ecstatic state is not unheard of. Dealing with animal spirits in some shape or form is quite common. A vision is a different matter, not in the context of where and how the journey takes place, as they both take place in ones mind. Rather, it is a matter of why. The shamanic journey is done for the people, a vision is done for the self. While it may seem like semantics, it is a vary large difference. Shifting then, takes on a meaning based on this difference, albeit a minor one.

To shift forms during an out of body experience (OOBE) or a similar astral travel i include here along with shamanic journeys and vision quests. The consciousness leaves the body, and travels about it's business not in the subjective landscape of metaphors and interpretations, but in the waking world itself. However, this is not a discussion of the ways of the out of body experience.

In a number of ways, the spirit shift during an out of body would be much like any other spirit shift, except that the background changes. One still shifts form. It could be argued that since it takes place in the arena of the real world, and it is the "animus" which has left the body, that this is instead an aura-shift.

One type of shift which may be easiest placed under this umbrella than any other, is a translocative shift. This really is a tough one to peg into any hole. A translocative shift might be described as having ones consciousness actually existing in two places at once. Ones spirit while of course tied to the body, may also occupy the body of another. While in a trance state, or whathaveyou, your perceptions would shift to that of presumably your totem, for instance a wolf. From this p.o.v. you would experience what the animal experiences, as it happens. There are presumably no hard and fast rules about control in this type of shift. Perhaps you would control the animal, perhaps not. Your milage may vary, as they say.

Physical Shift:
There is a reason i chose to deal with this last. It is by far the most controversial form of shifting one could slip into conversation. There has been more heated debate about physical shifting than probably any other mystic or spiritual endeavor where our group is concerned. I won't attempt to either prove or disprove it or the claims made about it. It is part of our lore, and so deserves mention. Physical shifting is simply put, a shift in physical form by an individual. As above, with the Berserkr's, Vodoun and shamanism, physical shifting has a history and mythology about it almost world over. Tales vary from culture to culture, but those who change shape to pursue their own (often nefarious) ends are commonplace. With the advent of Hollywood, the half man/half beast has entered common mythology. Our use of the term has no true guidlines. A physical shifter could theoretically become a full animal, a median form, posessing the characteristics of each, to a human with slight bestial characteristics, to any number of combinations inbetween all of these. Rate of shift, speed of shift, in fact even pain felt during the shift all vary with who you ask about the subject. The same goes for permanence, and if impermantent, the periodicity. Even the amount of control the human mind would have cannot be nailed down. Depending on who is speaking, it could be a full human mind, all the way to having the mind of an animal.

In the end, i think physical shifting more than any other type, reflects the desires of those who dream about it. Physical shifting has been compared to an escapist fantasy, a dream of power for those who feel lost in a big world, to a magnificent display of oneness with the world, the culmination of spiritual control over the physical realm. In the end it may not matter whether or not it truly exists or is some Grail meant to taunt those who pine for it's wonders. It's external nature makes it a target for debunkers more so any any other type of shifting. Other types of shifting take place in the realm of the mind, and are subjective. To claim to physically shift means there /should/ be sound measurable proof. Even if proof is lacking, belief in it gives it power over our wants and needs. For this, if nothing else, it deserves mention.

Bringing it all Together
I've gone through several types of phenomenon here so far. Using common terminology, i've tried to pigeonhole various experiences into neat little piles. Looking at it all, one might find some common ground in say, Dream-shifting, and then in having "phantom fur", both. How does one reconcile this? I would say there is nothing to reconcile. There is no reason not be be able to shift in any or all of these categories at some point. No one person i think would be just (i use the term "just" with caution) a Dreamshifter, or a Spiritshifter or any other type of "shifter" and have to remain there for life. It is not a badge or fraternity that one joins for life with no chance of advancement or change. Life is not static. Perhaps ones Path begins with Dreamshifting. Later, one learns techniques allowing Spiritshifting. Then, maybe at some point, Mental Shifting becomes an option. The limits here are those you set on yourself. This is your mind, your spirit, your body. Now, granted, i myself have never had a Dreamshift. But that's ok. I may never in my career have a Dreamshift, and i'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Not everyone is cut out to play every position, so to speak. Keep in mind, this series of categories is in NO WAY a checklist to move down as ones spiritual development continues.

A Final Note
And so we come to the end. I have tried to avoid sprinkling caveats and disclaimers throughout this piece. I hope that the intent of this is clear. While we are unique perhaps in our demographic and sub-culture(s), we are hardly the first to sit and wonder at what we are, and what we are doing. Our terminology, our worldview, our relatively recent emergence on the scene make us novices, despite our study of the "old ways". Hopefully through discussion and introspection we can come to understand who we are, and where we are going. Each of us is individual. We have no dogma to fall back upon, no ritual which holds us together. I don't hope to speak for everyone, i don't want folks to look at this and say, "Ah, so this is how it shall be." I want folks to read these words and think about where the paths of others have gone, and where perhaps their own might lead.

Works Cited:
Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton University Press. 1951.

Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough.Random House: New York. 1981

Hann, Vincent B. "Of Wolf and Man, or Mother Should i Build a Wall?" Idunna5:21 (1993): 38-39.

Nelson, Richard K. Make Prayers to the Raven. University of Chicago Press. 1983.

Skadhadottir, Gunnvor. "The Berserkrgangr: Going Forth". 1995
ferine: (Walks-Between-Worlds)
Kinda long slew of posts to follow.

Damn I loved ahww.

Sometimes we had rows and got hurt, badly even... but we were a family. Hell, some of the friends I made back then are still close friends. That's amazing to me, and I'm grateful.

Read more... )
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Much more to follow...

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Sarah B. Chamberlain

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