In this betwixt and between time (November 1st to about January 1st), I have been thinking a great deal about transitions of all sorts, including changing shape. It is one of my favorite witch’s crafts. There are many reasons one might shape shift: to obtain information using another being’s perception abilities, to enter or leave places in the astral that one may not because to access otherwise, to commune with the creature’s spirit and gain insight into its nature, to go unnoticed/unrecognized, or insert your reason here. Whatever possible purpose you select, as a witch and spirit worker, it is a useful skill to develop.
I thought that I’d share a few reflections for those who are interested in training in this craft. Mind you, I am not an expert or even just a seasoned shapeshifter from way back. I am just a witch who has been half dragged and half seduced into acquiring this particular ability, and it is still a young one for me. I just wanted to reflect on a few things thus far in my process.
With regard to physical preparation, I have found that I benefit from wearing comfortable, loose fitting clothing. I prefer to work at night or at twilight times like dawn/dusk. It is essential that I find a relaxing position in which I do not feel constricted. For me, that means feet on the floor and arms at rest at my side or on my lap. Depending on the animal form I am assuming, I may have my eyes closed or leave them open. I relax my jaw and loosen my other muscles as well if they feel tight. In short I try to be as “free” of my human form as possible and working at a time as aligned with the Otherworld as possible.
At the mental level, I hone in on sensory information. What do I see? What do I hear? Taste? Smell? I spend a good bit of time attuning to my environment. I find that this level of awareness, if I stay in it long enough and really attend to what I perceive, my animal brain kicks in and my senses are heightened. At this point, I reaffirm my intention and I reach out to Coyote, Crow, Serpent, or Barn Owl. (I haven’t really entertained the idea of doing this work with an animal or animal-shaped spirit with whom I have no relationship.) I ask for their protection and blessings, in addition having my own personal shields and wards in place. Then I deepen the connection. I get up close and personal with the energy of the animal. I let it consume me…enough to shift my astral form/energy pattern but not so completely that I cannot access my humanity when it’s time to come back.
Barn Owl was the first. He showed me how to take his form. Coyote came next, in the space between asleep and awake sometime ago. I was stuffed into Serpent’s skin by Dionysos in The Wood Between The Worlds not too long ago. And Odin gifted me with Corvid’s hamr very recently in The Place Where The Worlds Meet. The work that I’ve done with Barn Owl and Coyote was shapeshifting to my mind, but according to the lore, its possible that only my work with Serpent and Crow qualifies. You can learn more about shapeshifting as it manifests in Norse/Icelandic lore here.
At the level of spirit, preparation has involved a great deal of travel between the worlds in my own form over the last six years – the between worlds meet and greet with key beings and powers wearing no animal skin or similar “cover”. Just me. At the level between the mental and the spiritual, shadow work has also played into my preparation quite heavily. I value psychotransformative/shadow work highly. I find that it both empowers and wards me in the magic and spirit work that I am learning. In shapeshifting, a portion of one’s consciousness is open and connected to a particular animal’s might. Without rootedness in my own psyche and awareness of shadow, becoming lost in the animal hamr is not an unreasonable concern. The animals (and animal-shaped spirits) that I work with can dredge up stuff if you don’t have a firm handle on your shadows and related baggage. At least that’s what I’ve observed in my own work. Really it makes a lot of sense. Our Psyche is the stage on which a percentage of our Otherworldly experiences play out. If the Psyche is in disarray then all manner of Otherworldly thing can sweep through and raze the theater, and not necessarily intentionally. Shit happens.
Shapeshifting work hit a peak for me when I stepped through my most recent psychotransformative door, and I have no doubt there will be more. These things are spiral after all; the work is never done as sure as we grow and change. Now that I see a few more things clearly and even more things differently, the skins slip on faster and fit more comfortably. I look forward to more adventures in the Otherworlds in animal form.
As you do your own shapeshifting work, I am interested to hear about your experiences. Feel free to comment here and/or provide a link to your own blog posts about this topic. look forward to connecting!