Werewolves are not the only shape-shifters in the mythological world. They are currently the most famous and have been popular for many years as creatures of reluctant horror and mystery, yet their cousins in other countries are just as deserving of notice.
Nahuals are shamans, wizards and healers in Aztec and Mayan mythology who have the ability shapeshift into their guardian animal spirit (which is conferred upon everyone at birth according to when s/he was born and involve such animals such as dogs and turkeys .) Nahuals come in many different guises including wolf, jaguar, lynx, eagle and more. The term ‘nahual’ is also used to refer to necromancy, secrets and malice. The multi-meaning of the word implies that the majority of nahual-shapechangers were somewhat less than benign.
As evidenced by the nahual, shapeshifting is not limited to the canine. South America, India, Asia and Africa are filled predominately with were-felines. According to native geography these are generally tiger, leopard and lion. If one is going to shapeshift, one might as well choose an animal that can prosper in the area.
South America is filled with unique and interesting shape-shifters. In Chili they have the ability to transform into vultures. This may not prove aesthetically pleasing to most, but the vulture is a large and powerful bird. With its eyesight, wingspan and attacking ability it is not to be taken lightly and is an excellent choice for a shapeshifter who wants to be able to defend him/herself.
Navajo tribes in North America have skinwalkers with the ability to transform into a variety of animals, including wolves, coyotes, bear, bison and deer.
Northern Europe has an abundance of beings with multiple skins. Iceland has the hamrammr which turns into the animal it most recently ate and grows stronger with every meal. Ireland and Scotland have their selkies(faery seal) and kelpies (faery water horse), which although not human do take human form on occasion even as the Brazilian encantados (faery dolpin.)
The Philippines are home to less benign creatures as selkies and encantados. They have the aswang, a sort of vampire-werewolf that eats human corpses and can also take the form of the top half of a corpse with large batwings. In the south things are not any better with the berbalang which is not like other shapeshifters but is interesting enough to be mentioned. The berbalang is a sort of vampire that flies around in its astral body as a swarm of red fireflies, looking for humans to devour.
China has the shapeshifters most like the modern reluctant werewolf. Their weretigers are due either to heredity or being cursed by a malignant ghost. Ironically, the ghost is usually that of someone who was killed by a tiger.
The werelions of Africa are considered often to be past or future royalty. This belief was held by some Africans concerning the man-eaters of Tsavo, who killed and devoured enough railway workers in the late 1800’s that the plans for the train were nearly canceled. As the belief goes, serves the white guy right.List and Description of various shapeshifters
More on the Nahual
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