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.

on the subject of shifting  *
read part two of this article  

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