The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141469   Message #3256830
Posted By: Stilly River Sage
14-Nov-11 - 11:35 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Shape changer/shifter legends
Subject: RE: Shape changer/shifter legends

Perhaps I should have referred to these stories not as actual memories of our species but as beliefs found in other religions?

Ah - the Other religions. This implies that the position of the speaker accepted as "standard," is not the other, and apparently doesn't have shape-shifters (I'd be willing to bet that they're found even in places as revered as the bible, if people were to look.) And many cultures that have layered christianity on top of their own religions, those intersections are filled with shape shifters.

When I was working on a masters in English Lit I focused on American Indian literature, and as I researched them I could see that shape shifters abound in world literature, not just American Indian. I found reference to it in the UK (Ireland, the dissertation I remember digging up) that brought to mind songs like the Silkie, but also the Madrona (?) - woman whose father wanted her to marry a rich man and made her undress in front of him, so she turned into the madrona that peels it's bark.

Shape-shifters might be akin to what I'll call "state-shifters" - many songs about those who have died who return as ghosts, i.e., The Unquiet Grave. Or like the poem The Grisely Wife, who return as a predator cat.

There has been a recognition and expansion of the magical realism component in storytelling over the last 40 or 50 years as much literature and world view shifted from modernism to postmodernism (partly because it began to acknowledge the charm and richness of The Other), and if it's in poetry and literature, it will be in song also, don't you think? The last 40 or 50 years is modern era, songs written and composed in that time are not anonymous, are not folk, but I wouldn't be surprised if researchers who are now looking back at historic songs in Other cultures are finding ancient songs that express some of these things that have come to be understood by a dominant culture in modern times.

This is a polyglot of ideas (song, literature, religion, culture), they need to be teased apart. But I'm throwing it out there to perhaps move the conversation forward.