Shapeshifters. It’s inevitable (at least in the circles I run in) that when one brings up Werewolves, some one will ask: “What about other shapeshifters?” An excellent question. What about them? Werewolves are really a European invention. Even in other places where there are wolves, wolf-shifters are very different than the cursed souls seen in Europe. Every nation and culture on the planet has some sort of animal-shifter in its mythos and, given my inentional focus on a worldwide view of the No Books setting, I need to address how these other beast-changers fit. Simply put? There are as many different shifters as there are legends. All legends are true, even if they aren’t always accurate, after all…
- There is a tremendous amount of variety of shifters in the world, but each is small and unique. Even those shifters which share affinity with the same species of animal (e.g. Kitsune of Japan and Reyardine of W. Europe are both fox-shifters), differ in both culture and method of becoming.
- Some shifters are born into the life of both man and beast. Others are inducted through ritual. Still others through a confluence of events which change them forever. In some cases, shifters may have even been born of beast instead of man (i.e. a cat can learn to take the form of a human too)
- Each group of shifters, even if becoming and culture are similar, may be culturally very different due to geographic distance.
- Nahual: Cat-shifters native to Central and South America. Their becoming involves a ritual wherein a prospect sleeps in one of the hidden groves deep in the jungle where the walls between the physical and spirit realms grow weak. If the ritual is completed successfully, the prospect gains a beast form that closely resembles a jaguar or puma. Culturally, the Nahual focus on protecting and guiding their communities.
- Katcede: Raven-shifters native to the Northwestern United States and Western Canada. They are all born with the ability to shapeshift and many claim descent from the Raven of legend in some manner. Rarely a raven may show the ability to shift into human form as well, and these shifters are welcomed without prejudice as being fellow descendents of Raven. Upon reaching puberty, they shift for the first time and are soon apprenticed to an elder Medicine Man of the “Family.” They are then trained to be spiritual leaders, tricksters, and teachers in their communities.
- Behrserkrs: Bear-shifters native to Northern Europe. Through ancient rituals and enchantments, the pelt of a bear (hunted and killed without “modern” weapons or tools) is prepared by the prospective shifter. If the prospect’s will, faith, and purity of purpose are sufficient then the pelt becomes a powerful artifact. When worn, the pelt transforms the user into a mystically empowered bear which feels no pain, knows no fear, and cannot be stopped until either the bear or his enemy is dead.