Monday, March 20, 2017

Mythical Monday #70 - Shifters and Skinwalkers

Art work by: @Burntlaughter on Twitter

It seems there are many books influenced by or based on Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are many different Mythology's and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.


Shifters and Skinwalkers

My YA Paranormal Mystery series in which SHADE is the first novel features a number of myths and mythological beings. The main character, a teenaged girl named Shade, discovers in the first book that she’s a ghost whisperer. This means that she can see and hear ghosts. Ghosts reach out to her when they need help resolving issues from their lives on Earth before they can move on into the afterlife.

By Book #2, SHADE AND THE SKINWALKERS, Shade discovers there are more mythological beings roaming the Earth. In this book, she encounters shifters and skinwalkers for the very first time.

There’s an important difference between these two creatures. While shifters are mythological, skinwalkers are part of Navajo religious and cultural lore.

Shifters have much in common with several of Carl Jung’s archetypes. They seem to have most in common with the Shadow archetype. In Jung’s own words, “Taken in its deepest sense, the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him. Carefully amputated, it becomes the healing serpent of the mysteries.” The Shadow represents the shadowy parts of ourselves that we don’t like to recognize as being parts of ourselves. It represents the wild, chaotic impulses that we tend to deny and push down into our unconscious. This archetype is perfect for fictional stories in which the Shadow can be released and given full rein. In shifter stories, human beings shift into animal form. In animal form, they can do either good or bad; but, no matter what, they’re frightening, as they’re no longer tied to the norms of human society. SHADE AND THE SKINWALKERS includes both good and bad shifters. There’s a cute little cat; but there are also much larger, more vicious animals into which shifters change form.

Other Jungian archetypes that shifters represent are the Magician which is described as mysterious and powerful, the Witch or Sorceress which is described as dangerous, and the Trickster which is described as deceiving and hidden.

When human characters have the magical ability to shift into animal form, they add an important element to literature. By reading about episodes of shifting and morphing into animal form, we’re able to vicariously tap into our own dark impulses, to see them in action and process them. While observing or becoming one with the Shadow, the Magician, the Witch/Sorceress and the Trickster, we feel thrilled and frightened. We understand, even if only on an unconscious level, more about ourselves and the human condition.

Skinwalkers are a step beyond shifters. In Navajo religion and cultural lore, skinwalkers are evil witches capable of shifting into animal form. They don’t simply morph into animal form because that’s part of their biological makeup, as is the case with shifters. It’s believed by the Navajo that there is, instead, a period of time in which a human being must violate societal taboos to prove worthy of becoming a skinwalker. It’s often felt they must go as far as committing horrific crimes such as cannibalism, incest or murder against their own kin in order to become a skinwalker. Understandably, the Navajo are quite frightened of these creatures.

Adding both shifters and skinwalkers to my YA Paranormal Mystery novel, SHADE AND THE SKINWALKERS, allowed me to explore a great many themes about friends and families, good vs. evil, and heroes and villains.


About Author:
USA TODAY Bestselling Author Marilyn Peake writes in a variety of genres, mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy. She’s one of the contributing authors in Book: The Sequel, published by The Perseus Books Group, with one of her entries included in serialization at The Daily Beast. In addition, Marilyn has served as Editor of a number of anthologies. Her short stories have been published in seven anthologies and on the literary blog, Glass Cases.

Find Author:
Author Site
Twitter:  @marilynpeake
Facebook Author Page

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