Many world mythologies, religions and occult practices suggest that some beings and objects have the ability to change shape. Today this is collectively called shapeshifting.
In ancient Greece, for example, Zeus transforms himself into a Swan to entice Leda. And in ancient Rome, Ovid‘s Metamorphosis is mostly about gods, animals, people and objects that continually change shape.
The idea is also found in Europe, Africa, South America, North America and China. Among these cultures, the wolf, tiger, fox and jaguar figure prominently as shapeshifters.
Traditionally, shapeshifting may involve transformations among people, spirits of the dead, gods or animals. Sometimes it involves a man or woman becoming a beast-man or a beast-woman.
Ethically speaking, shapeshifters may be good, evil or something in-between, as with the Native American trickster.
The ancient Chinese distinguish between legal and illegal shapeshifting. Legal shapeshifting brings increased knowledge through the study of ancient classics. Illegal shapeshifting is gained through a form of tantric sex where female power is stolen by the male though the act of coitus reservatus—that is, intercourse without male ejaculation.
Contemporary ET and UFO lore talks about alleged alien shapeshifters from other planets or dimensions. These ET shapeshifters are often said to be living on Earth and masquerading as human beings.¹ Some conspiracy theorists believe that ET shapeshifters have arrived on Earth to dominate and oppress humanity. Others take a less alarmist approach, saying they’re benevolent creatures trying to guide us to a brighter future.
In science fiction the shapeshifter is widespread. Actor René Auberjonois, for instance, plays Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a character who can assume any form he chooses. And from Marvel comics we have Mystique (Raven Darkhölme).
¹ A variation of this idea is the “walk-in,” where an ET soul apparently resides in a human body. It’s not always clear if this would be permanent or, perhaps, temporary or periodic.