Shapeshifting – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So a redditor saw a post I wrote in response to a girl who saw a cryptid of some sort, as well as a white wolf, driving down a country road in northern Alabama a few years back.  It was an interesting post, and dovetailed with a lot of anecdotal reports about cryptids in its details.  Here’s the post; Northern Alabama cryptid.

Before I entered graduate school, I apprenticed to a psychic/healer/shamanic practitioner for a over a decade.  I did my graduate work on this topic, and also interacted with other practitioners as well during that time.  I do feel not comfortable with  “shaman” or “shamanic practitioner,” or even the name, “neo-shaman.”  Eliade called these practitioners by this name, a degradation of a Siberian word, Shasin, and even the practitioners of that region do not use this nomenclature.

There are a multitude of designations, Medicine men/women, bruja/brujo, curandera/curandero, chaote magician, a number of other names.  A witch was known in their respective European villages to conduct similar types of healing and manifestation work, and you can always tell a neophyte fantasy writer by their calling a practitioner a “warlock.”  Perhaps I’m just ignorant, but I’ve never heard that term used.  You always get a bit of a giggle from practitioners when lay people use that term, at least the ones I know.  A “wizard,” or “mage/magician,” perhaps, but “warlock,” no.

So anyway, back to our story–this young woman was driving down a country road in northern Alabama, old Native American country.  This particular area was not used even by them very much–they soon realized that it was swampy ground, and unhealthy–but suitable for hunting.  So they had never lived there.  The country itself has been witness to messy confrontations with settlers, and the land has a lot of forgotten spilled blood in its soil.  The energy of the place is old and tangled.

Driving down this isolated country road one night, she saw a beautiful white wolf watching over a small house on a corner lot.  Its presence felt totally benevolent, and she felt comforted by its presence.  It seemed unearthly to her as she drove by it.  She thought about it a lot, and drove back a few nights later, looking for it, and got the shock of her life.  The wolf and the house were gone, burned to the ground in an  odd circular pattern, and in its place was a “dogman” of sorts.  That’s the closest description she gave, bipedal, elongated and misshapen.  She knew better than to look it in the eyes, and managed to speed past it.  She got a glimpse of it chasing her car.  This occurred over a decade ago, and it’s just now, her terror softened by a move 1000 miles away from Alabama, that she is able to talk about it.  I don’t blame her–it sounded horrifying.

Of course, the strict pragmatists scoff, and I’m not going to get into that particular argument.  There are a lot of natural occurrences for which we have no explanation.  Some tales, you can tell that the author is offering them as spooky stories, suitable for sitting around a campfire.  Other people, you can tell that this is an event that they perceive as having really happened.

I have been interested in tales of this sort, dogman, wendigo, skinwalkers, djinn and the like because of some of my experiences with the teachers I with whom I apprenticed.  Not that I think you can group all of these manifestations together, but we just don’t know.  What interests me is what they can tell us about human cognition, and epistemology.  What do we know, how do we know it, and are we overlooking some other means of perception?  What clues can these appearances give us?  We’ve been getting a number of sightings in and around Chicago/Wisconsin of a flying humanoid for the last year or so, interestingly, although they’ve been going on for longer than that.  Lon Strickler has been collecting stories of these encounters on his website.  Where are these sightings coming from?

So I had replied to this poster, giving her some hypotheticals based on my experience, and another poster popped up and asked me further about them, specifically werewolves, lycanthropes.  I don’t write about these cryptids at all, nor have I studied them.  My teacher covered them as part of my training, and after my initial curiosity–I have no interest in chasing them–I dropped it.  My teachers made it clear that some practitioners go that route, shapeshifting to quasi-animal, human shapes to gain power–which lycanthropes may be a manifestation of, but that it was a dead end, and a nasty one at that.  Because once you’re in it, and stay too long, you forget you were ever human.  And it doesn’t take long.

I had one instructor who did go that route.  He was more of a brujo, a chaos mage, a hired gun.  He would get into petty fights with nearby practitioners, and conduct work that was not quite above board, if the price was right.  Curses were right up his alley, and he had a short temper, so you had to be careful.  He was real fun at parties.  Another instructor went so far as to say that if she even got a whiff that you were indulging in working with negative energies and entities, or shapeshifting for material gain–that she would cut you off without explanation.  What was so striking about it was that she remains the most powerful practitioner I’ve ever known, and she cut off this work at the neck, and wanted absolutely no connection with it.  OK, teach, enough said.  I’ve had enough run-ins with them myself to keep the energetic boundaries around myself, my family and my home water tight.  And I never forget to do this.  It’s not that I can’t deal with entities like that–I have–I just don’t go looking for trouble.

Ghosts, manifestations generated from negative intention –what some would call demons–interdimensional flotsam out there making a mess, I quickly found boring.  Their motivations are the same, they see themselves as separate, and that is incorrect information, and ultimately serves no purpose.  But what struck me by the question is that others might be interested.  To the extent that their observed existence is a commentary about humans’ neurological basis of cognition–why we perceive what we perceive–in that sense, they’re interesting.

So what are these things?  Dogman, skinwalkers, cryptids, flying humanoids, lycanthropes, wendigos?  From a scientific point of view, there’s not much to say.  As far as I know, there’s no hair strands, DNA or physical remains that I can point to.  Nothing, nada.  But from a multidimensional, magical, for lack of a better word, shamanic perspective, maybe there is.  I don’t think you can lump them all together, but there may be a thread that connects them.

Your intentionality, in whatever technique you use to manifest your goals in life, is the master key.  On the top of the “real world” pile we have people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett.  These people have been true visionaries, and have manifested what they envisioned with creativity, innovation and focus.  Then we have men and women like Einstein, Hawking, Watson and Crick, scientists who pushed our understanding of the material world in big steps forward.  There are great artists, writers and musicians, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Bach–all of them have had a particular vision.  Civil rights activists, MLK, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, a multitude of others.  You have a vision as well, and we are always manifesting what we project as reality.  But we have been so ingrained to think that the material world is immutable, and cannot change without material intervention, that we don’t go beyond that view, as a rule, ever.

Practitioners know better–and here’s the thing–by manipulating the causal level of reality, they know they can manifest any material thing that they wish.  Now, of course, it depends of skill, training, experience, and of course, talent.  Most practitioners have some “specialty” that they are best at.  Mine was–or is–healing work, on the physical and emotional level, for the dying patient.  Students of mine had varying talents–one as a psychic and medium, another as an artist, one was even talented as a psychic car mechanic!  But the center of the issue is knowing you can.

So, shapeshifting. So how is this done?  Well, it’s easy, and it’s hard.  Sometimes I think it falls perilously close to what we would consider mental illness.  Kids and young adults manifesting tulpas through focusing their intention–dissociating slivers of personality into autonomous entities to interact with because of loneliness or feelings of inferiority, only serve to enhance those feelings of isolation.  We are healthier when we manage to keep connected with the rest of humanity, however flawed we may be.  So we are capable of manifestation on this level by dissociation, but in my view, it serves no productive purpose.

That instructor who was not the most ethical, his favorite manifestation was as a grey wolf.  But he was small potatoes compared to some of the others I’ve met, or heard first hand reports of.  I’ve experienced several shapeshifting episodes, but it’s been a while since the need arose.  That’s the key to all of this–you have to really, really, want, in the center of your being, heart, mind and soul, to shapeshift into what you need to manifest.  Mine was a hawk, I needed the qualities of clear-seeing, long endurance for flight, and the knowledge that when one thing dies, another is reborn.  But here’s the clincher–on this level, my physical body remained, but uninhabited; but on another plane of reality, I had shifted into a hawk.  I felt feathers, flight, and was far-seeing and clear-hearing.  In that realm, I was as real as I am here.  It was weeks back on this plane–the “real world”–before I lost the craving for mice.  They simply looked delicious.  Go figure.

The same is true of those who wish to do it solely for the sake of power, other wise known as skinwalkers.  Native peoples who still follow tribal beliefs are remarkably circumspect about these practitioners, so some of what I know is hearsay, some from individuals who know parts of the lore, and some is speculation on my part based on my experience and training in shapeshifting.  The belief is that they must commit some heinous crime, killing a family member, incest, to actually manifest as they wish to appear, usually a dogman or wendigo type manifestation.  I personally doubt that’s necessary–perhaps to their mind it is.  The Natives–who still follow the old ways– believe that talking about them draws them to the speaker.  Perhaps–but if you have sufficient defense, that’s not an issue.  But here’s why I think that might be true–these manifest on another plane, and are then attracted to this plane in response to negative–fearful and angry–thought forms.  Many of these reports mention that some very negative event had just happened in their lives, such as a murder or suicide, or other catastrophic emotional event.

So if skinwalkers are drawn out by negative thought forms, this may apply to other cryptids and specifically, the flying humanoids of Chicago.  Some people, Lon Strickler included, suspect that these are drawn to people who are having negative thought forms, anger, characterized by verbal dissension with others.  It seems to have been the case in several instances.  The witnesses were arguing, or mourning, or in some other form of emotional distress.  Perhaps–we most likely need more data.  It’s an interesting contention.  But this would NOT be true of our young lady above.  So what may have happened in that case?

To be continued…


Janey was a bird, a Society Finch to be exact. They are very small, not weighing more than a few ounces. I bought her as a companion for one of our male finches. They are particularly social, and Society Finches get along with anyone. White, brown and black, they do not have gorgeous plumage, but are gregarious and live to be with other birds.

Not many people bother naming their finches, they are very small, not noisy like parakeets or larger parrots, and seem to have little personality. This is actually not true, they’re quite expressive, and all have very definite preferences and behaviors. They have cliquey friendships, birds they don’t like or are best buds with, and have favorite foods and toys.  Janey was exceptional from the start. She was a helper bird. If the others were upset, or not feeling well, Janey was always right there. She was very “touchy,” she would perch next to them very closely, with their whole bodies touching, like a hug. Finches are like that, but Janey always made sure that she was there when the others needed her.

Animals pick us for a reason to live their lives with us. They’re here to teach us, or to learn something themselves. She was my little “nurse bird.” She was always the sweetest bird of all of them, and calmer than the rest. There was Henry, the boss, a brown Spice Finch, a little standoffish, but clearly the leader. What he said was law, access to the best food, cage space, priority in the nest, who groomed who. When I took him out of the cage, he would growl and then bite me. Pretty funny when you consider how small he was, but he always left a mark. And a ferocious, growling finch is something you have to witness once in your life, it’s hilarious.

There was Henry’s son, Sam, who was a bigger jerk than his father, I always imagined him a bit like Johnny Bravo, so full of himself, sort of a smart aleck, with the ego of Mussolini. Then there was Grace, his mother. She was absolutely gorgeous, and really did remind us of Grace Kelly. She was pure white and a rich brown, but she really did remind you of a patrician blond. She and Janey were best buddies. I later acquired Audrey, a Zebra Finch, whose big brown eyes reminded us of Audrey Hepburn. She was a rabble-rouser, as most Zebras are. She’d get into fights and scream at the other birds, she was quite competitive and dominating. Oddly, when Henry died, she went into mourning, wouldn’t eat or drink, and followed him into the Light within a week. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen up to that point, and I have had pets all my life.

Janey was exceptionally intelligent. The others always responded with fear to anything, while after a minute of two, Janey would be over to investigate. She loved figuring things out. She figured out new food items first and played with the new toys before anyone else. She loved taking a bath under a dripping ice cube on hot days, while the others would be avoiding it like it was approaching death.

But mostly, she responded when you talked to her. She would come over to the side of the cage, tilt her head and look at you closely. She always listened intently, with so much knowing in her eyes.

Finches groom each other, as a sign of friendship, to show their level in the hierarchy, and out of boredom. You’d think that finches don’t think about much, their brains are probably no bigger than your fingernail, but they would get bored. I always tried to provide them with enough toys and games and treats, but being in a cage all the time is not a natural state for a bird. We have a large aviary, and forays into freedom usually ended in disaster, with them either hiding under beds, sitting up on a window perch at the top of our cathedral ceilings, or flying into the walls. Henry was responsible–he was an escape artist–for my broken wrist, trying to get him down from one of those window ledges. He was a very expensive bird, I have a metal plate in my wrist because of him. And finding a bird the size of one of your fingers can get interesting in a large house.

So when they got bored, they would groom excessively. Janey, being the helpful bird she was, would let the others strip her down to the skin. I’d get up and there would be Janey, sporting a new Mohawk or a naked stripe down her back. I would separate her periodically into a small “hospital” cage, and let her get some peace, and grow her feathers back. I’d put her back in with the others, and in a day, they’ve have her picked clean again. It was her sympathetic nature, she had a very big heart, and would let them do it. In contrast, Grace would lose her temper occasionally, and even Henry learned that an angry Grace was not someone you wanted to mess with–she’d attack him and pull all his tail feathers out so he couldn’t fly.

I even got Janey another mate, a younger male named Simon. But even Simon learned that you could easily pick on Janey, so sweet and complacent, and she’d be denuded again. This was not good for her mental health. Pretty soon, she had picked a hole in her back herself, in response to the abuse. Broken skin on a bird, particularly one so small, can be lethal very quickly, and is nearly impossible to come back from. Think about an itching healing spot on yourself, it’s hard not to scratch it. I immediately separated her into a smaller cage, but I knew the outlook wasn’t good.

Back to the point of this blog, I had wanted to improve my animal communication skills for a long time, I could hear what they were saying in my mind in general terms, but nothing specific. I could tell that Janey was interested, and was trying to tell me something. She was too interested when I tried to talk to her. I was also asking for Divine help with her, she was a favorite, and I couldn’t bear to part with her yet, but I knew this was quite serious. I found an herbal spray that I could prepare to spray on her to reduce the irritation, and to a degree, it worked. I asked her at one point to stay, I couldn’t lose her yet. I thought I felt an answer from her;

I will stay for you, Mama, a little while longer, I love you. But I want to be with the other birds.”

            I felt a mixture of emotions from her, wanting to stay, yet missing the other birds,  conflicted by love for me.  But I doubted the answer; I look back on it now, and realize that I was overthinking it, as usual. I could feel how much she missed her friends Henry and Grace.   Time went on, she got better, her feathers grew back, so I put her back in with Simon. They got along well, but Simon started getting a little too enthusiastic about grooming again. I asked again in meditation for help with Janey, and I got an answer.

“If you want her to survive, then put her in a cage by herself.” It was one of my guides well known as a healer, Princess Yellow Feather. She sounded a bit unimpressed, when I thought about it later. At the time, I didn’t care, I just didn’t want to lose Janey yet. So I did as recommended, I put her in a cage by herself. She did very well, over a month or so, her feathers grew back, and she looked beautiful. She was happy, for a time.

About a month later, though, I noticed that she had pulled all of her tail feathers out again. And she wasn’t eating any of her seed mix, just her favorite, millet seed. She grew quieter. She would still come over to the side of the cage to listen to me, but she seemed more withdrawn. One day I noticed that she was a bit puffed up, and sitting on top of her nest. I asked her to stay again, this time I got no answer, or rather, one I didn’t want to face.

The next day I was out doing errands, with my mind occupied with something else entirely, and I got a rush of emotion, and saw Janey on her perch, with all her friends in Spirit behind her. I could see Henry, Grace and several of the others, all chattering and flying about.

Mama, please let me go, please. I want to go home and be with the other birds.” I knew immediately that enough was enough.

“Of course, Janey, go on. Mama loves you.”

“Thank you, Mama, I love you…”

When I returned home, Janey had passed away. She was lying in her food dish, her eyes closed as if napping. She had such a loving, compassionate heart, human beings rarely leave such a legacy. She was a lesson unto herself, size does not dictate the size of the love a being can carry, and give away.

But there was also another lesson. I was expecting more “language,” for lack of a better term, when asking for better communication with my birds. What I got was emotion, with very complex meaning packed in it. That she was a master of love and caring, I have no doubt, Janey could have taught many people how to be better humans. But what I also got–again!–was that one must let go of the outcomes when doing healing work, or communicating with others–the answers may come in many forms. Letting go for me has always been difficult, even as long as I’ve done this work.

She knew I didn’t want her to go, but it came to the point where she needed to move on, she wanted to be with her friends again. What a huge lesson from a beautiful little soul.

So long, little one.  I’ll see you.


Janey, Sam, Henry and Grace




Death–The Next Great Adventure

The Anatomy of Death: Notes from a Healer’s Casebook

So I have written a book about my experiences with the dying as a psychic-shamanic practitioner. I call it shamanic practitioner, as although I am part Native American, I cannot say that I learned of my calling and how to do it from a Native American Shaman, so I am not a shaman. I would call my mentor one, but she would not. She calls herself a student, as I do of myself.

What is this book about?  Who is Sarah? As Dumbledore might say, “To the well-ordered mind, death is but the next great adventure.” In conducting NIH-funded research in Reiki for chronic pain and in my own private practice as an energy healer, I found that some people who came for Reiki immediately got better, some did slowly over time, and some did not.  Others met with that final door we call death progressing through a distinct set of steps common to all of them, but in a relaxed and joyous way.  How and why was this?  In the course of their dying process, what had we done that was different?5031814-lg

The Buddhists have studied these processes over time and possess a finely tuned understanding of the function and meaning of death within their culture. For them, death is merely a punctuation mark, a single brushstroke in a much larger picture that goes on forever.   It’s all well and good that the Eastern perspective has come to such resolution about this process, but in a culture that worships youth and believes science has the answer to everything, how can death be looked at as anything other than a defeat?

I am primarily a storyteller; after a lifetime in the hard sciences, I now believe it is our stories that hold the ultimate power to transform. Though I have been given permission both by the patients and their families to tell these stories, their names and even some of the extraneous facts have been changed to protect their privacy. So attached to this post is Sarah’s story, which is about her journey through that final door.

The book will be published shortly on Amazon, The Anatomy of Death: Notes from a Healer’s Casebook. Feel free to print it, hand it around in its entirety.  Take it as allegory, if you like, or as an interesting, What If?


A Dirty Secret

So I must tell you, I’m working on my dissertation in Human Development, the thing is bloody hard work.  Our media and culture do not encourage deep, vertical thinking, everything is done on the fly and vast subjects encapsulated into a Lede followed by a few paragraphs.  Most people never get to the end of an article, much less invest years of study on a small group of interrelated subjects.  Academia is an interesting animal, like all areas of earnest endeavor, you have to really love it, because in-between all of the earnest endeavor, there is a lot of bullshit.  But I do love it.

But that’s not the dirty secret; within all of that has been the study of hands-on healing, clairvoyance and shamanic practice to invoke change.  I didn’t attend any one of a thousand “schools” that give  a “certificate” for a million dollars at the end of 12 weeks work with instructors whose experience is questionable at best.  I studied with an old woman–and she is old now–who has been doing this work for more than 50 years.  Like most people of this type, she would hesitate to even call herself a teacher or shaman, much less one of the most intuitive, gifted souls I have ever known.  Within her own realm, she is a genius.  It’s kind of funny–while others represent, or take on avatars of tremendous power–the eagle, or the leopard, for example–hers would be the teddy bear.  With pink fur.  Who could kick your ass into next week if she chose to do so.  But she wouldn’t need to, because by the time you’d gotten to know her, there wouldn’t be a thing on this earth you wouldn’t do for her, out of pure love.  Love is her weapon, no, it is her, no one can withstand her.

So that’s the secret.  Because I live in the world of academia, even most psychologists I know–and I know a lot–would be vastly uncomfortable if they knew this about me.  And it is a shame that it has to be this way, that even the work of Jung makes them uncomfortable.  Yet it was his work, and the work of Maslow that opened the door to the transpersonal, the perspective that the world had been working with for millennia, long before dualism forced our “either-or” view.

Interestingly, it was not a “cognitive” event that forced this change in me.  And it was forced, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this new horizon, this epoché, as Husserl would say, a suspension of disbelief.  And that tale will be told forthwith.