"Shape shifting is the transformation (mentally or physically) of one's self into an animal. A 'theriomorph' is a shapeshifter; a being who can assume an animal as well as a human form.
"A spiritual theriomorph is someone who at least sees aspects of animals in his or her personality and actions, and those aspects shape who he or she is. More so in the meaning of a spiritual shapeshifter, being able to assume animal as well as human form in spirit (or a mix of the two).
"There are two types of shapeshifting; changing your light body in the astral to power animal, and changing your physical form on the earth plane into an animal. Perhaps this is where the lycanthropy legend actually began. Very adept shamans are said to be able to change their physical human forms into that of animals.
"During certain ritual dances, humans can be possessed by the animal spirit. Although they outwardly do not become the animal, their body may contort or move in the fashion that the animal is most comfortable. Vocalizations are also heard, such as the cry of the Eagle, scream of the Falcon, etc.
"These power dances are not harmful, as long as they are done within some type of sacred circle. Inwardly, the individual melds with the animal. The human's sense of smell or sight may be heightened, there could be increased dexterity in the limbs, or a feeling of savage power that the animal may represent.
"Depending on animals for food and fur for warmth, primitive man knew that his destiny was linked with that of the beasts. His almost religious fascination with the creatures he hunted is evidenced by cave drawings found as far apart as France and Australia.
"Many early civilizations revered animals as the incarnation of gods; in ancient Egypt, for example, both the cobra and the cat were objects of worship. It is not surprising that stories of humans turning into beasts, has become deeply ingrained in the popular imagination. Often such metamorphoses are associated with fear and terror.
"In central and eastern Europe, for example, a belief in the bloodsucking vampire that condemns its victims to a living death has persisted into the 20th century.
"In West Africa until recently, members of a secret society called the Leopard Men believed that simply wearing the leopard's distinctive spotted skin would magically imbue them with that animal's fearsome strength." - Crystal Links
Some years ago my poetry took on a mythic flavor and I became a character in my own poems, a mage, "the man of the Northern Wall". This apellation is not completely fictional. My middle name is Noordwal, a Dutch term for north wall, though in current Dutch it mainly means north bank as in riverbank. I was told that an ancestor, a Portugese Jew escaping the Inquisition, settled in a small Dutch town and took this name from where he settled, near the north wall of the town. I have thought for a long time that -wal meant wall, think my mother told me that. A linguist might say that my usage is no longer common, is an older usage, but then the Inquisition happened in Portugal a few centuries ago, right around the time the Moors lost control of the Iberian Peninsula and the Jews lost the modest protection given them by Islam. Now I write as this mage, my poetry persona.