While writing Dark Night of the Moon, I did quite a bit of research on the wolf and the mythology surrounding him/her concerning their ability to shift into humans. Would you believe, shape shifters existed in Native American legend and lore long before they appeared in Twilight! You don't say?
Here are some interesting facts I stumbled upon concerning shape shifting beasts, particularly wolves, when the Native American tribes ruled the plains.
The wolf shifter in Dark Night of the Moon happens to be a gray wolf. The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is also known as the Arctic wolf, common wolf, Mexican wolf, Plains wolf, timber wolf, and Tundra wolf. At one time, they were the world's most widely distributed mammal, but they've become extinct now in much of Western Europe, Mexico and the US. Their packs have been reduced by almost one-third over the years because we've been led to believe they prey on livestock and humans. In actuality, it's very rare for humans to be attacked by a wolf.
Native Americans have profound respect for the wolf. To several tribes the wolf was known as a protective spirit or totem. They viewed the wolf as a wise fellow hunter to be respected and admired. Those who could shift into the wolf were known as limmikin (or yenaloosi) in many tribes. The Navajo are best known for their shifter beliefs. They called men who could morph into wolves skinwalkers, or yennadlooshi which means "He goes on all fours."
According to Navajo tradition skinwalkers look physically different from normal people – the main difference is their eyes—large and glowing, even in daylight. It’s believed if someone looks a skinwalker in the eyes, the creature can absorb a person and steal their skin. They could also read minds and lure people from their homes and into the woods by imitating the voices and cries of loved ones.
Examples of the wolf appearing throughout Native American mythology include the following.
* The Eskimos spoke of an old woman, Qisaruatsiaq, who was abandoned and forced to live by herself. Eventually, she turned into a wolf.
* The Sioux called the wolf shunk manitu tanka, meaning animal that looks like a dog but is a powerful spirit.
* Cheyenne medicine men rubbed warrior arrows against wolf fur to bring better luck in hunting.
* The Nootka celebrated spiritual ties to the wolf. When someone died, they thought they could bring a person back to life by wearing wolf clothing.
* The Cherokee would not kill a wolf, believing the dead wolf's siblings would exact revenge. They learned to walk like a wolf to ward off frostbite to their feet.
* The Crow dressed in wolf skins to hunt.
* The Mandan displayed wolf tails on their moccasins, signs of success in battle.
* Women of the Hidatsa tribe rubbed their bellies with wolf skin to alleviate difficult childbirth.
* The Cree believed divine wolves visited earth when the northern lights shone during winter.
* The Ahtena would prop dead wolves up, sometimes feeding them ceremonial meals.
* Chippewa myths tell of wolves supplying humans with food and hides.
* The Delaware tribe thought a change in weather might be announced through a wolf's howl.
Lakota Woman (Sioux) Myth
A woman was hurt and left behind by her people. She ran out of food and nearly starved, but came upon a wolf den and crawled inside. At first the members of the pack were suspicious and afraid of her, but eventually they grew to like her. When they brought food to their pups they shared it with her.
Eventually she was strong enough to snare rabbits and help with the hunting. She stayed with the pack for many years.
One day the oldest wolf smelled humans coming, and strangely the woman did too. They were her own people and she realized she must return to them.
She reunited herself with the village very slowly and brought with her the skills of the wolf. She knew wolf talk and developed a keen sense of smell, allowing her to predict bad weather far in advance. She could also alert the village when game or other humans came around.
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I hope I’ve piqued your interest. If you’d like to know more about Holding On To Heaven and Dark Night of the Moon, you can read the great reviews on Amazon.