Shapeshifting and the Bible
“[T]he Irish believed that gods, druids, poets, and others in touch with the magical world could be literal shape-shifters”–Thomas Cahill
When I present my Scots-Irish program, with the more mature grades I sometimes talk about shapeshifting in ancient Celtic and druid thinking. Of course, the Celts were not the only culture to believe that humans and gods could take on other forms. For example, Native American mythology is full of tales that illustrate this. The world religions, even Christianity holds it out as a possibility. For example in the Bible:
1. According to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 3, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form at the baptism of Jesus.
2. Also in Luke, Chapter 24, Jesus appeared in “another form” to the disciples walking along the road.
3. Think too of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush.
4. Balaam’s donkey talking must have something to do with this.
5. Satan himself is said to be able to masquerade as an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14)
6. Angels frequently took (some say still take) on the form of humans. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us to show hospitality to strangers because some entertain angels unaware of the fact they’re dealing with a heavenly messenger.
7. Even the idea of incarnation, God becoming flesh, seems to me to be a form of shapeshifting.
I think these references are instructive and reminders that the ancient world religions had more in common than we might realize.