Friday, December 17, 2021

Therianthropy

Therianthropy is the ability to shape-shift between human and animal.

The Kelpie by Herbert Draper

Kelpies are one example. They frequent occur in Celtic folklore, appearing as black horses in the water, but with the ability to change into human form.

Some cave art has also included strange figures that scholars have interpreted as therianthropes. For example, this drawing of a cave painting by Henri Breuil shows what appears to be a human with an antlered head. He suggests it represents a shaman, sorcerer, or magician.

Other famous therianthropes include the selkie, which alternate between seal and human. The movie "The Secret of Roan Inish" is one of many interpretations.


Wikipedia summarizes the standard plotline: "A typical folk-tale is that of a man who steals a female selkie's skin, finds her naked on the sea shore, and compels her to become his wife. But the wife will spend her time in captivity longing for the sea, her true home, and will often be seen gazing longingly at the ocean. She may bear several children by her human husband, but once she discovers her skin, she will immediately return to the sea and abandon the children she loved."

Another famous example is the werewolf (therianthropy), as well as dog-human shapeshifters (cynanthropy).

6 comments:

Forrest said...

The use of color in "The Kelpie by Herbert Draper" is quite masterful.

A. M. said...

The Breuil drawing reminds me of the deer-skull head-dresses in the British Museum.

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1953-0208-1

The holes are apparently not for the eyes, but likely a fixing point for a band that could be used to attach onto a person's head. The Breuil drawing lacks detail, but to my eyes it could depict something similar.

Stevie VanBronkhorst said...

The Secret of Roan Inish was unstreamable for a long time until the film was restored through an Irish cultural grant. It can now be rented on Amazon and I’m glad to say it holds up well.

Oiseau said...

I did a painting earlier this year of self as badger. I don't think I can insert an image here, but here's the link to the right page on my site. It's the third image down.
https://www.artoiseau.com/#/green-gold/

This gets me thinking... perhaps a series lies in store!

n/a said...

Another great selkie movie is Ondine with Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Dervla Kirwan, Alison Barry. An Irish fisherman discovers a woman in his fishing net whom his precocious daughter believes to be a selkie.

n/a said...

Another great selkie movie is Ondine, with Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Dervla Kirwan, Alison Barry. An Irish fisherman discovers a woman in his fishing net whom his precocious daughter believes to be a selkie.