The natural world, and all its creatures, shaped the human psyche as profoundly as water, in all its forms, shaped the folds of the Earth. From the ancient cave painting of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc to the sweeping high-definition video documentaries of the modern age, humankind’s fascination with the beings who share this existence never wavers.
Many of the earliest creation myths revolve around animal spirits; the Australian aborigines tell of a prehuman “dream time” during which magical ancestors became lizards (or other animals), gave birth to more lizards, and then, warmed by the sun, turned as a group into humans. In many Native American cultures, the world is created by an animal who dives to the bottom of the ocean and brings up land bit by bit. And the norsk people looked to a divine cow (Auðumbla), whose milk nourished Ymir, the first giant; the gods used his body to create Midgaard.
For people living in the natural work, animals can be a source of food, companionship or labor; a competitor for resources; or a dangerous predator. For hunter-gather societies, these relationships are expressed through complex story-cycles, with certain stories being told during specific times or only in sacred spaces. People are sometimes named after the animals they favor; that can seek to take on attributes of specific animals by wearing totems of those creatures or bits of the animals themselves. Powerful magics might allow a human to transform into an animal, or that animal become a human for some period of time. In short, animals and people are not separate and apart, but live together, in a continuum.
In the Sidhe Empire we find three kinds of weres.
- Shapeshifters (living creatures that turn on a moon-cycle),
- Skinwalkers (powerful adapts who use magic to change into creatures),
- and Therianthrops (mortal beings that simultaneously share human and nonhuman animal traits).