This is part 2 of 4 in our The Wild Side series.
You feel your body towering over the curled up creature in front of you, a former threat now trying to shrink into the very earth below out of fear of your presence. Your claws ready, your teeth bared, your fur bristling – a mama bear protecting her cubs.
The creature scurries off, stories of the great bear forever on its lips as a reminder to tread lightly if you threaten those she deems her cubs. When they vanish out of sight, so does the bear, replaced by a druid surrounded by its friends who look on in surprise and gratitude as they bear witness.
Now your friends understand why you refer to them as your cubs.
In many TTRPGs, druids – the nature magicians of the fantasy world – often have the ability to temporarily shapeshift into animals. In D&D, this ability is known as “wildshape.” Some druids favor smaller beasts such as rats and squirrels that can infiltrate even the most fortified castles unnoticed. Others prefer beasts of immense size and power that can overwhelm the forces of civilization aiming to keep them at bay. Druids can become the embodiment of the fauna they protect - magician and beast becoming one.
In mythologies across the world, humans and gods shapeshift into all types of animals. Selkies merge woman and seal, kitsune align fox spirits with human form, and werewolves are the tipping point between wolf and man. These creatures connect us to the natural world and the lessons the respective beast might teach us. Likewise, when we humanize these animals, we start to see all of the things we have in common.
While we can’t willingly change into beasts ourselves, we can find ourselves taken on the embodiment of these beasts. We might be clever as a fox, spot details with hawk eyes, loyal as a dog, quiet as a mouse, or sharp as a snake’s tongue. We can take on the traits of the animals that we admire and make them our own.
Even marine life like dolphins can teach us how to live out our porpoise in life.
Whenever you need to be intentional about the role you want to play in your next encounter, consider if there might be an animal you want to “wildshape” into yourself.
Will you be the vulture ready to clean up the scraps?
Will you be the camel ready to survive for the long haul?
Will you be the playful monkey eager to learn and take care of others?
Will you be the graceful spider spinning an architecture of your own design?
These animals might not always encourage us to action either. Even a mama bear needs to hibernate for a few months.
These wildshape forms will feel like a stretch, so maintain them only for as long as you need. Be intentional with the role you are choosing for yourself and the form that it takes. You can always come back to being a human - whatever that means to you.
Yet, always stay connected to that wild side, that part that yearns to be free and relax into the creature comforts. We all must hunt and forage to survive and protect our kin, beast and human alike, but what brings us joy and pleasure will always come naturally.
No matter if you fail, keep trying your beast!
Autumn & Jerod