Monster Face-Off: Big Bad Werewolf v. Indigenous Shapeshifters

The big bad werewolf (globe-views.com) v. the indigenous shapeshifter (theshadowlandsmessageboard.yuku.com)

Hilahi yu, very long ago, monsters walked the earth and sometimes made trouble for human beings.

Some people think that is still the case.

The last episode of monster face-off featured a fictional smackdown between Dracula and Windigo, because I pled ignorance of an indigenous vampire and put Windigo forward as the closest monster in this hemisphere.

The implied conclusion was that Windigo prevailed, primarily because of the vulnerability of vampires in the sunlight.

I have been informed that I should have mentioned Camazotz, the Death Bat of the Mayas. Camazotz was one of the challenges overcome by the hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. We know little about Camazotz except though the Popol Vuh, a transcription of Mayan tales by Francisco Ximénez, a Dominican priest who perhaps did not get the memo that all Mayan learning was to be destroyed.

I can’t help but wonder if the hero twins were related to the sons of Changing Woman? We know that the Anasazi traded with Maya country. Why not the Navajo?

My Choctaw friends tell about a giant owl that is apparently a shapeshifting witch, Stigini, that somehow got translated to the Internet as “Skate’ne,” which I’m told does not compute linguistically.

The Navajo tell us about skinwalkers, also shapeshifting witches, evil and dangerous.

My own people, the Cherokee, tell about Ravenmocker, a witch who comes to eat the hearts of dying persons. Each gruesome meal adds to Ravenmocker’s life the time that was taken from the victim.

The European colonists have brought little to this convocation of colorful witchery but werewolves, first mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, some 2,000 years ago. Like European vampires, the man-beasts that prowl during a full moon answer to hard and fast rules that make them vulnerable to anyone who understands the game afoot. Not the least of these rules is the full moon itself, without which the man cannot take the form of a wolf and can be killed as any other man.

Werewolves also share with their bloodsucking cousins the ability to make more of their kind with their bites. A person attacked by a werewolf is better off dead, since the subsequent shapeshifting is not voluntary or controllable. The werewolf is a human cursed by “melancholic lycanthropia,” for which death is the only cure, deliverance by silver bullet.

The shapeshifters indigenous to the Americas are not so easily destroyed, and many of them are known for their cleverness in avoiding detection. In every culture where I have encountered them, protection requires ceremonial medicine based on ancient and esoteric knowledge. Even facing a person armed with the correct medicine, a shapeshifter remains formidable and any mistake in the confrontation will leave the tribal people with one less medicine person.

Werewolves are stronger than humans and inclined to prey on humans, but their weapons are limited to fang and claw and when in their human form they are vulnerable. In a conflict between a European werewolf and a shapeshifting witch, there could be only one outcome.

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