If you went back a thousand – or, let’s go back even farther, how about two thousand years – what would you find? Would you believe that you’d find evidence of shapeshifters– and in particular – were-jaguars!?
The ancient Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica – a pre-Columbian civilization that was one of the earliest civilizations in the Americas – left behind a number of ancient artifacts for us to study their culture – a culture that dated back as far as 1000 BC. Cave paintings, huge stone sculptures and ancient artifacts are all part of the legacy that they left us as evidence of their existence, and as influence for future civilizations. But one thing that really stands out in the artifacts that they left, is their belief in, and representations of shapeshifters!
The Were-Jaguar – a half-human, half-animal creature – is depicted over and over again in Olmec art. Yes, the Olmecs believed in were-jaguars and shapeshifters!! Even more than believed in them – they worshipped them! The were-jaguar was not just a passing fad, or a story in a book to them. They were in fact a real part of their existence. In fact, in Olmec culture, the jaguar was considered a very special creature and was associated with rain and fertility. But they were more than animals, they were deeply integrated into their very selves. It is believed that the Olmec shamans transformed into the jaguar by wearing the animal’s skin – thus becoming the “were-jaguar”. This is interesting because many of the tales of how to become a werewolf or werecreature involve wearing something. For example, in perhaps the most famous of all cases – the famous werewolf case of Peter Stubbe – he had a magical belt that he put on to help himself transform. Could there be something to this? Are there special things out there in the world that would let you transform if you were to merely put them on? The Olmecs certainly thought so.