Wednesday, December 16, 2015


This is a sequel to my previous post:

Is there any evidence for the existence of shapeshifters? Does Scripture speak to that issue? This is of some potential relevance to Christian missionaries who minister to people-groups where traditional witchcraft is prevalent. 

i) There are OT passages which suggest angels can materialize. Assume physical form. 

ii) Ps 91:5 might allude to the night hag. However, the passage is poetic.

iii) Isa 13:21 & 34:14 may allude to desert wraiths, night hags, and goat-demons. However, the language could be mythopoetic. 

iv) The OT bears witness a pagan cult of goat-demons (Lev 17:7; cf. 2 Kgs 23:8; 2 Chron 11:15). And that may lie in the background for the aforesaid passages in Isaiah.

That, however, doesn't testify to their existence, but to a type of idolatry. 

v) Mt 12:43 refers to desert demons, although that may be picturesque rather than literal.

So I'd say all these passages are neutral on the question of whether shapeshifters exist.

vi) Finally, you have the identity of Azazel in Lev 16. It's difficult to determine what that refers to. On one interpretation, Azazel is a desert demon. And it would be tempting for Israelites in the Sinai to placate a desert demon with an offering. The obvious problem with that explanation is that Lev 17:7 explicitly forbids that very practice.

A variation of that interpretation is not that the scapegoat an offering to Azazel. Rather, because the nature of the scapegoat is to be sent away, it will enter the domain of Azazel. That's a side-effect of the offering, rather than the intention of the offering. An incidental consequence. But the passage is admittedly obscure. 

In sum, I'd say the Scriptural evidence is inconclusive. It allows for the possible existence of shapeshifters, but doesn't attest their existence. 

Certainly many things are possible on a Biblical worldview that are impossible on a naturalistic worldview. Of course, what's possible and what's actual are two different things. 

What about extrabiblical evidence for shapeshifters? The most reputable evidence I've run across is from psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, describing two of his patients, whom he exorcised:

I still did not know precisely when and why Beccah had become possessed. I knew that around age six she had developed an abnormal attraction to a book of woodcuts that told one version of the pact with the devil story. M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption (Free Press 2005), 214-15. 
The extraordinary amount of restraint required was one of the less remarkable features of the exorcism. The most remarkable was the change in the appearance of Beccah’s face and body. Except during break times and a few other occasions when Satan would seemingly be replaced by Beccah, she did not appear to be a human being at all. To everyone present, her entire face became like that of a snake. I would have expected it to be the usual kind of poisonous snake with a triangular head, but that was not the case. The head and face of this snake were remarkably round. The only exception to this roundness was its nostrils, which had a distinct snub-nosed look. Most remarkable of all were the eyes. They had become hooded, ibid. 173. 
During another appointment, again for but a minute, Beccah’s face appeared to be that of a very dry, thick-skinned, lizardlike creature—possibly an iguana. Definitely a reptile but nothing like a snake. ibid. 225.

On a related note, I'm reminded of Michael Sudduth's experience:

My two years in Windsor, Connecticut deepened my long-standing and recently re-wakened interest in survival. Within a couple of days of moving into the early Federal-style home built by Eliakim Mather Olcott in 1817, my wife and I (and dog) began to experience a combination of prototypical haunting and poltergeist phenomena. Although we critically investigated the various phenomena as they occurred, we were unable to trace the phenomena to natural causes. Given the fairly astonishing nature of some of the phenomena, my curiosity about our experiences peaked and I began research into the history of the home and the experiences of its former residents. This led to what has been a ten-year long investigation, including interviews with former residents, visitors to the home, and acquaintances of residents as far back as the 1930s.   My inquiry turned up testimony from several prior occupants to experiencing phenomena identical, even in detail, to the phenomena my wife and I experienced. What I found equally fascinating, though, was the fact that occupants of the home prior to 1969, including long-term residents, claimed not to have experienced anything unusual. 1969 was the year resident Walter Callahan Sr. committed suicide in the home. In this way, the pattern of experiences surrounding the home fit a more widespread pattern in which ostensibly place-centered paranormal phenomena are associated with a suicide or other tragic event at the location. 

Likewise, I read a book a while back about an Eskimo community that relocated to ancient burial grounds, where witchdoctors were interred. According to the anthropologist who wrote the book, based on her extensive contact, that gave rise to hauntings. Cf. Edith Turner, The Hands Feel It.

Finally, a friend shared some anecdotes from Reddit. Whether or not we find these credible depends on how we evaluate testimonial evidence in general:

My grandmother on my mothers side has always been very superstitious, for lack of better word, she's not religious, but she does believe in a lot of paranormal stuff. 
Her mother was full blooded Navajo and her father was Irish. Either way, she'd never been anywhere East of Montana and she grew up in Nevada. 
One year, when I was in grade school, we went to visit her, most of the visit was pretty uneventful, typical boring old people stuff, except she always kept her curtains drawn shut and would always peek out the window and when someone asked what she was doing, she would simply reply " Yenaldlooshi is watching me" 
This went on for nearly the entire visit until a few days before we were due to leave, My grandma and my (then) baby brother (he's 19 now lol) were in the front yard that evening, planting flowers when all of a sudden, my grandmother starts shouting "Insert little brothers name here get away from that creature! It's not safe!" of course, being in Nevada, we all assumed that my brother had found a scorpion or a rattle snake, so we all run outside, to see my Grandmother clutching my little brother and shaking in terror against the side of the house, standing out in the yard, was a large, black, great-Dane sized dog, it was staring at my grandmother with an intensity I'd never seen before. It looked up at us, gave a little huff and bounded off, I don't remember if it moved unusually fast or not, but do remember it had really deep yellow eyes. 
When my mother asked my grandmother what had happened, she kept repeating " The Yenaldlooshi has found me". She moved a couple weeks after that.

Anybody that has been on the Navajo reservation has either probably heard of some creepy things or have experienced pretty creepy things. Namely skinwalkers. I have only seen one. Here is my story. I come from a small town in northern Arizona that's sandwiched between the Paiute reservation to the north and the U.S.'s largest Navajo reservation to the south. My high school being so small (a 1A high school that has, on average, 80 students enrolled every year.) always had to travel south about 5-10 hours one way to play another high school in any sport. This means that we traveled A LOT on the Navajo rez. And we also usually stayed at hotels when we would head out to play and come home in the morning but this trip was a little bit different. I remember the basketball coach saying that the school didn't have enough money to put up the teams in a hotel that trip so we were going to be on the road for a total of about 12 hours. I was the only male senior to play basketball that season. We had just got done playing our game and headed home on our bus "Big Blue." We were headed out and it wasn't long, about 2 hours of driving, before we had entered the rez. By this time, everyone was asleep with it being about 2 in the morning. When we had crossed the rez's border I noticed the bus driver had sped up and was now going about 85 mph. I thought this was a little weird because he never exceeded the speed limit, at least not in my high school career. For some reason, I couldn't fall asleep like the rest of my teammates, and I just sat at the back of the bus staring out across the desolate desert landscape that was lit up by the full moon. As I looked out, I could see a figure running towards the bus at an angle of pursuit...and keeping up with the bus at 85 mph. As the figure got closer I saw that it was a humanoid form. As a matter of fact it looked exactly like a human, only that the face was painted half black and half white with glowing eyes. Glowing eyes like a rabbit's eyes reflecting light from a spotlight. I immediately thought, "Holy crap! It's a skinwalker!!" The skinwalker ran up to the edge of the road and just kept up pace with the bus hurdling sage brush and rocks while staring at me. After I made eye contact with the thing, I COULD NOT look away. It was as if something was holding my head and eyes in place. The skinwalker just smiled at me this inhuman smile that went ear-to-ear, showing crooked, yellow, pointed teeth. I felt like I was going to throw up and I was panicking through the whole ordeal. The skinwalker started to crumple down on to all fours, still keeping up with the bus. I could see his bones crack and reform, hair started appearing all over the skinwalker's body and in about 3 seconds was now a coyote and it ran off back into the desert out of view. As soon as it was gone, I ran to the onboard bathroom and puked a mixture of food and blood. I didn't want to tell anyone for fear they would think I was crazy. I confided in my Navajo friend. She told me that I needed to see the chief, who also happened to be a friend of mine, and get a blessing. I saw him the next school day in the parking lot. He just came up to me and mumbled something in Navajo while waving a feathered scepter-like thing, turned around, got in his truck and drove away. To this day, I haven't seen another skinwalker. It might be due to the fact I moved away from that town and rez, and, if I do have to go south, I go around...WAY around.

I was about 15-16 years old and walking home from a friends place at about 2-3 O'clock in the morning with the friend I was living with at the time. My mate was pushing a BMX and we were just talking and laughing as we walked home. All of a sudden we saw what looked like 2 very large Greyhounds jump over a set of mailboxes at some flats (apartments) and landed in the middle of the road. The mailboxes appeared to be about 1.5 meters tall and about 5-6 meters from the road. 
At the moment I thought it was a little strange but kept watching them. What I witnessed was something I will never forget in my life. The 2 "Greyhounds" as they ran down the road appeared to both stand up on their hind legs and morph into a much bigger much beefier being of which I can only describe to be looking like a "Yowie" which I guess is the equivalent to a Sasquatch to our friends from American and other countries. These "Yowies" both ran around a corner about 200 meters in the direction we came and we both sat there dumbfounded. A few seconds later we heard what sounded like a small female child scream in terror. Keeping in mind it was around 3am in the morning and there were no children out. We both looked at each other in horror without saying a word I jumped on the handle bars on the bike and he peddled that bike non stop all the way home about 2 kilometers away.

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