Faerie Folklore: Fairies Are Shapeshifters

Updated on January 20, 2017
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Kitty has been independently researching and studying the fae for over 15 years. She enjoys sharing what she's learned with her readers.

Fairies Are Shapeshifters

For centuries people all over the world have believed in fairies. But since the beginning of the Church's rule, the idea that faeries live all around us has almost completely diminished. Faeries are elusive and are masters at hiding from humankind. One of the ways they are able to hide from us is by shapeshifting. But the idea that faeries are shapeshifters isn't a new one. Faeries have been shapeshifters for centuries and centuries, probably even before man ruled the planet.

We will take an in-depth look at some of the shapeshifting faeries, and we will explore the idea that faeries could still be all around us...disguised in one of their favorite shapeshifting costumes. Who knows...maybe you even have one hiding in your house!

The Selkie—Shapeshifter Faerie of the Sea

The selkie is a type of faerie that is believed to have originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands. The selkie is a water-dwelling spirit and is also a cunning shapeshifter. With the ability to switch back and forth between a human appearance and a seal, the selkie has been known to live the life of a human for almost a lifetime and then feel a longing for the ocean once more...shapeshift into a seal and leave their home on land for an eternity at sea.

Legend has it that the selkie usually appears to humans as a beautiful man or woman and if a human can find and hide their seal skin then that selkie will be theirs to have and love. However, if the selkie finds their seal skin again, then they usually return to their home of the sea. Usually the story of the selkie is one of a romantic tragedy and spans cultures within Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland.

It is said that selkies have been known to rescue shipwrecked sailors and prevent them from drowning. It has also been theorized that selkies are actually the souls of drowned men and woman that have transformed into this sea-dwelling, shapeshifting spirit. Most believe that the selkie is actually one of the faerie folk, as do I.

For a woman to come in contact with a beautiful male selkie, she is supposed to go to the shoreline and cry seven tears into the water. The male selkie will come to her then. Many believe that the selkies also sing enchanting and seductive songs...luring humans to the sea to either become a selkie or die a watery death. Most of the selkie legends present the selkies as wild but benevolent creatures, while some say they are wild and dangerous to humans. You can decide.


Dryads are originally from the mystical land of Greece. They were thought to have been tree spirits who watched over certain gods in the beginning. The Meliai were ash-tree sisters who looked after the infant Zeus. The Dryads are also shapeshifters. They can take on the form of the tree in which they reside or simply dissipate into thin air.

Dryads can also take the form of beautiful women. Any men that have seen a dryad are immediately taken by their beauty and sexual appeal. Though some claim that dryads are indeed androgynous, others argue that they can take the form of either male or female but mostly choose the female form. While I am certain that Dryads can shapeshift into any animal that inhabits their trees, I believe they enjoy playing tricks on men who cut down their trees by shapeshifting into women and then disappearing into tree form when the men give chase. Ask a lumberjack that has been deep into the woods...he'll tell you.

Donas de Fuera

The Donas de Fuera are faeries who are elven-like that were believed to have lived on the island of Sicily in Italy. They were the cause for the Fairy Witch Trials during the Inquisition, and they could still be living in Sicily. It is believed that these faeries were also shapeshifters, but when seen in their true form they look like elves with irregular feet. Their feet are either hooves like that of sheep or goats or they appear as paws of that of a large cat.

When the donas de fuera transform or shapeshift, they are able to shapeshift into cats or what the Italians call the "aydon" or "ayodon". The aydon was the dangerous and murderous form of the donas de fuera. If you happen to meet one of these faeries in Italy, do not anger them by speaking of the Christian God in their presence. Simply let them go on their way and you go yours.

Faeries in Our Backyards?

I have always felt that there are faeries all around us at all times, we just don't notice them. There are beliefs that faeries can shapeshift into any form they want to take on...but I mainly see them shapeshifting into things of the winged-type. Butterflies, swans, robins, and bluejays seem very heavenly and beautiful and could very well be actual shapeshifted faeries in certain environments.

What about crows and owls? Don't they seem too magickal to be true? I have a "murder" of crows that inhabit these large trees in my neighborhood. When they are out and about there are tons of them...and I like to think that they are indeed faeries...the protectors of these trees in a shapeshifted form.

What about you? Do you believe the butterflies or dragonflies in your yard are actually shapeshifter faeries? Let your imagination run wild...anything is possible.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Nicole Canfield


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    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      Momma Kat - That's amazing! I have had experiences like this before, and you know when they are out of the ordinary moments...must have been one of the fay! Blessings. :)

    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 5 years ago from USA

      My 2 year old son and I were just looking at the birds outside of our window. As I pointed them out and he loudly shared his excitement, a black-capped chickadee flew to the deck, then hopped to the air conditioner under the window we were looking through, I pointed it out. The bird looked up at us, flew up to the window - hung there in mid-air for a moment (which seemed strange) looking directly at us, then went back to the deck.

      It was very un-bird-like behavior surrounded by a magical feeling. I truly believe it was a shape-shifted fairy come to say "Hi" to my son.

      Great hub! You're awesome!

    • Barefootfae profile image

      Barefootfae 5 years ago from Skye

      I have two faerie circles in my back yard. I made sure we didn't mow them down.

    • Lilleyth profile image

      Suzanne Sheffield 6 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      I do believe, I do, I do, I do....

    • Gypsy Flower profile image

      Gypsy Flower 6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A

      I've always known that these legends come from somewhere, & it makes perfect sense that the creatures that surround us are actually faeries, "in disguise" as it were. They don't hide, they just ... change ... into something we can relate to. What a perfect explanation!

    • bborrello profile image

      bborrello 6 years ago from Oregon, USA

      So interesting - for a long time I have been working on my ability to see them with my real eyes, not just my mind. I will be so happy when do, though sometimes I can almost see the smaller ones.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      I loved this one;beautifully presented and truly beautiful.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

      hecate-horus - I agree whole-heartedly! Thanks for reading.

      Gypsy Flower - Loved that you learned something and thanks for voting. Love your name!

    • Gypsy Flower profile image

      Gypsy Flower 6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A

      Always wanting to learn more about the extra-natural entities that roam this planet! Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 6 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Really enjoyed this hub; I also do tend think fairies shapeshift into animals and plants, but especially flying things such as butterflies, dragonflies, bees, birds, etc. It's a weird feeling that there is something special or unusual about a certain creature. Anyway, great hub!