Victims of Transformation - Animals

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Victims of Transformation

Among witches’ notorious “crimes” is the transformation of human victims into animal form. The most famous example is Circe, the witch goddess of Homer’s Odyssey who transforms men into apes, pigs, and lions. Of course, one could say, as Circe does, that she isn’t transforming them, she’s revealing their true essence. (She regrets the prevalence of pigs and the paucity of lions, suggesting that Odysseus would have been a lion.) And of course, Circe doesn’t come looking for these men; she lives on a rock in the middle of the sea—they come to her. The motivation of fairy-tale witches who transform victims into animals isn’t always clear, but the witch is almost always depicted as the aggressor.

Victims are transformed into animals, most frequently horses. The victim isn’t treated gently but ridden hard, saddled, bridled or struck with the bridle.

What’s the evidence of transformation? There’ll be wounds on or in the mouth, traces of the bit. Another indication is when tack or riding equipment is missing. The victim may wake up suffering from dizziness, fatigue, covered in cold sweat or black and blue marks—“blue in the face”: all evidence of having been “ridden.”

Another fear is that animals may be indistinguishable from all the others. This may date from guilt about the treatment of formerly sacred animals. Once transformed, the victim who, unlike self-transformed witches who always seem to retain their human capacity for speech, loses the power to speak, and so is treated just like any other animal.

Image Circe’s spell is first discovered when Odysseus’ hungry sailors almost eat their comrade, transformed into a pig.

Image Artemis punishes the hunter Actaeon for a transgression by transforming him into a stag. His own dogs are unable to recognize him, he’s unable to call them off, and they rip him apart.

Image In the Japanese animated film Spirited Away, the heroine Chihiro yearns to rescue her bewitched parents, transformed into pigs, but they’re in a pen with hundreds of other pigs, destined for the dinner table. They can’t identify themselves to her and so it’s an impossible task.