This is the rubber stamp image of the Shapeshifter I am using in my handwritten journal tonight. Today I felt as though I was one and I'm pretty sure I encountered a few as well.
The Shapeshifter in Joseph Campbell's world is based on Jungian archetypes. I particularly like this definition of Shapeshifter:
The shapeshifter changes role or personality, often in significant ways, and is hard to understand. That very changeability is the essence of this archetype. The shapeshifter's alliances and loyalty are uncertain, and the sincerity of his claims is often questionable. This keeps the hero off guard.
The shapeshifter is often a person of the opposite sex, often the hero's romantic interest. In other stories the shapeshifter may be a friend or ally of the same sex, often a buddy figure, or in fantasies, a magical figure such as a shaman or wizard.
The shapeshifter is sometimes a catalyst whose changing nature forces changes in the hero, but the normal role is to bring suspense into a story by forcing the reader, along with the hero, to question beliefs and assumptions.
As with the other archetypes, any character, including the protagonist and antagonist, can take on attributes of the shapeshifter at different times in the story. The hero often assumes the role of shapeshifter to get past an obstacle. Mentors often appear as shapeshifters.
I apply this to myself today because I had to split into several personifications to accomplish what I had to get done. I was a householder, vacuumed and did the laundry. Then I shifted to a program administrator and spent several hours on the computer updating data bases and statistical reports, preparing an agenda and lists. I did all this in sweat pants and shirt, no make-up, only leaving the house to walk the dog. At 3:45 p.m. I left in office attire for a 5 p.m. meeting at Loyola Law School for the annual meeting of the St. Thomas More Society to plan the 2005 Red Mass in September. I threaded myself across a few freeways in rush hour traffic--eternally grateful I don't do this daily anymore. Then I shared space with 25 lawyers and judges while we hammered out our plan for the year. I had another meeting at the Palos Verdes Library at 7 p.m. for a meeting of volunteers for another committee I sit on so back across L.A. I went on freeways and surface streets. It was my first time at this meeting and I bluffed my way through it--they think I know what I'm doing. Then I came home, checked e-mail, walked the dog and listened to how my grandson's day went. Soon I'll be ready for bed, brand new rosary with lavender colored beads in hand to pray myself to sleep--after I jot down a few journal snippets and read at least 20 pages in my current book.
Maybe I'm not a Shapeshifter at all. Maybe I'm an obsessive-compulsive over-achiever trying to pretend that she's 40 again. All I know is that the bed looks awfully good right now and I'm glad this kind of day is rare at this point in my life. Was I a mentor, a teacher, or was I wiley coyote or some other trickster? This I know; I wasn't one of my favorite Shapeshifters--Superman--not even close!