Although this article is based on canonical information, the actual name of this subject is conjectural.
Shapeshifting, or skin turning, is the supernatural ability to physically assume the form of another living being.
The ability to assume different form through the use of Witchcraft, generally through the use of natural substances such as herbs and powders empowered with the recitation of spells. There are different degrees of shapeshifting that allow both to assume totally the appearance of another being or just share certain physical characteristics. Unlike Glamour, or the ability to create illusions and hallucinations, the shape shifting ability is to be considered purely on the material plane of skin turning, that allows the witch to change her or others' appearance in any real sense and maintain these features as long as are deemed appropriate, or the enchantment's effects runs out.
People have always believed in the existence of creatures that can change shape, first ascribe these wondrous deeds to the gods and heroes of myth. Among aboriginal populations, healers and shamans are deemed able to take on the features of the totem animals and in different pagan cultures was widespread belief that warriors could take few animals qualities by wearing their skin or by eating their organs. An example are the Nordic Berserkir.
Later, when Christianity became the official religion of the European continent, these faculties were labeled unnatural, dangerous, evil. hence they became the prerogative of the witches. The evil witches were then able to change into animals to go to the Sabbath or to break into homes of their victims in order to kill them or to spy on them and uncover its secrets. It was generally believed that witches changed their appearance through the application of special ointments, whose traces can be found in the writings of classical authors such as Apuleius, where witches changed into large birds and flying in the night sky. It was during the Middle Ages that witchcraft became increasingly associated with lycanthropy, a concept already known to the ancients, and were not rare in France or Germany witch tirals that the accused of witchcraft were also accused of cannibalism and lycanthropy.
Nowadays shapeshifting is mostly associated to the modern neo-pagan and neo-shamanic beliefs, where through specific visualization techniques it is believed that the practitioner assumes the qualities of the totem animals with the aim to learn spiritual teachings.
Throughout Salem series
In the middle of the woods at night, before an orgiastic gathering of witches, Mary Sibley magically transformed the nail of her index finger in a sharp claw to impale the heart of a dove during a sacrifice at the Sabbath.(The Vow)
With the aim of tracing George Sibley before Increase Mather, Tituba assisted by Mary Sibley have sprinkled a strange red dust on the back of the demonic toad reciting the magic words to turn it into an owl, so the familiar could fly and track the carriage on which George was traveling. (Departures)Always to throw off the infamous witch hunter, Mary Sibley acted in cahoots with Mercy Lewis, forcing the latter to take refuge in the forest to escape arrest. In order to provide a proof of assault for Increase Mather, Mary Sibley asked the reckless witch to scratch her back. Mercy then magically transformed her hands, changing her fingernails into claws to do so. (Cat and Mouse)
The Dark Lord is able to take on different guises, including that of a hissing black snake twisted in the hands of his follower, Baron Sebastian Von Marburg. The mysterious creature known as The Sentinel has proven to be able to change shape and appearance, using an unknown and peculiar way of taking human form through the use of cockroaches. (After the Fall) The Sentinel, the right arm of the Dark Lord, is an angel capable of adopting the body of others, as well as appearing at will as a swarm of insects. He is also able to change the very fabric of the universe, so he is able to make things appear out of nowhere and change their nature. (After the Fall) (The Heart Is A Devil)A powerful as rare spell is the one that allows witches to take on the features of another human being, particularly to speed up the growth process until they reach adulthood in a handful of minutes. Thanks to the sacrifice of a pious soul, it is possible to harness the energy released from the sacrifice to accomplish this prodigy. The child's limbs are completely torn away from the body, as the adult body finds its way out from inside in the full of all mental and motor faculties. (Black Sunday)
Rituals and spells to shape-shift
To Free a Familiar from his Earthbound Form
An earth-dwelling beast has little use should its mistress need a servant who can master the skies. Thus, to change a familiar and grant him wings, scatter enchanted dust, as those used in metamorphoses of the flesh, over his skin and use these words to liberate him from his current body.
- Incantation: "Mutare et notum sum botis. Forma enim esse ostendit. Corpus anima mens. Lead me to the one I seek" (translated from Latin as: "I want to change this toad. The form will be shown. Body, soul, mind." botis is a misspelled word for bufo, bufonis, meaning "toad" in Latin).
- Used by: Tituba and Mary Sibley
- Mercy apparently managed to temporarily assume bestial features with the sheer strength of will without using potions or rituals. That was shown before only by Mary Sibley, a far more experienced witch, during the celebration of a Sabbath.
- Countess Von Marburg seemed to be able to really morph into another form and present herself to Increase Mather as a child, keeping up the disguise even after the death of that body. This however is yet to be enstablished as the little girl could have been the actual body of the Countess at that time, as each time she comes back to life in different appearances.