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26 April 2011 @ 12:38 pm
Myth and Symbol of the Shark  
About a month ago a writing challenge, Exploring the Mythic was proposed. I took the challenge, and I wanted to share what I wrote here.

Sharks have always had a mystique throughout the world that has been acknowledged in some way. Among coastal and island cultures sometimes they are deified and regarded as benevolent gods or just considered demons. The Solomon and Hawaiian Islands, for example, believe that sharks are the embodiment of lost loved ones. In the Pacific Islands the shark is thought to be potent fertility symbol. While elsewhere such in Vietnam, Samoa, New Zealand, and in certain legends from Hawaii they are guardians and protectors. Back in the middle ages in Europe, fossilized shark teeth were thought to be able to detect poisons in food and drink. However, in modern popular culture such as in movies they are portrayed as ruthless and relentless man-eating machines and nothing more. The shark is still even so revered even by modern society that it has its own week to its name, Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, something which has been on going since 1987.

In our everyday society today there are ‘loan sharks,’ ‘pool sharks,’ ‘card sharks’ and such. They might not be actual physical sharks, but they indicate what the shark often represents to man. Even the sound of the word itself emphasizes much being such a sharp and quick thing, and said fast enough it could perhaps be an onomatopoeia word for something being sheered off. Finally the origin of the word ‘shark’ according to some sources comes from the German word “Schurke” which means villain. So on simply on a bit of word play one can deduce that sharks are villains, killers, those who steal/take. Boy, identifying as a shark just keep looking better and better no?

For too much of society the only shark they know are like the movie shark, Jaws - large torpedo-like beasts with triangular fins and large mouths. A shark’s mouth is its own symbol for the animal. After all, say ‘jaws’ to just about anyone, and they will know whose dental work you are referring too. Perhaps it is irony laughing at me once again to have a shark so unlike that stereotype with my somewhat small and rather slender body and fanning out cerata-fins. Which makes we wonder how such folkloric, symbolic, and archetypical thoughts attributed to the shark could ever effect my therianthropy.

Then again, perhaps it is because of this continued misconception and stereotyping of shark compared to what I know of sharks from growing up since an early age watching things like Shark Week, the shark (not so much directly to my therianthropy that I am aware of) to me, symbolizes this falsehood. That shark signifies a need to understand and not just come to conclusions. Not to judge. Also perhaps, the visual difference between my shark and that stereotype of a shark could possibly or sublimely be symbolic of the overall misconceptions about shark themselves. Not all sharks look like ‘Jaws,’ a majority of sharks are little to no threat to humans, sharks are actually relatively smart with similar learning capabilities and such as small mammals and birds, and so on. Even more so maybe my lack of seeing myself as so full of ’terror and violence’ and ‘power and fearlessness’ is because of my form -not being a White Shark, Blue Shark, Mako, or the like - and so instead better archetypical fit words for such sharks are ‘meekness and simple living’ to me.

One myth and misconception about sharks which does show up to a lesser extent in my therianthropy is the reaction to blood. Contrary to popular thought, a shark does not go into a violent frenzy at the slightest smell of blood and in fact under most if not all feeding opportunities sharks remain very aware and cautious of there surroundings. For me at the sight and/or smell of blood, shark related shifts result basically every time though mostly in the form of various phantom/sensory related shifting. It does still, however, stereotypically bring out the shark nonetheless.

As for the quilled shark itself, an origin tale sprung to mind while thinking about this topic. One day, two incredibly different creatures met under the last expanse the sea. One was a blue glaucus, a small silvery-blue nudibranch which lived life moved by the power of the current near the surface. The other was a frilled shark, a five or so foot long slender deep sea shark. The nudibranch longed to swim more freely in the open ocean and had grown tired of never being recognized for its own worth by humans, while the shark had grown tried constantly having to swim in the cold depths of the sea and how its kind had been so demonized by man. As they eyed each other they noted how much the other one had some of that they yearned more for and realizing this the two animals merged. The new creature had the body shape and size of the frilled shark but its fins where now that of the blue glaucus. And so the quilled shark was born.

In the end, there is something primal in sharks. Sharks as a collective taxidermic superorder have survived for millions of years in one form or another. A paradox of primal and complexity and ferity and calm. They dwell in the ocean where we can just barely manage to visit. How much such a raw and archetypical thought affects my therianthropy, I may never know but it certainly is not absent. 

Works Cited


"Shark Symbol ." Animal Symbols. Animal-Symbols.com, 15 Apr 2011. <http://www.animal-symbols.com/shark-symbol.html>.

"Shark History ." Shark-Info.com. 15 Apr 2011. <http://www.shark-info.com/shark-history/from-myth-to-symbol.htm>.

Ravenari, . "Totem - Shark." Wildspeak. 15 Apr 2011. <http://www.wildspeak.com/totems/shark.html>.

Yvonne Ellis, Shark, DK: Eyewitness: 1994, DVD.

- Earth Listener
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aethyriek on April 27th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
I think we all have that fear about old writings!

Earth Listener, this was fascinating! It's wonderful to see sharks in a different light than ye olde killing machine (which for me is so rare!). Blood and scent are important to sharks, being an important sense and an important indicator of food, so perhaps it is no surprise blood would trigger sharkiness. Almost a stereotype, but a natural one in this case. Kraaaa, neat. (:
Laken SteelJaw: Callinglaken_steeljaw on April 27th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
Aethyriek- Kraaa, as in the raven call? :>
aethyriek on April 27th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Kraaa as in the raven call. :P Or inspired by ravens, at the least!
Laken SteelJaw: Examininglaken_steeljaw on April 27th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
Do I sense a possible Raven-Person here? If so, I'd love to chat more about it! (Heck, even if not, always willing to chat Therianthropy stuff :D).

Alas, I should stop derailing Earth Listener's comment thread. ;>
aethyriek on April 27th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
Alas, just a bat! Still a flyer, I suppose. I often use 'keek' but no one knows what that is! There is a special place in my heart for the local ravens, so kraa it is. =D But rambling is always welcome, indeed.
House of Chimeras: Earth Listener - Seawolf (2)houseofchimeras on April 27th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
That’s true. Reading back on some of my old writings and thoughts…. A little scary. But everyone has there ups and downs as they gain experience and knowledge.

Thank-you, aethyriek. Yes, in some ways its both a ‘blessing’ and a ‘curse’ to have such an odd theriotype on so many levels… but what can you do when that’s who you are. Scent and touch is very important to sharks so ya it is no surprise how much they trigger things.

- Earth Listener
aethyriek on April 27th, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
You're welcome. (:

Scary, good word. But you are right, nice to see our growth at the same time.