Identifying Your Otherkin Species
Ten Tips for the Terminally Tantalised

Feel like you're non-human, but having a hard time putting the "kin" in Otherkin? Exhaust these avenues.

1. Rule out Earthly associations and totems.

Something that many often overlook is that there's no reason you can't be Otherkin and still have a totem animal, or a race you admire or are particularly fond of. Any species can have a connection to another species without being that species - it might suggest trade links or treaties/peace pacts in your old world, maybe you had a lover of that race or admired one from afar, maybe you have an astral protector or companion of that species..... or maybe you just, yanno, like them. It's not unheard of.

By "Earthly associations" I mean sources of thoughts and images that are buried in your semi-subconscious. Are you perhaps attracted to a certain race or creature because of that movie you saw when you were 7, that pet or cuddly toy you owned, or all that time you spent wandering in the forests tracking rabbits? If you can eliminate such sources, you'll have a much clearer view of the things that you're drawn to that can't be explained by your Earthly life.

2. Repeated occurrences of images in your life or ideas in your thinking suggest a strong connection.

Are you automatically drawn to, or have to own, something that represents a particular species (models, t-shirts, books, movies etc.)? Do you repeatedly draw images of that creature or write about it? Do you repeatedly want to be that creature or imagine what it would be like to be it? Did you ever express a desire as a child to be a particular creature, or say you weren't human? (As a child I constantly changed the name I wanted to go by because nothing fit me, saw humans as "them", and remember telling my family that I liked "doggies, not dollies" - my way of saying I wanted to have plush animal toys rather than dolls and other things that looked human). All of these can be strong pointers to your nature.

3. Research existing Otherkin cultures and communities.

Go into various communities and see if they "fit". You don't have to post; just look around and get a feel for it. Are these people like you? Lamers, trolls and obvious fakers aside, do you want to be with them? For dragons, try Draconic or the newsgroup alt.fan.dragons (if your ISP doesn't carry it, access it via Google Groups). Look up specific groups and cultures that have bonded together online and documented their pre-Earthly history - elenari.net houses one. If the site has a dictionary of remembered words, see if any of them feel familiar. Words are powerful, and if they don't trigger you, you're probably not of this particular subrace.

4. Don't be put off by existing mythology that conflicts with your feelings.

You can be an elf without fitting the Tolkien stereotype or without being Elenari, and you can be a dragon without having scales. Just because you were passed over by the myths or you don't fit into an existing groups that your species resembles doesn't mean your experiences and instincts aren't real - there are many entities on many worlds that can be named or associated with ideas of "elf", "fae" or "dragon".

5. How does it feel, this form of yours?

Reach out (or in) to it and try and get a grasp on what it feels like, both to possess this form and to touch it. Is your hearing be sharper (or duller), your sense of smell more (or less) acute, your sense of taste more (or less) sensitive? Is your eyesight altered? Are your eyes differently shaped, picking up colours in different ways (or not picking them up at all)? Do you feel you should you have senses beyond the scope of normal humans, such as perceiving infrared or ultraviolet? Any kind of "sixth sense" or instinct? How does it feel to move in this body? Cumbersome yet strong? Agile and wiry? Effortless? Should you have more limbs than you currently do, or have limbs at all? Does the fact of being contained within any physical form itself feel uncomfortable and restricting, or does the size of it feel too small or too large? Now try touching from the outside. Does your outer form have a texture? Fur, feather, skin, hide, scales? Rough or smooth, sensitive or tough, ethereal? If you can't feel anything specific, don't worry. Maybe you just don't sense your form this way. At least give it a go before moving onto other steps, though. You may be surprised at what you feel.

Kerowyn Silverdrake describes a similar method that you may find useful.

Also, try to recall any "phantom" sensations you've had, no matter how small. Wings and tails are well-documented, but think about other body parts. Do you occasionally forget that your ears aren't actually on the top of your head, or feel a twitching sensation there? What about phantom feet (strange as it sounds) - feet that should be smaller, larger, hairier, or differently shaped? A phantom face, perhaps - a muzzle or differently-shaped bone structure, smaller or larger teeth, a differently-set jaw, a flatter or rounder head? Again, try and rule out Earthly stimuli such as a bad back (for example, from hunching over your computer checking Otherkin forums), but pay specific attention to sensations that occur frequently or are particularly strong. And again, don't worry if you don't have them at all. Many people don't get phantoms, even if their physical form is very incongruous with their spiritual form.

6. For the love of the Goddess, read.

Reading is one of the best ways to discover your identity. And I don't just mean online, I mean real, physical, published books. Go to the library and browse until you find something, anything that interests you - doesn't matter whether it directly seems to relate to Otherkin or not. If you've narrowed it down to a few species, do some reading that involves them - search Google for lists of books involving that creature or themes of people becoming them or claiming to be them, whether fact or fiction (for animal or pseudoanimal 'Kin, searching on "werewolf", "werecat" etc. will bring up some interesting stuff). Grab the biggest, most comprehensive encyclopedia of mythology you can find, sit down and read it cover to cover, make notes of everything you find interesting or that triggers a reaction in you in some way.

Failing that, even a frickin' D&D Monster Manual or Guide To The Creatures Of The Eleventy-Fourth Astral Chaos WeyrPlane is better than nothing, as a tool for deciding what images do or don't "feel" right. You don't have to read typical Tolkienesque/Pernese fantasy if you don't feel drawn to it. Read dark or alternative fantasy fiction if it appeals, like Neil Gaiman's works (The Sandman is a particular favourite that takes an interesting and often deeply inspiring twist on many issues of spirituality, the gods and the universe). While it doesn't have that many non-human images, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is a good non-traditional fantasy that may spur some images. Read about the realm of Faerie if fae images appeal to you - again, Neil Gaiman gives us a thoroughly delightful, yet suitably adult, fairytale on this subject by the name of Stardust (it's the book that finally triggered my own true Awakening, so don't pass it up).

Don't be afraid to spend time in the children's section of the bookstore. Many enchanting little tales and images are offered only to the young, on the principle that adult lives must be devoid of these fantasies and reduced to a 256-colour palette of greys. "How To Be A...."-type books can be of particular interest to Otherkin. While the kits and whimsical images associated with playing fae or mermaid may prove too mainstream and insubstantial for your tastes, even the sappiest, fluffiest effort can spark your mind if it inspires you to criticize what it is about this portrayal that doesn't fit. It can also start you off in an attempt to draft out ideas of your own "fantasy" culture or race (see #8 below); as a child, I owned a particularly fascinating book entitled "The Secret Lives of the Gnomes" which spurred me on quite a bit in my own world- and race-building endeavours. Bombarding yourself with images can lead to a "what's me and what's not?" overload sometimes, where a lot of things could fit but you're not sure what belongs; see #10 if you're having trouble with this. If reading doesn't help, watch movies or even anime with themes involving non-human races. Good ones with serious plots and well-developed characters are "Haibane Renmei" (an earthbound pseudo-angelic race) and "Princess Mononoke" (forest creatures and spirits).

7. Don't be afraid of identifying with a race that exists in fiction.

This is kind of the flip-side of #4. Healthy skepticism is a vital tool in sifting the spiritual wheat from the chaff when it comes to your true form, but don't dismiss possibilities from fiction just on the basis of their being "fictional". Otakukin get a bad reputation for being "souls of cart00n characters in human bodies omg!!11 wtf lol", and I've heard self-proclaimed Angels of the Almighty proclaim stiffly to an unfortunate newcomer that "there's no such thing as a hobbit", but you shouldn't be afraid to look outside "traditional" or mythological/fantasy definitions if they don't feel right. Why should modern fictions have any less connection to the spiritual than the ancient myths? We take legends of elves and dragons as if they were literal accounts, yet there's a possibility that they were no more or less fiction than a dimestore comic-book. If it's in the latter that an Otherkin finds a truth that sings to them and brings them happiness, what place is it of ours to deny it? It's kind of like the Otherkin variant of Dead Poets' syndrome - the idea that only time makes fiction into literature (or myth), and by virtue of its age this literature (or myth) possesses some greater significance than its modern-day equivalent. This is stuff and nonsense, of course. If something has relevance and truth, age does not increase that relevance and truth, only gauge whether it has enough to stand the test of time.

8. Writing (or drawing) for yourself can be a vital tool.

It doesn't have to be a novel. It doesn't have to be based on anything you remember (in fact, if you do have memories, it's better to try to create something independent of them - you may find your creation returns on its own to the concepts and images you already remember). It doesn't even have to be coherent. Create a culture, a race, a species. Don't think about it, just write down the first images and ideas that occur. Consider in what kind of world, in what kind of climate and dwellings these beings live. Think about their language, their games, and the food they eat. If you can, look back at childhood doodles and writings, and see if anything recurs. Afterwards, if you like, look at what you've created and try Kerowyn's method from #5 with this race in mind.

9. If all else fails, ask friends.

Ask friends, family and people around you what kind of traits you have, what you'd be if you were a fantasy creature or an animal. Do you have any particular traits or mannerisms that suggest a certain being? What do they see or feel when they look in into your eyes - a trickster and troublemaker, a sparkling and effervescent soul, a dark soul, a primal soul, a childlike soul, a very old soul? Unless your friends already know about your Otherkin searching, though, it's probably best not to ask too many questions of the same friend - they may start to look at you funny. This also isn't something to try first off, because others' judgements may sway you, or even be wholly inaccurate (particularly if they're not spiritual people). Don't take what others tell you too literally. Only you can know if you are or aren't something. If you find yourself reeling at being told you're something you're not, or that you aren't something you feel you are, trust your instincts. (I've been defined by various friends as a tiger, cottontail rabbit, horse, deer, weasel-like thing, "a wise bird that isn't an owl", canary, and puma. My soul was clearly having an identity crisis that week.)

10. Finally, be honest with yourself and true to yourself.

Many people find that only the past lives and incarnations relevant to them in this life bubble up to the surface. After all, if you believe in reincarnation, then statistically most people have probably reincarnated, but comparatively few remember it, and that's likely to be because they don't need to. Some people, however, even after all this sifting and self-validating, still find that several different ideas or impressions remain. You may have been all these things in the past, or they may just be things that you incidentally recall. The question is, which of them are relevant to you now? Of which of them can you say, with conviction, "I am" or "I feel like I am"? I have quite strong connections to draconity, and these may reflect the fact that, possibly, I was a dragon once. I even believed it myself for some time, but ultimately, draconity didn't "fit" me. I didn't "feel" like a dragon. When I frequented draconic communities, I felt like an outsider. I didn't have the impulses and sensations that dragons should have. I simply don't know, or at best have forgotten, what it's like to be a winged pseudoreptilian being. Eventually I decided that "dragon", the label, wasn't for me. It's something I connect to, it's something that's like me. It's not who I am, and so I let it go.

The process of self-discovery means you have to be prepared and unafraid to let labels go. Most people don't have the courage of their convictions right from the bat, but jump into this label and that description because they feel some vague connection to it. "Trying on" different labels and spiritual identities is all part of the Awakening process for many people, but you have to be unafraid and unashamed to say, when it turns out something isn't right for you, "Okay, that didn't work. I tried, but it wasn't me. Let's try again." Don't cling to old, ill-fitting labels because you're ashamed of seeming a turncoat or weak in your beliefs. It's better to be briefly seen as weak and have a chance at gaining something you can truly, strongly believe in, than to cling to a skin that will never truly be your own. Eventually, you'll find something that works for you. The process will be easier if you don't go around saying "I AM!" straightaway, but rather say "I might be..." or "I think...", even though the temptation to shout "Hallelujah!" when you think you've found something that might fit can be overwhelming.

Above all, don't take life too seriously. Find time to live, to appreciate, to enjoy, to play, to contemplate and to celebrate. Knowing what you are won't help one iota if the rest of your life goes to Hades in a handbasket in the meantime. Be yourself, regardless of what species your self may be. Relax, and have fun. The more your identity as a being, irrespective of species, is strengthened and kept healthy, the easier it'll be for the rest to fall into place.

Sprite Rêvenchatte
International Cat of Mystery, Cake and Bunnyslippers