A Simple Introduction to Otherkin and Therianthropes

Version 1.1 – Updated 2014-05-19
Created 2013-09-16
By Orion Scribner
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What are otherkin?

Some real people think of themselves as kinds of creatures from mythology. These people call themselves “otherkin.”1 An otherkin has the belief that he is a creature from mythology, such as an elf.2 He says that elf is his true self. It is his identity.3This is real to him. It isn’t a pretend person that he plays in a game.4

Each otherkin makes his own idea of how and why he is an otherkin.5 He is the only one who can find what he is. Many otherkin say their idea of themselves is a personal spiritual belief.6 It is common for an otherkin to say his spirit inside him isn’t human.7 It is also common for an otherkin to say that he wasn’t human in his past life.8 They have the belief that people have one life after another. That is the belief of reincarnation. Some of them find other ways to think of themselves without using any of those beliefs.

They often use reasons from spirituality for their beliefs about themselves. However, this is different from a religion.9 Each otherkin has any religion he wants.10 Many of them have Neo-Pagan religions.11 As a result, many ideas about otherkin have a base in ideas from those religions. People don’t need to have the beliefs of those religions in order to say they are otherkin.

They look like humans. They were born like humans. Many of them say their bodies are human. However, some of them say they have elves in their family history. They say their own bodies are different from human bodies.12

What we know of as otherkin started in the year 1990.13 That year, a group of them on the Internet made the word “otherkin” for themselves.14 (The word “otherkin” comes from two English words: “other,” and “kin,” which is a word for a family.) That group had some roots in a few groups of people from earlier.15Earlier groups called themselves elves. Starting about 1972, the elves sent out writings in mailing lists and in magazines.16 Those elves are the earliest groups we have knowledge of who said they were other than human. If there were people like this in years before that, then I haven’t found writings from them.

Sometimes people use the word “otherkin” for other kinds of people who think of themselves as other than human. For example, animal people. Animal people people call themselves “therianthropes.”17

What are therianthropes?

Therianthropes are real people who think of themselves as animals.18 They believe they have animal selves. These selves aren’t pretend people for games.19 They are more than just their favorite animals.20 Each person finds his own idea of why and how he is an animal. He is the only one who can find whether he is an animal, or what kind. No other person can find out any of this for him.21

The first group of therianthropes started in 1993, in a place on the Internet. The place was made for having talks about werewolf stories. A few people there had a talk about how they had a feeling that they were animals.22 They took up the word “therianthrope” for themselves in 1994.23 (“Therianthrope” was a word for animal people in old stories. The word “therianthrope” comes from two Greek words. Theríon is a word for wild animal. Anthrōpos is a word for person.) Later, the therianthropes met the people who call themselves otherkin.

Therianthropes have the knowledge that their bodies are human.24 Some of them think of it as a spiritual belief to think of themselves as animals.25 They say they have an animal spirit in a human body.26 Some say they had been animals in past lives.27 Although these are spiritual beliefs, it isn’t a religion. That’s because each person has their own beliefs.28

Some therianthropes don’t use spiritual beliefs.29 Instead, they say their minds are like the minds of animals. For them, ideas from psychology are helpful for saying how their minds are different.30

Do they have a mental illness?

It is unusual for a person to have the belief that he is an animal. By itself, that belief isn’t a mental illness. Psychologists say that belief is only unhealthy if a person also has other problems that make worse trouble. One problem is if he has the belief that his body is becoming an animal. Then he might not have clear knowledge of what is real. Another problem is if he also has other mental problems that put him in danger. That could make a bad mix.31 Most therianthropes don’t have those problems.

Some therianthropes and otherkin asked their psychologists about this. Their psychologists said their beliefs were not a sign of mental illness.32 It is acceptable to have some personal beliefs. It is even acceptable if the beliefs are unusual. Beliefs are only a problem when they put somebody in danger, and make somebody too confused about what is true.

In short

Therianthropes and otherkin are real people who think of themselves as other than human.33 Animal people call themselves therianthropes. Otherkin are elves, or other creatures from mythology. Therianthropes and otherkin started as separate groups. These ideas are unusual. However, they are not a mental illness. For many of these people, it is a spiritual belief.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Writings that say that otherkin are people who identify as creatures from mythology:
Polydorases, quoted by the Crisses, ed., “Otherkin & Awakening FAQ v3.0 Beta.” http://astraeasweb.net/plural/cris-otherkinfaq-old.html (dead link, no archive)
Eyovah, quoted by the Crisses, ed., “Otherkin & Awakening FAQ 3.0 Beta.”
Michelle Belanger, “Dragons & faeries & gnomes oh my! The fascinating world of otherkin.” PagaNet News, vol. 10, iss. 4 (2003). http://web.archive.org/web/20040222145023/http://www.paganet.org:80/pnn/2003/Litha/Feature_Sample1.html (dead link, see the archive from 2004.)
Michelle Belanger, The Psychic Vampire Codex: A Manual of Magick and Energy Work (York Beach, ME: Weiser, 2004), p. 274.
Aeldra Nightwood. “Otherkin.” 2011-01-28. http://divinorum.cz/symposion/otherkin
Wolf in the Shadows. “Otherkin.” 2003-10-07. http://bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1152983
Windrider. “Otherkin.” 2005-01-01. http://everything2.com/title/Otherkin
2. There are therianthropes and otherkin who are women, men, or people of other kinds. Please excuse me for using the word “he.” I had a reason to use that word. I made this article to be easy to translate into other languages. I had to use very simple grammar. That is why I had to use the words “he” and “him.” If I used the words “he or she,” or singular “they,” then automatic translators have difficulty with those. They also have difficulty with unusual words. I found that I couldn’t use other pronouns such as “s/he,” “sie,” or “xe.”
3. Writings that say it is an identity: Windrider.
4. Sources that say this identification isn’t a pretend person in a game:
FAQ Otherkin Hispano & Noctalium.” n.d. otherkinhispano. http://foroactivo.com/faq?dhtml=no (dead link, no archive)
Kreyas. “What is otherkin?”Circa 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080906191533/http://otherkincoalition.info:80/forum/blog.php/?page_id=7 (dead link, see the archive from 2008.)
Lupa, A field guide to otherkin (Stafford, England: Immanion Press, 2007), p. 27, 108-109.
5. Writings that talk about the individualism of otherkin:
Tirl Windtree, “What are otherkin?” 2003-04-06. http://www.otherkin.net/2016/09/what-are-otherkin/
The Crisses, ed., “Crisses’ Otherkin FAQ v 4.0.1.” 2001-02-08. http://kinhost.org/res/Otherfaq.php
Rialian Ashtae, “Forward,” in Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 15.
6. Writings that say that it is a spirituality, or that say that many otherkin think it is:
Otherkin.net, “On being otherkin.” Otherkin: The Missing Manual. Circa 2001. (dead link, see the archive from 2015)
Windrider.
Kreyas.
Polydorases, quoted by the Crisses, ed., “Otherkin & Awakening FAQ v 3.0 Beta.”
Belanger, p. 274.
7. Writings that say that many otherkin have the belief they are other than human in spirit:
Tirl Windtree, “What are otherkin?”
Wolf in the Shadows.
Adnarel. “What are otherkin, anyway?” http://main.otherkinalliance.org/articles/general-otherkin/what-are-otherkin-anyway/
Windrider.
Kreyas.
Reklaw. “Otherkin: A short introduction.”2003-05-23. Kuro5hin (online magazine).http://kuro5hin.org/story/2003/5/22/03514/1997
Belanger, “Dragons …”
Cara Des’tai. “The Internet goes mythic.”Fate (magazine). (2000). http://www.eristic.net/fey/media/fatearticle.php
HumbleLightworker, “Otherkin.” 2002-10-10. http://embracingmystery.org/articles/otherkin-humble.html (dead link, no archive)
Arhúaine. “What are otherkin?” Circa 2000. http://stormpages.com/wolfglade/Arhuaine/otherkinwhat.html (dead link, see thearchive from 2002)
The Crisses, ed., “Otherkin FAQ 4.0.1.”
Lupa, A field guide to otherkin, p. 27, 186.
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.” 2006-10-22. WitchVox (online magazine). http://witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=uswa&c=words&id=11030
8. Writings that say that many otherkin have the belief that they were other than human in a past life:
Tirl Windtree, “What are otherkin?”
Wolf in the Shadows.
Windrider.
Kreyas.
Reklaw.
Belanger, “Dragons …”
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.”
Lupa, A field guide to otherkin, p. 57-58, 162, 166.
HumbleLightworker.
Reverend Kim, “What the heck’s an otherkin?”
Arhúaine. “What are otherkin?”
Adara, quoted by the Crisses, ed., “Otherkin & Awakening FAQ v 3.0 Beta.”
Ghostshadow, quoted by the Crisses, ed., “Otherkin & Awakening FAQ v 3.0 Beta.”
Aeldra Nightwood.
Adzia. “Otherkine – kým jsi a kým chceš být? (Otherkin: Who are you and who do you want to be?)” 2009-01-03.http://cavern.cz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=355&Itemid=28
9. Writings that say that “otherkin” is not a religion:
Wolf in the Shadows.
Kreyas.
FAQ Otherkin Hispano & Noctalium.
Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 214-215.
10. Writings that say that otherkin practice different religions:
FAQ Otherkin Hispano & Noctalium.
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.”
Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 211.
11. Writings that say that many otherkin practice Neo-Pagan religions:
Belanger, “Dragons …”
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.”
Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 211.
Arhúaine. “What are otherkin?”
12. The founder of Otherkin.net, Rannirl Windtree, claims to be physically elven, “a human-elven crossbreed.” In “Here and now.” 2002-04. http://www.otherkin.net/2016/09/here-and-now/
The Silver Elves say their genes come from elves. In “Elves and brownies * A letter to Keith Olberman.” 2009-09-15.silverelves.wordpress.com/2009/09/15
Wildelf said that in the 1980s, more people thought of themselves as other than human for physical reasons. In “Various theories and the like…” 2002-03-01. otherkin.livejournal.com/30114.html
Arhúaine said that if a spirit that isn’t human is inside a human body, then that could make it different from the usual human body. In “Physically human?” 2002-04. http://www.otherkin.net/2016/09/physically-human/
Lupa gives some information about some therianthropes and otherkin who say their bodies aren’t human. In A field guide to otherkin, p. 41-42, 66-72, 170, 181-182, 241.
13. Orion Scribner, The Otherkin Timeline.
14. Orion Scribner, The Otherkin Timeline.
15. Orion Scribner, The Otherkin Timeline.
16. Aeona Silversong, “The Elf Queen’s Daughters.” Green Egg 1995 Winter 28:111, p. 29.
17. Writings that use the word “otherkin” for people with animal selves too:
Wolf in the Shadows.
Adnarel.
Windrider.
Belanger, “Dragons …”
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.”
18. Writings that say that therianthropes identify as animals:
Wolf VanZandt, “Words and concepts.” http://theriantimeline.com/therianthropy/words_and_concepts
Therianthropes.com, “Therianthropy.”
Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 118, 124.
19. Writings that say it isn’t a pretend person for in a game:
Mokele, “So, what’s this ‘therianthropy’ thing?” Circa 2003. http://web.archive.org/web/20060203004125/http://www.therianthropy.org:80/mokele/intro.htm (dead link, see thearchive from 2006)
Therian Círculo. “Introdução à Introdução (Introduction to the introduction).” 2008-01-24.
http://therianbrasil.blogspot.com/2008/01/introduo-introduo.html
Shifters.org, “Therianthropy-an overview.” http://web.archive.org/web/20010512033309/http://www.shifters.org:80/overview/therianthropy.shtml (dead link, see the archive from 2001)
Jakkal, Shifting FAQ , 1999.
Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 131.
20. Writings that say that it isn’t your favorite animal:
Shifters.org, “Therianthropy-an overview.”
Wulfhowl.com, “What’s therianthropy?” http://www.wulfhowl.com/therianthrope-definition
ShadowsMyst. “Dispelling the myths.” n.d. http://shadowsden.org/therianmyths.html
21. “Nobody can tell you if you are a therianthrope or not. […] only you know if you’re a therianthrope or not.” Excerpt from Wulfhowl.com, “What’s therianthropy?” http://www.wulfhowl.com/therianthrope-definition/
22. Polar said, “Sometime in 1993, one of the posters to the [alt.horror.werewolves newsgroup …] stated that he, himself, felt spiritually like he was a werewolf.” In Polar, “Unofficial AHWW Archive.” 1998-08. http://web.archive.org/web/20020210095017/http://www.furnation.com:80/Lobo/forest/uh-ahww.htm (dead link, see the archive from 2000)
Mokele said, “a newsgroup, formed in 1992, called alt.horror.werewolves, which was focused on the discussion of werewolves, in the mythic sense, in movies, books, and assorted other media. […] Over time, there was more and more speculation about the spiritual nature and consequences of the topic, until in 1993 some brave soul took the plunge and said he felt he was a wolf inside, spiritually.” In Mokele, “So, what’s this ‘therianthropy’ thing?”
Therian Círculo. “Introdução à Therian Comunidade (Introduction to the therian community).” 2008-01-25.http://therianbrasil.blogspot.com/2008/01/introduo.html
23. Swiftpaw. “Tracing the Origins of the Term ‘Therianthropy.'” http://otherwonders.com/swiftpaws/therian/old/termtherian.html (dead link, see the archive from 2004)
24. Writings that say that therianthropes have the knowledge that their bodies are human:
Shifters.org, “Therianthropy-an overview.”
Wulfhowl.com, “What’s therianthropy?”
Ashen-Fox said that having the knowledge that one has a human body is what makes therianthropes different from people having mental illnesses. “Therianthropy is […] a constant state of self-awareness and the belief that while our bodies are 100% human-the souls that we’re born with are entirely different. This is the primary difference between the reality of being a Therian, and fantasy of a clinical disorder. We’re human. […] Our bodies are human, but our minds, souls, et cetera, aren’t.” In Ashen-Fox, “What is therianthropy?” 2009-02. http://deviantart.com/deviation/115731755
Sonne, “Terms and definitions.” Project Shift. http://project-shift.org/terms-definitions
25. Writings that say that some therianthropes have the belief that being a therianthrope is a spirituality: Therianthropes.com, “Therianthropy.”
26. Writings that say that some therianthropes have the belief that they have an animal spirit in a human body:
Jakkal wrote, “These are Weres that believe that […] they are simply the animal within. Basically, they believe that no part of their spirit is human, it is entirely animal, functioning within a human body.” In Jakkal, Shifting FAQ, 1999-12-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20020809034509/http://www.were.net:80/~pinky/shifters.html (dead link, see the archive from 2000)
Shifters.org, “Therianthropy- an overview.”
Tygerwulfe said that a therianthrope is “An animal spirit in a human body.” In Tygerwolfe, “Therianthropy: A personal definition.” http://tygerwolfe.com/?page_id=92
Wulfhowl.com, “What’s therianthropy?”
Mokele, “So, what’s this ‘therianthropy’ thing?”
Ashen-Fox, “What is therianthropy?”
27. Writings that say that some therianthropes have the belief that they were animals in past lives:
Jakkal, Shifting FAQ, 1999.
Wulfhowl.com said that one of the beliefs that a therianthrope can have is “The belief that you were a certain animal in a past life, which is somehow significant to your current life.” In “What’s therianthropy?”
28. Writings that say that the beliefs of therianthropes are not a religion:
Some of them don’t have a religion at all. Wulfhowl.com said, “Therianthropy is not a religion; in fact, some therianthropes identify as atheist.” In “What’s therianthropy?”
Mokele, “So, what’s this ‘therianthropy’ thing?”
Therian Círculo. “Introdução à Introdução(Introduction to the introduction).”
29. It can be spiritual, but it doesn’t have to be spiritual for everyone. Wulfhowl.com said, “Therianthropy is not necessarily spiritual.” In Wulfhowl.com, “What’s therianthropy?”
30. Writings that say that some therianthropes have the belief that their mind is like the mind of an animal:
Therianthropes.com, “Therianthropy.”
Wulfhowl.com, “What’s therianthropy?”
Quil said, “Therianthropes’ personalities are partially not human; certain instincts and feelings aren’t of the primate type.” In Quil, “Introduction.” 2004-10-14. http://absurdism.org/therianthropy/introshift.html
Wulfhowl.com said that one of the ideas that a therianthrope can have is that “Psychological factors which connect you to an animal (or group of animals).” In “What’s therianthropy?”
Mokele said, “Some therians are atheist, and interpret their self-identification as an animal in terms of psychology (Jung is popular among those that share this worldview, though not the only option).” In Mokele, “So, what’s this ‘therianthropy’ thing?”
31. Paul E. Keck, Harrison G. Pope, James I. Hudson, Susan L. McElroy, and Aaron R. Kulick. “Lycanthropy: Alive and well in the twentieth century.” Psychological Medicine 18 (1988) 113-120.
Keck’s article is about mentally ill people who have the belief that they are animals. Psychology’s current definition of that problem comes from this article.
32. Lupa gives the stories of three people whose psychologists said it is okay to be a therianthrope or otherkin. In Lupa, A Field Guide to Otherkin, p. 261-262.
33. Writings that use similar ways of saying that otherkin are people who identify as other than human:
Tirl Windtree, “What are otherkin?”
Tirl Windtree, “What is an otherkin?”
Wolf in the Shadows, “Otherkin.”
Windrider, “Otherkin.”
Adnarel, “What are otherkin, anyway?”
Miaren Crow’s Daughter, “What are otherkin?” http://home.otherkin.net/miaren/what.html (dead link, see the archive from 2005)
Belanger, 274.
Kreyas, “What is otherkin?”
Reklaw.
Belanger, “Dragons & Faeries & Gnomes Oh My! The Fascinating World of Otherkin.”
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.”
Arhuaine. “What are otherkin?”
Starelf, quoted by the Crisses, ed., “Otherkin & Awakening FAQ v 3.0 Beta.”
The Crisses, ed., “Otherkin FAQ v 4.0.1.”
Tocosar Ætlanatra (Dandelion Æ), “Why an Elf? An examination of the tendencies of Otherkin to associate themselves with mythological beings.” 2001-05. http://otherkin.net/2016/09/why-an-elf

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