Ed: Every so often when talking about becoming aware, someone expresses the opinion that things have become, in some ways, too easy for newcomers to the otherkin scene. At which point someone asks, why should they be hard, what’s wrong with helping others…
It’s not so much that I think things have to be hard. On the contrary, I don’t think they have to be hard at all. What I do think is that some things have to be done for oneself, that they cannot possibly have the same degree of meaning for you if you allow someone else to do them for you.
When I was going through my Awakening, I was the only person I knew who was Sidhe. I had two choices: Decide I was nuts, or reach out. So I reached out, and while I didn’t find anyone “like me”, I found people in the pagan community who were willing to listen and be supportive of my search for my own answers.
They did not, however, blindly accept me without question simply because I said so. They challenged me to think about what I felt, to become aware, to experience myself. They asked me hard questions: Why do you think you are Sidhe? What makes you believe you are something other than human in spirit, and not just using it as an excuse to feel superior?
Why indeed. Naturally I threw the kind of little hissy tempertantrums that many are so very familiar with these days – how dare you question my beliefs, you’re so insensitive, I’m trying to cope with what I am and you just want to tear me down, my truth is my truth for me, yada yada. And then one day one of my friends said to me, “Look, asshole, I’m not trying to tell you I don’t believe. I’m trying to make you think about why you believe, because if you are what you believe you are then you have a whole new perspective to work with and don’t you think you’ll work with it better if you understand it from the inside out?”
Yeah. That changed my perspective radically. I quit trying to be so damned defensive and instead tried to understand it from the heart out instead of from the skin in. Instead of trying to remember who I was, I tried being who I was – and found that remembering came naturally with that. Instead of trying to fit myself into a label that “defined” what I was, I explored what I was and didn’t worry about the labels – and found that there was a resonance with one thing in particular (Sidhe) and a couple of other things more peripherally. That led me to explore the mythologies. But at the same time, the mythologies didn’t define me because the hard questions my friends taught me to ask myself had already helped me define myself. What the mythologies did was enrich the experience and give me a cultural perspective.
I know that not everyone feels the “cultural perspective” thing is relevant or important. And it may not be for some people but it is for me to a degree that makes it hard for me to understand how the cultural perspective thing can be unimportant to someone – because it gives me some overall context for understanding the very way I think and react. Speaking here of incarnate otherkin rather than bloodline otherkin – I tend to believe that the soul has no “race”, and that by this token we are either all “other”, or none of us are. I don’t think there are very many souls who have only incarnated as a single race every time. What I believe sets those of us who identify as “other” off from those who don’t is not that we were once in another lifetime something other than human, but rather that the lifetime(s) we spent as other races so strongly impressed us at the soul level that even with the passage of cycles we still identify with those races more than we do the one we were culturally born into.
I find it difficult to understand how someone can claim to know they are a thing without any effort made to understand themselves from the heart out. If you look at a list of “you may be otherkin if…” and you try to match up what you are to what is on that list, you are trying to understand yourself from the skin in. This is useful only to an extent – it could possibly be a reasonable starting point. But if you want to understand who you are – not who your race is, not who your grandfather is – but who you are regardless of race or origin – you need to understand from the heart out. When you understand who you are from the heart out then the challenges to what you believe don’t threaten you. They become food for thought. And opportunities to understand yourself even better. And then it’s not “hard”, because it’s fresh and fascinating and enjoyable.
I believe the drive to understand oneself is an integral part of being aware of one’s Otherness. One of the things that seems to spark Awakening is the realization that one is not like others, and the desire to understand why. I have run across a few who call themselves Other who say they feel no need to understand ThemSelves, but I question if they are truly feeling the pull of Otherness or simply adopting the cloak because it’s shiny and pretty. How can you even wonder if your soul is Other without a drive to understand what that Otherness is? How can you claim a thing when you do not even want to know what that thing truly is? Being Other is not like being Goth, it’s Not Like you can just decide tomorrow you don’t want to wear this or that color all the time and presto, you aren’ t Other anymore. If that is all being Other is to you, then you aren’t Other. And so when someone comes on a list and says, “I think I’m (fill in the blank), what do you think?” I say to them, “Why do you think that? What makes you believe this? Why do you define yourself as this as opposed to human?” And when I am met with “how dare you question my reality?”, my response is, “I dare because I’m not trying to tell you I *don’t* believe, I’m trying to challenge you to understand why you believe.” So that you can learn who you are from the heart out. Every Otherkin I have met who truly *scans* Otherkin has such a burning hunger to understand why they feel and believe they way they do. That you can be so different and not burn to know why escapes me.
When someone else comes along and says, “naughty, naughty bad Tiernan being so mean and nasty to the poor widdle newbie – here, widdle newbie, you have X color eyes and phantom wings and Y memories, ergo you must be Z, wasn’t that easy?” I wonder how much of that reaction is a true desire to help, and how much is a desire to control, to be thought of admiringly, to be looked up to as a mentor type. It’s like Impressing hatchlings – you can convince yourself you’re very powerful if you have a whole crop of ‘kin who think and believe and perceive exactly the way you do – but how valuable is that experience going to be if someone has spoonfed it to you? And then it’s “go here to this website, go there to that website”. Websites are nice starting points but a true mentor doesn’t ment by pointing someone at a website and saying “go read this list and come back and tell me which one you think applies to you” – that’s goddamn lazy and if you’re too lazy to take the time to listen to what someone says, you have no business trying to mentor them. A true mentor says, “Tell me what you think. Tell me why you think that. Tell me where you heard that….”
A true mentor learns as much as sie teaches, and uses the tools appropriately. You cannot cannot cannot tell someone else what they are – if you do, you are lying to them. Oh, you may be correct – but you are still lying to them because your intent is false. If someone had told me I was Sidhe before I Understood it from the heart out, how much would it have meant? Would I have grown? Would I have learned? No, because I wouldn’t have done the footwork to try and understand why I felt/thought/experienced the way I did. I wouldn’t have come to Understand the culture that so impressed my soul that it continues to resonate thousands of years later, above and beyond any other I lived in. From the heart out.