The Perils of Remembering

First, you will know sorrow. And not just any sorrow, but the longing sorrow that comes with unfulfillment. Your soul will recall things that not even you can name, and it will want them back again. Sometimes, the old ways becomes an addiction, with all the problems an addiction brings: estrangement, loneliness, craving, even ruthlessness and double-dealing. Oh yes, double-dealing can be one of the first symptoms.

Other times, the past brings fear. Fear can be one of the worst things, in my opinion, having seen so many truly talented people stifle themselves and hide out of fear. Could they have been something great? Did they have a destiny to claim? Oh, most assuredly. We all have our destinies. The world can never know just how wonderful the fearful’s destiny was, because he chose not to claim it and he stagnated.

Most times, though, you will forget to look for joy. There are happy memories as well as sad, yet most people, myself included, seem to hover over the dark and still thoughts. The emotions connected with these are much stronger, this is true. But joy also has the power to bring forth tears. To keep perspective, one has to remember to search for such memories alongside the bad ones.

Second, you will know confusion. The human brain, for all its wonderful complexities, is also short-circuited. One watches Star Wars and they want so much to be like Luke that they fabricate memories for themselves. The human brain has this power; it is a protection device. And there are a lot of things in this crazy world to be protected from, even yourself.

It begins with the longing, the wishing, and then the deep soul-searching until “memories” spring forth. (I was there, George Lucas must be Otherkin, how else could he get the ways of the Force so accurately? I had a teacher just like Kenobi…) It is true there are a lot of creators who may “remember”. But most times they’ll take one memory, one fragment of a spark, and build their entire tale around it. In the telling, details change to become bigger and brighter and bolder. This phenomenon can be illustrated in the old gossip game where everyone sits in a circle and a statement is whispered in someone’s ear. The whisper-recipient then whispers it to another, then the statement is whispered to another, until the final player recites out loud what he was told. Rarely is the statement accurately passed around. This is what happens during the creative process.

Confusion can be just as dangerous as addiction. One should take their memories slowly, very very slowly, and watch their step. One step too far and you might topple into the abyss, into insanity, and only mighty strength can pull you back out again. Then you will know the pain of sorrow again, for you must damn what you remembered and start from scratch. You must be careful what you read and watch and think, for any of those might be false.

Third, and finally, you will know change. They say change is a good thing. Most times, your heart would argue with that. When lovers part forever, that is change and it brings pain and sadness, even if that relationship was bad and breaking up is the good way. It is so with anything else. Your baby turns one, you’re happy and sad. After all, although your child is healthy and growing up strong as he should, he is no longer your tiny infant to suckle at your breast. There has been a gradual change, and it has brought both happiness and sadness.

Remembering brings about changes in personality, perspective and environment. Once, you were timid. Then, you remembered squelching mighty armadas under your technological thumb. Something inside you clicks; you change, you revert. The next person who harrasses you suddenly experiences surprise: you punch his nose.

Perspective is affected in the same moment. You once saw yourself as bottom wolf, as the titmouse to hide from the owls. Now you know you were once an owl, the pack leader, and you are driven to command that power again. You see the world as your oyster, and you want pearls.

Environment tumbles in after. Pearls are riches. What is around you, your environment, is no longer adequate. You begin to change things to suit yourself. Sometimes it comes in small ways: the planting of a special tree or moving closer to the forest. Other times, it comes in tragic ways: you leave your spouse, you homeschool your children, you run for President.

And all the world is affected. It can be in an obvious or hidden manner. Obvious: the book you write, the people you contact through the e-list you’ve begun, those who follow you faithfully into Waco. Hidden: the influential person you support, the canvas you colored and gave to the rich plantation owner, the insane babble spouted across the board, ignored by most.

The world cannot help this. We are all in a helpless circle.

In conclusion, beware the perils of remembering. It is a blackberry-brambled path. You’re going to be nicked and are bound to bleed. You run the chance of being scarred, or your skin becoming too tough to absorb the next lesson. Learn to not skirt these dangers, but look through them and find the berries they protect. Sometimes they can be sour; many times they can be sweet. All will be earned in the right way, and it will be worth it.

Remembering – When Waking up hurts

(For Rialian, who always was a godsblasted catalyst)

I suppose I should start this off with an introduction. Hi, I’m Tirani. I’ve been Otherkin snice I was about three or so, and have walked lots of different paths in the intervining years, and learned lots of things. Until two months ago, much of my self-identity was based in a strong seelie sidhe aspect that was very active in my magikal and mundane world. Then something triggered a change – a shift in the currents that surrounded my life, to use Rialian’s turn of phrase. My astral form shifted to one I did not recognize and could not control. I lost touch with the part of me that I had known since before I could read. Nightmares that I had always had intesified and darkened. I stopped being able to sleep at night and started going just a little bit mad. I started feeling emotions and had thoughts that were nearly alien to me and my usual thought-processes. Then someone sugguested that I was re-Awakening. That’s when I started writing. It kept me sane enough to work through this. Below is the record of what I wrote and the feelings and thoughts that can sometimes come with a traumatic Awakening.

I’m no psychologist. I can’t tell you the best way to handle someone who’s been through a traumatic expreince, other than be gentle, love them, keep the lights low and don’t make any sudden moves. I can tell you that most ‘kin who have to wake up this way tend to need a little more love than most, and a gentle arm to put around their real-world shoulders when they need to talk out or work out or cry out the pain that can come. If you’re comfortable with it, encourage them to talk, or write, or rant and rave. The more it gets out of their system, the more they can start living again.

It should be noted that most Awakenings are not traumatic at all. Most of the time they’re a little scary, but more from a “who the hell am I turning into?” point of view rather than an “ohfuckohfuckohfuck” aspect. Sometimes, through, it can hurt, and it can take months or years to deal with the psychological scar tissue. This re-Awakening happened almost three months ago [as of June 2000], and only now can I bring myself to finish this and write out what happened the final night I worked through this. I still haven’t figured out all the niceities of this new form. I still haven’t figured out what it is. But I don’t twitch anymore when I think about what I remember. And I’m learning to fly again with these new wings.

What is writen below may be disturbing to some. Please keep in mind that this was a stream-of-consciousness-type writing from someone who, at the time, was going a little mad.

Bliss, Blessings and a little love,

Alyannael Shadowalker



remembering 2:51 AM 3/12/00

i don’t know what ri did last night, but it broke open something. a gate, a doorway, a wall that was holding back this. i’m almost wishing he hadn’t. these new wings, they’re heavey, a weight on me. i’m aware of them all the time, and they’re like something that’s tugging at me, forcing me to a place i couldn’t go before and I don’t want to go now. this new awakinging is somethign that i didn’t see coming, it’s something that’s either going to be really really good or really fucking bad.

my raven totem has been around constanly since last night, watching, perching, always in the corner of my eye. i wonder if SHe saw this coming and that’s why she sent me her dark messenger. i haven’t had a change to talk to him, or the others, and i don’t know what they’ll say. i can already feel Ra’rok pulling away, and it’s scaring me as he chose me, not the other way around. the brush of phantom fur assures me that ba’teth still walks at my side, but he’s silent. that scares me too. he’s my voice of sanity half the time, chasing the dreams away if he can.

i close my eyes to sleep tonight curled up with the others and all i can see is blood. blood and there’s rage, and pain and a sorrow so deep it makes me shake and I don’t know what it’s coming from. there’s a creavice somewhere in my soul now and it’s all pouring from it. this is different from the dreams, this is a memory. of what, I don’t know, of who, i don’t know. this isn’t tirani and this isn’t kitten and this isn’t ME. or at least what I thought was me until last night.

I refuse to entertian for a SECOND the idea that I might be Fallen, especially coming so soon after the big long debate on the list about them and Lulu and other’s insistance that they can’t inhabit a human body. I’d love to be able to talk to Ri’s friend that he holds authoratavive on the Fallen, because he might be able to tell me. Gods I don’t want to beleive that I was ever Yahew’s. never in the lives that I can remember did I belong to him and the ones i did i probably don’t remember for a reason, as they were probably dull and mundane and pointless. i respect christians, but I don’t have much respect for their god of death and devine suffering. I’d much rather beleive that the gods don’t wnat us to suffer unless it’s to learn. I’d much rather give my love and my joy and my pleasure as joyful open sacrifices.

two weeks then i can get away. two weeks, then I can find the answers in the forests of the peaks. two weeks and I can walk in the woods and talk to my goddess where i love her the best in the light of the sun and the smell of the trees and the brightness of spring tide come again. i don’t know if i can make it two weeks with these memories flooding at me everytime i stop and don’t think about my lovers or my job or what i need to get done now.

the worst part is i can feel part of my fae soul quieting, like it’s not quite there anymore. like it’s fading in the face of this new revalation. i can’t even force manifest the fae wings right at the moment. i can’t decide if that’s the worst of all becuase it’s something that’s been a part of me for years. something that i relied on and defined me within myself.

i do’nt fucking know and I can’t even talk to phril about it because ‘he doesn’t beleive in faeries’. the one i talk to the most, and i can’t tell him.


remembering 11:18 PM 3/12/00

napped today because i was just that exhausted. slept about an hour. then i woke up and tried to go back to sleep. then it started again.

I saw a little more. started with a falling feeling, like a free fall and then an impact. it hurt alot. lifed my head and looked around. i could see blood every where. in puddle on the ground, on the bodys of those around me, falling like rain from the sky. my wings were burning. my gods it hurt. i was physically clawing at my pillow it hurt so badly. i had a sword in my hand, it was made of something i couldn’t identify. looking up i could see others in the same form in the sky, flying, fighting burning like i was. around me were bodies of ones like me, dead and cold. they were my brothers and sisters. i raised the sword and screamed because my wings wouldn’t work and i couldn’t take off again to rejoin the fight. looking behind me i can see one is at a nasty angle, with bone poking through the flesh.

i clawed awake, scaring the hell out of phril and nearly screaming.


remembering 12:27 PM 3/14/00

observatons, so far, on this new form. The body is alot like the fae one I had. astrally it’s slim, very angular, and very very pale. the skin is so pale there’s almost a blue cast to it. the hands and arms are slender as well, with elongated fingers, four and a thumb. the legs, like the arms, are slim and slightly enlongated, and there’s a more pronounced, almost clawlike heel, with normal porportioned toes. the body has a kind of wiry strength to it. The face is like the body, very angular, but not so as to be unattractive. The cheek bones are pronounced, and the ears are upswept. the eyes are violet, so dark as to be almost purple. the hair is a silvery-moonlight grey, falling to just above the shoulders (about what I have physically now). the mouth is small, and well formed, but like the rest of the form it’s very very pale.

the most striking part is the wings. they’re angelic in form, maybe a touch more angular, and jet black. they shed consantly on the astral, but never go bald. They’re about a foot taller than the form, peaking when they’re folded against the back, and drop down until they’re about 4″ from brushing the floor. All this is subjective, given how fluid distance and size in the astral can be. Across the right (my right) wing is a scar from being broken a long time ago.

there are something like arm gaurds on the forearm in a material I can’t identify, kind of a silverly-black material. set into them are blue-green stones, kind of like laborite with a more pronounced blue flash. there’s an arm band of some kind with a design I can’t quite make out on my left arm, with three feathers dangling from it. One, the largest, is white, the middle, smallest, is black, and the last is blood red, medium sized between the other two. On my right hand is a fingerless glove of a kind, made of a mesh of the unidenitifed material. I carry my sword in my left hand. Set in the back of the glove is the same kind of symbol as the arm band, but I can’t quite make it out as before. over the right shoulder is a protector of sorts, kinda like the shoulder armour of the gaurdian chick in Heavey metal. the strap from it comes down around under the left breast and secures in the back. the material it’s made of is soft as down, but virtirually uncutable, and a blue-ish black. I have no clue what it is. Around the waist is a belt of leather and that cloth, with the sword’s sheath hanging from it. The sheath is black leatehr lined with metal, and tooled with a pattern I can’t make out. There’s another band around the right leg above the knee, tied of the same cloth material, with a pattern woven into it, and it fairly glows with energy. hell, every bit of adornment on this figure glows fairly well. Attached to the band of cloth is a sheath with about a 6″ dagger in it. The leather is black, and tooled intricately. the handle of the dagger is strickly plain, made of the same odd metal with a leather wrap. If I draw it, light casts off it bright as day. around the left ankle is a silver chain with a teardrop amythest set into it. Other than what was just described, the form is naked and most definately female.

the sword is worthy of a discription all it’s own. it’s about the general size and shape of a ‘modern’ long sword, and glows faintly blue, except in battle when it flames a blue-purple, almost faefire like effect. the cross bar is a standard cross shape, ending in two smallish eggs of the same blueflashing stone. on the hand, which is perfectly shaped for my hand, is a design much like the one on the band and glove. the pommel is a curved spike, and wickedly sharp. It could be easily used to rip out someone’s throat or scalp them. the blade is peuternatually balanced and feels very very familar. etched on the metal, which is the same silvery-black as the rest, are runes and sigils that again, I can’t make out. I don’t know if I’m not ready for them or i’m not allowed to remember them.


remembering 12:42 AM 3/15/00

talked to Ri for a while tonight. worked out some things in my head talking with him. I think the key of fully intregrating this new form is going to be getting a clear image of the sigils and etchings on the armourments of new form. Also, he concures that I am not Fallen, nor am I an angel, but there is a possiblity of some other kind of angelic. He’s going to get me some reasources to see if we can figure this out. He also says that this feels familar to him, which means I’m not utterly fucking nuts.

no matter what, this is going to take a good bit of time to work through, and until I can get this new one intergrated into me, i don’t think i’m going to be able to go back to my fae form.


remembering 11:58 AM 3/21/00

I remembered a little more over the weekend. Not much, though. This battle that I keep seeing is a battle between us, the darkwings, and them, the light (white?) wings. we are all children of the goddess. for some reason, though, the light wings have become corrupted. we’re fighting them because they attacked us and we retailated against what whe thought weren’t pure anymore. Gah, it’s very muddled in my head, and i know it will come clearer in in the future.

i can feel the story of what happened teasing in the back of my mind, and i know it’s close to coming out. soon, i hope. i hate it when my brain itches.


remembering 1:28 PM 6/4/00

(this is what happened a few nights after my last entry. Until now, I haven’t been able to bring myself to write it out. Ri came over and helped me sink into an energy trace and mesh with him (for stablity, I was anything but stable.) This is what I saw that night. I haven’t had a nightmare since then. Referenced below: “Her” is She Who Is, the Mother of all. “HER” is Guen, a demonic current that I had extensive dealings with in this life, and apparently others.)

Darkness, falling in darkness, there’s nothign, i can almost hear wind whistling by my face… then light… brigh flash of light.. i’m flying! I’m flying!!! wings spread wide on the wind… sun on my back, warm and comforting… there’s a bright blue sky.. clouds like puffs of cotton.. trees, like pines, only not… a forest at the base of a cliff… silver-grey stone, and a water fall falling over the clif, tehre’s a rainbow on the air above it… bright light.. around the pool at the base of the waterfall is a village… both sides of the bank.. smoke rising for chimmenies.. I know this is my home… no walls around this village, it’s a place of peace, of refuge, of love. my sword is by my side, like it always is… i understand it now. on one side are the warriors, the black wings, who fight for peace in her name. on the other are the white wings, the healers who heal them when tehy come home from those battles.. and who keep her peace sacred.. and rarely when a white and a black join, the grey wings who are taken into Her service in the temple behind the waterfall. she who is rules us with love and justice. we are Her children who are Her own and no one else’s. but something’s happened, something’s not right, I can feel HER here, and she doesn’t belong. why the hell does she haunt me, even back through time. i have to stop her before this starts, before light and dark fight and before we are corrupted. falling, falling, landing at the base of the cliff, the others are walking up to the temple, to see what has come, the preists have called everyone together.. i can feel HER more strongly, i know have to stop this. stop it now stop it now to keep the dreams from coming true. the dreams were a warning, then and now. there’s two me’s. the me of now that’s known her very reall in this life and the me of then that was this winged angelic warrior.. the two are merging.. i can feel the mesh completing… She is me and me is she… i walk up the path into the temple, there are banners with the symbol of She Who Is there. she’s our mother and we love her. the smell of HER is there, reeking and sour, and i can’t understand why no one else notices it, why only i am upset and angered by it. i walk into the meeeting hall, the sacred place where we all come together, and i can see HER, a cloud of black on the silver stone, behind the high preist, and tainting all the others there that follow him… we’re not human, but we’re mortal and just as prone to mortal failings… i push my way to the front, the red torches are staining the silverstone blood red.. it’s dark and the others are confused, it’s never flet like this here before… She Who is can’t be felt, and Her children are scared… I push my way to the front, anger and fury building in our meshed mind.. the preist starts talking about a better way, and a new future… and how something stronger has come to save us…. and i can hear HER laughing, mocking.. i step up and draw my sword, breaking the Law of she who is, that weapons never be bared in the place where she dwells… and I scream at HER to leave, that she is not welcome and i will not let this happen here… i will not let her corrupt me a second time… and i feel a light filling me and spilling out over my words, blasting away the darkness… SHE fights and claws and i scream, but I fight because this CAN NOT happen. SHE can not do this. and the others run away from me because I shine light that is not my own, HER preist flies at me, but is thrown back by the light… finally SHE fades away, and is gone, i can’t feel HER here anymore…. and I collapse, bloody and bruised… the last thing i remember seeing clearly is the sign of She Who Is.

I came awake, panting and nearly crying, but i didn’t feel so insane anymore. And I was fullying joined with this new aspect. I haven’t gone back since. I rather like my new wings.

How Much is Too Much?: Tolerance, Relativism, and the Slippery Slope

The Buddhist ideal is the Middle Path. Although I am not a Buddhist myself, I respect and support this approach to reality. I have found that it can be applied to just about every aspect of our lives. When we exist at extremes, we cause trouble for ourselves. This holds true for attitudes and ideals as well as behaviors. Tolerance is a good example. For the most part, we exist in a society that does not practice tolerance nearly enough. The extreme of intolerance is the rule of the day. People are judged upon superficialities like appearance, hairstyle, and what music they listen to, not to mention skin color, gender, orientation, and beliefs. Many of us, as we come from marginalized minorities, have made a concerted effort to move away from intolerance and instead to accept a person for who and what they are – whatever that may be. This is especially true when it comes to tolerance of religious and spiritual diversity. However, all too frequently, in our quest to embrace tolerance of all ideas, practices, and ways of being, we overcompensate for the oppressive intolerance we face every day. With all the best intentions in the world, we swing wildly over to the other extreme and begin accepting every quirk and behavior no matter how outrageous or illogical it may be. This is seen nowhere more clearly than on the Internet. I have a good friend who runs a rather large Pagan-oriented elist. A wise and learned individual, he holds some very heady ideals. Because his own beliefs are little unusual, and have often been judged harshly by others, he upholds the right of each and every individual on his elist to make any kinds of claims about their spiritual experiences, their abilities with magick, and their relationship with spirits and divinities. No matter how ludicrous these claims may sound, no matter how deluded a person clearly may be, my friend will argue at length against anyone daring to question these beliefs on the basis that neither he nor anyone else can truly get inside that person’s head to see exactly what they see. Given this, he argues, there is no way for anyone to make a case that any belief or claim to an experience is invalid. Anything less than this all-embracing attitude of subjective truth is decried as intolerance masquerading in the guise of common sense, logic or rationality.

Staking Wild Claims

I’m not sure how many people have experienced the amazing variety of spiritual claims that one can encounter within the Internet. For me, it gets a little mind-boggling. I have encountered people who in all seriousness have proclaimed that they can cast a spell to allow themselves actual, physical flight. I have had more people than I care to count assure me that they own a copy of the legendary Necronomicon and that it is, indeed, bound in human skin. And that’s to say nothing of the folks who have told me of summoning demons in the flesh, drinking pints of human blood a week, and being the living incarnations of their deity of the week. I’d love to say that this is a phenomenon produced by the medium of the Internet, given how easy it is to masquerade as somebody else from the other end of a screen. However, in the days before the Internet, I had encountered similar claims. As I was dealing with people one-on-one or through limited written correspondence, the wild boasters seemed farther and fewer between. But the blessing and the curse of the Internet is that it puts us in contact with vast numbers of people. In this case, I think the percentage of wild claimants is a constant, but the sheer numbers of the Internet allow them more clearly to be seen. I will say that the Internet does seem to encourage attitudes of uber-tolerance like those of my friend. In the past, I had no trouble telling someone point-blank I thought they were trying to put one over on me. On far too many elists, when I voice such an opinion now, I’m suddenly attacked from five different directions as being judgmental and simply not understanding someone’s “different” point of view. Somehow the voice of reason gets drowned in a morass of political correctness and a misguided crusade to take freedom of speech to the limits of total intellectual anarchy.

The Trap of Relativism

There is a point where tolerance, practiced at the opposite extreme from intolerance, becomes something known as relativism. In relativism, there are no absolutes. Everything is subjective and relative to the experience and choices of the individual. From a relativist standpoint, I cannot argue that red is red because there is no way for me to adequately prove that my version of red is the same “red” being perceived by someone who may in fact perceive that color as blue. Relativism caters to minority thinking in the extreme, careening perilously close to societal fragmentation and the disintegration of the fundamentals of language and communication. According to relativism, the very fact that someone might have a different experience than me makes it impossible for me to assert any experience as valid and true. And here is the trap of relativism. When definition is based upon subjective opinion, how do we determine what is real and what is not? Concepts like “truth” and “reality” lose all significance, because meaning can and does change from person to person, depending on their point of view.

Relativism and Religious Diversity

Superficially, relativism seems like a good idea, especially where spiritual and religious beliefs are concerned. Acknowledging that experiences are subjective and that each person’s interpretations of reality are relative to those subjective experiences is a basic part of accepting a diversity of religious beliefs. Religious experience is exceptionally subjective. My vision of “god” is not a Muslim’s vision of God, and even within a single sect, each person will have their own unique take on the divinity promulgated by that sect. But relativism, taken to its logical extreme, eventually allows someone to declare that “god” is in fact a dog, and no one can argue this claim. Now, before I proceed any further with this argument, let me clarify my own stance on religion and spirituality. I am what I have often described as a Universalist. I believe that there are as many names for Divinity as there are people to speak those names, and even more still. Further, there are as many paths to Divinity as there are people to walk them, and again, even more still. Our experience of “god” and the universe is ours and ours alone, and it cannot help but be subjective, unique, and intensely personal, spoken in our own soul-language. But isn’t this relativism? And with such a tolerant worldview, how can one discern legitimate beliefs from psychological delusions? To quote my good friend and fellow writer, Jason B. Crutchfield, that’s a slippery slope.

Truth Versus Delusion

In an ideal world, tolerance should not be qualified. In such a perfect and ideal world, the acceptance of every person’s different spiritual beliefs, experiences, and practices should be absolute. But we do not exist in an ideal world, and as too many experiences on the Internet have proven, some people are just lying or are deluded about their spiritual experiences. Most of us who have any experience in these matters have the ability to adequately discern a legitimate claim from a delusion or an outright lie. In most cases I’ve encountered, making this distinction is a no-brainer; we usually know on an intuitive level when someone is speaking from the heart about spiritual matters versus when they are shoveling a load of bull. However, if we uphold tolerance of individual beliefs as an absolute, there is no way we can really call these people out on their erroneous claims. There will always be that relativistic out that says, “Your experiences are not my experiences, so how can you know what’s right or wrong to me?” Usually there’s no need to wrestle with these sticky issues of right and wrong in regards to personal beliefs. However, especially on the Internet, I have seen erroneous claims do a lot of damage. When people use the widespread attitude of relativism to essentially claim that god is a dog, a lot of newcomers who have yet to develop adequate judgment get themselves really confused. In some cases, this just sets them back in their studies for a little while, as they have to backtrack from the misinformation and relearn the basics of things. In other cases, it may shatter a person’s faith in everything once they have accepted an erroneous belief and then learned that it was based upon lies or delusions. In the worst case scenario, people are misled into really dangerous territory, as in the Halle-Bopp Comet group who committed mass suicide to join alien saviors in outer space.

The Slippery Slope

I have been wrestling with these issues for many years now. Despite my efforts, I have yet to come up with any hard and fast rules for rating the validity of someone’s claims about magick or spirituality. Common sense is usually helpful, but within the Pagan and magickal communities, we are almost always dealing with uncommon experiences. I myself hold some beliefs that many would perceive as being “out there”, and from a rational-materialist perspective, anyone who believes in magick is “out there”. The best yardstick I have found is not a rigid one. It takes into account the fact that individuals do have radically different experiences and perspectives, and it further takes into account that my interpretation of reality may not be accurate or complete. Going from there, I usually judge a person’s validity based less upon their actual claims and more upon how that person presents those claims over a period of time. Credible people tend to present themselves rationally and consistently over the long run. They frequently lead up to the really wild claims, often qualifying them and acknowledging that you might not believe and are under no obligation to do so. I am far more inclined to believe the apparently delusional claims of someone who tells me, “This is what I believe,” than even the sober and reasonable claims of someone who says, “This is what you should believe.”

The Middle Path

. The very nature of spiritual experience means that much must be taken on faith. Of course in matters of faith, there is rarely an opportunity to provide cold, hard proof. When I do storm magick to end a dry spell, I have no way of proving that I was directly responsible for the ensuing thunderstorm. I just know on a level that often cannot be expressed in words. For someone coming outside of that sense of gnosis, the choice to believe is ultimately up to them – but at no time should a person feel obligated to believe simply out of a misplaced desire to respect my own beliefs. The extreme side of religious tolerance tells us that we cannot disbelieve in anyone’s experiences. The reality is that we should choose what we believe just as we choose which gods and goddesses to follow, or whether we follow any at all. Tolerating other peoples’ rights to their beliefs does not mean that we cannot make informed decisions regarding the validity of those beliefs. The Middle Path of tolerance is when we respect and encourage diversity but respect our own judgment as well.

Reflections on Waking

At about 1:30 am on the morning of April 18th, 2002, I discovered the Otherkin community. Like most of you, I felt as though I had found something that I had sought all my life. I had all but convinced myself that the sensation of phantom wings was an illusion; and my sense of being different was nothing more than the lingering effect of childhood trauma. (Public school was a singularly unpleasant experience – and a mercifully brief one, for I soon began learning at home.) Then, all of a sudden, I found that I was not alone, and for the first time in my life, I was at peace.

I am writing this article in the wee hours of the morning of April 19th. It will go through one draft, and one draft only, though I may make minor corrections before I send it off. I’m doing this because soon – in a few years, or a few months, or perhaps even a few weeks – I will be even farther along on my journey of self-discovery. I will find my place in this society, and I will forget what it is to be born again into this brave new world. Certainly I will forget the fear that follows the initial euphoria of discovery. I find myself wondering whether I will ever truly find my place; if I will find acceptance in this community; if I am deluding myself after all. These fears will pass, I think, but before they do, I must remind you – and remind my future self, lest I forget – what it’s like, and I must tell you some things that I think you should know.

I suppose I’ll begin with the story of my Awakening. I’ve always been different. I’ve always known, on some level, that I am not quite human. Some sensed this and respected, even adored me for it; others sensed it and despised me. Still others could care less – “normal” people are like that sometimes. When I was a child, I had myself convinced that I was an alien. I created an imaginary world for myself, and I was the queen, and everyone loved me.

(Interesting fact: My mortal form is male. I’ve always felt that I was meant to be female, and sure enough, my true form is. I’m straight both ways, and I don’t mean I’m bisexual. I have no desire for a sex- change operation, and I have no desire to wear women’s clothing in this form. Yes, it’s all very confusing. I’m working on an essay on the subject, and would be glad to hear from other “gender displaced” kin – whether you are, in fact, transgender or something more complex, as I am. I’ll return to the subject at hand now.)

Most importantly – I could go home any time I wished.

Except, as it turned out, I couldn’t, and after a few years in which I sent constant telepathic distress signals and received no reply…I gave up on the “alien” idea.

Time passed. I entered adolescence, and began to use magic. I’d always had a few odd talents – the occasional prophetic dream, and an uncanny sort of intuition, among others – but now my powers grew. In time, I could heal myself at an accelerated rate. I could cloud the minds of others, escaping their notice; I could also puff myself up on a psychic level, and thus appear more formidable than I truly was. I could manipulate coincidence on some level. I was soon quite sure that I was a wizard, and currently I am a practicing neopagan (eclectic Wicca, mainly). During my adolescence, my sense of “otherness” was heightened; I was magical, of course, but it was more than that. I began to feel phantom wings on my back. Occasionally I would feel a symbol burning in my brow. And once in a while, I would BE female – my perspective would shift, and though my flesh was still male, I would feel more feminine than masculine. I denied that last part until recently.

I was a Christian mystic/magician when I began to feel the wings, and the symbol – it took me a while to get onto the pagan path – and I therefore came to the conclusion that I was an angel in mortal form. But I wasn’t entirely convinced; it just didn’t feel right. Eventually I let it drop.

Again, time passed. Eventually Wicca started to fit – I’d tried the path before, but it had never really clicked. I needed to be in the right place at the right time, I suppose. This was the road that would lead me to the Otherkin.

While browsing a pagan site, I came across an article describing the online kin community. I’d put my differences with humanity aside, after a fashion, but as I read the piece in question, they came flooding back. I dropped everything and began to explore this new world at once.

Over the past twenty-four hours, I have been giving this more thought than I ever have before. For the first time in my life, I could admit that I wasn’t human, and that liberated me. I still have much to learn, and much to remember, but I have discovered more than I ever dreamed I would. The name I have taken is Casidhe Adain, and though I cannot say for certain that it is my true name in the strictest sense of the word, I can say that it is an Earth equivalent. I’m fairly certain that I am Elenari, or very closely related to those illustrious elves, through blood or friendship; certainly I am an elf of some kind. I can’t explain the wings – they don’t seem to be very common among elves, but I get the sense that they were an abberation back home. (I’m not quite sure where home is, I’m afraid; I remember bits and pieces, but most of it is still out of focus.) I also seem to have some affinity with the denizens of Faerie, as my name implies on its face. But I digress.

So. I am at least partially Awake, and in the process of discovering myself – a process that will continue for the rest of my mortal existence; I doubt that even the most experienced kin can remember everything about who they were or are. As I say, I will soon be integrated into this community, and I will forget what it was like to be a newcomer; thus, I would like to offer a newcomer’s perspective on certain issues.

First: Many of you are reluctant to tell newcomers what they are. Some of you are reluctant even to suggest what they might be. This is very kind of you, but it is misguided. This community is very diverse, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes an elf is just an elf, a dragon just a dragon. If someone comes to you and describes themselves as something that you know to be an elf, tell them they’re probably an elf. You needn’t force that view upon them, and you won’t, really; if they feel differently, they’ll find their own way sooner or later. I discovered the Elenari soon enough, but gosh, it would’ve been helpful if someone had taken me by the metaphorical shoulders and sent me in that direction. My first post to an Otherkin list was a description of my true form as I perceived it and a question – does this sound familiar? No one really responded except for a fellow newcomer. Maybe they just didn’t know, but I have to wonder if some held their tongues because they were reluctant to “force” an idea upon me. It’s ok, guys. Really. I wanted to get some input.

Second: It’s good to tell newcomers that they should try to tell the difference between memories and fabrications, but tread very carefully. That sort of statement, when phrased improperly, makes us extremely nervous. (Unfortunately, I have yet to see a proper phrasing! This may be an impossible request. My apologies if it is.) We’re already new to this, and I rather suspect that we question our sanity far more often than more experienced kin do. Self-doubt can be very painful during this period.

Third: This is going to contradict my first point, at least on the surface, but…the contradiction is already there. Look, if you really believe that kin are what they believe themselves to be, and others can’t say what they are or are not, then please practice what you preach. Don’t make lists of elven traits or draconic traits or what have you – even if you preface them with “these are just the more common traits; not everyone has them; not everyone has all of them”…look, again, it makes newcomers nervous. As I said, I think I’m Elenari, but some of the descriptions of what Elenari are scared me because I didn’t possess some of the traits described.

Newcomers are delicate flowers. It’s a tired metaphor, on many levels, but it’s true. Nurture them, and they’ll become a valuable part of the community. Force them to make their own way and…well…you’re gambling with our community’s future, in my opinion.

That’s all I can think of for now. I can only hope that other newcomers will take the time to fill the gaps I’ve undoubtedly left. Thank you and blessed be.

Addendum: I would like to apologize if I’ve misunderstood some of the information provided by certain members of the community, or if I’ve offended anyone with this article. I’m only trying to help where and however I think I can.

Questioning Sanity

I think there’s been some reluctance in the online Sayuneldi (Otherkin) community to point fingers at anyone for being self-deluded, because a) we’re all considered deluded by the average person on the street; b) we’re afraid of scaring off the newer folks on the lists or the ones just Awakening to something real in themselves; and/or c) in times past there had been cases of back-lash when someone dared mention someone might need to do some further self- exploration or seek help. I’m not excusing the reluctance, just trying to give some background. I am all for questioning one’s self; questioning one’s sanity can be fun :). I just think there needs to be a balance between acceptance and well-intentioned, mature questioning.

Sometimes someone says something that sounds utterly ridiculous to me. I’m opinionated enough that sometimes I’ll say something about it. That’s OK. If I say it’s absurd or someone else says it’s gospel, it’s just an opinion. No one is required to believe everything that gets written or said. It’s OK to agree to disagree. Question everything.

I’ve wondered internally about the people who say they are angels. What service are you performing for what god/dess? That is part of my definition of angel. Sometimes it’s seemed that angelics were the next “Otherkin fad”. We’ve had others in the past; elves, weres, vampires, hosts and unicorns have all had turns at being the hot new race of Otherkin, where a bunch of people were discovering they were that race and talking about it all at once. I don’t know that all the angelics are or are not what they think they are, but that’s for them to figure out as individuals. I’m saying it’s OK for me to question, because it doesn’t affect them being what they really are inside, and they are free to disagree with me. We are free to disagree with each other.

Someone had once asked “How can you claim to be ‘X’ and ‘Y’ if both ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are in opposition to each other?” Now, people have mentioned having past lives as opposing things, but that’s different than claiming to be two things that are in opposition. I’ve also been things in past lives that conflict with who I am now, and been a vampire I’m not real proud of in my current incarnation. I don’t call myself an elf-vampire because the two were and are in conflict for me. When I was a vampire it resulted in the elf being completely forgotten. After I died, and my soul had the blinders taken off (as happens sometimes after death), the dissonance between who I had been as a vampire and who I had been as an elf caused so much internal conflict that it caused my soul to split. The personality bits that had been associated with the vampire were flung far and wide.

A variation along those lines: I think there’s a difference between saying I was something in a past life and that I am something. For instance, suppose someone once was a unicorn. How much applicability does that have in the here and now? To my mind, a unicorn is a being that represents Truth, unyielding fierce aggressive Truth. It’s near impossible to be pure anything, much less pure Truth, in this physical realm. It’s the nature of the realm. So while I could see someone saying they had been a unicorn and had some aspects influenced by it, I’ve had a hard time swallowing someone being a unicorn in this life (and that’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart). Similarly, if I was a rock, a frog, or a stellar dust bunny in a past life, how much of that applies here in this world, in this form, with this mortal consciousness?

An excellent set of questions for anyone is “Are you better off now that you know about your other identity? Has it helped or hindered your life, balance, health and well-being?” For myself, I can say that it’s been a great thing for health, balance, and self-confidence. And ultimately it’s a question we only answer to our own satisfaction.

It can be fun to question your sanity, to explore yourself, your entire world, to experiment and grow. I speak from experience. Having the carpet of my reality yanked from under my feet got much more fun after I realized that I didn’t have to fall and flail – I could fly….

The Otherkin Problem

What’s wrong with the otherkin community?

  1. Its not about discovery anymore. Maybe people feel that they have “discovered everything” and nothing is new.
  2. There’s a gap between the “elders” and the newbies that is a million miles wide. If someone just awakened, they come looking for answers, and what happens? People tell them. It used to be even the newbies were able to discover themselves among the rest of us, though now it seems there is no time for that. Or maybe it is tedious, since its all been done before. We still have much to learn, but the newness has worn off for most of us. Been awake too long?
  3. Its not about life anymore. Its about pastlives. Or about pastlife memories. Or about current popularity. I remember when I needed the other darkfae around me for stability and functionality, and that was a focus of the group, among other things. We worked to get ourselves balanced in our new identities, so we could function in this life! Ya, we whined about “going home” just as much as the next person, but that’s wasn’t where we stopped. It was about this life, today, right now! It was about blending our aspects into a smooth whole that was able to walk around in daily life, do daily functions, and succeed while retaining our otherkin selves. It was about life.
  4. Being otherkin has never made me feel superiour to others, but aparently a lot of people feel this way. How many of these new otherkin people really are otherkin, and not just lost confused people who don’t know and are grabbing at what’s shiney and gonna make them feel better? I am not saying in any way that people are not what they say, I’m just saying the reasons for calling oneself otherkin are getting skewed. In my way of thinking, being darkfae inside puts me not only on a lower level as full humans (since its their world) but puts me at a disadvantage. I would not make myself darkfae, if I’d had the choice. Then again, I am what I am *shrugs* I know what I am. How many people can say that, in our community, and not feel a nag of doubt? How many are just here (in the community) because it is the popular thing to be, its the newest way to be a freak, or because it seems so wonderful and so special? How many really just plain don’t know, and just choose the label because its the easy way out?

I am not accusing anyone of anything at all, I am just accusing the patterns people have set themselves in. Its time we took a good hard look at ourselves, and ask ourselves exactly what we gain from calling ourselves by the labels we chose? I will rethink it myself, maybe I’ll come up with different answers than the last time. The point is, everyone needs to think, and not just grab at something. And I know there are bound to be many who do, whether that something be what they are told, or what is given to them. Its not personal truth if it comes from someone else.

A Prepaved Path?

As the community for those who feel they are not entirely human by nature grows, we see more cultural awareness and acceptance grow as well. Information and concepts that only a few years ago were virtually non-existent are now readily available. This fact has many positive and negative aspects.

From the positive side: With information more readily available, those who are searching for answers to their questions can find help much more quickly. With more people growing aware and accepting, those in the community no longer need to feel as outcast as they once might have.

From the negative side: With information more readily available, those who are searching for answers to their questions, no longer need to do as much research and find for themselves what may be their truth. With awareness of the community on the rise, those who are struggling in their own lives may feel a need to turn to a community for a sense of acceptance.

Those who once sought out and researched information, with only the longing of their spirit to guide them, now may find themselves torn between the desire to share and help those who may truly need what information they can provide, and the understanding that sometimes it is the difficulty that proves the spirit. Information that is too easy to acquire, may also be too easy to dismiss. While one who continues to search, simply because they feel a strong need to find themselves, will never forget who they truly are.

By simple fact of the nature of believing one’s self to be other than completely human, open-mindedness can be one of the backbones of the community. However, expecting one to take something at face value is not productive and potentially harmful. As with anything that is beyond general society’s views of normal, those who feel uncomfortable or think they don’t fit into most people’s preconceived notions of normal, will find themselves drawn to a community where they hope to find acceptance and validation. Far too often they may use the open-mindedness and acceptance of a community to avoid confronting issues within themselves.

While public awareness and acceptance of alternate beliefs is vital to developing a tolerant society, it is just as important to recognize that external validation should never be a replacement for understanding who and what you truly are.

The Power of The Gift

There is a reason (and often several reasons) why we often feel like we don’t fit into this society of modern mankind, and thus consider ourselves, and are considered by others, to be “not normal.” Much of it stems from a deeply rooted incompatibility on the philosophic underpinnings of modern human economic theory, which has little if anything to do with the truly magical nature of the spiritual beings we all know ourselves to be.

Bear with me as I expound on a little philosophizing here, please.

Most early non-western societies did not work on anything resembling a market economy. The idea that everything began with a barter system is, quite probably, untrue,… but there are very few who are even willing to examine the basis of the origins of this human economy that is now called the “market”. To fully understand where I am coming from, it helps if you start thinking a lot more seriously about what this “market” actually is, where it came from, and what a viable alternative to it might actually be like.

The universal assumption of free market enthusiasts, in the past as now, was that what essentially drives human beings is a desire to maximize their pleasures, comforts and material possessions (their “utility”), and that all significant human interactions can thus be analyzed in market terms. In the beginning, goes the official version, there was barter. People were forced to get what they wanted by directly trading one thing for another. Since this was inconvenient, they eventually invented money as a universal medium of exchange. The invention of further technologies of exchange (credit, banking, stock exchanges) was simply a logical extension.

The problem is, is that there is no reason to believe that a society based on barter has ever actually existed. Instead, what anthropologists studying primitive cultures have discovered is that there were societies where economic life was based on utterly different principles, and most objects moved back and forth as gifts – and almost everything we would call “economic” behavior was based on pure generosity (or a pretense of it) and a staunch **refusal** to calculate exactly who had given what to whom.

Such “gift economies” could on occasion become highly competitive, but when they did, it was in exactly the opposite way from our own modern westernized way; instead of vying to see who could accumulate the most, the winners were the ones who managed to give the most away. In some notorious cases, such as the Kwakiutl of British Columbia (or really, almost any tribe of northwestern native americans), this could lead to dramatic contests of liberality (the potlatch), where ambitious chiefs would try to outdo one another by distributing thousands of silver bracelets, Hudson Bay blankets or Singer sewing machines, and even by destroying wealth – sinking famous heirlooms in the ocean, or setting huge piles of wealth on fire and daring their rivals to do the same. The ancient Celts had similar practices, and indeed, if you are interested in studying this phenomenon, I have little doubt you would find that, rather than it being a rare thing, it was a fairly common practice.

All of this may seem very exotic. But how alien is it, really? Is there not something odd about the very idea of gift-giving, even in our own modern society? Why is it that, when one receives a gift from a friend (a drink, a dinner invitation, a compliment), one feels somehow obliged to reciprocate in kind? Why is it that a recipient of generosity often somehow feels reduced if he or she cannot reciprocate? Are these not examples of universal feelings, which are somehow discounted in modern society – but in others were actually –>the very basis

In gift economies, exchanges do not have the impersonal qualities of the capitalist marketplace; in fact, even when objects of great value change hands, what really matters is the relations between the people; the exchange is about creating friendships, or working out rivalries, or obligations, and only incidentally about moving around valuable goods. As a result, everything becomes personally charged, even property; in gift economies, the most famous objects of wealth – heirloom necklaces, weapons, feather cloaks – always seem to develop personalities of their own.

In a market economy it’s exactly the other way around. Transactions are seen simply as ways of getting one’s hands on useful things; the personal qualities of buyer and seller should ideally be completely irrelevant. As a consequence everything, even people, start being treated as if they were things too. (Consider in this light the expression “goods and services.”)

Ancient Rome still preserved something of the older ideal of aristocratic open-handedness; Roman magnates built public gardens and monuments, and vied to sponsor the most magnificent games. But Roman generosity was also quite obviously meant to wound; one favorite habit was scattering gold and jewels before the masses to watch them tussle in the mud to scoop them up. Early Christians, for obvious reasons, developed their notion of charity in direct reaction to such obnoxious practices. True charity was not based on any desire to establish superiority, or favor, or indeed any egoistic motive whatsoever. To the degree that the giver could be said to have gotten anything out of the deal, it wasn’t a real gift.

But this in turn led to endless problems, since it was very difficult to conceive of a gift that did not benefit the giver in any way. Even an entirely selfless act would win one points with the Christian God. Therein began the habit of searching every single act for the degree to which it could be said to mask some hidden selfishness, and then began the mistake in assuming that this selfishness is what’s really important.

One sees the same move reproduced so consistently in modern social theory. Economists and Christian theologians agree that if one takes pleasure in an act of generosity, it is somehow less generous. They just disagree on the moral implications. To counteract this very perverse logic, it is necessary to emphasize the “pleasure” and “joy” of giving; in traditional societies, there was not assumed to be any contradiction between what we would call self-interest (a phrase that could not even be translated into most human languages) and concern for others; the whole point of the traditional gift is that it furthers both at the same time.

Many humans, however, fail to grasp this very simple concept. This is part of what sets the Elfin/Fae apart from the humans. This is why we feel that we are not normal, because of course, if normal is defined as being of the same economic mindset as humans, then, indeed, we are not normal. On the other hand, since their societal economy is based on something that is not true, and has been perverted through the ages by the logic of economists and theologians,… perhaps it is not us that is not normal… perhaps it is them.

Physically Human?

I believe that the Otherkin body ticks a little differently on the whole, even when there is no genetic trace. I think that harbouring a non-human soul will have some effect on the body in the same way that ones’ state of mind affects the body too. For instance, the reason why stress makes people sick, and why energy healing such as reiki works, is because of the effect of non-physical occurrences on the physical body.

I used to think that everyone was really Otherkin underneath, it was just that most people hadn’t seen it. I still think that to some extent. I am constantly boggled by the number of times I meet otherkin IRL. I am fairly open about my ‘kin-ness among my friends, and the most common reaction I get is not “You’re crazy”. It’s “Oh. I’m one of those too!” If this is a typical sample, then there are a heck of a lot of otherkin on Earth. It makes sense. If the population is growing, and we are reincarnating, there is an increasig need for more and more souls. They have to come from somewhere; it makes sense that they come from people who are not human, maybe even not from Earth. I still think though, that there are people who are human through and through.

I also believe that humans in general are overlooking their potential, and that Otherkin represents just one way out of many to reach that potential.

So am I human? Physically, I assume so. My parents are human, as are their parents. There may be some trace of “fae” ancestry from long ago, from back in the days when fae walked the earth and mingled with humans. It would explain some of the odd physical things about me. But on the whole I fall within human “norms”.

Even otherkin who are kin-by-reincarnation seem to show odd traits; there are two schools of thought here. Either as already suggested, the presence of a non-human soul in the body will cause alteration of the body. Or else that the non-human soul chooses to reincarnate in a body that is “compatible”, and that maybe the most compatible bodies are ones that already carry a little of the old Fae (or whatever) blood.

Yet I do not consider myself to be human. I cannot relate to them. I am still an elf. I am not was. My body is not me. It is not us. It is merely the shell we wear at this time. It is the house that we live in. There are a few others sharing the body who claim to be human in soul, others who claim elven or angelic or sidhe.

I’m not one of those human-hating otherkin, and I don’t go in for human-bashing (except perhaps occasionally in jest). I don’t hate humans, but I do feel sad for them sometimes. So many of them are missing so much that is wonderful.

Personal Subjectiveness

“Ghod I hate being an elf! Bloody frolicking with pixies, perverted ogres, even the stupid wine is just dreamberry juice! I wish I was in Kentucky.”

I’m not sure where the little undergound magazine got that clip. It’s cute. It has a little elf princess sitting in her chair, thinking the above thoughts. And it makes me wonder, what with the “I Love Being Human” war of recent days and other sentiment, that maybe going around hating your body is merely relative.

I can only take example from my personal existence, though. I can only contemplate all the people who swear up and down that I’m not only pretty, I’m downright sexy. Well, I have a bit of trouble believing it, size 16 that I am (even if Marilyn Monroe was the same size) and I spend a lot of time hating my hips and thighs. But if I stopped to listen to so-and-so, perhaps I’d fall in love with them instead?

I love my hair. I love it so much that I spend a great deal of time trying to make it look like the hair from my first body. So I guess I don’t love my hair so much, after all. I love that other head of hair, those other eyes, that other slender waist–and my personal subjectiveness puts myself through hell because I don’t have them. I diet, and I walk and I sweat and I hate myself. I stand, looking in the mirror, saying to myself, “Gawds, how ugly I am!” And you could be friggin’ Jesus Christ on your knees, begging to kiss my pinky toe because of my supposed beauty, and I’d never believe you.

But, during the times when I’m full of light and energy, or interested in horses or any of a number of things that make me forget that I’m not, currently, in my first wee body–those are the times I love life. Those are the times my subjectiveness forgets to center on how ugly I am, and they center on how interesting the task at hand is. When I’m dancing, or painting or even just having an in-depth conversation with a friend are the times I feel truly beautiful. And I believe that’s because I’m not looking inside anymore. Those are the times I’m bothering to live.

For is it not the living that appeals to most? A living flower, a living baby, even the weeds living in the cracks on the sidewalk. They’re green, they’re vibrant, they practically glow with life force, and this makes them beautiful to the average person. Dried flowers are nice, but sought after most when they’re dried to contain the color they bore when still growing. Stuffed animals, dead as they are, are still an item when fashioned to look alive. A mulch pile is nice, too, but it also helps to give life to the new things in the garden. When you take a life, you can only take that thing because it’s there. You cannot slay something that is already dead.

So, perhaps it?s not the bodies, or the gifts we may have lost or gained, or the color of our eyes that makes us who we are. It’s how we look at things. I could go around bemoaning the loss of my wings, but why should I? Who’s to say I won’t get another, more fabulous pair later? And right now, why can’t I just enjoy what I do have? It is loss that helps to truly appreciate what we have been able to keep through the years. So I lost my wings. Okay. But I remember them, and so I treasure that memory as precious. I still can walk, and draw on good days when my hands don?t hurt, and think coherent thoughts. In other words, I’m not crippled. I’ve just changed.

And, much as I hate to admit it, change is growth. Coming to this planet, whether by accident or by force, may be just the best thing that ever happened to you. Oh, sure, you could view it as the worst thing in the multiverse and something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. However, viewing it as a learning experience may be more productive. I remember every lash on my back, and the feeling of the cat-o’nine-tails hitting my broken wing joints. This may have been one of the most traumatic experiences anyone could ever hope to face, but I think it was also one of the best things I could have known. I know pain. I not only know pain, but I know consequence, and what it is to be strong enough to stand up for what you believe in. And maybe I’ll never do it again, maybe I’ll never have the chance, but should that day ever come I pray to anything listening that I would have the strength to do so. And this knowing what may be ahead. And it seems sweeter that way.

My conclusion in this hour is that life makes things beautiful, even the twisted things like warthogs and platypi. And knowing how precious these moments we have, both good and bad, seems to make my world all the sweeter. Am I still glad to be human? In this moment, more than ever. There’s something else about humans people tend to overlook; their capacity for imagination. Their high vibrancy. Their naivete. Their passion. These elements are essential for good adventure.

Oh, and adventure is the most beautiful state of being there is.

Otherkin Behaviour Patterns

I’ve noticed several patterns that people becoming aware of their difference from others, or the existence of magic, seem to go through. Not everyone goes through all of them, but almost everyone I know has gone through some of them. Thus I think it useful to outline the patterns so hopefully at few less people have to learn things the hard way.

(For a related perspective on neo-pagans rather than otherkin, see Thoughts about Pagans by RavenBlack ).

I am going to go over the main variations I have observed. This will not cover every possibility, but should provide a baseline for comparison.

UberElf

Symptoms: Fighting the “powers of darkness,” healing the world, killing off major deities, global thermomagical war.

This is one of the most common amongst newly magically aware people. The realisation that you can affect the world around you and exposure to non-physical reality seem to induce an “I can do anything” reaction. This can be very seductive, especially if the rest of your life is less then pleasant.

Some instances of this that I have seen recently are fairly dramatic: fighting off entire legions of angels (or fallen angels or chuthuloid entities from beyond the veil), being the avatar (incarnation) of a god, killing off major deities in astral battles and multigenerational witch-wars involving mystical explanations for real world deaths, combat by hurricane and the usual magic wars. (No, I am not going to tell you which of those was my personal hubris).

Falling into this one is easy, some of the most intelligent people I know have done so to some degree. It is also the one most prone to cult-like abuse. Small groups can both reinforce and escalate the perspective and the unscrupulous can manipulate others into all sorts of things before the questioning sets in.

It does have a valid basis in it’s milder forms however. Pushing the boundaries of your beliefs and abilities is perfectly normal exploration when becoming aware of magic. The same applies any other major shift in your perceptions of reality, as evidenced by the major shifts in personality undergone by many new college students. Managing to keep perspective and conscious intent is the important, and sometimes most difficult, part.

The End of the World is Nigh

Symptoms: The “big change” is coming.

“A great change” has been coming for millennia. It seems to be a very common phenomena, especially amongst the newly aware. 2012 is a favoured date in otherkin mythologies thanks to Shadowrun and it’s portrayal of magic returning and people shifting to physically non-human forms. It also crops up amongst almost every magically active subculture and a good number of religions when in their early stages.

I’ve yet to see “a great change” except within people. As far as I can tell, it’s part of a growing awareness – once you become aware of future possibilities that you weren’t before, things seem to become a lot more significant and you react to things more strongly. Sometimes it is just a matter of being aware of changes you were not aware of before. Often there really are some very drastic changes ahead. The mistake comes in interpreting a sense of impending personal change as being of similar proportion for everyone else too.

By analogy, if you have always lived by a lake, where the water rises maybe a foot or two after a particularly heavy rain, and then you visit an ocean where the tide may change the water level up to fifteen feet in the space of six hours. It would be fairly natural to watch the water rising, worry, panic and then run off screaming “flood!!”, even though it’s perfectly normal and all that water will go away as the tide ebbs.

Differentiation by repudiation

Symptoms: Vehemently putting down the group you were recently associated with.

This one is all too common in the otherkin scene, especially amongst the newly aware. It’s main symptom is “human-bashing,” decrying humans as evil destructive hateful people. It also manifests in the pagan community (generally as “Christian bashing”) and many other areas where a change of allegiance occurs. (For an illustration of the flaws in this approach, see On Dragons and Hate, it’s been gone over enough times for me not to repeat it again).

Why this happens is less obvious it seems, as many people fail to understand it. The main impetus behind the vehemence seems to be a need to confirm ones new affiliation, be it species, religion or football team, by distancing oneself from the old one. Then it becomes a relatively short step from “I am not like that” through “That path is bad for me” to “That path is bad”. Putting down the previous group is perceived to raise ones status in the new group. It doesn’t, but that seems to be the perception.

On it’s milder levels, this seems to be a perfectly normal part of major changes in mental and emotional investment. The need to reassure oneself that the change is the right one and the previous association no longer applies. The progression from “not right for me” to “not right” is the unfortunate one.

Species arrogance

Symptoms: “It’s not arrogance, I simply know better because I’m a …”

Having Awesome Cosmic Power(™), pointed ears, or a reproductive organ the size of a small frigate, does not make one better than anyone else. Especially if it’s self evident you don’t. All it does is indicate to those who have already been through this stage that you’re insecure about your identity. (There’s no shame in that, it’s just not polite to tell everyone).

Subculture intolerance

Symptoms: “We are open-minded, go away you perverts.”

One of the things that seems to be fairly common in many subcultures is the “we are open minded, but you are a nut” syndrome. Whilst this is valid in some cases (not many subcultures are tolerant of murderers for example), it often manifests in strange ways. Within the otherkin scene one sees such things as vampires claiming that elves don’t exist, and vice-versa. In other places, you see homosexuals claiming that bisexuals just refuse to admit they are gay, bdsm folks claiming poly folk are disturbed and other strangeness.

This is one where each person has to learn where to draw their own lines (and accept that sometimes reasonable people will draw their lines somewhere different).

Abdication of thought

This is a particularly detrimental problem. The usual visible effect is a statement that goes something to the effect of: “because I’m an elf, anything is possible, therefore I must accept everything as possible and not analyse other people’s claims” (or the same thing in third person, ie. “you must accept…”).

The problem with this should be obvious, but apparently is not. It leads one to not questioning anything, which results in one not actually understanding much of anything and believing things like the moon being made of green cheese.

Unfortunately there is no clear place to draw the line between what is valid and what is not, especially in an area where there is as yet little demonstrable evidence for what many people believe. Developing your own sense of truth is difficult but possible. (see http://www.kheperu.org/articles/tolerance.html for a good introduction). The important part is not to stop thinking, not to stop asking questions.

Psychological crutch

This is one I see every so often in blatant ways, and much more frequently in subtle ways. The use of a belief system as a crutch to avoid dealing with yourself and your life, rather than as a support for doing so. The distinction can be subtle sometimes, but it is essential.

The more obvious forms of this generally approximate to “I can’t help being an asshole, it’s because I’m a Foo”. Occasionally this is accurate, there are some phenotypes that have ingrained behaviour patterns that just do not work well with certain other groups. That doesn’t mean you cannot adjust your behaviour to within acceptable range, or remove yourself from those situations where your deep rooted tendencies will cause problems.

The important part here is self evaluation, being honest with yourself, and looking for the mundane reasons before assigning supernatural ones. It may be that people avoid you because you are a Troll. It’s equally possible that it’s actually because you haven’t bathed in a week. That weariness due to psychic attack could be due to drinking too much last night, or not eating the right foods.

That dull aching pain in your lower back may be an old battle wound, but it’s always better to ask your doctor first before just assuming it’s a past life thing, kidney stones tend to have the same feeling. It never hurts to look into that which is commonplace and explainable first, that way when the real unexplainable issues arrive, they’re not only easier to focus on and pin-point, but others around you aren’t referring to you as the Boy Who Cried Magic.

Resonance is not attraction

Symptom: Ooo! Something like me! Must fuck it.

This is one I see over and over in the otherkin scene, and it’s one that really is not obvious to most people until they have experience.

There is a certain pull between folks of the same phenotype (at least there is with elves, and I’ve seen similar behaviour patterns in other types so it extrapolates at least somewhat). Whether it is phermones, energetic resonance, some sort of species sensitivity, or something else entirely, it is a noticeable effect. There is an attraction, an desire to get closer to the “person like me”.

Especially if you haven’t encountered another of your type before, this can be quite unexpected, and very easy to mistake for physical or sexual attraction. Even more so with (at least some) elves as they tend to by highly sensual and tactile. If you throw in the sense of excitement of finally meeting others of your type, it can compound the sensory illusion.

That is not to say that attraction is never there, but it is certainly easy to mistake the species resonance with attraction.

There is apparently a known phenomenon called genetic sexual attraction that’s observed in adoptees on meeting their blood relatives. The similarities are strong and possible causes have actually been investigated.

Attraction is not Resonance

Symptom: Ooo! Want to fuck it, must be something like me!

This is a collary to the above, just because one is attracted to someone, does not mean they are whatever you are, no matter how much you may want them to be. People are incredibly able to convince themselves they are something they are not, because it’s what the person they are attracted to or emotionally attached to want them to be, which makes this one particularly dangerous.

That can work both ways, convincing yourself that you must have dragon in you because your flame-of-the-week is a dragon, is equally unhealthy.

This life is not that life

Symptom: Insisting on carrying over interests, relationships or causes from previous incarnations, even though everyone or everything involved has changed.

This I already wrote up as a rant.

Thanks to Raven, Aine, and Tessa for their contributions to this that have been incorporated.

I am not a Werewolf

I am not a werewolf. I am a therianthrope, an animal person, someone who identifies as a wolf. But I’m not a werewolf.

What is the distinction? After all, plenty of therians also like using were(insert animal here) as a descriptor for themselves. And most therianthropes experience shapeshifts, albeit nonphysical ones, which makes a connection to lycanthropic lore and legend.

However, the idea of a werewolf is a person who turns into a wolf – sometimes. Particularly in popular culture, the change is involuntary, triggered by the light of the full moon. It is something that is out of the control of the hapless werewolf, who must succumb to the raging beast inside. Even in calmer stories, the person is still only a wolf part of the time.

One point that is made frequently about therianthropy is that a therian is the animal all the time, whether spiritually, psychologically, etc. Obviously, this isn’t on a physical level. But when a therian shifts, they are not becoming anything they were not already. The animal was always there; the shift is in the balance of perception and behavior between what is categorized as “human” and what is labelled “animal”. When the shift is done, the therian doesn’t just put away the animal in a box somewhere; it”s not a persona to be donned and removed at will.

A lot of therians concentrate on the lycanthropic and other shapeshifter lore, and yet often miss the experience of simply being the animal. Some think they have to go feral at the full moon, and have the most aggressive shifts, and bloodlust, and have the urge to go and hunt down a deer or whatever, in order to be considered legitimate.

And yet, that often blocks us from understanding what it is to be the animal. If you’re so busy trying to be a werewolf, then where does being just a wolf come in?

For me, at least, therianthropy isn’t about how often I shift, or how intense the shifting is. It’s not about whether I physically resemble a wolf, or if I crave venison, though my body is lean-muscled and I walk digitigrade, and I do love the taste of deer meat. It’s about being a wolf, and recognizing that I am a wolf, and integrating that into my life at all times. It’s more important, to me, to read books about wolves and wolf behavior, than it is to read books about werewolves, though those have their place, too. The archetype of the werewolf doesn’t really resonate with me, particularly since I began accepting my therianthropy and, consequently, experienced far fewer shifts. I am not a person who turns into a wolf. I am a person who is also a wolf.

I am a wolf in human flesh. When I think of myself, yes, I do think of the body I have, and the human identity. But I also think of myself as wolf, so much that sometimes I expect to look down at my hands and see white paws ending in short, stubby claws worn down by miles of walking. I accept that I have a very particular way of viewing the world that combines human socialization and lupine instinct. There are things that I identify as being a product of being a wolf – certain social behaviors, preference for rural areas, reliance on instincts. But these alone do not make me a wolf; they are only possible symptoms. And the more I accept them as they are, the more easily they weave into the rest of who I am.

I’ve never really determined whether my therianthropy is just psychological conditioning, a neurobiological quirk, an internalization of a totemic bond, a past/alternate life; in a way, I accept all of these as truth at once. In the end it doesn’t matter to me. Inside, I am a wolf – but I am not a werewolf.

The Shadow of Myth

This is something I have been thinking about for quite a while now. Why do we choose the labels we do?

Otherkin pick some pretty large labels for themselves – elf, dragon, werewolf, sidhe, faerie, angel.

They all have a lot of myth behind them, and myth is powerful. Even these days, when most people dismiss elves as faerietales (that’s if they can manage to refrain from making Keebler jokes). When dragons are the realm of fantasy novels, roleplaying games or cute movies, not fearsome creatures that destroy villages and need the bravest of heros to defeat (with the not-quite-so-brave, or not-quite-so-lucky, all becoming dragon-snacks). When your nearest werewolf hangs out with the local teenage witch and the only eating going on does not involve the consumption of flesh.

Syleniel wrote about the Shadow of Awareness. Perhaps we are also the Shadow of Myth.

What got me started on this particular topic was digging up an old quote for someone on the subject of soulbonds:

Something that seems not uncommon is the “this is more than I’ve ever felt before, it must be a soulbond”. Which is something like growing up in the dark, then someone lights a candle and going “wow! so much light! that must be the sun!” Then someone turns a light on and you go “wow! so much light! that must be the sun!” Then you go outside and go “ArgH! Help! I’m blinded! My eyes hurt! What is this horrible thing! *thud* Ouch! I just walked into a tree! Make this stop!” and you cover your eyes and discover that it’s still bright… eventually you go “so that’s what the sun is like, why didn’t anyone tell me it -hurt-”

This led me to thoughts on the newly awakened. I see it especially among new pagans who have just discovered that magic really does exist. Next thing you know, they are out to save the world from monsters from the deep that threaten to destroy everything. Or they discover you really can talk to deities, you blink and they are suddenly the Avatar of Athena.

I am not making fun of the newcomers, I am hardly in a position to do so. Though I am not going to relate my own partially embarrassing stories here. Suffice to say, I’ve been there and done that, and eventually I got perspective on it and started to learn the difference between the inside and the outside of my own head.

Which leads me back to otherkin…

I see a lot of “I mew at my cat, I must be cat-kin,” “I like owning things, it must be a dragon horde” and so on. Not that self examination and exploration is a bad thing, but assigning a mythological creature to each and every quirk of your psyche seems to lead to the elf-dragon-vampire-angel-gerbil-marshmallow syndrome.

What do the labels really mean? Think carefully before you choose a label that has Power. Yes, they do, despite the way people treat them. Names have power, they influence how you think of yourself. Why do you think so many kin, pagans and other magically aware types take on a “usename” that reflects more of how they see themselves?

So before you say “I am an elf”. Think about it. What do you really mean by ‘elf’. If you say ‘elf’ people are going to think Tolkien’s tall, old and wise forest dwellers, or D&D’s long lived humans with innate archery skills, or small gnome like things that make cookies.

So before you say “just a human body”. Think about it. Why ‘just’. What’s wrong with having a human body? Are you sure your’s is? Every culture has stories of they mythological beings mating with them, wether it be sidhe in Ireland, angels in the middle east, or dragons in the orient.

So what does this have to do with the Shadow of Myth?

Read the myths sometime. The real ones. Not the sanitised “fit for a coddled american ten year old” versions. The real ones. Where the sidhe are as likely to torment you for some insult you didn’t know you made as save an unwanted child. Where you ward your house with iron and garlic, not because it’s a quaint custom but because the monsters really are out there. Where the first words out of an angel’s mouth are invariably “fear not”, why? because the person they just appeared to is defecating in their underwear. Where they are called the Shining Host, the celestials, monsters and demons, and are inexplicable and incomprehensible to the humans they interact with. Where it takes the best and boldest heros to deal with them, and most of them never come back.

Remember these are myths. The best stories told around the campfire. Embellished for dramatic effect.
Don’t forget they are myths, and words and names have power.

Then look at yourself.

Are you myth? Legend? Bright as the sun? Or are you waving your candle in the dark, hoping no one finds the light switch?

The term Otherkin claims a direct relationship to that which myths are made from. What gives you the right to claim that term? What makes you Other? Or are you just the barest echo lost in a sea of noise?

Choose your labels carefully.

Do you really want to be a myth?

Otherkin &; Society: Waiter! There’s an Otherkin in my Medieval Soup!

[Originally created for “Water Under the Bridge”, newsletter of the Incipient Canton of the Broken Bridge (Brooklyn, NY S.C.A. chapter), never published.]

There are two problems which occur when you bring otherkin into the Society for Creative Anachronism [which may well apply to other medieval reenactment groups, but we’ll use the blanket term S.C.A. and SCAdian herein because then I don’t have to rewrite the entire article — Crisses]. They depend on your point of view. From the standard SCAdian point of view, there should not be elves, vampires or werewolves walking the streets of the Pennsic Marketplace. Everyone is “supposed” to be a persona from the Middle Ages, someone who really “could have been” and the S.C.A. space should not be used for someone else’s foreign agenda. From the view of the otherkin, they have finally found a safe space to “be themselves”, and they are treated rudely, ostracized, or downright condemned for their actions. Such strong reactions make this a very difficult subject to bring up with either group. It is a source of contention between the S.C.A. and otherkin society. This essay is an attempt to work it out.

What is an otherkin?

Like so many other terms introduced on the Internet, the term “otherkin” is new and still evolving. It is used to describe a person who believes their spirit (at the very least) is a different species than human. This can be very confusing, since technically people who claim to be otherkin have apparantly human parents and human DNA. There are many common types of otherkin which are addressed in the otherkin FAQ.

Many otherkin experience homesickness and feel like outcasts within normal human society. For some, finding other people like themselves is difficult, frustrating, and often painful. Some try to accept their lot and cope with their hardships, while others fight it with an out-loud-and-proud attitude. It is this in-your-face attitude, and the strife it sometimes causes, which inspires my discussion today.

Otherkin in the S.C.A.

Otherkin are in the S.C.A.. There are some in the goth “vampire” crowd who really believe they are (or were once) vampires. There are some folks who believe they are elves and other kinds of beings too numerous to list. Some wear the ears and tails and horns and wings when they can…some don’t.

Otherkin are scattered across the globe. The lucky ones have found people like themselves, and are forming their own small groups in attempts to cope with their feelings, their past lives, and the discomfort of their current life. The situations most likely to attract an appearance of otherkin are ones which help them feel more at ease or allows them some degree of authentic personal expression, such as Role-Playing Games (live, online, and table), Ren Faires, Sci-Fi & Comic conventions, and the re-creation groups (S.C.A., Civil War, fantasy groups etc.). Some otherkin use these mediums just to find kinship and then leave the larger group and maintain contact with their newfound friends, others like the atmospheres and stick around for a long time.

The S.C.A., and it’s largest events are most likely to attract these independant and roving bands of otherkin. There are two problems at these events: some otherkin are there in all their glamour, and the medievalists are trying to ignore such an openly anachronistic scene.

The problem of a disruptive otherkin has been brought up at a chatelaine’s meetings. The problem of the S.C.A. being unwelcoming to otherkin has been brought up on otherkin e-mail lists. Both are issues that should be dealt with good feelings on all sides and with some compromise if possible.

To the SCAdians

The S.C.A. is non-profit. We have an obligation to accept people who try to play by our rules and who are not endangering people’s safety. The only requirement we profess to people to attend our events (that I’m aware of at this time) is “an attempt at a medieval costume”. Of course, pointy ears and fluffy tails may not fit that image. But that is no excuse to be nasty! I would like to point out that contrary to popular opinion, not all otherkin choose to dress the part. In fact, a good number of them would rather submit to the Inquisition than wear plastic pointy ears and such.

There are other choices than trying to come up with rules to ban otherkin from events: A) remind yourself “I’m from the middle ages, and I don’t see tree spirits and elves, even if they exist, except maybe out of the corner of my eye.” And act accordingly. B) These are the Middle Ages as we would have liked them to be, and maybe the romantic qualities of having the elves and fairies around is just as nice as having flush toilets, pennicilin, and no plague! C) Be patient: While otherkin are very uncomfortable in contemporary society and they can sometimes let down their guard in safe spaces created by the S.C.A., otherkin are now gathering on their own. Perhaps they wont need to “take away” from the Current Middle Ages to carve out their otherkin-friendly safe-spaces in the future. . D) Take an offensive person aside, and explain to them what I am about to say to them below, in a very civil manner. Pretend you’re a benevolent chatelaine and you want these people to remain members in good standing.

To the otherkin

There was an otherkin gathering during which a group of (I assume) Wicca practitioners came to their private dancing and drumming circle. The Wiccans began to sing and dance and their energy was overwhelming. Many of the otherkin fled the area. Back at their private campsite, there was murmurs and complaints of “the humans” coming into their semi-private space and taking it over from them.

Reverse the roles, and you have the problem of out-loud-n-proud otherkin being in the middle of the Middle Ages! Next time an occurrence like this happens, it might be another otherkin convention being crashed by humanity, taking away from your peace of mind. There are more appropriate ways to be an otherkin at an S.C.A. event: A) If you really were an elf (or vampire, werewolf, or whatever) in the Middle Ages, you would probably disguise yourself as human in some way in order to survive and not cause panics and stirs. That rare flash of pointed ear under your hair, hat or hood is enough to cause whispers which will become the legends of the future….be tastefully understated, and see just how well you can “play human” to the SCAdians–try leaving off the pointy ears and pretending you’re enchanted by illusion, Seeming or glamour. B) Keep your out- and loud-nesses to your private camp, to times when you are “out of persona” or times when the marketplace vendors are less likely to overhear you and call the town guardsmen to arrest the heretics. C) Come up with a token or symbol so that otherkin can “know” each other in a crowd. D) During night parties or campfire bardic circles, sing a song or tell a tale (in a Medieval style) of the species to whom you belong without ever quite giving yourself away….

Living in Balance

It is my hope that otherkin can also be SCAdians, and that both groups can carve out their personal niches in the world without taking away from each other. Perhaps one day, SCAdians will be giving referrals to otherkin groups to aid them in getting sites for their gatherings, or direct newly awakening kin to otherkin groups for resources and aid, while perhaps otherkin will pretend to be humans from the Middle Ages so well that they will become SCAdians in good standing, with many awards and medallions to rest on their breasts besides their otherkin symbol.

Alyessa Oaktree is a persona loosely based on the personality and proclivities of a tree-spirit resident in The Crisses’ body. While the persona is a medieval human gypsy (Romane) of undetermined place and time, the person who creates and re-creates the persona is otherkin.

Some thoughts on Mediakin

It seems like no matter what subculture you’re a part of, there’s always somebody who’s supposedly stranger. Lots of folks think Otherkin are pretty weird – but even some Otherkin think that Mediakin (a.k.a. Otakukin or Otakin) are beyond unusual.

Mediakin are people who identify as/with characters from modern fiction, particularly (though not limited to) anime/manga and video games. Just as someone who is Otherkin may believe they were an elf or a dragon, wolf or angel, in another life, so Mediakin believe that a past/alternate life was spent as a person popularized through modern pop culture. They may see something quite familiar about the storyline in an anime or manga, but will also generally provide history beyond that. Mediakin may identify with a specific character, or simply the setting presented.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “Oh, lovely-they’re all insane!” right about now. Believe me, you’re not alone. After all, isn’t pop culture purely the creation of a human mind? Isn’t it impossible to have a past life as a character that was created after your birth?

I tend to give more leeway to the possibility of Mediakin. (Then again, I’ve been known to think in unconventional directions!) I don’t think the idea is wholly impossible, though I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of linear reincarnation. Let me start with two beliefs.

Lupa’s Belief #1: Pop culture entities can exist independent of their “creators”. In older cultures, fiction and mythology were kept separate; however, I believe that the processes for recording both are the same, though the intent differs. Pop culture is modern mythology; since mainstream America in particular lacks a cohesive cultural mythology, pop culture is about the closest we have. Belief = power, and all entities–gods, spirits, pop culture beings, etc.–rely to an extent on belief in order to have any connection to this realm of existence. It doesn’t mean they have to have that belief to exist, but the belief is the core of connection between them and us. I have worked successfully with San from Mononoke Hime as a huntress goddess in a similar manner to that which I’ve used working with Artemis in the Greek pantheon. From my own perspective and experience, San is no less real than Artemis, though I don’t see them as one and the same. In fact, in some ways San is more relevant to me because her story is contemporary to this life, rather than having been recorded by a culture thousands of years ago, with a very different set of values.

Lupa’s Belief #2: It is *possible* that people who talk about Otherkin and/or Mediakin in terms of reincarnation, soulbonding, psychology, and/or metaphor are all talking about the same phenomenon but interpreting it in different ways. This is why I don’t assume that we all “became” Otherkin in the same manner. I think it’s very possible that people experiencing past lives, and people experiencing very vivid journeys through the Collective Unconscious/personal unconscious/whathaveyou, are going through the same thing, except that the former group explains it *externally*, while the latter explains it *internally*. Because the experience is very vivid, the first assumption may be that it’s reincarnation, and that the person literally experienced those events and sensations at a different literal point in space/time. The question is whether space/time stops where the brain begins, or whether the microcosm and macrocosm are much more intimately linked than often assumed.

To elaborate further:

Three people experience a vision of being a wolf. Both can “feel” the sensations of having a lupine body, right down to noticing the different center of gravity, and seeing the muzzles before their faces. The experience is every bit as “real” in their minds as something that they experience in waking, physical reality. Subsequent meditations bring further episodes, including hunting deer, whelping pups, and other lupine activities.

Person #1 says this is proof of reincarnation and that they were a wolf in a previous life. S/he points to the subsequent memories as revealing a more complete picture of that life.

Person #2 says that they drew on the memories of a spirit/soul that was once (or may currently be) a wolf that are a part of a version of the Collective Unconscious that isn’t limited to humans. Later connections to that particular set of memories give a more complete view of tht wolf’s life.

Person #3 says that they got in touch with their own unconscious mind and brought certain parts of their psyche to the surface. The imagery that this part of their mind chose to reveal itself as was lupine in nature, because the person’s previous experiences with wolves and depictions thereof closely matched this part of themselves.

So who’s most right? Personally, I consider all three of the above explanations to be quite possible for my own therianthropy, and have evidence for and against each. I think, though, that we can also apply the same basic ideas to any Otherkin or Mediakin–how do you prove whether your experiences and memories were external or internal?

In my own case, I’m not Mediakin. *However*, I resonate very strongly with San. If I were to meditate on the parts of her life that I do know about via Miyazaki’s movie, and came up with more of the story experienced through a first person perspective, would that mean that I was experiencing my own memories? Or that I was channelling San? Or that I have a very fertile imagination and should start writing fan fic?

But the same also goes for that within me which is lupine in nature. When I meditate on my wolf-self and get first-hand visions, do I chalk it up to past life memory, connection to my primary totem (which, to me, embodies archetypal wolf energy), or simply that part of my psychology is wired more lupine than human?

Maybe we’re all talking about the same thing using different words. Maybe not. Maybe the Multiverse works in strange ways, offers multiple avenues for reaching the same destination, and has a sense of humor. *This* is why it’s so important to question yourself, no matter what you believe, because there’s never just one possibility–and the Multiverse is such that it generally offers up evidence for any possibility to be supported.

Also, in order to be Otherkin one must actively identify as Other. I know of pagans who claim to have had past lives as nonhuman animals, but who do not identify as Otherkin. The nonhuman lives have no actual effect on who they are now. Part of being Otherkin, IMO, is acknowledging the influence that the Other has on you, and making it a part of this life (without letting it overwhelm who you are in this life). Perhaps the only difference between me being someone who resonates strongly with San, and someone who *is* San via the concept of Mediakin, is that I do not actively identify myself *as* San.

My suggestion, if you want more information on Mediakin besides this article, is to check out From Fiction by saevitia snape . The author has outlined a lot of the basic why’s and how’s of Mediakin in an understandable, nonflaky manner.

Lord of the Rings movie review

I was in wonder watching the Lord of the Rings last night. I had gone with my fiancee and a mutual friend. *sigh* It was just….wonderful. Rather than critique the movie, I will highlight my opinion on how the elves were portrayed, from the perspective of a reincarnate elf. Overall, I think the movie was really well done in all aspects (save the missing Tom Bombadil, minor point).

I was very pleased by the portrayal of the elves. They looked, walked, acted and even spoke like elves. They were very remniscent of what I remember. In full elven form can look that unearthly (especially as in Lothlorien). That’s part of who we are. My view overall is very positive and awe-filled Even when speaking English the elves had an elvish accent. Rivendell, while very pretty and inviting looking for me did not move me as did Lothlorien. There’s a place that could have easily existed on Sel’ar, the way it was depicted. *sigh*. I found Eowyn’s voice to be very elvish in timbre. I was moved by her Voice when speaking the words at the river and her mannerisms. I have to give the cast credit for studying elvish with aid from Tolkien societies to strive for correct pronunciation.

You’ll probably note that I have mentioned a lot of things I am pleased with and the lack of comments about things like Legolas’ hair color. Perhaps when there are more movies with elves in them, and when they all have the same quality in their portrayal of the elves, I will have the heart to be more ruthless in my critique of elven portrayals in the cinema. The critiquing also just does not sit well with my feeling of peaceful joy when thinking on the movie, and seems petty to me by that light (no offense to those who enjoy critiquing it). My experience of the movie was wonderful, I care to focus on the wonder of the movie rather than detract from that wonder by focusing on the not-quite-perfect bits.

So overall, a very enjoyable movie. Bring kleenex not only for when the “sad” scenes happen, but for the breathtaking beauty. Prepare to be moved.

Shedding Light On The Darkness

It’s been questioned, fought over, and clichéd to the point of making me nauseous, so here are my not-so-definitive thoughts on the nature of “light” and “dark” and their place in the grand scheme.

I’m dark. That’s easy enough to say but doesn’t mean much right off. Most people either just go “oh cool” or break out the good book and write me off as yet another of Satan’s Minions. Granted, I’m guilty of playing a lot for the sake of fundamentalists and others easily offended, but none of that has anything to do with the “light” or “dark” I’m referring to. I’m not a Goth, and actually not a terribly nasty person. Just different.

A lot of my own confusion, which even now I still have trouble with, has come from mixing up the terms “good” and “evil” as though they applied. They don’t, and have nothing to do with light and dark. To my view, nobody is good or evil. We make choices, for better or worse, and our actions can become and be called good or evil, but terms like that don’t fit conscious beings that can shape their own path.

For me, light and dark refer mostly to our natures and the types of beings we are. It refers to what our overall role was meant to be here, or ethereally. Creation and destruction, making and unmaking, giving and taking, birth and death, hunter and prey. All opposites, and all should be equally valued and respected for their own beauty and purpose. For me light and dark are the nature of survival, growth, and how we achieve it.

Life here can’t continue without death. Overpopulation creates suffering in this world, and certainly doesn’t avoid death. If anything it causes far more pain and suffering. With the Creator wanting to take a lengthy and much needed vacation, sie created lions and wolves to help keep the zebras and sheep in check. Creation can’t happen until the old or failing are destroyed to make way for the new. Otherwise catastrophe and starvation take hold, and more suffering than was ever intended happens. “Something” somewhere is called upon to clear the way.

Strange as it seems, from this vampyre’s view, chi, prana, or life essence also must be removed to make way for new creation. Beings of “light” thrive on its creation, it courses out from them to sustain their lives. Beings of “dark” thrive on its destruction, we draw it into ourselves to sustain our lives. Both types of entities use it to span distances to reach and be one with others, to feel, to touch, and of course they make use of it through magick. It is the essence that bonds them together in the astral and gives them form and flight.

There is no difference between us except that one group creates that life, and the other must always seek it out and feed on it to survive. That’s just one example of a dark being, but there are many others.

We’re not liked or appreciated most of the time. Fear, prejudice, misconceptions, and general disgust and hatred are all part of a deal none of us asked for. We’re thought of as self-serving, evil thieves, and especially unenlightened for being in our “current” situation. Obviously we’re evil, and obviously we’ve done something somewhere to deserve to be such a thing.

In actuality, we are the ones forced to clean up after beings of “light” leave messes everywhere with ambient energies from emotional catastrophes or exuberance. And when there are no messes to clean up, and we can find no beings that give off more life than they need, we’re forced through pain and suffering to seek it out and take it as nature intended.

Sometimes this is at the expense of others and causes harm in doing so. It’s either that or succumb to our own nature, which in my case means to die slowly and cruelly. I’ve yet to meet any others that have gone that far in abstinence or self-inflicted torture. Even among the rare, I’m strange.

It’s how we were created though, and not “evil.” I may not always agree with it, and certainly don’t always enjoy it when I see what it does to others and think in society’s terms. Whether we accept it or not, some of us are not allowed the choice to be any other way. As much as I like to complain, we’re given gifts to make up for the enslavement of the job, so even in that there is balance. It’s just a matter of accepting ourselves.

Another way light and dark manifest themselves is simply in the more mundane natures of beings. For instance, usually I thoroughly enjoy being contradictory, negative, and combative. Others, whom I would call light and “fluffy” (somewhat derogatory, but good-naturedly so), only prefer peace, harmony, and the communal sense of oneness and friendship. Even in that we serve our purpose.

Both paths, light and dark, are means of enlightenment, both offer their own challenges and rewards, and both are equal in all respects. To bring together disparate groups, to bring a sense of “oneness” to a group, and to heal and help, are all difficult in the extreme. In a like manner, to tear apart like-minded groups, to bring about a sense of individuality {in the midst of} a group, and even to try to be adversarial and break down the egos of the self-centered are also difficult in the extreme. Fighting for such things causes us to really examine and learn more about others, ourselves, and the various natures within creation. In doing so we learn more about existence itself if we can recognize it.

Let me clarify further that, in my beliefs, presenting others with challenges benefits those challenged just as much as it benefits challenger. Those challenged must give pause and become introspective in their search for answers to the challenge. To defy such an “attack” requires a community to become introspective as a whole, to question the bonds that tie them together, and the values they espouse.

If that sense of self is never questioned, sometimes lies become truths, falsehoods become the accepted standards, and self-centered indulgence in “community” can lead to far more harm than good. Again, we dark ones serve a purpose in what we are. In cases where society has gone too far and has become corrupt and decayed, we can break up communities and establishments so that newer, healthier relations can be formed in their place.

A bit outside the light/dark theme, but relevant nonetheless — “Revolutionaries” are often thought of as evil criminals by the old establishment until the new one comes into being. Only then are they properly given the respect and title they deserve. In the end, history rewrites them to give understanding to the good deeds they’d done at a very personal cost. Sometimes at the cost of their lives.

I can’t stress enough that neither dark nor light is good or evil, especially in their purest forms. They are merely a different part of the cycle of creation and recreation. There are dark beings that go beyond their purpose and cause serious harm to others, doing things that would be called outright evil. Likewise there are just as many, if not more, light beings that go beyond their purpose and cause harm as well in their enthusiasm for sharing their light and truths. The Crusades come to mind as a nice {example of} that. Witch hunts as well. Good and evil do not apply.

I’m fairly certain that if any roll-call and head count were made for light and dark creatures, we would be in the minority and probably on the endangered species list. Sadly, suicide seems to be a very common theme in the “dark” community, and understandably so from the judgements passed by others upon us, and by us upon ourselves.

In light and dark, we are the mirror given to each other by the Creator in hir infinite mercy so that we can learn and grow. Hopefully, when balance returns again to this place, we’ll all be able to respect each other for what we really are. Kin, and each other’s reflections.

I read somewhere that someday the wolf would lie down with the lamb. It’s something to hope for.

Kyra

Just Be

Otherkin is a lie. An effective, tidy, comfortable lie, but a lie nonetheless.

In the growing tradition (alright two rants) of starting these rants with an objectionable and blunt statement, then spending far too long trying to explain what I mean, along with the synthesis of the idea and somewhat connected concepts, here goes…

“Otherkin” is a label. Sometimes labels are useful, more often they become nice little boxes to put things in.

Over the last year I have seen many discussions, debates, heated debates and outright flamewars about what the term “otherkin” really means. A noticeable number of people have decided to stop using the term because its perceived common usage does not match the concept they used the word for. I’ve been in several of these exchanges myself (often on at least three sides of the question).

“You are missing the point dear”.

Which I finally understood.

One of the objections to the term otherkin is that it is a definition by negation. It says we are not human (at least in one interpretation) rather than we are something. For a long time I shared this reservation but used it because no one could think of a better one. Maybe there isn’t a better one, because this one is right. People are just missing the full implications.

It is not that we are other than human. It is that we are Other. (Or at least related to such). Not that we are in a different box, with a different label. We aren’t in a box at all. In fact the very concept of box is alien.

This is why we struggle with labels. Not that labels are always bad, but that in this culture they are tied to the concept of box. To label something is to put bounds on it. Which is all wrong. Labels just mark a conceptual point for easy reference, a point, not a box, and only loosely at that because things change, but it’s close enough you can find the general area again.

To illustrate – there’s a pole at the North Pole. It makes it useful to locate the general area. The concept of having a north pole is useful, it makes navigation easier and helps you get the map the same way up each time. However the precise position of the pole is usually irrelevant. And wrong. The ice under the pole floats, so the pole moves. As far as I know they don’t bother moving the physical pole, it’s close enough.

To get back to an approximation of the point…

Otherkin is a lie. It’s a lie because it implies “this thing can be labeled.” It can be marked, described and characterized. It can be filed away in nice little boxes, so you can fit it comfortably into your worldview. You can write a PhD thesis on it.

Bollocks.

I’ve said elsewhere that Otherkin has some characteristics of mystery religions – that there are some things that can’t be described but have to be experienced.

What does any of this have to do with evolution, you ask? Well, probably you don’t ask as you either didn’t notice the subtitle or forgot about in the long ramble since. I’ll explain anyway. Yes, this is connected, be patient.

One of the concepts that gets discussed every so often is the idea that Otherkin are perhaps one of the next steps in human evolution. That can sound arrogant, but that is not how it is meant – not as a “we are better” but “where do we go from here?”. I think it could be a manifestation of social evolution.

Back when the Village Voice piece came out, people objected to the characterization of otherkin as people dissatisfied with their current lives in a technological society. Maybe he had something of a point. He got close, but he missed the real reason.

It is not the technology that is the problem – there are too many geek elves around for that. It is the boxes. The rules. The labels. The living.

It is not just an otherkin thing. I see the shift in many of the aware humans that I know. To get back to themselves. To experience life in full, rather than in the abstract of thought (or lack thereof) or the safety of socially defined rules. It can be scary. You have to let go of a lot of comforting lies and be honest with yourself. That’s hard. I still often fail at it myself.

But the change needs to happen or humanity will drive itself into extinction, and take a good portion of this world with it.

Labels become boxes. Boxes become rigid. Ideas become beliefs. Beliefs become absolutes. Change becomes perceived as death.

Wrong!

Change is life. Making stronger boxes, more rules, does not make you less insecure but more – because sooner or later something will not fit in the box. Stress induced illness is one of the major killers in technological societies. Stress from things not meeting expectations, from not fitting in the box.

We are change. We are embodiments of the Wyld, the Unknown. We don’t fit in the box. Not even those we make ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even see the box. Sometimes we don’t know boxes exist. Sometimes they don’t.

Maybe that is what the world needs. Examples of boxlessness. People who not only don’t fit, but can’t fit. People who can fit, but choose not to. People who are happy and healthy that way. Signposts for social evolution. People who experience life rather than labels.

Which means being honest with yourself because if you aren’t honest with yourself, you can’t really be aware of yourself or of anything else. That little box labeled “things I don’t want to know about myself” distorts your view of the world.

Over and over again I see newly awakened people asking others to tell them what they are, to give them a new box because the old one doesn’t fit. They get upset when someone says “I can’t do that”. The problem is how to help someone explore themselves without ending up just shifting which box they are using. I don’t have an answer to that one yet. It is important to know who and what you are, but it should be self-awareness, not a list of labels or a pile of neatly marked boxes.

Facing yourself is probably going to hurt. A lot. It is also going to be joyous, heart-wounding, giddy and solemn, hilarious and somber. We will love each other, hate each other, scream in anger, cry in sorrow, never speak to one another again, become lovers and friends.

Sometimes the biggest lies are the truths that ‘everyone knows’. Sometimes the truth is the lie no one understands.

The point of all this? There’s a reason I titled this piece the way I did. It’s the single piece of advice that all the others tie into, sometimes it is the hardest things to do, sometimes the easiest, it is however, the whole point…

Just Be.

Beyond Identitykin

One of the biggest criticisms of the Otherkin community, both within and without, is the proliferation of what my friend Rialian refers to as “identitykin”. These are people for whom being Otherkin revolves primarily around the identity itself, rather than the application of that identity (and numerous other factors) to everyday life. Identitykin are one of the reasons why the phenomenon of being Other is often mistaken as just another attempt to “be special”.

To be fair, a lot of Otherkin go through a similar phase, especially when newly Awakened. After all, we’ve been introduced to the idea that yes, Virginia, there is sentient life beyond humanity, and that we’re not alone in our feelings of being Other. Hell, I still catch myself getting a little too wrapped up in my identity as a wolf, though I’ve done a lot to integrate it into the rest of my being in the decade or so since I was first introduced to the concept of therianthropy.

One particularly useful tip I have learned through observing others and talking shop, especially with people I really admire within the community, is that sometimes it’s good to incorporate a little (neo)Zen as a balance to that whole identity-woohoo! thing. By this I mean living in the moment, and simply being Other rather than thinking about it, or talking about it, or other conscious acts upon it; the key verb here is “to be”.

Identitykin may assume that this is what they’re already doing. After all, aren’t they wrapping everything in their life around being Other, and living life as a (insert kin type here) would? This also ties into the tendency for some Otherkin to say “Well, I exhibit this behavior, so I must be that type of Otherkin” and, conversely, to say “I am this type of Otherkin, so I must act like this”. Everything gets pointed back to being Otherkin, even when it’s something that “ordinary” humans also commonly embody.

I used to be very identity-focused for a long time, because I really didn’t know how else to be. I spent entirely too much time trying too hard to be more wolfish (and ended up doing some really dumb things as a result). I was dissatisfied because I was stuck in a human body and didn’t have the amazing physical capabilities of Canis lupus, such as the ability to run 25 miles an hour for long periods of time, or keep myself warm with fur that ice wouldn’t stick to. In short, I spent entirely too much time trying to be something and someone else.

That was until I started working with more experienced members of both the pagan and Otherkin communities. The first way I started weaning myself off of the identity fixation was to view myself as a whole being, not just a therian. While many of my traits, preferences and identities are interconnected, they don’t necessarily cause each other. For example, I am a totemist and a pagan, and animal magic is central to my practice. Granted, totemism and therianthropy weave very closely in my life, and there may be some connection there, but I don’t think I am a totemist solely because I am a therian. (I also don’t think that my therianthropy sprang directly from my totemism either, for the record.) There are also certain physical traits that resemble wolfish ones; my body is lean and compact, and I have always walked on the balls of my feet as long as I’ve had the balance to do so.

However, there are plenty of things that have absolutely nothing to do with being a therian. I love salad, salmon, and ice cream. I am a voracious reader, and I prefer nonfiction to fiction. I like long, flowing hippie dresses, and baggy bondage pants with lots of straps and chains (boy-cut, not girl-cut, thanks – I like not having my hips constricted). I have a short temper that I’m working on, and (I like to think) a well-developed sense of humor. None of these things has any direct bearing on my therianthropy, and vice versa. These days I don’t think “Well, I am inquisitive and intelligent because I am a wolf”; rather, I say “I am an inquisitive and intelligent person who just happens to be a wolf (and a pagan, and a kinky person, and a late twenty-something, etc.”.

Eventually I learned to integrate the therianthropy in with the rest of myself. A large part of it involved acceptance of who I am, and then being able to make changes starting from that point, rather than trying to make huge leaps and bounds to becoming someone else entirely. A lot of the identitykin phenomenon is wrapped up in escapism; people use being Other as a way to escape the mundane, boring, unsatisfactory aspects of their human lives. It’s like the newcomers to magic who get so incredibly wrapped up in their personal mythologies that they lose touch with physical reality, and forget that not everyone shares in their mythos. Once I simply allowed myself to be Lupa (who is a therian, and a pagan, and a whole bunch of other things), identity ceased to be all-important. Sure, it’s still a part of who I am, but it’s not everything. And by coming to terms with who, what and where I am right now in this moment, I have a much more realistic view on what parts of myself I can improve upon. I know that physical shapeshifting is impossible in this reality, and that’s okay. I only rarely ever experience species dysphoria anymore; in fact, I very rarely even shift at all, other than feeling like I’m sliding up and down a continuum between Wolf-mind and Human-mind (both of which are me).

And I allow myself to simply be. I don’t worry overmuch about whether or not I’m wolfish enough, or if I have past lives to back up my claims. I don’t regret the phases I went through when these things were a lot more important, but I’m a lot happier and healthier now that they’ve faded into the background, become just a few more threads in the complex tapestry that is Lupa.

Otherkin Identity: Is it more than just a label?

The other day I read an online comic, Theri There, about Otherkin. In it, the artist depicted different types of otherkin doing various activities that reflected their nature. An angelkin worked in a soup kitchen, a bird therian flew a hangglider, etc. In the last panel the artist showed two therians, who said that once in a while they growled when no one was around. That entire comic depicted what I perceive to be a problem of identity for Otherkin.

I notice with alarming regularity that when the subject of Otherkin comes up it’s always about identity, namely how you determine if you’re really Otherkin or not. There is inevitably a focus on which labels can be correctly applied to a person in order to determine the status of identity. It gets to the point that identity seems to be an obsession for some Otherkin. What seems to be rarely asked, however, is what other functions, purposes, or goals, beyond identity, being Otherkin serves. For instance, do you feel your existence is validated by being Otherkin? Does being Otherkin provide you a calling? What is it to you besides a label?

The quest for self-discovery is a life long adventure and a worthy goal, provided it’s balanced with other goals. Identity should never wholly define a person, especially because it is a very fluid phenomenon. Who you claim to be can change quickly under the right circumstances, with the right stress and pressure. Unexpected news can turn a good day into a bad day and a happy person into a sad person, changing some of the nuances of identity. Your identity is not constructed in isolation of everything else, but instead relies upon the network of connections you forge between yourself and other people. It also exists in an even larger context of culture. Western culture (which incidentally seems to have the majority of Otherkin) has lots of images and stories centered around dragons, elves, and various other mythological creatures that Otherkin identify with. Recently anime has made an impact in Western Culture and suddenly we have mediakin as a result. Even therians aren’t exempt from this cultural impact. Switch on the TV and turn to the Animal Planet channel and you have an opportunity to get exposure to a variety of shows on different animals in their habitat. Or watch a cartoon show about Bugs Bunny or some other character and you see animals anthropomorphized.

Curiously Otherkin and therians seemed to have primarily shown up in the last fifteen to twenty years, which is around the time the internet first started being used, and people were exposed to even more forms of media distilling cultural information. Even in the rare case where someone identified as Otherkin before that time, there was still a lot of access to cultural material, such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. My point is that culture has an impact on a person’s sense of identity. A desire to feel special about yourself for instance, can be affected by access to books on elves and dragons. The escapism such books offer, also offer a person a chance to feel special and validated because if they identify with those beings then they is perhaps not in such a horrible situation.

But what about memories? Many Otherkin claimed to have memories of past lives where they were clearly not human. I won’t rule out the possibility that I or anyone else had a past life as something other than human. This universe is too vast to assume that the only sentient inhabitants are humans. Who can really say what happens to a soul after the death of a physical body? But with that said, I’d also say that memories are tricky. For instance, think of your latest argument with someone. Try and remember it in detail and then ask the person what s/he remembers. Chances are some details are different. Part of this is simply perception, but there’s also a chance that you or the other person (or both!) have conveniently remembered something differently or that didn’t happen at all to justify who was right or wrong. Memories can be manufactured by the brain. We can remember events, in this life alone, that we never actually experienced. Memory is so changeable that it’s fairly unreliable as the sole means of determining identity.

We also have to consider the impact culture has on memory and on our imagination. It seems to me that the imagination is vividly tied into memory. The ability to remember a past event is similar to the ability to fantasize or daydream. When you include the impact of culture, in terms of shows viewed, or book read, then you have to consider how much the symbolism and imagery affects the memories you have. Memory alone shouldn’t be used to determine identity. It can act as an aide, providing contextual clues, but it should be carefully verified and tested. This can occur by meeting people you share these memories with, but even in that case, if you find that the memories of the group change frequently, or if people accept a memory immediately just because it sounds good, you might want to question whether they really share memories with you. Another way to verify these memories involves trying to learn a language. If you feel certain you spoke Japanese in a past life, you could test this by trying to learn Japanese in this life. It’s possible that the memories would aide you in relearning the language. Even when you can verify memories, remember that your past life is past. It can offer you the knowledge you accumulated in the past, but you’re living this life for a reason as well.

In humans, (I’ll talk more in a moment about this label) there is a biological need for certainty. Labels are a form of certainty. They provide us structure, definitions, and explanations for why we make the choices we make. Sometimes they even allow people to avoid taking responsibility for their choices. For instance, how many times have you seen a person at a workplace duck out of doing a task by saying that it doesn’t fit hir job description? Sometimes people use labels to explain behavior away: I’m a therian and I can’t help growling, howling, snarling at people when I’m mad, etc. Being therian could be a reason for those mannerisms, but it shouldn’t be as an excuse to justify behavior. In other words, if you’re growling at a person, don’t just say it’s your therian identity making you do it. Admit the reasons why you’re growling (i.e. I don’t like this person or they did something that caused me to react or I want to seem more legitimately animal).

Labels provide boundaries: “If I’m this then I’m not this”, or “If I can label and define this I can control it”. The boundaries are derived from naming something, and thus giving it presence, but also controlling the nature of that presence. When we label something we have control over it (supposedly). Control is another biological need, because people who don’t have control seek it out as a way of establishing a sense of structure and self in an uncertain universe. Being able to identify yourself as Otherkin is a way of controlling your internal and external environments. It establishes a sense of self that is different from others. It can also be a reaction to the people around you. If you’ve been picked on or harassed, it’s nice to escape that situation by identifying yourself as something different and unique. Then when those people pick on you, you can console yourself by thinking at least I’m this or that being, which these mere humans aren’t. If that seems rather melodramatic, remember that no one likes to be picked on and just about everyone wants to be special, especially in a cultural that encourages mediocrity. The choice to identify as someone else can be a reaction to situations that a person feels s/he can’t handle. By imagining that s/he is someone else, s/he can draw on the characteristics of that identity to give hir strength to deal with the situation. But there’s something that people forget about identity.

Identity is never a static phenomenon. People try to establish identity as a reality by relying on labels and definitions. These are usually used (incorrectly) to indicate essence, i.e. what something is. What people forget about labels and definitions is that they aren’t really describing what something is, but what someone feels something OUGHT to be. The choice to identify as Other, as opposed to human, carries with it values that you associate with what is Other, and therefore has an agenda to it. That agenda could be a need to feel special, especially if your personal circumstances are bad. It could be because you genuinely feel that there is something “different” about you as compared to everyone else, and by identifying as Other you validate that feeling. Regardless of what the agenda is, it’s important to acknowledge it to yourself when deciding that you identify as this or that kind of ‘kin. Questioning why you choose particular labels to describe yourself is a good way of understanding the conscious and/or subconscious choices you’ve made to come to those conclusions. People use words very easily, without considering the impact those words have on themselves and others. Recognizing that impact is important, because when you choose labels to describe and define yourself, you also define the world around you and your interactions with people. A lot of persecution that some Otherkin claim to experience could easily be avoided by being discrete and realizing that being Otherkin isn’t the entirety of their existence. They might even find, as I have, that it’s not that important in everyday life to be an elf, a dragon, or whatever else. Being Otherkin is just one facet, but there are other facets that are worth exploring and knowing as well, and not just for identity purposes. Do you feel a calling to do charity work? Are you as writer, a painter, etc.? What do those labels mean to you and how do they impact your life and others’? When you weigh being Otherkin against the other facets of your life you will quickly realize it contributes to the whole, but doesn’t and shouldn’t define the whole. Not everything that you are is a result of being Otherkin; we are a result of nurturing as well as innate nature.

When you choose a particular label to center your sense of identity on, you are identifying yourself for you and the world. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but when I see people who feel a need to proclaim their Otherkinness to the point that they use it to define themselves as a whole, it seems like they are limiting themselves. I don’t feel the need to tell everyone the various labels I associate with myself. Its part of me…I enjoy exploring it and meshing it into my life, and I don’t deny that, but I don’t need to proclaim it either. It’s enough that I know this is a part of me and when I need it I can draw on it. I keep my identity fluid because I can be so many other things than just Otherkin or a magician or whatever else I label myself as. Labels can define you, but they also restrict you, and can create dogmatism and elitism in your attitude and approach to other people. Choosing to be fluid about your labels can help you understand other people and be more adaptive to situations that arise in your life.

Don’t forget as well that you are biologically human, even if you do claim some nonhuman genetic material. You are also socialized as a human in a human world. Ignoring that aspect of yourself is flawed, because it ignores to some degree the reality of your situation. Being human has its own joys, tribulations, and special quality. It’s not something that can wholly define you, just as being Otherkin can’t, but it is an experience in its own right, to be savored and enjoyed while you have it. Ignoring it is missing out on the journey and meaning of being human.

So you’re an elf, or a dragon, or a therian. That’s nice, but what’s it doing for you? What will you do with it? How does this identity impact how you think of other parts of your life? How does it impact how you think and interact with people around you? What does being Otherkin help you do that you couldn’t do before? These are some questions that you can ask yourself as you explore your Otherkin identity. It’s not enough to just validate yourself by saying I’m this or that kind of being. While it’s nice to know that you identify as a dragon, if all you ever do is establish that you are a dragon, you haven’t really touched the surface of what that identity really means.

By finding meaning and purpose in your identity you can begin to define what you want to do with that identity. For instance, if you identify as angelkin and you feel compelled to act as a helper or healer to people that could be a result of identifying as angelkin and seeing angels as beings who help people. Remember that identity is backed up by action. If you feel called to serve people then go to a local soup kitchen or other volunteer service. Or if you identify as a therian get involved in environmental activism involving your phenotype’s species, or at the least promote environmental awareness in people around you. Let your identity be defined by more than just a feeling that you’re different. While feeling special is nice, doing nothing but feeling special helps neither yourself, nor anyone else or the world that you currently live in. Let your actions speak to and of that identity and let those actions involve more than just posturing about what kind of Otherkin you are.

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

How Do I Know if I am Dragon

This is a challenge for me. I do not consider myself much of a writer. I am dragon. How is that for a great start? How does it feel? Awkward sometimes. It is a feeling of connectedness with the flows. The flows are energy fields that surround everything. For example, the Force in Star Wars. I can feel the form of a great serpent – in fact there are even times I can see it. I find my actions reflect that of having greater size or bulk. When I “put on the dragon” (a term I use for being draconic) I feel very old. Not as in years, but in time. My head will swing around on a long neck as I turn to look at something. It will feel very large and long. My eyes will feel as though the bridge of my nose has grown and I am looking down the length of it to see. My chest expands and the lungs are audible and loud in my ears. There have been a few times I have grumbled and the chest rumbled, vibrating right up to my ears.

There are many varieties of dragons. Books are filled with them. Unfortunately there are no books on becoming one of them, but for me it is a knowing inside. I do not have two wings, four legs and a tail, but there are times I can feel them. I mean really feel them. The body is human, yet just beneath the surface I can feel parts that shouldn’t be there. It is a very real and scary feeling when the dragon tries to take form and my car suddenly starts getting tighter and smaller. The chest feels larger and deeper, the collar bones grow outward well past shoulders that are no longer there. It becomes a great hollow space in my chest and the lungs sound so very loud in my ears. It is such a realistic experience that the body aches as it tries to conform. The bones feel as if they will spring forth while the body explodes from the effort. My back literally disappears in my mind’s eye. I am not sure yet why this is so. I feel great wings that make the shoulder blades burn and itch. During these times I cannot lie on my back at all. I get uncomfortable sitting, (Tails are not made for sitting upon.) so I wander around until things settle down again.

I cannot tell you what sort of dragon I am in breed (for lack of a better term) as I am looking from the inside out most of the time. A good friend once drew me as he saw the dragon. The drawing is a wonderful gift that I cherish. I am a firedragon. Does it mean I like fire? I suppose it must, although I do not do long periods in the sun very well. This body is fair complected and burns easily. I don’t take the heat well because I have become nocturnal after many years of working nights. I love being around water. I find it invigorating unless I become waterlogged. A water logged firedragon is not a happy camper. I digress – so back to being the dragon. My healing factor has increased, and it is a good thing since this body is not as young as it used to be. My night vision is good unless my eyes have a flashlight pointed at them.

Well, on to other things. I am tempermental (just ask anyone). I am a little stranger than most other dragons as I prefer my meat well done. (Although I do recall one or two veggie dragons, too.) I don’t like confinement. I start to feel too large for the room and start wishing for folks to stop breathing. There are many other things about me, but I don’t think they are particulary dragonish as much as just otherkin-ness. I am protective of my friends and take it personally when they are hurt. I will jump in front of anyone that cannot defend themselves sometimes without thinking. I believe in honor, but I have my own code of ethics that I follow. I have a long memory. These could be about anyone not just being dragon.

The bottom line is only you know what you are..It is a feeling a knowing, something worth exploring until you know for sure. I can tell you that I see you as an ant but if you do not feel it then what I say matters little. Otherkin go through many changes as they awaken, so the forms may change as they explore the possiblities. The lucky ones know who they are and even have memories while the rest of us have to remember a piece at a time. These are only my experiences. Nothing is set in stone.

Here and Now

In terms of the online otherkin community I am pretty old. I was around ten years ago when R’ykandar posted to alt.pagan about the Elfinkind Digest, the very first and for a long time, the only mailing list for elves and associated people. I remember when the term “otherkin” was coined, because it was obvious that there were more than just elfkin around. I state this for context, not to claim any sort of seniority.

This is a rant. I mean a real rant. As in I’m actually seriously annoyed here, not just poking around with a potentially controversial thought to see where it goes and what I can get out of it.

“We are all in human bodies now”
I have heard that, or a variation of it, one too many times recently. From people who are claiming to be otherkin. Hearing it from humans who don’t understand I can deal with. Hearing it from people who supposedly know better over and over again is getting to me. There are times I have to restrain myself from yelling at people. Sometimes I don’t succeed in doing so.

What part of the word Otherkin did you not understand?!?

 Other (adj):      Different from that or those implied or specified.      Of a different character or quality kin:      One's relatives; family; kinfolk.      A kinsman or kinswoman.

In other words, being related to that which is different from human. Note that “kin” refers to blood relationship (and occasionally adopted members).

Here. Now. Not a millenia ago. Not in a galaxy far, far away. Here. Now.

Yes, I’m serious. Yes, I really mean that. Yes, I am quite aware that it is near impossible to prove, that it sounds insane and I really don’t expect most people to believe me.

I don’t object particularly to the use of the term otherkin by reincarnationals, if your past lives sing so strongly to you here and now that it has a noticeable effect on you, fine. However, if you are refering to yourself using the term, the least you can do is stop telling me, and those like me, that I don’t exist.

I’ve seen something similar with branches on the neo-pagan community, and I don’t know if it’s related. The yearning for acceptance both inside and outside the community becomes so strong that people start to whitewash their beliefs, to the point that they believe it themselves, or worse, teach it to the next generation.

Thus you get book wiccan’s who are almost indistinguishable from christians except for the name they give their deity. You get neopagans who claim to worship nature, but get upset when the hawk tears the rabbit apart, piece by bloody piece, whilst it’s still twitching. You get dilution and obliteration of beliefs to make them more acceptable to the mainstream.

It drives me nuts.

There is a difference between adapting to your environment and gutting yourself for the sake of acceptance.

I am not going to fit in, be accepted, be understood, by this society. By the humans around me. I am Other, literally. I belong here just as much as they do, but I am not them.

I do not have problems with humans*. I live in a mostly human world. I hold down a decent job. I pay my rent, feed the cat, have friends and a life of my own. However it is very very obvious that I am not one of them. I have human friends who are intelligent, creative, compassionate and understand their effects on the world around them. They are good people, but at times very alien to me.

(*I have problems with idiots, most of the idiots I know are human because most of the people I know are human. I try not to confuse the two).

If you are human, great, wonderful. If you are human with a past life as an elf, good for you. I am not. I am a human-elven crossbreed. Here. Now.

Deal with it.

From the Heart Out

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?”

Oh.

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.

The Harmony of Discord

This site generally gets refered to as Otherkin.net (or even abbreviated to OKN).
Which is a useful shorthand, but the site does have a full name that seems to get neglected
or pass unnoticed most of the time. This is not just Otherkin.net, it is
Otherkin.net: Harmony & Discord.

There is a reason for that.

When I created the site over a year ago, the online otherkin community was very factionalised. Many
instances of personal bickering had escalated into full scale cold wars between the various
groups.

At first I considered this a weakness, a problem to be fixed. Why couldn’t everyone just get along,
talk to each other, learn to understand one another. Surely then the fights would stop, the flamewars
cool down and life would be wonderful.

Over the last year, the flames have died down for the most part, many of the protagonists from eariler
conflicts are now good friends and life is indeed wonderful. Right?

Well, not really.

These days the brief flares are about whether someone put enough “In My Opinion” disclaimers in their
post, whether Elenari are the same as elenari and whether it’s alright to tell someone if you think that what they
claim to be does not seem to fit their traits. The flares generally trail off into dull debates with all
the passion of a damp squid, and the original conversation is lost in the morass.

So if you want an interesting conversation these days, you generally are not going to find one on any
of the populous lists. The “otherkin community” isn’t. The fire and the magic are lost, swamped under
a thousand little bickering emails.

To come back to the begining, it’s called Harmony and Discord for a reason.

The reason is that dissonance, discord, disagreement is a good thing. As much as we need peace, we also need
strife. If we don’t argue, debate, disagree, how do we learn from each other? If we don’t occasionally scream
and yell at each other, do we actually care about what we say and do? Discord comes from disagreeing on something
you feel passionate about.

We need that passion. We need that dispute. We need to get so involved in our lives that sometimes we clash.

We also need calm. We need to find common ground. We need to get so involved in our lives that sometimes everything
just comes together.

Feel free to disagree. That is the point after all.

Older Folkore

[Ed: This was originally a soc.religion.paganism post (thus the creation date).
I belive the outside perspective is a useful one. You may also wish to read Shadow of Myth which touches on the same
subject.]

Much that I see presented in newsgroups and websites about
‘otherkin’ shows precious little awareness of the HUGE body of
folklore and tales from around the world for dealing with the Fair Folk of various stripes. There are some strong commonalities built up over centuries of gathering and writing down such lore. Most of it has to do with the danger in dealing with the Fey Folk. They are neither bad nor good, they have their own priorities and you just may be a good tool for their workings to be used and even used up. This makes you dangerous to others from a culture that shares your belief in the Fair Folk.

It is one thing to put on a persona of a character from Faerie that you
take off at the end of the day or convention of others who share your
fondness and knowledge of the more modern fantasy lore, it is another thing entirely to make a claim to such blood in your body as a living reality 100% of the time, and with an awareness of only the more modern fantasy writers versions of Faery. Some folk come onto this newsgroup (soc.religion.paganism) and others and present this as a living reality, not a persona.

I grew up with an awareness of the folklore, as have others on the
newsgroups. To anyone with that background, people who make claims of elven blood are playing a very dangerous game and if they actually do make connection with the real land spirits known as the Si, they are going to be in for a rude shock. The Si have been known to destroy the lives of those who annoy them by making such claims. But before doing so, they often have a habit of using the humans to their own ends, and befuddlement and glamour leading the humans
into making great fools of themselves is a big part of the older lore.
The People of Grace are formidable foes, they are grand allies, but they are not dealt with casually, with rose-colored glasses or with deceit, even self-deception safely according to the body of lore. You do not need to be paranoid of them – only cautious, respectful, courteous and rare.

Much of the fantasy writing in the last several decades does focus on the grand and glorious allies, it links into a feeling of alienation many
people feel from the flesh and blood human beings around them. Failing to approach the Fey with a full respect and the highest form of formal courtesy even in the smallest of things is an invitation to serious trouble from the older folklore and I seldom see that presented in any kind of depth lately. Anyone who makes a claim of ‘Faery’ blood of any stripe and believes it in all seriousness is in danger of failing to give full respect according to the folklore.

Further, until Professor Tolkien’s work was published in Great Britain and North America in the sixties, those who were dubbed as being part fey were looked upon with grave suspicion and faced serious discrimination. It was NOT a compliment, it was often used for those who were developmentally disabled, autistic or in other ways different from the norm. You did not claim to be Fey, it was a name given to your by your community, and it meant that lots of doors and opportunities were closed to you for the rest of your life. At times and in places it could mean you lost that life.

Outside of the fantasy role playing realms, outside of the modern fantasy writers version of Faery, this suspicion and discrimination still exists. The wariness comes from centuries of dealings with the Si, that according to the folkways of the world is justified. Ignoring such widespread themes is foolish and short sighted if you are intending to work with land spirits in any capacity.

Most folk who come here (soc.religion.paganism) do not present it as a persona, but as a reality or a bloodline they ‘live’ with present a
seeming lack of awareness of the older lore. They are greeted with the
older suspicion and seem shocked, surprised that they are not welcomed with open arms or even take on the attitude of ‘well, what can you expect, they are only Human.’

Failure to be aware of this older body of lore or the culture in which it
was a living part just 30 years ago will bring you and your knowledge
under suspicion in many parts of the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan community. Now, if you are aware that you are dealing with a persona you put on and take off when you are not with fantasy role playing gatherings, if you are aware of the older body of lore with as much familiarity as the modern fantasy writings on the subject you may be able to add a great deal to the discussion of folkloric practices in your community.

People do rarely do energy work with the land spirits, with the Folk they call Si even here in North America as part of certain religious traditions and certain types of energy work in the Neo-Pagan community. But if someone comes to me with only a persona based on modern fantasy role playing and asks me to teach them how to work with the Si I am going to give them a long booklist to read and engage them in years of intense discussions before giving them even a hint of a clue because until they ken in their very bones the limitations of the modern fantasy lore, they are unsafe to themselves in such a working, and that makes them unsafe for the others who would work with them, including the land spirits.

    @}->-  ;)  Tinne  :D  Laughter Heals  :)  -<-{@

Personal Mythology, Imagination and Metaphor

Author’s note: This is an excerpt from the current draft of my book, A Field Guide to Otherkin. It’s still a work in progress, but it is scheduled for publication in the first half of 2007. I’ve already contracted it through Immanion Press, who published my first book, Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic (May 2006).

This particular excerpt is from the chapter on theories of how Otherkin ‘come to be’. I’ve covered reincarnation, which seems to be one of the most common theories. However, the chapter also includes theories involving genetic/inheritance, walking in, multiplicity, psychology (personality aspecting, neurobiology), energy resonance, and magic (totemism, possession, etc.) None of these is presented as any more ‘correct’ than any other, but more as food for thought, possibilities to consider. That’s the point of the Field Guide, in fact’not to tell people what Otherkin definitively are, without a doubt, and you’re wrong if you disagree, but instead to present examples of what we say we are, why we believe it, and how to explore further if you feel the same way.

This section doesn’t rely nearly as much on testimony from my survey respondents as some others, and so should not be taken as an across-the-board example of what the entire book is about. I chose it primarily because it’s one of the more complete pieces and it’s one that I’m particularly fond of.

So enjoy, and if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you’re interested, I am still accepting surveys through early November (tentative).

–Lupa
14 August, 2006
http://www.thegreenwolf.com

Personal Mythology, Imagination and Metaphor

Most people think that Elfin is a place that exists outside of the elfin, in the same way that Ireland exists. And while there is some truth to this it is equally true to say that Elfin lives and breathes within the elfin. Elfin is a state of being. Not merely a place nor a consciousness (although it is both of these). To enter Elfin one must be able to ‘shift their assemblage point’, to alter their consciousness at will, to melt the synaptic pathways and create new neural templates imprinted with the reality of Elfin. (1)

As I discussed in the first chapter, the suspension of disbelief inherent to play is also that which is found in rituals worldwide and throughout time. Mythology is not merely some made-up stories that people told before science explained how the Cosmos really works. Rather, if we follow the paths laid by Jung, Campbell, and others, we find the symbols that are not limited to our psychology, but have a life of their very own. And, in the words of Campbell, ‘One is linked to one’s adult role, that is to say, by being identified with a myth’participating actually, physically, oneself, in a manifestation of mythological forms, these being visibly supplied by the roles and patterns of the rite, and the rite, in extension, supporting the form of the society’.(2) In this passage he is referring to everyday rites of passage, costumery and other items associated with modern manifestations of ancient archetypes. He explains that everything from the black robes worn by judges to the military uniform of a soldier’in fact, any trappings that belong to a particular profession or social role’invoke that role and its associated mythos and symbolism.

With the advent of science as the primary tool for explaining the whys and hows of the physical world, mythology became mere stories, removed from the ‘real’ world by the veil of the five senses in ordinary consciousness. Once we found out that the sun was a huge burning ball of gas millions of miles away, we supposedly no longer needed the myths of Apollo, Amaterasu, and other solar deities to explain anything beyond ancient cultural storytelling. The moon, as well, was no longer a huntress, or a rabbit, or an incestuous lover with his sister’s fingerprints on his back, just a huge lump of cold rock with not a bit of life on its surface. Even Robert Graves, in the foreword of his revision of The Greek Myths, explained away the joy of the Bacchanalia:

The evidence…suggests that Satyrs (goat-totem tribesmen), Centaurs (horse-totem tribesmen), and their Maenad women folk, used these brews [wine and ivy ale] to wash down…amanita muscaria [a mushroom] which induces hallucinations, senseless rioting, prophetic sight, erotic energy, and remarkable muscular strength…followed by complete inertia, a phenomenon that would account for the story of how Lycurgus, armed only with an ox-goad, routed Dionysus’ drunken army of Maenads and Satyrs after its victorious return from India. (3)

Does this then mean that all those who claim to be satyrs, centaurs, and, indeed, any mythological being that can be ‘explained away’ in such a manner are then automatically delusional? Not necessarily. Perhaps all the evidence we have points away from literal satyrs, centaurs and their ilk ever having physically inhabited this plane of existence. That doesn’t exclude their potential lives on other planes.

The Collective Unconscious of C.G. Jung, is a good starting place. It is theorized that in this place, which is not physical but exists nonetheless, we have access to all concepts of reality, our own and those of others. Many do not consider this to be an actual place, as it can’t be attained through physical means. However, the imagination and dreams are the vehicles by which we are able to travel to these alternate realities.

Belief is also an active tool for accessing realities rather than just an emotional pacifier. As Jung, Campbell and others have stressed, mythology exists on many levels. Most of us are familiar with the words on paper, or the pixels on the television or computer screen, that convey the stories told for millennia in many tongues and with many names. However, the power behind those myths is in the reactions that we have to them and the effects they have on our world-as well as our ability to capture that power and use it to create our own reality. Campbell argues that while yes, we are to an extent influenced by our responses to external stimuli, we do create our interpretation of our environment, both physically and otherwise.(4) This supports the idea that ‘reality’ is not just an objective environment to which we automatically react, but something that we have an active hand in shaping.

This idea is reflected in the mind-bending works of Robert Anton Wilson who, inspired by Leonard Orr, touts the saying ‘Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves’. (5) The background to this idea is based off of the division of the mind into the Thinker, which comes up with ideas, and the Prover, whose sole purpose is to hunt down whatever evidence there is to support the Thinker’s claims. This works for everyone, even people who hold opposing viewpoints from each other-the Prover is so good at what it does, and the Universe is so obliging in its offerings of proof for everything. This is why we end up with so much contradictory evidence for just about every argument you can think of. The end result is that there is no objective reality except for a close call arrived at by the thinking and proving of multitudes who end up, more or less, in the same ball park, albeit with disagreements in the details.

So let us assume that reality is much more flexible than our own tunnel vision generally supposes, and that we have an active hand in creating our reality, as well as access to numerous, if not infinite, versions of reality created by ourselves and by others. The theme of accessing these realities via magic and ritual runs through Taylor Ellwood’s works, hearkening back to Campbell’s assertion that ritual is the key to the altered states of consciousness that lead us to corresponding altered states of reality. ‘Consider, for instance, that many magicians believe in other planes or universes of existence. Obviously, these universes don’t exist in our universe, but to access them we manipulate space/time, and though we may not physically go to these other planes of existence (as far as we know), we nonetheless interact with them, because of the warping of space/time’.(6) Ellwood, however, in later works applies this concept microcosmically as well as macrocosmically:

Nothing in Inner Alchemy occurs solely on any one level. The major theme of this book is interconnectedness. A lot of my work on the energetic level has happened as a result of work I’ve done on the physiological and even genetic level, with the goal being to shape the body even as my energy is shaped. By learning to work with your DNA and also apply your understanding of DNA to a level beyond just the physical existence of it you can do a lot of inner alchemy. In turn you can achieve an appreciation of not just your own genetic heritage, but how that heritage interacts with everything else. You can fine tune that heritage as well, making changes in your body that allow you to maximize your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual potentials. You just need to be open to the idea that the body can be controlled on a variety of levels despite what western science and medical health would have you believe.(7)

And here we have a new way of seeing the old alchemical maxim, ‘As above, so below’. For if we can access the emotional, spiritual, and mental personal universe through the physical vehicle of our flesh, what is to say we can’t also access the macrocosmic universe as well, using ritual as a way to expand our awareness beyond the limitations of our own physical reality and into the reality of every other living being that exists?

What, you may be wondering, does all this reality-bending have to do with Otherkin?

If we accept the theory that reality is more than just what our own five physical senses can access, and that reality is more subjective than is often assumed, and that we can access reality beyond our own limitations, then we have the possibility of being connected to any reality we wish, in conjunction with the physical reality that we are native to. For, with ritual as the vehicle for access these different realities, we exist in more than one reality simultaneously. The shaman who travels out of hir body to retrieve the soul of an ill patient may be physically existent on the reality of everyday life and the rest of humanity; however, hir consciousness travels through an entirely different plane of existence. The two come together dependent upon the success of the journey-if the soul is brought back, the patient recovers, whereas if the soul is lost, the patient will die.

The effect that this acting out of ritual-the ‘make believe’ discussed in the first chapter-ultimately has is to change our everyday lives. Rites of passage found worldwide serve not only to induct the initiate into a particular level of mundane society, but they also trigger changes on the psychological and spiritual levels. This cannot be done entirely within physical reality. Rather, the suspension of disbelief that allows us to access other realities must be achieved, or the ritual doesn’t work. The other realities must be made imminent in this one, with permanent effects.

Perhaps for some Otherkin, the very acknowledgement of being Other and bringing that into everyday life is an ongoing ritual. It may not be acknowledged as such; however, it is an action that allows the person to access a reality other than the physical, human one on a permanent basis. This is particularly noteworthy, given that in a lot of modern postindustrial cultures there are no formal rites of passage outside of certain religions-and they are much tamer than those of Paleolithic cultures, in which initiates were often terrified half to death, physically mutilated in some way, or otherwise drastically shaken up to change them in a desired manner for good.

This doesn’t mean that we should assume that all identification as Other should be taken purely metaphorically. However, it is one level of possibility that shouldn’t be ignored. Nicholas Graham, author of The Four Powers, wrote an essay in his blog that captures the idea of the Collective Unconscious-part of that which is attained by all forms of ritual, formal or informal-flowing into our own ‘solid’ reality. He makes the point that it is entirely possible that because of the lack of a cohesive cultural mythology in many postindustrial societies, that the archetypes and motifs of mythology are making themselves known via certain people who are able to channel them on a day to day basis. This reflects the observation that anything in our psyche-collective as well as personal-which is repressed for too long will eventually find its own means of expression, whether we like it or not. Graham goes on to mention that it is quite possible that those Otherkin who have fallen into pure delusion have lost their connection to the archetypes they were initially channeling, perhaps unable to sustain such a long term shift in ‘normal’ reality. He concludes with this thought:

The most important factor to remember when examining the possibility of delusive behavior in Otherkin is that humans, by their very natures, desire personal mythology. From time immemorial, humans have sought ways of more fully interacting with the spirits and energized archetypes with whom they interacted. Often, this is done by self-mythologizing or, in other words, living out a personalized version of the mythology of an archetype. Jung suggested (also in An Answer to Job) that this is a natural process in the lives of most people. He went on to suggest that it forms the foundation of the almost universal (culturally, not individually) belief in fate or destiny; as we live in a manner congruent with the chosen archetype (god, goddess, spirit), not only do our psychic lives change in accordance but so too do our material lives through the efforts of these spirits and gods. I cannot overstress the importance of this factor in the psycho-spiritual study of Otherkin. (8)

While the idea of accessing alternate realities is ancient, there is a specific modern manifestation of it known as Soulbonding.

Soulbonding appears to be a hybridation of imagination and the belief in alternate/parallel realities. It has been theorized that fiction is nothing less than a channeling of an existing alternate reality. Taylor Ellwood, for example, mentions this in Space/Time Magic:

[W]hen a writer writes about a fantasy world, sie is either creating that world in alternate reality, or, more likely, tapping into that alternate reality-It’s my thought that writing, being a very intuitive practice (when done creatively) leads people to tap into other realities, other versions of the self’ Some writers also note that characters seem to be alive and have their own personalities, which consequently affect their writing. Perhaps this is because they have actually connected with an alternate self, and are transcribing that self’s experiences into writing that we consider fantasy or SF [science fiction]. In contacting this self, the author becomes a medium for a polyphony of other characters, transcribing the voices of many into the reality of the word. (9)

First defined by writer Amanda Flowers, Soulbonding most often occurs between a writer and a character sie is writing about, though that character may not necessarily be of hir own creation.(10) Soulbonders consciously allow their Soulbonds (characters)-whether they believe them to be independent entities or not-to interact with them and become a part of them on a daily basis; in some cases, in the same way a multiples, the original soul of the body may front less than the Soulbond.(11) Whether the Soulbonds originate with the Soulbonder or not, there is often a created environment in which all parties involved interact, often known as a Soulscape.(12) This manner of being/becoming Otherkin is of particular interest when discussing mediakin, found in Chapter (number TBA).

While personal mythology and alternate realities do not necessarily represent the experiences of all Otherkin, they are intriguing possibilities, particularly for those who don’t necessarily believe in literal reincarnation, but who don’t believe that reality is singular.

  1. (1)Silver Elves, The Magical Elven Love Letters, p. 187-188
  2. (2)Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, p. 117
  3. (3)Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths, p. 8
  4. (4)Campbell, Primitive Mythology, p. 76.
  5. (5)Wilson, Robert Anton. Prometheus Rising, p. 25. (This book, I might add, is one that I recommend as a must-read for anyone reading this book.)
  6. (6)Ellwood, Taylor. Space/Time Magic, p. 30.
  7. (7)Ellwood, Taylor. Inner Alchemy (forthcoming), p. TBA
  8. (8)Graham, Nicholas. http://fraterachdae.livejournal.com/237357.html accessed 13 August, 2006.
  9. (9)Ellwood, Space/Time Magic, p. 94-95
  10. (10)Wainwright, Corin. Soulbonding FAQ accessed 12 May 2006
  11. (11)Wainwright, personal communication, 14 May 2006
  12. (12)Wainwright, , accessed 12 May 2006

Any unattributed quotes have been drawn from surveys received for the book; details available.

A Day in the Life of Otherkin

Author’s note: This is an excerpt from the current draft of my book, A Field Guide to Otherkin. It’s still a work in progress, but it is scheduled for publication in the first half of 2007. I’ve already contracted it through Immanion Press, who published my first book, Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic (May 2006).

This particular piece is from the first chapter of the book, “What Are Otherkin?” I also spend time in that chapter discussing the ideas of identity and definition in relation to Otherkin (ie, how do we define ourselves, and why establishing identity is important and healthy), some information on the Otherkin community as it is today, a brief history of the community, and a bit of information about the septagram and the therian theta-delta symbol – basically an introductory chapter to give context to the rest of the book. Later chapters explore different theories of why people identify as Otherkin (reincarnation, energy resonance, personal mythology, etc.), what the different types of Otherkin are (elves, fey, dragons, etc.), and some suggestions on what to do if you think you?re Otherkin (resources, research, finding others, etc.)

So enjoy, and if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you’re interested, I am still accepting surveys through early November (tentative).

–Lupa
14 August, 2006
http://www.thegreenwolf.com

A Day in the Life of Otherkin

Otherkin don’t always advertise as such to non-‘kin. We don’t have ‘I am an elf/dragon/wolf’ tattooed on our foreheads (though some of us have more discreet tattoos that are related to being ‘kin); those who dress for their ‘kin selves usually are assumed to be parts of other subcultures, such as pagans, Goths or hippies. Coming out of the ‘kin closet is generally reserved for people who are known to be ‘kin-friendly. In the event that Otherkin come out to people who are completely clueless about us, the reaction can be pretty underwhelming. It’s a rare case when someone actually gets a serious negative reaction (and being told you’re weird doesn’t count). I’ve yet to hear of anyone being forcibly institutionalized, drugged, disowned, or otherwise abused for coming out as ‘kin. The worst that tends to happen is teasing and gossip. This isn’t to say that worse situations can’t and don’t happen, but for the most part they’re pretty rare. (For more information on coming out, please see Chapter -, ‘So You Think You’re Otherkin’).

That being said, most ‘kin lead pretty normal lives. We hold jobs, raise families, have hobbies, and most of us blend into society pretty well. We come from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. There does appear to be a high proportion of overlap with other subcultures. For example, there are a lot of geeks among Otherkin, which may lead outsiders to believe we’re all wrapped up in anime, technological advances, specialized intellectual pursuits, and we all work in computer-related fields. While this is true for some, keep in mind also that the bulk of Otherkin information is internet-based, and so the community tends toward the computer-friendly. Still, trying to typecast all Otherkin as geeks (or by any other subcultural label) is pretty futile and does a disservice to those who don’t fit the stereotype. Those who are open-minded enough to accept the idea of Otherkin tend to also accept and even embrace other subcultures, but this doesn’t mean that all ‘kin like to buck the system.

So how does being ‘kin affect everyday life’ Not nearly so much as you’d think. Otherkin status doesn’t automatically make a person vastly different from the rest of the world. Usually it’s more a matter of the nonhuman traits coloring the perception. Sa’arine, who describes herself as ‘elvenmix’, relates, ‘It makes too much logical sense as to why I am the way I am. I have not changed who I am; I merely have come to understand why.’ (Sa’arine)

As a wolf therian, if I have a (nonphysical) conflict with a person, I don’t jump on the person and start biting them (which I’d imagine, for those of you who’ve seen me in person, would probably be an amusing, if mildly disturbing, sight). I do, however, very much dislike feeling cornered as any wild animal would. If I feel threatened in any way, physical or otherwise, and I’m alone, I’m going to do my best to get out of the situation’a wolf away from hir pack is not going to do something stupid like take on a neighboring pack all by hirself if sie has the chance to get away instead. (Animals have much better senses of self-preservation than a lot of humans.).

Often the perception isn’t even that dramatic. Being Otherkin doesn’t necessarily mean exhibiting traits that are wholly alien to humans, but that the nonhuman viewpoint colors the perception of the person, affecting what choice the person makes in regards to a specific situation. Casteylan and Arhuaine, who are two elves in a multiple system, simply have different opinions of this world:

This is one of the areas in which Arhuaine and I are completely different in opinion. She hates this world, I love it. To me it’s a great adventure. After spending the last 600-odd years tramping about in the mud, being wet and hungry a lot of the time, it’s nice to be able to stroll down to the shops to get food. I love the technology, the toys.  We live in a city now, which Arhuaine hates but tolerates for practical reasons, but I love the buzz and life here.  It may not be my world, but I’m certainly going to enjoy it while I’m here. Also the job we have now is mine. Arhuaine had drifted from one job to another and hating [sic] them all. About 3 years ago she started looking for something new, and put in loads of applications with local agencies. One that came up was telemarketing, working in a callcentre. She knew she’d hate it, but wanted the interview practise anyway. Within ten minutes of seeing the place she knew she’d not be able to stand it, so she ducked out and left me fronting for the rest of the interview. And I aced the interview and was offered the job on the spot. It turns out that I’m a natural at sales, I love the job and three years on I’m still there, on the promotion ladder and earning very nice bonuses.  It is very much my job; Arhuaine takes no part in it and since I’ve been working there I find that I’m fronting a lot more than I used to.

Arhuaine confirms this with ‘I am extremely happy with that arrangement. The less time I have to spend in this world, the better I like it.’

Indeed, the differences in perception can be frustrating. Some Otherkin dislike modern society partially (or wholly) because of how being ‘kin affects the way they view that society. A badger therianthrope named Mud Paw expresses her feelings on her environment in regards to her being ‘kin: ‘It does affect my career, home and socialization choices. I cannot be in a career that is heavily dependent on working with people in any way…My home is very uncomfortable most of the time…I wish I had the ability to just go live in the mountains and live off of the land, though that [is] easier said than done.’ Other people, though seem to have integrated being ‘kin with being human; Kaijima says:

I have stated on a number of occasions that regardless of what I called myself – Otherkin, therianthrope, dragon, or nothing at all -it would not change who I am and the way that I think’It’s difficult for me to single out any particular way in which being what I am affects my life because it is my life. I live in a culture engineered by human beings on a world populated by human beings; so as you might expect, I do a lot of the things any other human being does. I think that identifying myself as I do, has led me to desire a more objective look at human culture and practices that might be otherwise taken for granted. It has also led me to look at the ideas and the ideals of concepts such as transhumanism [a movement that supports using technology, medical and otherwise, to enhance the human body and prolong the lifespan].

Emma, like many ‘kin, allows herself time just to be her wolf-self: ‘Just because of the tradition I go out howling every full moon. I’m not really affected by it, but it feels good to have an evening set aside for being wolf’. Many ‘kin find such periodic releases to be good ways to keep the balance between Human and Other.

Some Otherkin have had other people pick up on what they are without any outward signs, something that many of the survey respondents reported. While most often this happens with Otherkin and children, adults may also notice something ‘different’ about someone who is ‘kin. Knife-Smile says that:

Humans, though, react the most to me. Some are repelled, some are attracted, and some just sense me and don’t know what the hell to do about it. In high school, one of the few people willing to talk to me said people saw me as ‘a force of nature’ (direct quote). I’ve also been likened to a storm, even though all I typically did was show up, sit at my preferred computer, do my work, and leave, pretty much speaking only when spoken to. Certain types of people are definitely drawn to me, and not all of them have much in common with me. So my contacts and friends are fairly diverse’ they can always tell something is ‘off’ about me, and some of them can make very accurate guesses with very little information. I don’t know if that’s because I broadcast particularly powerfully or if they’re particularly receptive. No way to really be sure. But it happens, unquestionably.

While some Otherkin have difficulties relating to humans, some get extreme reactions from animals. A large portion of the survey respondents (give percentage here) replied that they either were able to do things like approach animals safely that most others couldn’t, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, seemed universally reviled by animals. A few stated that they got both reactions at different times, but never just a neutral one. Faolan Ruadh has one possible explanation for this:

Animals tend to treat me differently than they do most, and have since I was very young, according to my folks. My mom in particular speculates that it’s a biochemistry thing- I smell different. I think it’s simply that my respect for animals translated to behavior toward them that they did not perceive as threatening, and that as I got older, I learned to communicate with them on their terms via posture, movement, and tone of voice. It’s not telepathy- more like learning a foreign language. Other people tend to sense me as “different”, though their reactions to that vary significantly.

The latter mirrors my own experiences; I have worked with animals, particularly dogs, most of my life, and have learned quite a lot about the vocal and body language of canines in particular, which helps me out greatly when dealing with them. However, these should not be taken as ‘proof’ of being Otherkin, as non-‘kin may also experience consistent extreme reactions from animals.

Sometimes it is the microcosm rather than the macrocosm that is problematic. Species dysphoria is feeling displaced in a human body when you feel you should be in an entirely different, nonhuman one. One therianthrope, named C. ‘Defilerwyrm’ Sims says: ‘I’ve never felt right referring to myself as human…I’ve always felt wrong in human skin, felt there’s something else to the equation.’ In the case of the Shards, the collective name of people in one particular multiple system, different members of a system may have different reactions:

We are, by and large, not terribly comfortable with this body because it does not match what we feel like perfectly (in some cases, at all), but in absence of a means of resculpting this body at will, we deal with it.  The body still has glitches: Bad joints, muscles that cramp up, misjudging reach of arms because they are shorter than we are used to, bad vision (nearsighted, with astigmatism, though rather good night vision), sensitive hearing (very loud noises cause the body to involuntarily double over because our control channels were disrupted by sensory overload).  (Shards)

While full dysphoria is relatively rare, it is not uncommon for ‘kin to experience periodic bouts of ‘not feeling quite right’ in their bodies. This may manifest as something as simple as momentarily expecting a limb to move or look differently, or catching a glance of yourself in the mirror and seeing a human face where you were thinking a different one ought to be. Meirya, an avian therianthrope, describes how a mental shapeshift can bring about a different perception of the physical human body:

Sometimes the legs join in, too, making walking difficult, awkward. On the toes now, because the foot is shaped wrong; balls of the feet is right is natural is normal, and it’s not the balls I’m walking on because this is the foot’s sole, what do you mean I’m on tip-toe’ Legs like the arm-wings, disproportionate, turned wrong, they’re supposed to fold this way, and it’s not supposed to be so long from this joint to that, and it’s supposed to be longer from that joint to this. Toes curl, become claws; agitation rakes the earth, or the insides of wrong-fitting shoes, clenches as if to grasp tree limb or skittering mouse.

Gender dysphoria also occurs among Otherkin, as some may identify more with the sex (physical) and gender (personality/identity) of their Other selves than of their human selves, particularly if they are reincarnated and still resonate strongly with the Other life. When I first met Solo and Duo, twin kitsune who inhabit the same body, at the Otherkin gathering Walking the Thresholds (2005), I assumed their body was as male as they were. Between clothing, mannerisms, voice, and even energy signature, they passed perfectly as male. I didn’t find out until several months later that the body itself is biologically female. They’re definitely a case in which spirits heavily affect the physical form they inhabit.

Arhuaine says that sometimes sharing a female body with a male soul can lead to the different souls affecting the body and mannerisms individually: ‘[Our] body is female and aged 38. Casteylan is male and when he’s fronting (i.e.; has control of the body) he prefers to present gender as male. Consequently in our outside life we have a reputation for being somewhat genderqueer’. Still, there are plenty of ‘kin whose Other selves match their human selves as far as sex and gender go. And some ‘kin may have had lives in which their sex and/or gender varied from this one, but they still identify with their current lives’ ‘default settings’.

Some Otherkin are not limited in their sex and gender attributes to male or female, masculine or feminine. The Shards run the entire spectrum of sex and gender: ‘Some of us identify as male, some as female.  A few identify as sexless or androgynous.  The latter categories confess a lack of understanding of sexual dimorphism, by and large.’ For my part, I am biologically female, but I identify as genderfluid androgynous. This means that some days I identify as male, some as female, but most of the time I’m comfortably in the middle ground. It’s not entirely based on my being ‘kin, but that does have an affect on my being rather genderqueer myself. I figure that if I’m a product of reincarnation, my soul itself is a complete blank slate, and any deviation from that results from experiences from various lives, the present one included.

Dysphoria is not a terribly common condition, though; most Otherkin tend to be pretty settled in their bodies. ‘I’m about as comfortable with this body as one can be, I suppose. I don’t see the point of whining about the unique opportunity I’ve been given to live another life here and to experience everything I can in life once again… I treasure the opportunity,’ says Áine, who is Tuatha de Danaan.

While Otherkin are physically human, energetic/etheric/astral/otherwise nonphysical bodies are a different story. The original concept of phantom limbs derived from the experience of amputees who could still feel their missing limbs. While Western medical science generally explains this through sense memory and says it’s strictly in the head, metaphysics explains it as the presence of body parts that are not there on the physical, but exist on other levels. In addition, there’s a difference between medical phantom limb syndrome and the phenomenon among Otherkin, as Faolan Ruadh explains:

My “hackles” raise when I’m defensive or angry, and I occasionally experience myself as “having” thick, blunt nails and paw pads for running and digging when I’m doing those things, or larger ears and a tail when I’m being emotive and social, but I consider those to be things that are also in the realm of human experience or synaesthetic add-ons that my psyche provides to help me make sense of things, not phantom limbs. Actual phantom limbs involve neurological white noise- as a result, they hurt (emphasis hers).

In Otherkin, phantom limbs often consist of body parts that were present in their Other selves, but not in the human body. Wings, tails, and other nonhuman appendages are common, as are variations on body shape, such as wolf ears on the nonphysical form of a lupine therianthrope. While for the most part phantom limbs have a nonphysical existence, there are the rare claims of them affecting physical reality. Occasionally a phantom limb may react to a physical obstacle in the same way that a flesh and blood limb would, and there are anecdotes that involve people (usually children) being able to see ‘invisible’ wings, tails and so forth. Nobody has tried getting ‘kin to consistently make this happen on a formal research level, though I’ve heard of a few who have experimented on their own, having other people touch their phantom limbs while they were blindfolded or had their eyes closed to see if they’d notice. I’d imagine any attempt to run a formal experiment would end up being like tests to prove psychic ability. The people who want to see the glass as half full will point only at the successes, while the half-empty people will concentrate on the failures.

Obviously, the phantom limb syndrome can be ‘explained away’ by skeptics as being, again, all in the head. This is part of why personal experience is central to being Otherkin. You just can’t prove that your phantom tail exists to someone who is of the ‘seeing is believing’ camp. It’s probably best to not try to ‘prove’ to non-‘kin that Otherkin exist by using phantom limbs as the evidence. Chances are the non-‘kin will be wondering just what it is you’ve been smoking. In addition, while those who claim psychic or magical sensitivity may say they ‘see’ your tail or wings, keep in mind that if this occurs after they know you’re ‘kin, there’s a much greater chance that they’re just seeing what they wish to see’or what you want them to see.

(1) If you’re Otherkin and complaining about being persecuted, check out http://www.gender.org/remember/, which is an online memorial for people who have been murdered for being transgendered. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?.

Any unattributed quotes have been drawn from surveys received for the book; details available.

(En)gendering a Were/Shifter Identity

All through our lives, we create our own identities.
Sometimes, society imposes identities on us as well. At home,
in school, in the playground, in the workplace – we have our own
personal identities. Within us, we also have our core identities, the
Selves we know most intimately. Close to our skin.

Why (en)gendering a were/shifter identity? Why the word-play on
gender? For me, I have been a keen observer of gender identity and
gender studies, thanks to my feminist training in university. I am
feminist and I tend to see things in terms of gender at times. I
believe that being were/shifter is also colored by how we view
gender. Moreover, the line(s) defining gender are often blurred as we
find gay, lesbian and bisexual weres/shifters, as well as
weres/shifters who are male but having ‘female’ phenotypes and vice
versa. Transgendered. Trans-species. The lines are blurred, the
boundaries merging.

My own experience(s) of being a were/shifter are – in my personal
opinion – influenced by how gender is being viewed, through societal
(and psychological) filters. Furthermore, I see ‘wolf’ as a
distinctly masculine animal/archetype. It is a ‘yang’ animal,
bringing the yin and yang concepts of the Tao. Most interestingly, I
am often being described, by friends and relatives, that I am quite
tomboy-ish. Or masculine. Is it because of the fact that I see wolf
as masculine or that I am already masculine, in spirit?

To me, being a were/shifter ideally transcends all boundaries. You
are not your biological body. You are not your biological sex/gender.
The key word here is ‘ideally’. As much as we like to say that we are
weres/shifters and we are not influenced by things around us, we are
pretty influenced by the societies we are born in and the genders we
are given/born with. Through our life experiences, we engender our
own identities and we often factor in new influences as we mature
through life.

We often change…or adapt our identities here and I daresay that we
change our identities even as weres/shifters. Our were/animal
selves/sides change as we change. By ‘change’, I mean ‘age’. We
mature, we grow, we learn new things, we discard old things, we
interweave new concepts into us… and our were/animal selves change
too. What role does gender play in this picture?

In Life, we find ourselves finding issues. Issues of gender and sex
roles. And we often negotiate these issues in the best ways we can.
Our were/animal selves will also adapt to these negotiations. What
is ‘male’? What is ‘female’? We dance through ambiguities, adapting
them to our identities. We find ourselves imbuing our were/animals
with gender. Is a female were/shifter with a wolf phenotype a she-
wolf because she is female or thinks that she is a she-wolf, therefor
she is female? Likewise, how about those weres/shifters who are born
biologically male but are feminine, because their were/animal selves
are thought to be female?

In the end, our were/shifter identities are subject to the ways we
view gender. The animal archetypes might be genderless but we are
still negotiating the currents and flows of gender, hence influencing
the way we see ourselves as weres/shifters.

Dragon Definitions

If you’ve read the previous entry, you’ll notice something. Aside
from the fact that it reflects having been written at close
to 2am after some insomnia. Yes, if you read over all that,
and think about it for a moment or two, youll realize I
didnt really define dragons at all. Not in the sense of a
category. Traits (which all dragons may or may not have) were
thrown out as a sampling, but it yields no cohesive picture,
no line to separate dragons from everything else. Vexingly,
there are also things which are not dragons which fit the
traits given better than most dragons do.

Here comes the key factor and the real answer to the question
of how I define dragons: I dont.

I dont think theyre one of those things that lends themselves
to definition very well. To think so is to walk away with
a very flat, static, homogenous picture of what dragons
are. Ive yet to see a definition which separates dragons from
not-dragons without chopping the dragons off at the knees,
turning them into cardboard, and diminishing them. In truth,
I can think of things which dragons generally have, but can
easily think of dragons which dont have them. All traits
which dragons have can also be seen in humans, hamsters,
dolphins and cicadas.

To view the question another way, how do we define humans? What
definition would work for all humans that would cleanly
separate them from things that are like humans, but not? Would
this definition give a good picture of what was really there?

Being a dragon is a concept here not limited by form, though
even the forms of dragons are diverse. Its a concept which
transcends the physical, so it cant be based on physical
definers. There are people who view being human in the same
way, so dont get left behind by that much.

Think, for a moment, about how mythology treats dragons. Man
makes myths. Man needs archetypal Other. Man makes dragons and
casts them in this roll. Dragons are almost always depicted as
something familiar but utterly alien. They are unimaginably
large, inexpressibly powerful, often old enough to stretch
conceptions of time. This isnt actually a bad way of viewing
things, that dragons are something that is not human, but
eludes simple definition. That shouldnt be surprising either;
something easily defined would be one dimensional and lack
the flexibility to survive in this world.

I say that attempting to define dragons as a whole is a
pointless exercise if you take it seriously. Id say the
same for humans, and any other type of thinking race that
comes to mind. It presupposes a central Dragon on which all
other dragons are based, or a central Human, or a central
Intergalactic Cheese Being. That is the problem with this
kind of conceptualization; that high on the list, when youve
composed a fictive Central Thing from which the category comes,
the Central Thing begins to strongly resemble all other Central
Things, unless the category is very narrow indeed. Id hardly
call thinking creatures a narrow category.

And if there were a central Dragon, all other dragonsd
have to agree on it, which would never happen. Were far too
independent a lot, uninterested in defining the shape that
other peoples lives and definitions take. Anything claiming
to be a central thing would probably be attacked, torn to
shreds, and incorporated into a quiche. And wed go merrily
on our way. Should it be odd that such a diverse group might
show some unity in the face of something we dislike, rather
than for some greater purpose? I dont knowbut that pattern
sounds oddly familiar.

So if dragons cannot be defined in the conventional sense,
what good are they as a category? Do they even exist? And
how could a definition of self which sets you firmly apart
from other people possibly be a good thing?

To throw something out simply because youre unable to define
it is to loose baby, bathwater, tub, and possibility. There
are many undefined things that are still quite real. Including
common words; define the word what, for example, or the. Theyre
useful parts of speech even if most people would stutter in
trying to answer that question. Should we stop using them? And
what about cars? Computers? Refrigerators? Should we refrain
from their usage if we dont understand the minutia of how
they work? Gravity existed before we knew why, or what it
did. Light does, and our definition on that is still up in
the air. Lack of concrete definition does not invalidate a
thing. We exist anyway.

Any information about the self is a good thing. Simply
having that information makes it useful, no matter what the
information actually is. So it is with being a dragon. Its
one more piece of information about how you work and who you
are that you didnt have before. That dragons elude definition
as a category of things isnt so important in relation to all
this. I can define myself as a dragon, and thats enough. Its
also important to remember that this is a part of my identity,
and not the whole. Im also an intellectual, an animal lover,
slightly shy and hesitant to try new things, a worry-wort,
someone who enjoys being excessively silly, and, yes, also
someone whos human in significant ways right now. Being a
dragon doesnt keep me from functioning with the 99% of the
world that wouldnt conceive of dragons being real in any sense
at all, even the most playful, let alone the idea that there
might be a few dragons living in human bodies. There is NO
REASON that one bit of information should alter life enough
that you are no longer who you were and cease being functional
and happy in society. To put it another way, people who are
not able to interact well with others often attribute this
to a specific reason. But often, its a variety of traits,
most of which healthy happy people also posses. People who
can lead a functional, successful, happy life wont suddenly
regress to living in the woods and wearing tinfoil hats
because they happen to also be dragons. If they do, being a
dragon wont be the only reason.

Its been posited that the idea of being a dragon alienates
you from other people, and that in and of itself is enough
reason to not be a dragon. Well, heres some news. You cant
please everyone; some things about you will always alienate
other people. But you dont have to share all of yourself
with every person you meet. Particularly when it comes to
spiritual identity, well, I dont really need to hear about
other peoples views on the nature of their soul, and figure
every Joe Average on the street doesnt need mine. There seems
to be a conception that since Im a dragon, I shout it from the
mountains, and all in earshot must bow down and obey. Hardly;
it doesnt come up in casual conversations that often and in
daily life, not at all. Its not something that must be shared
to be validated. I have this here journal and its obvious
here, but this is an internal monologue given light of day;
its not normal every-day interaction.

As an identity, its every bit as useful as anything else. And
its a pretty big chunk of mine, even if the outside world
doesnt see it much. I said earlier that its futile to try to
define dragons (or humans) and that holds. But I can define
myself without attempting to define how the rest of the
world lives their lives. And I can define myself as a dragon
without telling the masses how all dragons Must Be in order
to be Right and Correct. So what are these carefully hoarded
and elusive definitions? Theyre my own. Go find your own set,
cause they surely wont fit you.

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