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).

14 August, 2006

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. 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).

14 August, 2006

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, 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.

What Dragons Are

“So how do you define a dragon?” I was asked.

“Uh, er. Um.” I did not answer. I didnt even attempt to answer, and
swung the conversation elsewhere until such time as I could answer. Thats
actually a question no ones ever asked me before. Unbelievable, I know.
When conversation headed back in that direction I still didnt have an
answer, but now I do.

“A dragon,” I would have said, “is large and awesome and encompassing, so
large it fits into the spaces between things and often is not noticed at
all. It is dangerous, and aggressive. It breaths fire. It eats people. But
it does not do this all or most of the time; it dwells on the potential
of courses of action and that is, usually, enough.

Dragons know the truth
about things. They frighten people. They frighten people by knowing the
truth about things, and by not caring. Or by saying the truth you didnt
want to hear, speaking fire at you and burning away the old things. You
aren’t afraid the dragon will eat you; you’re afraid the dragon will notice
you, judge you, and find you unworthy of their time. You’re afraid the
dragon will notice you at all.

The dragon’s afraid you’ll notice them. Often
they would prefer not to be notice or bothered, but left alone so they
may observe things from afar. They study things with a detached interest,
often reluctant to interfere. They study things and detach them from the
value system in a way that can be upsetting, for they do not place more
inherent importance in people in preference to crickets. They sometimes
fail to view themselves in the larger picture through a desire to be
apart and alone and left alone, to be the impassive observer, in the
scene but not an active element most of teh time. Unless a catalyst
strikes. Actions may seem capricious, but often spring without apprarent
warning from a firm base of prolonged thought.
They are old. Very old,
but they dont care much about this. Its years, things pass and change,
but mostly stay the same within patterns.

Dragons know who they are and
are so comfortable in this that they may seem arrogant, when really, they
just know who and what they are and don’t feel a need to seek external
confirmation and reinforcement. They often operate outside the standard
and accepted parameters of things because theyve judged the system and
don’t find it useful.
Unuseful things (and people) are not respected, no
matter how potent. This is part of a values-free philosophy…or rather,
the nod to the idea that one should probably value their values rather
than getting them as hand-me-downs.

Dragons are their own system. They
are thus on the whole neither good nor evil, helpful nor uncaring,
friendly or introverted. They are islands.

Dragons are small, medium,
or large animals with a reptilian or mammalian or saurian or avian cast,
who may or may not have wings, may or may not eat people, may or many not
have an intrinsic alignment along an axis of good and evil, may or may not
have an elemental affiliation, may or may not like knitting. Sometimes,
dragons are lonely because of the people they successfully discourage,
by being too honest about themselves and others, by never actually
seeking contact, by being too big and arrogant and eating the neighbors

Dragons are not aloof for the sake of being aloof; they are aloof
for the sake of not stepping on people, but secretly, because theyre
quite afraid of being stepped on. They want people to be without being
interrupted, and want the same for themselves. Although…it is easier
to observe and not be known. Not everyone can hurt them, but the right
people can. The right an accurate people can hurt something big and
intense because dragons are not perfect.

They are an archetype and a
powerful one, but real dragons know that nothing is above the need to
learn, nothing is above mistakes, and nothing is above the ability to
be hurt. Dragons walk softly because of this. To hurt someone else is
to possibly hurt yourself in the long-run. Consider it enlightened
self-interest at the very least. Some of them are loud. Generally,
dragons are not seen unless they wish to be seen. Some wish it more
than others. Dragons like stuff. Some of them have manners; they always
have manners but often tilted toward getting to the root of things and
being honest. If they respect you. If not, all bets are off.

are prone to retreating into their own mental worlds, but this is not
good for them. Dragons need friends too. They need new experiences,
they need things to wake them up. They need people banging on gongs and
reminding them to send the rain. Dragons are fierce and loyal and endless
and eternal, and they are large, if not in shape than otherwise. Dragons
are graceful and reachable and part of a mythos. Dragons are distant and
cold and unreachable, for they encompass each a shard of the unknown,
even to themselves.

Dragons all have something in common with other
dragons, but they cannot say what it is. They dont know. They’ll try to
discuss it anyway, because they like to ponder, but they know that the
thing they have in common with each other is visible only in small shared
moments, and not visible in an attempt at a larger concept. Dragons have
presence and inspire awe and fear and they have the ability to have no
presence at all. They often walk silently. If you ask them to speak, they
will. If you invite them, they will accept if they feel like it. And you
might not like it, because they speak for the sake of whats being said,
and may answer questions and take up offers that the host was unaware
of making. If you ask them if they are godlike and perfect, the smart
ones will say no, and the hearts of the unsmart ones will say no as
well even if their minds say yes.

Dragons are a class of things, each
unrelated to the next, but obviously part of a cohesive and sensible

Dragons are about opposites and the containment thereof. They
contain opposites by embodying dualities. They hold opposites within
themselves comfortably, as part of themselves, and yet they exist. Perhaps
this makes them grumpy at times, to balance so many things, to see that
there may not be a one right answer but to understand the rightness of
all the smaller answers.

Dragons understand two things: that change is
necessary, and that preservation is necessary, and that nothing really
ever changes.

Dragons challenge people. They dont eat them if they fail,
but the feel sad and angry sometimes when too many of their challenges
go unmet and unanswered. Asking questions is one modality of interacting
with the world. They dont want to hurt people, even if their challenges
and healing seem radical and aggressive and frightening. They want to
share the one thing any dragon really treasures, which is information
and ideas. They want to share it so that it might propagate, so that it
will last and change and eventually come back to them. They want to watch
the process but are sometimes afraid to be drawn into it. They sometimes
are the process, at least by power of will, and do not exclude you from
it but you would never think of sharing that space with them.

are vital and alive and grounded and ethereal and dualistic and whole
and utterly touchable and enigmatic and frighteningly violent and gentle
and perfect and flawed and aloof and arrogant and loving and charmingly
shy and in need of friends.

That is what dragons are.”

What’s Magic?

To all those who think magic, majik, majick, however it’s spelled this
week, is dead here on Earth…

I hear toothpicks are great at keeping those shut eyes open. You want
glamour and mystical happenings? Fireworks and shooting stars? Bells and
whistles? They’re all around you, every single moment in all sorts of
small and subtle ways that get pushed aside and overlooked, written off
as just the normal stuff that happens, and therefore it must be mundane.
Things move against one another and create friction, friction creates
heat, heat flashes out and causes fire, flames spring up and sear
against a sky spangled with whirling shifting dust particles and gaseous
emissions that sparkle and shine and dance… and this isn’t magic
enough? A small uncomplicated creature makes a light snack of some dry
dirt, and in it’s passing causes that dirt to become a rich, dark soil
which cradles around a tiny acorn, whispering to it about a giant star
which will one day be pulsing through it’s veins as the wind that flows
around it rises and falls, heats and cools, and transforms into the rain
that it will soak up through it’s very skin until it dwarfs the
creatures that even now walk over it’s hiding place, and it will become
a massive oak, a home to more creatures than it could ever imagine…
and this isn’t magic enough? An unhappy creature chooses to walk down to
the store instead of fix themselves something to eat at home, a creature
that feels they have nothing, and on the way runs into another like
themselves, and later on that same creature stands in front of a mirror
laughing and singing and spinning their own glamour around themselves in
a state of glory as they prepare to meet the other, and this too is not
magic enough?

Maybe my perspective is different being what I am. Fair enough. We were
wild, that was the point. The wind and the rain and the sun and the moon
were our magic, music and dancing and laughing and tormenting out under
the stars, that was what we did, that was how we gloried in it all. I
don’t have my wings right now, not physically, I can’t fly like that
now. I can’t make a little dancing light with my hand, not without a
flashlight. Although I can use a flashlight… think about how they
work, that’s pretty impressive really. Science? What’s science? What’s
magic? What’s technology?

Within the Great Hall of the residence of He Who’s Name I Do Not Say
there was an amethyst of impressive proportions, right in the center of
the ceiling that glowed and shone and twinkled. Magic. Whose magic? Our
magic? or our science? Our technology? To me, there is no difference,
there never was, and there never will be. Just labels and terms to keep
this over here possible and that over there impossible or weird or odd.

Magic is just what makes it all special… from predicting the future to
sticking my small hands down into the dirt and smiling, thinking about
that acorn that’s coming. There’s no special talent to feeling the
earth, it’s there, like feeling somebody breathing on your neck. We
always feel it, all of us do…

And to me, that’s magic. So go find some other place to call dead, this
one is alive and kicking, and we, her/his/it’s most naive, immature,
foolish children are kicking right along in tune, and I wouldn’t go
asking what we’re all laughing about either. You probably wouldn’t find
it too funny.

Does Magic Work?

Popular fantasy-fiction and childhood fairy tales have taught us a certain
view of what constitutes magic. Popular psychology discusses the concept
of “magical thinking”, or unconnected cause-and-effect thinking (such as
“if I do A then B will result” with no concrete connection between cause
and effect) as a barrier to true psychological growth. Many of us have
memories of magic that responds immediately and concretely to our
workings. What do all three of these have in common? All three of these
descriptions do not accurately describe what magic is and how it works on
Planet Earth.

For the purposes of this post I will stick to this time and place, this
reality here-and-now. Discussions of what magic did and how it worked in
other times and places are I think best left to a different post.

A large part of magic here consists of what can be loosely termed “mental
alchemy”. To put it into simpler terms, the magic worker creates the
process of magic by altering one’s own perceptions. Thus, magic here works
best when applied to oneself or one’s own situation.

Magic here is both very powerful and very, very subtle. It is internal,
drawing as much upon the will and consciousness of the practitioner as upon
the external energies of the world. The process of magic must therefore
take into consideration both the true will of the practitioner and the
ambient energies available to fuel the process, or the process
fails. Hence, the prime commandment for the successful working of magic:
“Know Thyself.”

Self-knowledge is critical to the success of magical working. You must
first and foremost know what you truly desire, and to know this you must
know who you are. By who you are I don’t mean what spiritual race; that
is almost incidental. I mean you must know how you will feel, how you will
react, what your philosophies are, what does and does not matter to
you. You must know all the light and dark sides of yourself and be at home
in your own skin. You can of course work magic successfully without this
self-knowledge. It happens all the time. Without it, though, your efforts
will produce unexpected or inconsistent results. Knowing oneself is thus a
primary focus and goal for successful magic, and it is one you would
ideally be working toward your entire life. Magic is powered by the
energies of where you are but it is focused and directed by your own
consciousness, and your subconscious. If you undertake a magical
working to bring about something you do not truly desire for yourself but
rather have convinced yourself you should want then at best your working
will fail. At worst you’ll find yourself in a situation where you now have
something you either don’t like, don’t know what to do with or got at a
price you wouldn’t have paid had you known.

I’ll relate a tale out of my own experience. Samhain 1992 I did my usual
yearly solitary ritual for the coming year and to bid farewell to the
passing one. One thing I had been trying to accomplish for about three
years at that point was to be able to sell my house and move to Connecticut
to be with the man who is now my husband. To that end, when I made my
yearly intentions I poured a huge amount of energy and passion into forming
that one. All the signs indicated that my request had been Heard and
favorably looked upon. This was in October. By March of 1993 I was indeed
living in Connecticut, however the circumstances that brought that about
were in retrospect so painful and difficult that had I an inkling
beforehand I’d have left well enough alone, and brought this change about
in some other, more mundane way. Looking back, I realize that I had
without realizing it projected some of my frustrations with my then-current
situation into my working, and that when I made my intention I had
deliberately left the reality of those situations out of the picture
instead of incorporating them into the picture in a responsible way. Yes,
the magic took those things out of the picture … in a painful way. So,
the importance of Knowing Thyself was brought home to me very, very sharply.

A critical and fundamental key to magic is to embrace the understanding
that your subconscious is a powerful tool which can be programmed. It is
for this reason that visualization is such an important tool in your
magical repertoire. You can pick up a powerful obsidian athame, make a wand
out of oak and copper, bear a silver sword and drape yourself in crystals
all you want; if you can’t visualise your intention then you can’t program
your subconscious to work on your behalf in making that intention a
reality. Again, knowing thyself is paramount to that process. One
effective technique for programming that I have found particularly useful
is to spend some time in meditation, focusing on what I am seeking to bring
about in my own life and then spending some time letting the images and
thoughts flow around that intention. This assists me in discovering if the
intention is something I truly want. I often do this several times and it
has become part of the mental preparation process for me. Once I have
explored those thoughts and images I try to anchor them as firmly as
possible into my conscious reality. One way of doing this is to embark
upon a pre-ritual meditation using music, incense, etc… things that will
bring you somewhat back to your physical reality. I then enter into the
meditative state with these reminders around me of the physical universe I
inhabit, and once again focus on the images and thoughts I have discovered
through my earlier meditations. By holding those images while remaining
aware of the physical universe around me I can bring them into my conscious
thought process and anchor them there.

During the ritual process, as I form my intentions and visualize them I
return to the thoughts and images I anchored during my pre-ritual
meditation. By now these will have been reinforced several times and have
become part of my conscious experience as well as my subconscious one. By
reinforcing this I am in effect programming my subconscious mind to bring
about in me the state of mind that will allow me to embrace the changes I
am seeking to make. Once my ritual has ended that subconscious programming
remains and will continue to effect the things I do and the decisions I
make. Over time this will ideally trigger me to choose courses of action
that will in the end bring about my desire.

It can be argued that this isn’t magic, it’s psychology. And yet magic and
psychology go hand in hand in this context. Because we are the prime
ingredient in any magical working, the psychology of how we think and
function is inextricable from the process. Knowing thyself, knowing how
you think and feel truly, understanding what it is you want and what you
are willing to do to accomplish it is the difference between success and
failure in magic. Otherwise you can be surrounded with the most magical
flow of energies ever found on Planet Earth and you lack the tools and
understanding to do anything with that. Magic exists, but only that. It
is a static force until we make it an active, dynamic force in our own

Magic exists, and it works. The magic of this world is a powerful and
subtle force. But we must use the proper tools to utilize it and the
primary tool is our own mind. Proper use of the tool requires abandoning
the old ideas of what magic should be, and growing in one’s understanding
of what it is.

Is diversity more than Political Correctitude?

[Ed: This was originally written in a discussion about the vampire
community, but the concepts apply equally well elsewhere]

So, now we’ve seen some examples of “I’m Real, You’re Not” and some
examples of “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” I’ve been thinking about how
to keep this tangle from shattering us the way it does so many
communities, and I came up with three different tools we might be able to

Tolerance – So far, we’ve been pretty good at Tolerance. Tolerance is a
social contract – people come together and say, “Look, I don’t understand
some of you, but I’ll take your word for it that you belong.” It’s an
external framework that we voluntarily plug into in the hope of finding
SOME common ground to build on. Being external, it doesn’t require any
internal cognitive dissonance – Sue can think Ellen isn’t a real vampire,
but just kind of deal with the fact that Ellen thinks she is because
Ellen, like anyone else, probably has some interesting things to say.

Respect – Respect is the most stable and reliable tool for community-
building, but it’s totally different from Tolerance because it’s
completely internal. You respect some people, you don’t respect others.
You can TREAT people you don’t respect as though you respect them, if
you’ve got the personal strength for that sort of thing, but most people
don’t, and write it off as “hypocrisy” because they’ve got so much to
prove that they can’t just let it go. The important thing is that you
can’t just decide to respect someone, any more than you can decide to
love them or hate them, because it’s a feeling. Until someone has
*earned* your respect, you can’t genuinely respect them. Respect is
rare, and rightly so.

So how do you bridge the gap between the inherent tensions of diverse
people practicing Tolerance, and the rarity of Respect?

Courtesy! I know, it seems too simple and old-fashioned to be at all
useful – but it really does have meaning, and could save us as a community
if enough individuals decide to use it. It’s not completely external,
like Tolerance – no matter what community you’re a part of or not, it’s
totally up to you whether to treat your fellows with courtesy. Neither is
it totally internal, like Respect – it’s kind of a programming language
that translates between the machine language of what you really feel and
the outside world with its possibilities for functionality.

A nice perk of Courtesy is that it actually leads to Respect. A lot of
times, Respect is hindered by personal insecurity and lack of information.
But if you get a critical mass of diverse people practicing Courtesy, the
flow of information is unimpeded, and people are more likely to shrug off
the capes & masks and allow as how maybe someone totally different from
them might be for real too.

The Death of the Otherkin Community

Well, that should get someone’s attention. If there is anyone listening.

A year ago you couldn’t breathe without a new mailing list or a new website
springing into existance, and people dropped off mailing lists because they could
not cope with the volume of email.

These days people sign off the mailing lists because there isn’t any mail.
Sometimes literally. Even elven-realities, the list of lists had days
recently when there were no posts at all. This is the list that had to have
it’s posting limit raised because the traffic was high enough it hit the “we
think you are being mailbombed” checks on the list server. There are lists
with 250 people subscribed, and no traffic.

You might say that mailing lists are not a good indication of the state of
the community, perhaps not, but for a long time they have been places of much
conversation, connection and debate. They have been the connection that ties
a widespread group of people into something resembling a community.

What happened to it?

I think I’m beginning to understand how many traditional wiccans feel. They
study and think and work, over a period of years. They live their beliefs.
Then along comes someone who has read one book, generally one of the fluff
pieces Llewelyn puts out, still wrapped in the mindset of the socially
christian community they grew up in, and declare themselves
to be the same as, or even better than, the traditionalists. And people
listen to the book wiccan, because they are outspoken about things they know
little about, rather than the traditionalist who quietly lives their beliefs.

It puts me in two minds about even continuing to run Am I
providing the otherkin equivalent of that fluff wiccan book? Does the
existance of encourage the existance of wannabes who just want a
quick answer and a shiny new label to be non-comformist with a bunch of other
people? Do more resources, more explanations, more details just encourage
the wannabes, so that the actual otherkin take one look at the “community” go
“I am not like these idiots” and go elsewhere?

In my last rant I likened being otherkin to mystery
religions. Not that it is
a religion, but in that it is something that can only really be experienced,
not explained. (If you don’t believe such things are possible, go and explain
“purple” to someone who has been blind since birth).

In another, and vitally important way, being otherkin is not like any form of
religion. You can be initiated into a religion. Sometimes it is just a matter
of saying “yes, I believe this”. Mystery religions take you through the
experience so you understand.

I cannot take you through the experience of being an elf.

I could dress you up, and give you latex ear extensions. It wouldn’t make you
an elf.
I could talk philosophy and perspective. It wouldn’t make you an elf.
I could teach you magic and glamours. It wouldn’t make you an elf.

I can’t show you how. I can’t tell you how. Just like you cannot describe
purple to a blind man, and you certainly can’t show him.

What has this got to do with community?

A community is made up of people who have something in common. The community
is labeled by that commonality. The business community is made up of people
in business. The gay community is made up of people who are gay. The jewish
community is made up of jews. The otherkin community is made up of…

Well, actually I couldn’t tell you.

My community is made up of a very small number of people. People I have had
raging flamewars with. People I have doubted, cursed and occasionally called
unpleasent things. People I have loved. People I have hated. People who
understand the things there are no words for.

The people on many of the mailing lists, websites and so on. I can’t talk to
most of these people. Not that they are not good people, though probably some
of them aren’t, or that they don’t believe what they say. But what they are
and what I am are two very different creatures. I don’t think I can apply the
same label to both and have it continue to make sense.

So what’s the otherkin community? Three hundred people who don’t talk to each
other on a mailing list? was started as “Harmony and Dischord”
– a place for filtering
out the wisdom from the detailed discussions on the various mailing lists and
keeping it for posterity. Along the way it gained a role at facilitating
connecting people together. I’ve liked to think of it as a community
website, a resource. I don’t know who it’s serving anymore. Is it just a
mouthpiece for my personal rants? That hardly deserves the name

I don’t think there is an “otherkin community”. I don’t think there can be
without a solid definition of what otherkin means. On that road lies
flamewars and politics. I have no interest in going there.

The otherkin community is dead. If it were anything more than the fevered
imagination of the hopeful and isolated to start with.

That leaves just you and me.

If you are passing by and find something here of interest or use. Drop me a
line. Pull up a chair. Offer your thoughts. Maybe we have something in
common. Maybe we don’t.

Me, I’m taking my own advice.

“Cherish what you are. Not what you were. Not what you might be. Be
yourself. Learn what that means.”

As for “It’s a website, not a bible”.
Find your own truth, I can’t tell you mine. All I can do is live it, and see
who else dances to the same beat.

You wanna dance?

Compassion and Non-Interference

One can have awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering without
concluding that it is one’s God-given right to step into that person’s life and rearrange it according to our own standards. judgments and desires.

It is not compassionate to substitute one’s own will for the free will of another. Unless the person is a child too young to understand or mentally incompetent to make decisions at all, it is egotistical in the extreme to believe that our decisions are better for hir than hir own. Contrary to your premise, allowing someone to do as sie will does not mean failing to notice sie is in distress and to *offer* help and advice. It means allowing the person to take from that help and advice what sie chooses to take, and it means coping with the fact that we might not have all hir answers.

We cannot know, from within our own limited perspective, what another person needs to learn or experience for hir own higher good. What may appear to be very bad to us may in fact be very good for the other person, for reasons we cannot fathom.

It is not compassionate to cripple someone by making hir believe sie is
incapable of doing something for hirself and only with our help will sie succeed. Far too often, I’ve seen people claiming to “serve” someone, when, in fact, what they are really serving is their own self-importance at the expense of the other’s self-esteem. Again, this doesn’t mean that one cannot or should not *offer* a word of encouragement or a hand up. It means that any “service” should be offered in a way that empowers the person one would help, not in a way that perpetuates hir sense of helplessness, failure and incompetence. It means allowing the person to refuse our help, regardless of
how foolish we think that refusal may be. Maybe the person needs to learn how to do it all by hirself, without any help from anyone. Maybe just the offer of help is enough to help hir succeed. Maybe a failure is a doorway to a whole new world of wonderful possibilities. Regardless, it’s hir choice to be served by us or not.

To deny another person the right to live according to hir own free will, to find hir own Truth, or to learn what sie has come here to learn because we believe OUR way is better, wiser, more morally uplifted — THAT is “reprehensible in the extreme.”


Herding Cats: A Model of Distributed Leadership

How do you recognize leadership in a community that is inherently
highly diverse and geographically distributed? Traditional models of
leadership don’t seem to map well to the Otherkin community. In large
part, the Otherkin community is composed of highly individualistic people,
many of whom have a distinct dislike for traditional authority figures.
When you combine this with the sheer geographical spread of the
community members, the resulting situation presents serious challenges
to a traditional model of leadership.

To make things even more complicated, in my experience the
Otherkin community doesn’t have leaders per se. A sociologist
observing it would see elders, mentors, teachers, and healers: those
people that will take on a leadership role, but don’t have the sort of power
or authority that so often goes hand in hand with leadership. For the
of this essay, I’ll refer to those people as elders.

Leadership in the online Otherkin community reminds me very much
of the development effort among Open Source programmers. In both
cases, the aim and collective goal is development. In the former case,
it’s a handy piece of software. In the latter case, it’s development
of the self. Both require an eye for detail, a good slice of time, and
the work and insight of several people striving for a common goal.

This sort of model of shared growth and development is common to
many non-traditional communities, from programmers to polyamorists to
Pagans. Those who actively appear to be seeking power without putting
time and effort into the community are often ignored or even avoided.
Others who choose to take a more active role in the community without
the power-trip aim are better thought of. If they relate well to
others in the community, provide informed guidance, and give freely of
themselves and their time, they earn respect. Eventually, they come
to be regarded as elders. We don’t necessarily want to grow up to be
just like them, but we admire their insight, the work that they’ve put into
both personal and community development, and the helping hand they provide
when needed.

Elders seem to be elected by public acclaim more than deliberately
seeking out the position themselves. Many of them avoid the spotlight.
They earn respect through their actions. There are no age barriers to
being an elder — the people that I would consider Otherkin elders range
from 20 to 57. Here’s a brief summary of the common threads I’ve seen
in the many elders of the community.

1) Them as does the work, gets the credit. Consistently, the members
of the community who are constantly volunteering and giving of their
own time and efforts are the ones that earn popular respect. These are
the people who are out there organizing gatherings, developing web sites,
coordinating conventions, and administering mailing lists. Work gets
noticed. Good work gets noticed more. Believe me — we do appreciate

2) One Kin elder that I know has a wonderful quote in her .sig line,
to the effect of “Elders are defined by how often they get called at
three in the morning.” This must have been a wry observation based on
personal experience; I know I’ve certainly called her in the middle of
the night for a shoulder to cry on or to share a sudden insight. Most
elders are unselfish enough to help in an emergency, even if it is 3
AM. (Of course, this shouldn’t occur every day. That’s not
leadership; that’s sleep deprivation.)

3) Cooperate, don’t compete. Most of the elders I know are all too
happy to say, “In my opinion” or “I think” rather than “It is this
way”. Sharing and personal insight are valued, and those who believe
that they have the only mainline to the Truth are usually not well
respected. Another common thread I’ve noticed is that elders are
generally quick to acknowledge and compliment the contributions of
others. Those who are out there for an ego trip are usually not well

4) Listen. The last and perhaps the most important characteristic of
the Kin elders I know — they’re great listeners. They’ll let you
express your problem or concern as clearly as you can, and then offer
an opinion if it’s wanted, or sometimes just sympathy and love. This
can make all the difference.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to those accustomed to more
traditional models of leadership is that there is no one main leader.
Ask any Otherkin who he or she looks up to in the community, and
you’ll get a list of names, not just one answer. The talents and the
schedules of the many Kin leaders overlap, and they seem to be happier
that way than being the Grand Poobah. Personally, I think that’s all
to the good.

Blurring the Lines

There is a certain bias in the occult community concerning fantasy. I
understand it, for I have it, too. When someone speaks to me of an idea or
concept, no matter how potentially valid, if it turns out that their source
of inspiration was a novel, a movie, a game — then I am less inclined to
listen to anything else they have to say.

And yet, as my career has taken me deeper into the publishing industry,
I’ve learned a few things. These things were revelatory at first, although
I suppose they really shouldn’t have surprised me. But then, our culture
as a whole has another ingrained bias, and that is to view someone who has
done something such as write a book or a movie or put out a CD as someone

They lose their existence as people like you and me, and instead become
this Concept. We subsequently tend to perceive them as being above us or
less flawed than us, more educated, more credible — they are suddenly a
Name, an Important Person — they must live in big houses, do great things,
and they are somehow exempt from the same hopes and worries and needs and
fears that we go through day by day.

But I’ve met writers now and artists, musicians, even movie-makers. And
they’re just like you and me. They have hopes and fears and dreams — and
subsequently, they have beliefs.

They’re people whose art imitates their life, who can’t help but sneak in
little inside jokes that only their circle of friends might perceive, who
write characters and stories only thinly disguised from the things in their
lives that inspired them.

Their creative efforts are inevitably influenced by their religious,
political, and personal beliefs. And almost always, they draw their
inspiration from what they live, what they know, spinning it into something
everyone else will dare believe.

The revelation for me was that many of these people — especially the ones
who create in the genres that we crave — are just like us — they share
our convictions and our beliefs. This is of course to a greater and lesser
extent for each, and some of them are open about their influence from
magick and the occult (consider Tori Amos and the spirits and faeries she
communes with for inspiration with her songs), while others are using a
creative medium to express ideas that they might not be able to publish in
a non-fiction work (do you have any idea how many 30 and 40-something
fiction writers in the SF/Fantasy genres are Pagans or occultists and
simply cannot be open about this fact because of publicity & marketing
concerns?). But to think that their work does not often seek to express
some truth they hold dear is to be deceived.

I forget who said it exactly, but some pundit declared that all novelists
write stories to proclaim through the veil of fiction those beliefs they
are afraid to proclaim publicly. And it’s quite true. And that’s to say
nothing of those who write both fiction and non-fiction, and simply use
their fiction as an entertaining vehicle to pass on beliefs.

Not that long ago, mention was made of Crowley’s “Moon Child”. This was a
novel, but he also wrote it with the intention of expressing the laws and
theories behind something in which he believed. Dion Fortune, similarly,
wrote novels with the intention of demonstrating her lifestyle, practices,
and beliefs through a fictional medium.

My point in this rambling is that there are many vehicles for truth to be
carried in, and stories are often more accessible to beginners than heavy,
jargon-laden treatises. I would not go so far as to suggest that someone
should take everything written about in fantasy as thinly veiled fact, or
live a game as if it were reality — but I am saying that, if you look in
the right places, you’ll be surprised by the very valid insights you might
see. Stories offer more than diversion — and I don’t think it’s wrong to
admit that and explore what they have to teach.

Reflect on the fiction that you read, the movies
that you watch, even the games that you play (computer and video games
included!). Think of the stories they tell you and what they teach.

Am I Otherkin?

“Am I ‘Kin?” or some variation of it is a question that is asked quite
frequently on Otherkin lists and boards. The thing is, it can’t be
answered. At least by me or anyone else except the person asking the
question. So it is time to turn the question back instead of answering
it. Are you ‘Kin?

Sure, I realize that there are ‘kin out there who can read your Aura or
energy signature and tell you. But there is a problem with that, they
are working off of their own knowledge base. If they haven’t seen your
kind of ‘kin before, or if you are outside the range of what they have
seen before, they may say “no”. It is also possible that you could be
completely human and just happen to fall far enough out of human range
to read as ‘kin to them.

To really find out if you are otherkin takes searching. No, not on the
internet, inside. You have to reach inside yourself and really look at
yourself. This ,for the most part, is an inner journey. You have the
answers, not me or anyone else. If you are otherkin then it is a PART of
you, but you may be the only person able to find it.

The best others can do to help you is to provide pointers. Show you ways
to search inside yourself, tell you how they found something inside
themselves. We can hold a mirror up to you, but you won’t see anything
unless YOU do the looking, and what we see from our side of the mirror
may not be the truth.

Search the websites, talk on the lists, ask questions. But don’t just
take the data in, question it. Examine it. Play with it. Look at how it
makes you feel, act, or look. How does it resonate within you? Does it
resonate at all? Does it makes sense with your own feelings of what you
are. Don’t take a label that someone gives you unless YOU think it fits.
The important thing here is to THINK. Don’t absorb. Don’t mimic or
mirror anyone else. Take every word that ANYone tells you about being an
otherkin with a grain of salt. It is different for everyone, even among
those who have found common memories. Those experiences are filtered
through YOUR being, not someone else’s.

So…Are you ‘Kin? Go find out.

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