That life isn’t This life

Something I have observed in a number of communities where reincarnation and conscious memories thereof are accepted is the tendency to confuse last time with this time. This seems to be particularly accute in the otherkin communities where past incarnations become the basis for identity in this one.

Whilst who you were can, and for some people does, have a significant impact on who you are now there can be serious problems with mixing the two. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly psychotic-looking (though I’ve seen a few of those too).

Many people have encountered “elven princess syndrome” wherein someone tries to carry over status from a previous incarnation into this one, but the most common one I see is relationship propogation.

It’s actually a joke in at least some pagan circles, having been overused by somewhat unscrupulous people that “we were lovers in a past life” is a classic bad pickup line. Well maybe we were, but perhaps this life the only interest I have in your genitalia is to tenderly wrap them in a wasps nest.

Part of the point of reincarnating is to be someone different. To do new things, learn new lessons, have new experiences. Not just to replace a worn out body so you can do the horizontal mamba with your dearly departed from. Sometimes that happens, but only because the people you are now are compatible in that way.

To use a personal example, there is someone I know in this lifetime that I have known in others. Yes, she and I have been lovers. We have also killed each other from opposite sides of a vicious genocidal war. Which of those roles should we bring forward into this life? Well, neither, we are not either of those people anymore.

The same can be said for any other trait. If you were a psychopath last life, it doesn’t mean you are now. Nor that you should necessarily wrack yourself with guilt over it. Learn from what you remember, make yourself into a better person. Sometimes the lessons aren’t what you think they are. That’s part of the pleasure of life.

And yes, this applies to species too. Because you were something in a previous lifetime, that does not mean you are that thing now. Maybe there are traits that you can bring forward that assist you in this lifetime too, maybe there are enough traits that you consider yourself the same sort of creature. Maybe not.

If you are going to actively draw traits from the past into the present then choose the ones that benefit you now. Also remember that whilst your affections may have been truely undying, the object of your affections may be learning this life’s lessons from being that psychopath, or simply from loving someone else.

Find Your Own Truth

A while back, I changed the tagline on the splash page. I was trying to make a point. Maybe I was too subtle. (What? The font wasn’t big enough?)

Find Your Own Truth.
That means you actually have to look for it.

Seriously look for it.

I can’t tell you where it is. Nor can anyone else. I can’t tell you to read this book and it’ll give you all the answers. Books don’t have answers, not real ones. The best books have questions. I can’t tell you ‘talk to this person, they can tell you what you need to know’. They don’t know either.

Time for an uncomfortable truth.

You don’t know squat.
Worse, you probably don’t even know you don’t know. (How many of you reacted to that statement with outrage or denial?). How do I know you don’t know squat? I don’t know either. Oh, I can pontificate with the best of them. Once you realise you don’t know anything, you realise a few things that really help.

The first one is that no one else knows a damned thing either. Especially they don’t know anything about you. (Except, perhaps that like them, you don’t know squat).

This might seem very defeatist. If no one knows anything, how can you learn? Well, I can’t tell you the answer to that, because like you, I don’t know squat. However if you look at it the right way, it is very liberating. If I don’t know, and you know I don’t know, I can’t manipulate your reality by telling you what it looks like and I can’t manipulate you by telling you what you are. Because you know I don’t know squat and will laugh at me.

Being otherkin is not a religion. There are no sacred texts, there are no leaders, no initiation ceremonies and rarely even any common beliefs. However, it does have some things in common with new religions, before they become wrapped in dogma, liturgy and form, and a few older religions who have clung onto certain aspects of religion. Those forms are Mystery religions. They are mysteries, not because someone with a robe says that certain things cannot be taught to the uninitiated, that outsiders cannot read the holy book. They are mysteries because some things just cannot be taught. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself.

I can’t tell you what you are. I don’t know. I am not you. I cannot experience being you, being all you have been and all you might be. Only you can do that.

The second thing you realise after you accept that you don’t know squat is that you can learn. Everything you do teaches you something. You learn that fire is hot. Sometimes you burn yourselves a few times first. That’s part of the process. It’s alright, because you don’t know squat. Sometimes you can learn things from other people, just remember they don’t know squat either. There are people who walk across burning coals barefoot and are unharmed. They don’t know that fire always burns you, even though people have told them that.

The third thing you realise is that because no one else knows squat either, they can’t validate you. They can’t tell you you are right, because as you already know, they don’t know squat, so how would they know if you are right. This one is harder to deal with. We are raised to put value on other people’s opinions of us. Functioning in a society requires a certain amount of that. There is a difference between respecting another person and letting them define you. It is also liberating.

Which brings us to the realisation that if no one else knows anything about us because they don’t know squat, and I don’t know squat either, the chances are I don’t know anything about me either. So ask yourself, how well do you know yourself. Really. Think about it. How much of what you think, feel and believe is actually what other people think you are, or think you should be? How many of your beliefs are truths, and how many just what you would like them to be? Some of those can be very deep rooted and hard for even the most ardent seeker to see in themselves.

If you’ve gotten this far, let me tell you a story. It’s about myself. I have seen other people say and do similar things, so maybe it is also about you. I wouldn’t know though, I don’t know squat.

I am an elf. I have said that so many times. I have felt that so many times. I experience it. I am an elf.

Actually, I’m not.

I expect a few people who know me are blinking there. Maybe not. I don’t know squat after all.

Over many years I have learned that humans are unpleasent people. They think differently. They hurt each other. They abuse the world they were born into, even though it poisons them to do so. They do not learn, they just inflict their own wounds onto the next generation.

I am an elf. I am not human. NOTNOTNOTNOTNOTNOT!

I spent the last weekend in a place full of humans. They think differently. They hurt each other. Then they appologise. They abuse the world they were born into, because the culture they live in makes it so hard not to. Then they try to change the culture, change themselves. They build, think, feel, love, hate, wound, heal. They try to pass on their gains to the next generation, and the one after that, and the one after that.

They didn’t care that they were different than I. It did not make me a stranger, to be hated or feared. I was welcome to share their food, their land, their sacred spaces.

I am not human, but there is human blood in these veins. I can accept that. It’s alright now.

I am not human.

I do not know what I am.

I am human. I am fae. I am elf. I am demon. I am angel. I am elemental. I am male. I am female. I am balance. I am the inbetween. I am many. I am one. I have lived a thousand lives. I have died a million deaths. I have seen the begining of the universe. I may see the end.

I am unknown.

I am learning.

Of course I could be wrong.

You see, I don’t know squat.

The Shadow of Awareness

So then Ashran and I got talking about people who aren’t really mundane but aren’t really Awake either. Either they never fully Awoke or were Awake and growing once and slipped into sleepishness; either way, they are acting like they are Awake on the surface, but aren’t really Awake.

Newagers who pay lip service to the things they read but never really live the wonderful “revelations” they talk about are one big example. They are people who are living in the shadow of spiritual growth, talking about theories of growth but never even meditating 5 minutes a day.

Similarly, there are people who are living in other shadows, of Awakening, of living magically, living intentionally, etc. For instance, I can talk about being a magical being all day, but I’m not really a magical being if I’m not living as one, if I’m not acting and living like my intentions shape my reality. If I talk about how magical I am but I never really do anything magical, then I’m only living in the shadow of magic, and not really living the magic.

Just as a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, it seems almost worse to me to live in the shadow of something than not to live in it at all. For one thing, it’s dishonesty to one’s self and to others. Take someone that’s mundane. They are living a mundane life. It may not be my own life choice, but it’s theirs; it’s more honest, in a way, than someone who lives mundanely and sadly thinks it’s magical, or someone who thinks they are being magical or deep or Aware but is really just spewing some cool catch phrases and cliches, or doing what the rest of the Sleepers are doing but with different terminology.

A cell phone, e-mail address and bumper sticker that says “elfy chick” does not make me an elf. OK?

For instance, I’ve listened to stoner friends-of-friends go on about their latest deep discoveries and whatnot. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t and sometimes they are just full of it. A couple of them really think they are on a path of growth and development when in reality their life hasn’t gone anywhere in 2 years. They are stagnating, but really think they are growing and discovering new things. They are living in the shadow of growth.

Or what about the people who think of themeselves as magical beings whose idea of living magically consists of a few tattoos, some face glitter and talking about how many Dieities / historical figures / Great and Mystical Beings they have talked to / pissed off / been? (How to Be a Hip Mystic: spell everything abnormally and wear lots of face glitter.) Or the people who get all the right tools (day planner with moons and stars, polished brass cauldron, cool black knife, etc.) and say all the cool magyckal phrases and know all the Otherkyn places, but don’t really flow/do/participate in any magic? I knew a guy once who was fascinated by the various correlations between astrology, numerology and Hebrew letters in ceremonial magic but hadn’t ever cast a circle. They are living in the shadow of magic.

And some of them are like a kid who comes up to you with a dead cat and says “Fluffy is just sleeping”. It makes you really sad, and you hate to break it to the child that the cat isn’t sleeping, it’s ceased to be a cat. You know it will make them cry, but isn’t it better than letting that child believe that tomorrow Fluffy will be able to play again? The only problem with people living in the shadow of something is that they don’t want to see that they are stagnating, their magic is decaying, their illusions aren’t real, etc. etc., and some of them get rather nasty when you suggest maybe they look at what they are saying against the reality. Or worse, they suggest the cat really is just sleeping, and really it’s going to wake up Any Time Now or was moving when you weren’t looking.

I think it boils down to living honestly, even if living without is better and healthier in my eyes than pretending to live.

Experimental Role Playing as a Means of Self Discovery

I got into a discussion a while back with someone who was wondering about ways to see if his feelings of being a Dragon were correct or if he was just fooling himself. This eventually lead to conversations about “role-playing” as a means of “trying it on for size.” This person wasn’t sure if he understood the definition of role-playing in the context under discussion and so asked if I could give an example of what I meant. This is what I came up with:

In this case, I guess you could look at it as a very intense round of “let’s pretend.” Like you were in a play where you “really” get into the mind of your character. You study everything you can about who your character is, where he comes from, what his background is, what his beliefs are. That way you can base your actions accordingly, you actually “become” the character for the duration of the play. “Method acting” is a form of this type of role-playing. This is also used in some forms of religious ritual drama where one takes on the characteristics of a deity or epic hero. In modern Pagan circles, one of the most common examples of this would be the rite of “Drawing Down the Moon.” If done correctly this can, and should, eventually lead to the priestess actually taking on the characteristics and some of the abilities of her Goddess for a period of time… becoming in effect an Avatar. (cf. Law of Identification )

Using role-playing in the context of OtherKin-ness it can help a person to determine if their suspicions about being a Dragon (or a Gryphon, or an Elf, or whatever) are correct. It might go something like this…

He studies the various myths and legends of Dragons from as many sources as he can find and he talks to people who are convinced about the truth of their own draconity. (With the advent of the internet, this isn’t as difficult as it may sound… check places online such as draconic.com various newsgroups such as alt.fan.dragons, and the myriad of email lists on Yahoo and other such hosting services) ) He looks for common themes, beliefs and patterns of behavior. Asks people what being a Dragon means to them and how they view the world, etc. He checks out people’s web sites for what they list as Draconic characteristics. Once he gets to a point where he feels he has enough information to have a pretty accurate sense of the most common aspects which define what a Dragon is as far as mental, spiritual, and psychological characteristics go, he can then compare those to what he knows of himself. (Remember we are looking for “similarities,” not necessarily exact matches.)

Okay, now he looks at those characteristics that he couldn’t find a comparison to within his own mental make up. Something like, let’s say, feeling the urge to hunt by taking to the air. Why didn’t he find a similar urge in his own characteristics? It could be several possible reasons such as:

  1. He didn’t find it because he simply doesn’t have that urge (maybe he’s an aquatic Dragon), or
  2. It’s not something he ever tried to fully understand or identify before, or
  3. He’s not a Dragon after all.

The question now is which one of those possibilities may be correct. This is where role-playing comes in, and there are several ways to do it. My favorite way is to write a “first-person” story about it… something like:

“I awoke as the warmth of the morning sun fell across my face. I wasn’t ready to get up, preferring to lounge a while longer, but the sudden rumbling of my stomach reminded me it had been several days since I had last eaten. So I rose slowly to my haunches and stretched my wings to their fullest, giving them a few gentle flaps to get the circulation going. As I wandered down to the stream to quench my thirst, I became aware of the bellowing of wild bulls challenging one another over position within the herd. Once again my stomach grumbled it’s desire to be filled. It had been a long time since I had hunted wild cattle, and the thought of a herd so close made my mouth water. In eager anticipation I spread my wings and took to the sky…”

He would then describe in as great detail as possible the events of the hunt, feeling every nuance as if it were an accurate accounting of a past hunt, as if it were a memory. He shouldn’t worry if the words or style of the story is “pretty,” just if the feelings of the story seem real, or if they were simply words on a page. Can he actually “feel” the wind under his wings? Can he feel the muscles of his back and chest respond to the movement of his wings? Can he feel the moment of impact when he catches his prey, taste the salty warmth of the flesh as he satisfies his hunger? Basically, does he get a sense of “writing from experience,” or does it just seem like something he’s making up? To better understand the difference between the two, first he might write an account of a real life experience that affected him strongly, paying attention to what it feels like to “relive” that experience through writing about it. *Then* write the hunting story and see if he gets the same sense of reliving the experience or not.

Now, is this kind of role-playing a foolproof means of discovering the truth about whether or not someone is a Dragon? No, it’s not. It’s just a tool one can try to help gain some insight, maybe help him/her at least determine if s/he is on the right track. But it does follow some of the modern interpretations/theories on how magic has been observed to operate. (cf. Laws of Magic )

Role-playing can also help you to better understand what your “true form” looks like. I’m going to be talking about Dragons here, but this can be just as effective for other types of ‘Kin as well.

To try and nail down what your physical characteristics might be, look at as many different pictures of Dragons as you can find and “try on” different variations of what you feel your basic shape to be. Start at the top of your head and work your way down. Maybe do something like this: Add horns you your head… does that “feel” right, almost but not quite, does it feel too heavy, or just plain wrong? If it feels right, the your form has horns. If it’s close but not quite, try changing the shape, number and/or placement until it does feel right. If it feels “too heavy,” make them smaller or thinner. If they just feel wrong, the you probably don’t have horns. A lot if Dragons don’t. How about head fins like this? Or a protective head plate like this. In your mind, “try on” one or the other or both. See is either one or the other or both click.

Do you have visible ears that you can move? Try wiggling them. Can’t do it? Then you either don’t have visible ears or you don’t have ears you can move. If you can, try and get a feel for their shape. Reach up and “touch” them do they feel like a horse’s ears? A cat? Are they on top of your head on the side? Do they seem as if they would look like this?

You get the idea… It can take time for you to get the “feel” of each body part, but it’s a lot easier and will usually yield quicker results to work on one part at a time than to try and uncover the feel of your entire body at once, which can prove distracting. As you progress, trying I.D. more about one part of your form may trigger a memory of something else. If that happens, go with it and come back to the other part later. I suggested starting at the top of you head and working down because it’s a nice logical place *to* start, but follow you instincts and go where they tell you.

You can do the same thing for figuring out what sort of environment you lived in. Many times that will be reflected in what type of environment you feel drawn to in your present life. You have a yen for the desert even though you’ve never been to one? Do you look at polar ice flows and feel a vague sense of nostalgia? Does the idea of stalking deer through dense forests make you go “Oh yeah!”? How about diving under water an chasing fish for supper?

The thing with all of this, though is to be patient with yourself and don’t push too hard. If it seems you are having trouble leave off for a while and concentrate on something else. You can always come back to it later… it’s not like it’s going to go anywhere :}

Role-playing is scoffed at by many today in the OtherKin communities who see it solely as “outsiders” poking fun of something they take very seriously. I think this is wrong… and unfortunate. Role-playing as a means of spiritual exploration has been around far longer than role-playing as a means of entertainment as used in such “old fashioned” games as Dungeons and Dragons or its modern online equivalents such as EverQuest, Diablo II, Dark Age of Camelot, or what have you.

Rather than being decried, I think role-playing should be embraced by the OtherKin communities as a means of helping the newly Awakened to discover more about themselves and their spiritual heritage. It should be reclaimed as the valuable working tool it started out as. But that’s just one Dragon’s opinion… and everyone is free to take it for what it’s worth.

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.

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 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?

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.

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.

(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.

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