Looking For Those Willing To Help

Hey everybody,

So I’m a practicing witch of almost 13 years, started pretty young. Well anyways one of my I guess “gifts” that’s not even the right word, better worded I excel in helping others find their past lives, and learning to travel through their own door with control. Well anyways one of the things I’ve been working on to help my practice is how our birth, blood type (and other aspects but I don’t wan to go into much detail)  have pattern behavior in our past life, just a theory of course but the only problem is I don’t have resources to otherkin and part of my theory has a lot to do with that. I would love to meet those willing to help and give some details into their otherkinness. These things would include and are not limited to behavior, abilities, birth chart (I’ll do the hard work with it), and so on. If you have made it this far high five! If anyone would be interested in helping me out I would love that. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and consider doing so.

-Ashley

A Simple Introduction to Otherkin and Therianthropes

Version 1.1 – Updated 2014-05-19
Created 2013-09-16
By Orion Scribner
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Under these terms, you have permission to share, print, change, and translate this article,
so long as you only give it out for free, and credit Orion Scribner as the author.

 

What are otherkin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are therianthropes?

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

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

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

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

Do they have a mental illness?

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

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

In short

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

 

ENDNOTES

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

Till We Meet Again

Article originally posted on Dreamhart.org.

In our communities, as otherkin and therians and vampires, much of our interaction takes place online. To the point that the vampire community has even coined the phrase OVC, or, “Online Vampire Community” to refer to that portion of things.

This document, however, is about taking our community off the screen and into the real world. It is, simply put, a guide to meetups, mini-gathers, gatherings, howls, and conventions. It is intended to cover the questions of how-to, how-not-to, and what these events are like for both the person or people organizing them and those simply attending.

This guide was last updated on April 10, 2017.  Please feel free to suggest any additions, corrections, questions, or changes in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Read moreTill We Meet Again

A Revised Otherkin FAQ

Originally posted on Dreamhart.org.

Why This Document?

Frankly, this document exists because I am generally dissatisfied with the other otherkin FAQs currently in existence.  Many have not been updated in any meaningful sense for years, others strike me as woefully incomplete.  Worst, most seem to have a penchant for addressing the wrong questions.  And I’m not too fond of many of the answers given either.  This FAQ is my attempt to address these problems.

While there is overlap between the otherkin community and other communities such as vampires, therians, and starseeds (among others) the details of those additional communities are outside the scope of this FAQ.

This FAQ was last updated on July 24, 2018.  Please feel free to suggest any additions, corrections, or changes in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

What Are Otherkin?

That right there is probably the question most people who read this FAQ would like addressed.  What are otherkin?  I’m sorry to say that you’re probably not going to find a straight answer on this one.  That’s not because people don’t want to give you one, but because no one has ever been able to get the members of the otherkin community to agree on a single definition.  Oh, many have been proposed over the years but they always seem to leave someone out or else include members of other groups.

One of my favorites is this, from the old Otherkin Resource Center webpage (now defunct):

Main entry: oth•er•kin
1 : one who identifies with various mythological archetype as vehicles of spiritual evolution and self-expression, similar to Native totemism only with a stronger level of self-identification.
2 : someone who believes in reincarnation, and that not all of their reincarnations were as a human.

Another method of defining the term otherkin is to look at the word literally: otherkin are “kin to the other”.  I’ve written an extensive essay on that interpretation of the term, which may be found here, though my opinions on the matter have changed in the years since writing that piece.

There are many more definitions, of course.  Most of the popular ones can be found in the other FAQs referenced in the Additional Resources section of this FAQ.

Ultimately, however, otherkin are the people who choose to be members of the online otherkin community, the wider otherkin subculture, and/or self-identify as otherkin.  That’s the only 100% accurate definition of the word otherkin.

How do I know if I’m Otherkin?

A lot has already been written on this subject in the community, and the related question “What kind of kin am I?”  But, quite frankly, I think most of it is bullshit.  At best, you’ll be told to do some soul-searching.  At the very worst, you’ll be told to look at a checklist of supposedly otherkin traits and see how many you match up against or to get someone to take a look at you on the astral.  None of the answers given to this question are all that useful, in my opinion.

My advice?  Explore the community.  Meet as many otherkin of various types as you can.  Get a feel for the ones that seem genuine and clueful.  Read what they have to say about themselves, their experiences, their memories.  See if anything strikes a chord for you, if anything “resonates”.

If not?  No harm, no foul.  There’s nothing shameful in not being otherkin, and frankly it may make your life easier if you’re not one.  But if something does strike a chord?  Ah, that’s where things start getting interesting.

First off, don’t jump to conclusions.  Resonance means there’s an affinity there, but it doesn’t tell you a thing about the nature of that affinity.  And you can resonate with elements of fiction just as easily as you can resonate with genuine accounts of nonhuman experiences or memories.  I resonate strongly with the Minbari of Babylon 5, with the Taelons of Earth Final Conflict, and with the Tayledras of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series.  All three of these groups are fictional, and I do not believe that I was or am any of them.  But each of them has qualities that remind me of my elven life.  They resonate with that in me which is elven.

If you find something you resonate with, explore it.  Find out more about the group described by that source, and see how much of what you learn continues to resonate.  It may be that certain specific things resonate with you, while others do not.  For instance, while there are elements of the history, language, and culture of Tulari elves which resonate with me there are many other aspects which feel completely alien.  This is to be expected, as my own elven life was not among the Tulari.  It was among another group of elves that might be considered a cousin to them on a world called Alorya.  Use those feelings to guide you in your own search: resonance to steer you towards things you should look into more deeply, and the feeling of alienness to warn you not to go too far off course.

That’s how you’ll figure out if you’re otherkin, and if so what kind(s) of kin you are.  Because when you find the right ones, there won’t be the feeling of alienness.  Just more and deeper layers of resonance for you to explore.

That’s my opinion, anyway.  If you’d like other perspectives on how to know if you’re otherkin, and how to find out what kind of otherkin you are, there’s a whole section on the subject in the Directory of Otherkin Writings linked to from the Additional Resources section at the bottom of this FAQ.

Where do I find other Otherkin?

If you’re new to the community, this is probably one of your biggest questions.  The short answer is: online!  The internet is, hands down, the best place to find otherkin.  Even if you’re looking for a real-life, face-to-face meeting the internet is probably the best place to arrange it.  Below is a non-comprehensive listing of major places to meet otherkin online.  More can be found here and here.

Mailing Lists

KinFrontiers: Originally the “advanced” discussion section for a trio of otherkin-themed lists, this list hosts general otherkin discussions at this point.

Lostkin Project: A mailing list for otherkin who have no memories of nonhuman lives, but who don’t believe this life was their first.  Searching for reliable and repeatable methods of Awakening their true selves.

NewKin: The “basic” list from the aforementioned trio.  If you’re new to the otherkin community, this is probably where you want to start out.  The intermediate/general discussion list is now defunct and KinFrontiers has taken over that role in addition to advanced discussions.

WanderingPaths:  My own list, for general otherkin discussions from the very basic to the advanced.

Unfortunately the selection of otherkin mailing lists is not what it once was.  At this time, these are the only active general otherkin mailing lists I can recommend.  More lists, generally species or region specific, can be found here.

Forums

Draconity.org: A long-lived community for otherkin dragons, dating back to 2008.

Dreamhart.org Forums: My own forums, dealing with otherkin and the esoteric.  Everyone’s welcome.

Embracing Mystery: Another otherkin and esoteric forum.  Fairly long-standing, it’s been around since 2005.

Kinmunity: A new otherkin and therian forum replacing the older WulfHowl forum.

Stars on the Still Waters: A relatively young forum focusing on elven otherkin.

A more comprehensive list can be found here.

Community Journals

Otherkin Dreamwidth Community The main otherkin community on Dreamwidth.org.

Otherkin Livejournal Community The main otherkin community on Livejournal.com.

Otherkin Haven Dreamwidth Community A Dreamwidth community for otherkin which attempts to provide its members with a safe haven, free of drama.

Otherkin News Livejournal Community A Livejournal community which posts regular updates about developments in the community and news which may be of interest to otherkin.

Otherkin Writings Dreamwidth Community A Dreamwidth community hosting writings about otherkin “as an experience and identity”.

A more comprehensive list can be found here.

IRC Channels

#Draconic on Draconic An IRC channel affiliated with Draconic.com.

#Draconity on Draconity An IRC channel affiliated with Draconity.org.

#GryphonGuild on FurNet An IRC channel for those who love gryphons, or are gryphons at heart.  Similar to AFD but for gryphon-lovers and gryphon-kin rather than dragon-lovers and dragon-kin.

#Dreamhart on MibbitNet The IRC channel affiliated with Dreamhart.org.  Obviously, I’m the channel founder on this one.  There’s also a web interface available here.  Currently, a scheduled chat takes place every Tuesday from 8pm ET to whenever things break up (generally between 2am and 4am ET), but the channel is available for use at any time and there’s usually at least a few people in it.

#Draconic on SquickMe A fork of the #draconic IRC channel.

#Crossroads on Therian.org General discussion channel for therians.

A more comprehensive list can be found here.

Non-IRC Chats

GratuitousNonhumanty: DeviantArt otherkin group with a reasonably active chat.

Kinmunity: Web-based chatroom for the Kinmunity website.

Otherkin-Deviants: DeviantArt otherkin group with chat.

A more comprehensive list can be found here.

Meetups

These change frequently.  Here is the list of all the public ones I currently know of, but I highly recommend checking Meetup.com yourself for others, as well as the regional mailing lists and community journals.  Maybe even consider starting your own.

If you go that route, you may find the advice here and here helpful.  Though they’re written for the BDSM community rather than from an otherkin perspective, many of the same concerns apply.  These two articles might also be useful for those considering going to a meetup for the first time.  Again, they’re written for the BDSM community rather than from an otherkin perspective, but many of the answers would remain the same.  And I’ve written my own guide for members of the otherkin, therian, and real-vampire communities, which attempts to cover both perspectives.

If you’d like others in your local area to find you, you may also want to create a profile in Dreamhart.org’s Otherkin Directory.

Gathers

A Gathering Echo: Annual Texas Based Gather in September.

Summer Gateways: Annual Texas Based Gather in May.

A more comprehensive listing may be found here.

Face to Face

This section is here as a caution.  Just because someone is otherkin doesn’t mean they are nice.  Just because you remember them from past lives doesn’t mean you know what they’re like in this one.  If you decide to meet with an otherkin you met online, or even at a public meetup or gather, please plan for your safety.  To the best of my knowledge there are no otherkin-specific articles that have yet been written on this subject but I highly recommend two articles from the BDSM community on the subject of safety when meeting people offline that can be found here and here.  The vampire community has also written a good guide here.

Any advice for someone new to the community?

Use discretion when discussing your Otherness.

Basically, don’t shout that you’re otherkin from the rooftops.  Your mundane family, and you, may be a lot happier if they don’t know you’re a dragon than if they do.  Your coworkers?  They probably don’t want to hear about your past life as an elven princess.  Same with your classmates, teachers, friends, etc… they don’t necessarily need to know about this aspect of your life.  Pick and choose who you tell carefully.  Be sure it’s someone who will react well, and be sure you have a solid reason for telling them.

In the same vein, don’t run around online announcing your otherness in non-otherkin venues.  The nice people over on wicca.com would probably like to talk about Wicca and not about how you’re one of the Tuatha de Danaan.  And people in places like GaiaOnline would probably like to just play their game and not be bothered with other members spiritual beliefs.  Would you like to hear the Christian players proselytizing?  It’s not nice to non-consensually involve bystanders in your spirituality.

Last, steer clear of the media.  I can’t emphasize this enough, steer clear of the media.  I don’t care how sympathetic and understanding the reporter sounds, or how big a chance it is to finally get our side of the story told, it *never* actually works out that way.  You will get manipulated, you will get misquoted, and the otherkin community will be treated in a manner that is sensationalist rather than serious.  Just say no when it comes to participating in any form of media on the basis of your Otherness.  And that goes triple for “Reality TV” of any kind.  That said, if you absolutely positively cannot avoid giving an interview, here’s some advice on do’s and dont’s from the vampire community, the pagan community, and even the furry community.

You’re still allowed to apply critical thinking.

Finding out you’re otherkin is a pretty jarring experience for one’s worldview.  If you never believed in the existence of dragons, it can be a shock to learn that you are one.  Because of this, many otherkin completely abandon what they consider to be a mundane worldview in favor of a new, magical one.  And sadly, this often means leaving science and rationality at the door.

Because of this, and exacerbated by a general tendency towards being accepting of everyone’s beliefs, there’s a high level of bullshit floating around the otherkin community.  I could spend a lot of time listing what I consider to be examples of this but frankly that’s outside the scope of this FAQ.  Instead, I’ll just suggest that you not be afraid to apply reason and critical thinking to your own beliefs.  See if what you believe or remember is both internally consistent and reasonably consistent with what we know about external reality.  Also don’t be afraid to challenge people on the claims they make.  Extraordinary claims, such as physical shapeshifting or being an undead/immortal vampire, require extraordinary evidence.  Being otherkin doesn’t mean you have to be so open-minded your brains fall out.

Don’t share everything you know about yourself.

Holding some information back is a great way to verify what other people tell you.  If you’re comparing past-life memories with someone, hold a few details back.  Specific things that you will never share in a public setting.  Then, when talking with others who claim to remember the same things, see if they volunteer any of the things you’ve held back without prompting.

Similarly, hold some information back about what you know of your astral form.  Then, if someone else takes a look to “verify” things, you can see if they mention the parts you’ve held back and have a much clearer idea of whether they’re really looking at you astrally, or just telling you what you want to hear.

This technique is useful for external verification in many esoteric/spiritual contexts.

Don’t forget about safety.

The community isn’t all fun and games.  Like any online community, there are those who are out to manipulate you.  To use you. To hurt you.  It’s up to you to make sure they don’t get that chance.  Mostly, common sense is all you need here but some specific advice can be found in my own articles Warning Signs and Abusive Situations, as well as a vampire community article titled Social Predators, and a vampire community article titled Sociopaths.  If you’re planning to join an organization you may also want to evaluate it with the Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, though the frame is subjective and with many cults you may not have the information to effectively evaluate it until you’re already a member.  Another good article on joining groups can be found here.

There were also a few articles linked to in the Face to Face section of this FAQ, on the specific safety concerns that apply when meeting someone from online face to face so you may want to go back and read them if you haven’t already.

It’s also important to stay safe in terms of your health. If you’re having unusual physical symptoms, check with a doctor first before deciding it has a spiritual or metaphysical cause.  Not everything is connected with being otherkin.  SphynxCat has a very good overview of various health issues and medical concerns for members of the vampire community here, and she also has a good section on safety when feeding on blood here.  And links to more information which can be found elsewhere.

Don’t set out to change the world (or the community).

It’s natural to want to contribute, to make a difference.  I think everyone feels that way.  But if you’re just starting out in the community, you’re probably not in a position to do much to help others.  If you have existing areas of expertise, feel free to use them, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ve become an instant expert on otherkin because you happen to be one.  Don’t start out trying to create massive community projects, organizations, or the like.  Get involved with the ones that are already out there.  See what you can add to them by just providing a fresh perspective and another set of eyes.  You’ll be a lot more effective that way, and you’ll build credibility with those who are paying attention.  And when the time comes for you to give back to the community, and start your own projects and groups, they’ll be much more likely to support you in turn.

Another essay of mine which deals with this topic can be found here.

Don’t let it go to your head.

You’re not immortal.  You’re not royalty in this life.  You’re not even special, just because you’re otherkin.  You’re just different.  So don’t let it go to your head.  Don’t fall into fantasies about some future date when the veil will fall, magic will become real, and there will be a war between humans and otherkin.  Don’t fall into delusions of constant astral battles.  Don’t mistake fantasy and wish-fulfillment for resonance.  In short?  Otherkin are just as human as everyone else.  Hold onto that, it keeps you grounded.

It’s worth it.

There are many things about being otherkin, and about being part of the otherkin community, that will drive you crazy.  There’ll be days when you wake up and you’ll wish you’d never heard of otherkin, wish you were normal, wish you could just forget about it all.  But if you are otherkin, and you hang in there and find those you resonate deeply with, those who really understand you, those you may have known in other lives. If you can find those you can consider your spiritual family, in this life.  Then, I promise, it’ll all have been worth it.  I know it has been for me.

Additional Resources

Community History

Otherkin Timeline: The Recent History of Elfin, Fae, and Animal People

A History of Multiples & Otherkin Together

A History of Plantkin In the Otherkin Community

The Elf Queen’s Daughters and the Silver Elves

Foundation’s Edge: The History of the Online Werecommunity

Unofficial Alt.Horror.Werewolves Archive

A History of the Fictionkin Community

A History of the Therian Community – 1993

A History of the Therian Community – 1994

A History of the Therian Community – 1995

A History of the Therian Community – 1996

A History of the Therian Community – 1997

A History of the Therian Community – 1998

A History of the Therian Community – 1999

A History of the Therian Community – 2000

A History of the Draconic Community – 1993 to 2000

A History of the Draconic Community – 2001 – present

A History of the Unicorn Community

The Real Vampire Community’s Early Days

The Online Vampire Community Takes Off

The “Psivamp Revolution” and Its Aftermath

The Beginning To The Present Time (Vampire Community)

Terminology

The Otherkin Lexicon

Jargon on AnOtherWiki

FAQs

General Otherkin

An FAQ on Otherkin for the Perplexed Observer

A Simple Introduction to Otherkin and Therianthropes

Otherkin FAQ v 4.0.1

Otherkin and Awakening FAQ v 3.0 Beta

Feathertail’s Otherkin FAQ

So… You’re Awake?

Dragonkin

Draconity FAQ

Draconic FAQ

Elfkin

Elenari FAQ

Otherkin Hosts/Multiples

Otherkin Multiple FAQ Beta

Positively Plural FAQ version 1.1

Therians

Alt.Horror.Werewolves FAQ

Therianthropy FAQ

Contherianthropy FAQ

Vampires

Sphynxcat’s Real Vampire FAQs

Further Reading

The Otherkin Bibliography

A Directory of Otherkin Writings and Other Works, Organized by Topic

Real Vampire Community Resource & Link Directory

Resource Sites

Dreamhart.org

AnOtherWiki

Otherkin.net

Starlight Infinities

Sanguinarius.org

SphynxCat’s Real Vampires Support Page

Werelist.net

Draconic.com

Draconity.org

New Age vs Otherkin Community

Back in the very late 70’s and very early 80’s, when I was first getting into the New Age thing, it seemed to me at least with regard to the people I came in contact with that the spiritualist/new age movement was about working toward enlightenment. Methods for doing that inner work became very popular, such as TM, yoga, Zen… at least in S. Cal where I grew up (and lived most of my life). The focus seemed to me to be very much on the fact that you had to find your own inner way, that there were tools to help you do that but they were intended to be just that: tools, not crutches.

Along about the mid-80’s the whole new age thing began to really catch on out there in a major way, and all of a sudden there was an influx of these new ideas supposedly being represented by “channeled information”. Suddenly it seemed like everywhere you looked, someone was channeling the 4 or 8 or ten thousand year old spirit of someone else from Egypt/Atlantis/Lemuria with information that was supposed to make us all better in one rather expensive weekend. Or on a smaller scale all you had to do was look in the back of your local new age magazine or newsletter and there were hundreds of “psychic astrologers” or “psychic channelers” or what have you with All The Answers, for a fee ranging anywhere from very nominal to outrageously exorbitant. Among these there were a few who had good information, and the vast majority were in it for either the money or the ego trip of being viewed as an Ascended Master of some sort. (I’m thinking of people like JZ Knight or Lazarus, etc, who IMO are colossal charlatans).

The main problem with most of what was being offered was that it dangled the promise of achieving in a short period of time the level of wisdom, enlightenment and self-understanding that the more traditional paths told you would take years of work. (Yasssss, people, can you say Ashtar Command and ye are HEEEEEaled I say, I place my hand upon your forehead and say the magic name of Ashtar and you are HEEEEEaled….). The problem was that some paths don’t have shortcuts because the journey is the point. Cut out the journey, and you’ve cut out the reason for walking the path in the first place. But in this age of drive-thru and disposable and instant everything, anyone who offers you (generic you) the Answer To It All in a matter of days with no commitment of time and effort on your part is going to attract a certain amount of yous who want the result without doing any of the work. People like that are *always* going to have adherents, many of whom will absolutely swear by them at first.

What happens when you find out that your problems are still there, your life still sucks, you still get depressed and you still have no idea who and what you truly are inside, underneath all the layers and labels, and you find you have learned nothing to help you cope? Most folks end up searching for the next instant-enlightenment gimmick and never end up doing any of the work to discover their own internal framework. Disillusioned and angry, they turned away from what they had once embraced in droves and the new age community obtained a very bad name that some of it’s adherents don’t deserve. I now see “fluff bunny new age” being used as an insult, because when most people think of “new age” they think of “white light dingalings” drifting around offering fluffy and unrealistic solutions that people no longer believe in.

It didn’t work for Christianity in 1890, it didn’t work for psychology in 1920, it didn’t work for Buddhism in 1985. Why do people think it’s going to work for Otherkin in 2001?

This has a lot to do with why I’m so bitchy about the “spoonfeeding” and why I see it as pointless at best and dangerous at worst. What is going to happen to people who’ve fallen into the whole coddle-the-newbie trip when the coddler gets bored with the game, and hasn’t helped anyone do the real work of developing their own inner framework? It’s very easy to criticize me for my own critical comments about the spoonfeeders, but perhaps placed into this overall context you can at least understand my concern. I didn’t *have* anyone to coddle me when I Awakened, I was alone out there. But I worked my ass off to Become.

Later, I found the Silver Elves and they gave me support and friendship by showing me that I wasn’t alone and that what I felt and experienced wasn’t weird for who and what I was… but they didn’t tell me how to walk my walk and they didn’t tell me what the things I was thinking and feeling meant. They continued to encourage me to do my own exploring and understand who I was in my own unique way. That’s what newbies need, just not to feel like they’re alone and to be encouraged to find their own Song. That’s all they need, and if we really give a rat’s ass about their own journeys rather than feeding our egos at their expense, that’s all we’ll realistically offer. We can’t GIVE them answers because our answers may not be the right ones for them. We can tell them where *we* looked… I found many of my own answers among the philosophies of Zen … but we can’t tell them that they’ll find their answers in the same places we found ours because everybody got to march to their own drum. I strongly believe the only thing we should be doing is letting people know we understand and giving them a place to air out their own thoughts and get some intelligent feedback and good, solid critical but kind questioning to give them some objective perspective… and the occasional kick in the ass when they need it. There’s tons of websites out there, let people find their own truths among what’s presented there. We aren’t human, but we cannot discount the human philosophies as useless for our own journeys because some of the experiences humanity has are universal. There are fewer resources for kin than there are for humans, but who says kin cannot benefit from human experiences? The only way people will know what Sings to them is to just start reading and searching and looking. Telling them what will and won’t sing to them is something the coddlers are doing for themselves, not for the new kin.

I don’t want to sound boastful, but a large part of why I feel so strongly about this has to do with my own personal experiences of the past couple years. My experiences from that time period tore at the very fabric of who I was and what my life was. I feel very strongly that had I been spoonfed and coddled and handed this vision of my “trueform” those events would have destroyed me. As it was, they came very close to doing so anyway but by that point I had invested a great many years in doing a lot of slow, patient work to Know Myself, to understand who and what I was down to the bone and deeper. I have this solid, strong framework of self built on years of learning to understand myself, my feelings, my ideas, my beliefs, my reactions, etc… and when the day came that I felt entirely cut adrift from the paths I had believed in and the places I thought I was going, I still had that inner sense of self and strength to hold me through it. My “time in the Desert”, as I have come to think of it, has been a time of great personal growth and a valuable experience that has enriched me in many ways. I am still IN that time, actually. I do not really know where my path will lead me next or where to even start looking for it but =that’s okay=. Because whether I’m in the desert or walking a path, I am still Me. And what I’ve learned over the years has taught me that the best thing for =me= to do when I’m not sure which direction to walk in, is to find a nice warm rock in the sun and just sit and Be.

I could not have learned that by dint of someone doing the armwavedance over me in a weekend. That is the product of years of meditation, study, practice, methodology, magic and inner Journeying.

You can call me many negative things, but you can’t say I have a weak sense of self.

Tolerance versus Gullibility: Judging the Validity of Magickal Claims

We all strive to be open-minded about one another’s beliefs and experiences. This is essential to our community, because we have had to keep an open mind about our own beliefs and experiences in order to accept them as valid and real. Much of what we believe and what forms the foundation of our community’s identity are claims of supernatural or psychic experiences that mainstream culture would simply debunk. Our materialist, scientific society has no room for a sixth sense, let alone a seventh or an eighth, and the empirical rule of science leads most materialists to assert that if you can’t touch it, it isn’t there. So many of the perceptions and sensations that form a vital part of our experiences are subtle and numinous in nature. They cannot be proven in a laboratory. Often, it is hard for us to “prove” them even to ourselves. We simply have to accept that we are not crazy, that these impressions are valid, and that the materialist approach to reality somehow fails to account for a large portion of human experience. Yet this creates a certain amount of credulousness within the community. Since we each have had experiences that the rest of the world would reject as lies or delusion, we are much more likely to listen with a sympathetic ear to someone else’s experiences, no matter how strange they may sound. We are painfully aware of how hard to believe many of our own experiences and beliefs are, especially because we have had to struggle to believe them in the face of a culture that tells us these beliefs *must* be the product of a crazed mind. Obviously, we don’t want to disbelieve another’s claims especially because we want to be believed ourselves. But this can lead us into a dangerous habit of accepting everything that is told to us by others without question, and the sad fact of reality is not everyone who makes an extraordinary claim is telling you the truth. There are quite a number of people who lie and make up tales about their beliefs and experiences. They do this as an attention-getting measure, to make themselves feel powerful and important, or to get you to follow them and accept further stories and orders without question. These are the poseurs and cult-daddies of the scene, and they hurt our community not only by preying upon the innocent and vulnerable, but also by giving the outside world a very negative impression of us.

Developing Sound Judgment

So how do we know when our tolerance has crossed into the realm of gullibility? Whenever someone makes a claim to you of a supernatural belief or experience, listen carefully to what they have to say. See if what they say makes sense based on your own experiences. Even magick functions on universal laws, and although we may not understand all of these laws as of yet, they still seem to hold true in most cases. If what this person has to say is radically different from your own experiences and what you’ve learned of the magickal world, that should set off warning bells in your head. You should not discount their claims just yet — it may simply be that your own experiences are limited and this person is discussing a principle that you have not encountered yet. It’s also possible that some of the beliefs and conclusions you’ve drawn from your own experiences are either wholly or partially wrong. We make as a great a mistake assuming that everything we believe is 100% accurate as when we believe that everything other people tell us is 100% accurate. After analysing what the person has to say, analyse the person himself. How does he act? How does he dress? Does he speak like someone who is reasonably intelligent and well-educated? These might sound like judgments based on superficial things, but the fact of the matter is that mentally unbalanced individuals often demonstrate their problems in their mannerisms, diction, and dress. Not everyone who has a nervous tic is insane, just as not everyone who refuses to look you in the eye is lying to you, but these are good cues to keep in mind when trying to judge someone’s credibility. There are quite a lot of people who our mainstream culture would label depressed or bipolar or delusional who have had very legitimate experiences and who have a lot of insightful and worthwhile things to say. However, you must keep in mind that people with chemical imbalances and unstable personalities cannot always determine the line between reality and imagination, and any of their stories should be especially scrutinized for this reason. After analysing the person, analyse the situation in which you are receiving this information. What could the person’s motivation for speaking with you be? What kind of level of trust has been built up between you? Chances are, the voodoo queen of Wheeling would not come right out and say who she is and what kind of army of zombies she commands to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the street. Common sense dictates that she’d have to trust you quite a bit to reveal information as sensitive as that, and if you just met someone at a coffee house who makes similarly wild and powerful claims, chances are, they’re telling you a tall tale. If it’s pretty clear that the person making the claim has something to gain from you be very leery of it. But also keep an open mind on what you consider “gain” to be. Not everyone who’s trying to “sell” you something is out for your money. A lot of people are simply motivated by a need to be believed, or they want to get you on their “side” for some imagined conflict. If you thought you left the petty social politics and cliqueishness behind in high school, you’re in for a surprise, because as far as I’ve noticed, those silly social games keep a lot of people occupied well into their 70s. Sex is another basic motivator, and if you’re a pretty young girl (or even a pretty young boy), really keep your eyes open when people start coming up to you and trying to tell you how the universe works. All too often, they’ll wind up trying to teach you tantric sex magick or something similar — the long and the short of it is they want you in their bed.

Educating Yourself

With all these things to watch out for, how can you ever find a teacher or mentor that you can trust? Well, the best approach is to educate yourself. There are a lot more books out there than used to be the case, and with the Internet, a great deal of material is at your very fingertips. Not everything in a book or on a web page is truthful or accurate — just about everyone is trying to sell you something in this day and age. However, if you approach all information cautiously, analyse it carefully in respect to your own experiences, and try to judge the motivations of the writer, you’ll find a lot to teach yourself. Material that you read in a book or on a webpage is a little safer than having someone come up to you and spout off all their vast occult knowledge. For one thing, you can read at your leisure, and if there are claims or references in the work that set off alarm bells for you, you have the additional luxury of being able to research those claims and see what other authorities have to say about them. Also, although part of a writer’s job is to present a convincing argument so you agree with his points, still read material is not nearly as dynamic nor as potentially overwhelming as spoken conversation delivered by a real pro at the debating game. So when you’re just starting out and you’re not sure what to believe or who to believe it from, read, read read! It will give you a great background for later when you are comfortable enough and self-assured enough to tackle face to face conversations with people who may be trying to take advantage of you. For face to face conversations and study, always try to stick with informal study groups where everyone has an equal say. You’ll find that some persons within the group can be considered authorities on certain topics, but as long as they’re not always trying to dictate what others will accept and believe, then they’re the kinds of authorities that will only help you expand your own knowledge. Steer clear of groups or individuals who are “gathering members for a light and darkness war” or who are engaged in “battles on the astral plane” or other such nonsense. These psychic war dialogues are just a very common and dramatic way to pull people into the group, incite them with a purpose, and let them run around as pawns for one or more cultish-type leaders. Also, if someone comes up to you and claims to have information for you because they’ve known you in a past life, try to make certain that you get impressions that reinforce what this individual is saying. That’s another dialogue that I’ve seen misused in groups in the past, and unfortunately many a poor innocent has had her head screwed on backwards with tall tales of a long ago life in a magickal time that’s nothing more than a tale someone was spinning to gain her affection. So, back to tolerance and gullibility. There is nothing wrong with listening to what people have to say. In fact, I encourage everyone to keep an open mind, because we can never be 100% certain that our own beliefs are entirely accurate or well-founded. Even if a person you talk with has beliefs you utterly disagree with, still you’ve learned something in the very act of ordering your thoughts for conversation and comparing your beliefs against their own. Do not, however, believe everything that is told you. This does not mean that you should go around being paranoid of everyone who comes up to you and wants to chat about spiritual things, but you should let wisdom and common sense be your guides. Always analyse what the person is saying to you, analyse the person himself, and analyse the situation and what may be gained from getting you to believe the story. If any of these things set alarm bells off for you, then take what is said with a grain of salt. Feel free to challenge someone’s beliefs that you disagree with — sometimes there’s nothing better than a heated debate on theology! And if they are unwilling to debate or defend their beliefs to you, or to back up their claims with real incidents or examples, then you can probably spend your time more productively with somebody else.

The Shadow of Honor

I was talking with Ashran the other night about something that is an extension of the “women are evil, men are stupid” philosophy that Graves came up with a while ago. It’s led to the realization that some people are living in the shadow of honor (which led to an interesting side discussion of the shadow of awareness).

Ashran was commenting to me that, in his experience, there’s a difference in how women and men view their own reasoning in handling decision-making. I personally am not sure that it’s a hard-and-fast line drawn between the genders, but I think that for the majority of my experience, this generalization works. The theory is that when making a decision that puts the self before others, however right wrong or sideways, women tend to realize they are making a “selfish” decision and go with that. Men, on the other hand, avoid letting themselves realize when they are doing something for themselves, painting the action as really being for someone else, or being because of <insert justification here>.

Now, of course, not all people do this intentionally or maliciously, but it does lead to a big difference in handling making a “selfish” decision. For instance, say that a person has borrowed a book from a friend and that friend wants the book back. Say that person doesn’t want to give the book back because they aren’t done with it. Going with this theory, a woman in that situation might think that simply she was not ready to give the book back (for whatever reason, maybe she’s not done with it yet). A man in that situation might make it out (to himself) to be a matter of selflessness (maybe he can’t give the book back yet because he’s not done helping someone else).

Here’s some other practical examples:

If someone wants to hold onto a relationship:
Woman: It would hurt me too much to leave
Man: It would hurt her too much if I left her

If someone wants to help someone out:
Woman: I want to help this person
Man: This person needs my help
(subtle, but different)

If someone loses their temper: Woman: I yelled at him because I was pissed off Man: I wouldn’t have yelled if she didn’t piss me off

The point of the story here is that whenever we place “responsibility” or the reason for an action on someone else, we’re not taking personal responsibility for that action. Other people may factor into the decision, but ultimately that decision is made by the person making it. By saying you’re doing something for someone else, when the reason deep down inside is because of our own wants, we potentially create the facade of nobility which overlays selfishness (again, “selfish” is not necessarily bad, just not the same as “altruistic”).

This can lead to differences in how we’re viewed when making a “selfish” decision. A person who is honest about why they are making the decision might have a better chance of being viewed as “selfish”, whereas a person who makes the decision out to be for the benefit of others might have a better chance of being viewed as “a nice, giving person” or “victim” (depending on the situation). It is pretty simple to do something for one’s own benefit and make it seem like it was for someone else’s benefit. Again, most peope don’t do this intentionally. What determines the difference between selfishness and altruism is both intention and how much that decision affects one personally. The difference between someone who is selfish or altruistic by nature is how much they are willing to give of what they have on a regular basis even if it affects them or inconveniences them.

For instance, supposing I go out to dinner with someone and I can’t finish my food. Offering that food to my friend isn’t really altruistic, I wasn’t going to eat it anyway. It’s something that benefits my friend but doesn’t really inconvenience me. On the other hand, supposing that this same friend wants to go out to dinner with me but doesn’t have the money. If I pay for hir, that’s money out of my pocket, and an inconvenience. (It gets more complicated if I do it for other reasons that are more self-serving, but I think the point is made.) If I regularly do things for others that don’t inconvenience myself, I can present the front of of altruism, however true or false. However, if I am not willing to do things for others that inconvenience myself, I’m not really altruistic. Similarly, if I am honorable only when it’s in my best interest, that’s not real honor; that is the shadow of honor. It is a facade with no substance behind it.

So, to wrap this ramble up, it’s possible to present the front of something, yet live in it’s shadow and not actually live that thing. It’s the difference between superficially doing something or paying lip service to it and really living it, really making it a part of one’s self. And it gets back to personal responsibility. If I’m honest with myself about what I’m doing and why, then I can consciously make the choice of when to be selfish, when to be selfless, whether I’m going to be honorable or not, etc. If I never examine my motives and actions, it’s much easier to fool myself and others into believing something is “me” when it’s only on the surface, and much easier to think of myself as a more selfless/honorable/whatever person than my actions would attest to.

To tie this back into the original point, it’s real easy to kid yourself and say you’re doing something for somone else’s benefit, even if you are the one that wants that thing. This isn’t really selflessness; this isn’t really honor. It’s living in the shadow of honor. I think that if one wants to live honorably and intentionally, it’s critical to know one’s motives. It’s critical to understand and accept how one’s self as well as others are affected by each action one takes, and take responsibility for the action and the intentions behind it.

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.

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.

Otherkin Behaviour Patterns

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

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

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

UberElf

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

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

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

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

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

The End of the World is Nigh

Symptoms: The “big change” is coming.

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

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

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

Differentiation by repudiation

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

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

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

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

Species arrogance

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

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

Subculture intolerance

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

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

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

Abdication of thought

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

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

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

Psychological crutch

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

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

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

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

Resonance is not attraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attraction is not Resonance

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

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

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

This life is not that life

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

This I already wrote up as a rant.

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

The Harmony of Discord

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

There is a reason for that.

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

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

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

Well, not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is diversity more than Political Correctitude?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Death of the Otherkin Community

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

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

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

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

What happened to it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has this got to do with community?

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

Well, actually I couldn’t tell you.

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

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

So what’s the otherkin community? Three hundred people who don’t talk to each
other on a mailing list?

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

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

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

That leaves just you and me.

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

Me, I’m taking my own advice.

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

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

You wanna dance?

Herding Cats: A Model of Distributed Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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