Otherkin Identity: Is it more than just a label?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identifying Your Otherkin Species: Ten Tips for the Terminally Tantalised

Feel like you’re non-human, but having a hard time putting the "kin" in Otherkin? Exhaust these avenues.

1. Rule out Earthly associations and totems.

Something that many often overlook is that there’s no reason you can’t be Otherkin and still have a totem animal, or a race you admire or are particularly fond of. Any species can have a connection to another species without being that species – it might suggest trade links or treaties/peace pacts in your old world, maybe you had a lover of that race or admired one from afar, maybe you have an astral protector or companion of that species….. or maybe you just, yanno, like them. It’s not unheard of.

By “Earthly associations” I mean sources of thoughts and images that are buried in your semi-subconscious. Are you perhaps attracted to a certain race or creature because of that movie you saw when you were 7, that pet or cuddly toy you owned, or all that time you spent wandering in the forests tracking rabbits? If you can eliminate such sources, you’ll have a much clearer view of the things that you’re drawn to that can’t be explained by your Earthly life.

2. Repeated occurrences of images in your life or ideas in your thinking suggest a strong connection.

Are you automatically drawn to, or have to own, something that represents a particular species (models, t-shirts, books, movies etc.)? Do you repeatedly draw images of that creature or write about it? Do you repeatedly want to be that creature or imagine what it would be like to be it? Did you ever express a desire as a child to be a particular creature, or say you weren’t human? (As a child I constantly changed the name I wanted to go by because nothing fit me, saw humans as “them”, and remember telling my family that I liked “doggies, not dollies” – my way of saying I wanted to have plush animal toys rather than dolls and other things that looked human). All of these can be strong pointers to your nature.

3. Research existing Otherkin cultures and communities.

Go into various communities and see if they “fit”. You don’t have to post; just look around and get a feel for it. Are these people like you? Lamers, trolls and obvious fakers aside, do you want to be with them? For dragons, try Draconic or the newsgroup alt.fan.dragons (if your ISP doesn’t carry it, access it via Google Groups). Look up specific groups and cultures that have bonded together online and documented their pre-Earthly history – elenari.net houses one. If the site has a dictionary of remembered words, see if any of them feel familiar. Words are powerful, and if they don’t trigger you, you’re probably not of this particular subrace.

4. Don’t be put off by existing mythology that conflicts with your feelings.

You can be an elf without fitting the Tolkien stereotype or without being Elenari, and you can be a dragon without having scales. Just because you were passed over by the myths or you don’t fit into an existing groups that your species resembles doesn’t mean your experiences and instincts aren’t real – there are many entities on many worlds that can be named or associated with ideas of “elf”, “fae” or “dragon”.

5. How does it feel, this form of yours?

Reach out (or in) to it and try and get a grasp on what it feels like, both to possess this form and to touch it. Is your hearing be sharper (or duller), your sense of smell more (or less) acute, your sense of taste more (or less) sensitive? Is your eyesight altered? Are your eyes differently shaped, picking up colours in different ways (or not picking them up at all)? Do you feel you should you have senses beyond the scope of normal humans, such as perceiving infrared or ultraviolet? Any kind of “sixth sense” or instinct? How does it feel to move in this body? Cumbersome yet strong? Agile and wiry? Effortless? Should you have more limbs than you currently do, or have limbs at all? Does the fact of being contained within any physical form itself feel uncomfortable and restricting, or does the size of it feel too small or too large? Now try touching from the outside. Does your outer form have a texture? Fur, feather, skin, hide, scales? Rough or smooth, sensitive or tough, ethereal? If you can’t feel anything specific, don’t worry. Maybe you just don’t sense your form this way. At least give it a go before moving onto other steps, though. You may be surprised at what you feel.

Kerowyn Silverdrake describes a similar method that you may find useful.

Also, try to recall any “phantom” sensations you’ve had, no matter how small. Wings and tails are well-documented, but think about other body parts. Do you occasionally forget that your ears aren’t actually on the top of your head, or feel a twitching sensation there? What about phantom feet (strange as it sounds) – feet that should be smaller, larger, hairier, or differently shaped? A phantom face, perhaps – a muzzle or differently-shaped bone structure, smaller or larger teeth, a differently-set jaw, a flatter or rounder head? Again, try and rule out Earthly stimuli such as a bad back (for example, from hunching over your computer checking Otherkin forums), but pay specific attention to sensations that occur frequently or are particularly strong. And again, don’t worry if you don’t have them at all. Many people don’t get phantoms, even if their physical form is very incongruous with their spiritual form.

6. For the love of the Goddess, read.

Reading is one of the best ways to discover your identity. And I don’t just mean online, I mean real, physical, published books. Go to the library and browse until you find something, anything that interests you – doesn’t matter whether it directly seems to relate to Otherkin or not. If you’ve narrowed it down to a few species, do some reading that involves them – search Google for lists of books involving that creature or themes of people becoming them or claiming to be them, whether fact or fiction (for animal or pseudoanimal ‘Kin, searching on “werewolf”, “werecat” etc. will bring up some interesting stuff). Grab the biggest, most comprehensive encyclopedia of mythology you can find, sit down and read it cover to cover, make notes of everything you find interesting or that triggers a reaction in you in some way.

Failing that, even a frickin’ D&D Monster Manual or Guide To The Creatures Of The Eleventy-Fourth Astral Chaos WeyrPlane is better than nothing, as a tool for deciding what images do or don’t “feel” right. You don’t have to read typical Tolkienesque/Pernese fantasy if you don’t feel drawn to it. Read dark or alternative fantasy fiction if it appeals, like Neil Gaiman’s works (The Sandman is a particular favourite that takes an interesting and often deeply inspiring twist on many issues of spirituality, the gods and the universe). While it doesn’t have that many non-human images, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a good non-traditional fantasy that may spur some images. Read about the realm of Faerie if fae images appeal to you – again, Neil Gaiman gives us a thoroughly delightful, yet suitably adult, fairytale on this subject by the name of Stardust (it’s the book that finally triggered my own true Awakening, so don’t pass it up).

Don’t be afraid to spend time in the children’s section of the bookstore. Many enchanting little tales and images are offered only to the young, on the principle that adult lives must be devoid of these fantasies and reduced to a 256-colour palette of greys. “How To Be A….”-type books can be of particular interest to Otherkin. While the kits and whimsical images associated with playing fae or mermaid may prove too mainstream and insubstantial for your tastes, even the sappiest, fluffiest effort can spark your mind if it inspires you to criticize what it is about this portrayal that doesn’t fit. It can also start you off in an attempt to draft out ideas of your own “fantasy” culture or race (see #8 below); as a child, I owned a particularly fascinating book entitled “The Secret Lives of the Gnomes” which spurred me on quite a bit in my own world- and race-building endeavours. Bombarding yourself with images can lead to a “what’s me and what’s not?” overload sometimes, where a lot of things could fit but you’re not sure what belongs; see #10 if you’re having trouble with this. If reading doesn’t help, watch movies or even anime with themes involving non-human races. Good ones with serious plots and well-developed characters are “Haibane Renmei” (an earthbound pseudo-angelic race) and “Princess Mononoke” (forest creatures and spirits).

7. Don’t be afraid of identifying with a race that exists in fiction.

This is kind of the flip-side of #4. Healthy skepticism is a vital tool in sifting the spiritual wheat from the chaff when it comes to your true form, but don’t dismiss possibilities from fiction just on the basis of their being “fictional”. Otakukin get a bad reputation for being “souls of cart00n characters in human bodies omg!!11 wtf lol”, and I’ve heard self-proclaimed Angels of the Almighty proclaim stiffly to an unfortunate newcomer that “there’s no such thing as a hobbit”, but you shouldn’t be afraid to look outside “traditional” or mythological/fantasy definitions if they don’t feel right. Why should modern fictions have any less connection to the spiritual than the ancient myths? We take legends of elves and dragons as if they were literal accounts, yet there’s a possibility that they were no more or less fiction than a dimestore comic-book. If it’s in the latter that an Otherkin finds a truth that sings to them and brings them happiness, what place is it of ours to deny it? It’s kind of like the Otherkin variant of Dead Poets’ syndrome – the idea that only time makes fiction into literature (or myth), and by virtue of its age this literature (or myth) possesses some greater significance than its modern-day equivalent. This is stuff and nonsense, of course. If something has relevance and truth, age does not increase that relevance and truth, only gauge whether it has enough to stand the test of time.

8. Writing (or drawing) for yourself can be a vital tool.

It doesn’t have to be a novel. It doesn’t have to be based on anything you remember (in fact, if you do have memories, it’s better to try to create something independent of them – you may find your creation returns on its own to the concepts and images you already remember). It doesn’t even have to be coherent. Create a culture, a race, a species. Don’t think about it, just write down the first images and ideas that occur. Consider in what kind of world, in what kind of climate and dwellings these beings live. Think about their language, their games, and the food they eat. If you can, look back at childhood doodles and writings, and see if anything recurs. Afterwards, if you like, look at what you’ve created and try Kerowyn’s method from #5 with this race in mind.

9. If all else fails, ask friends.

Ask friends, family and people around you what kind of traits you have, what you’d be if you were a fantasy creature or an animal. Do you have any particular traits or mannerisms that suggest a certain being? What do they see or feel when they look in into your eyes – a trickster and troublemaker, a sparkling and effervescent soul, a dark soul, a primal soul, a childlike soul, a very old soul? Unless your friends already know about your Otherkin searching, though, it’s probably best not to ask too many questions of the same friend – they may start to look at you funny. This also isn’t something to try first off, because others’ judgements may sway you, or even be wholly inaccurate (particularly if they’re not spiritual people). Don’t take what others tell you too literally. Only you can know if you are or aren’t something. If you find yourself reeling at being told you’re something you’re not, or that you aren’t something you feel you are, trust your instincts. (I’ve been defined by various friends as a tiger, cottontail rabbit, horse, deer, weasel-like thing, “a wise bird that isn’t an owl”, canary, and puma. My soul was clearly having an identity crisis that week.)

10. Finally, be honest with yourself and true to yourself.

Many people find that only the past lives and incarnations relevant to them in this life bubble up to the surface. After all, if you believe in reincarnation, then statistically most people have probably reincarnated, but comparatively few remember it, and that’s likely to be because they don’t need to. Some people, however, even after all this sifting and self-validating, still find that several different ideas or impressions remain. You may have been all these things in the past, or they may just be things that you incidentally recall. The question is, which of them are relevant to you now? Of which of them can you say, with conviction, “I am” or “I feel like I am”? I have quite strong connections to draconity, and these may reflect the fact that, possibly, I was a dragon once. I even believed it myself for some time, but ultimately, draconity didn’t “fit” me. I didn’t “feel” like a dragon. When I frequented draconic communities, I felt like an outsider. I didn’t have the impulses and sensations that dragons should have. I simply don’t know, or at best have forgotten, what it’s like to be a winged pseudoreptilian being. Eventually I decided that “dragon”, the label, wasn’t for me. It’s something I connect to, it’s something that’s like me. It’s not who I am, and so I let it go.

The process of self-discovery means you have to be prepared and unafraid to let labels go. Most people don’t have the courage of their convictions right from the bat, but jump into this label and that description because they feel some vague connection to it. “Trying on” different labels and spiritual identities is all part of the Awakening process for many people, but you have to be unafraid and unashamed to say, when it turns out something isn’t right for you, “Okay, that didn’t work. I tried, but it wasn’t me. Let’s try again.” Don’t cling to old, ill-fitting labels because you’re ashamed of seeming a turncoat or weak in your beliefs. It’s better to be briefly seen as weak and have a chance at gaining something you can truly, strongly believe in, than to cling to a skin that will never truly be your own. Eventually, you’ll find something that works for you. The process will be easier if you don’t go around saying “I AM!” straightaway, but rather say “I might be…” or “I think…”, even though the temptation to shout “Hallelujah!” when you think you’ve found something that might fit can be overwhelming.

Above all, don’t take life too seriously. Find time to live, to appreciate, to enjoy, to play, to contemplate and to celebrate. Knowing what you are won’t help one iota if the rest of your life goes to Hades in a handbasket in the meantime. Be yourself, regardless of what species your self may be. Relax, and have fun. The more your identity as a being, irrespective of species, is strengthened and kept healthy, the easier it’ll be for the rest to fall into place.

Sprite Rêvenchatte
International Cat of Mystery, Cake and Bunnyslippers

Here and Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It drives me nuts.

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

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

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

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

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

Deal with it.

From the Heart Out

Ed: Every so often when talking about becoming aware, someone expresses the opinion that things have become, in some ways, too easy for newcomers to the otherkin scene. At which point someone asks, why should they be hard, what’s wrong with helping others…

It’s not so much that I think things have to be hard. On the contrary, I don’t think they have to be hard at all. What I do think is that some things have to be done for oneself, that they cannot possibly have the same degree of meaning for you if you allow someone else to do them for you.

When I was going through my Awakening, I was the only person I knew who was Sidhe. I had two choices: Decide I was nuts, or reach out. So I reached out, and while I didn’t find anyone “like me”, I found people in the pagan community who were willing to listen and be supportive of my search for my own answers.

They did not, however, blindly accept me without question simply because I said so. They challenged me to think about what I felt, to become aware, to experience myself. They asked me hard questions: Why do you think you are Sidhe? What makes you believe you are something other than human in spirit, and not just using it as an excuse to feel superior?

Why indeed. Naturally I threw the kind of little hissy tempertantrums that many are so very familiar with these days – how dare you question my beliefs, you’re so insensitive, I’m trying to cope with what I am and you just want to tear me down, my truth is my truth for me, yada yada. And then one day one of my friends said to me, “Look, asshole, I’m not trying to tell you I don’t believe. I’m trying to make you think about why you believe, because if you are what you believe you are then you have a whole new perspective to work with and don’t you think you’ll work with it better if you understand it from the inside out?”


Yeah. That changed my perspective radically. I quit trying to be so damned defensive and instead tried to understand it from the heart out instead of from the skin in. Instead of trying to remember who I was, I tried being who I was – and found that remembering came naturally with that. Instead of trying to fit myself into a label that “defined” what I was, I explored what I was and didn’t worry about the labels – and found that there was a resonance with one thing in particular (Sidhe) and a couple of other things more peripherally. That led me to explore the mythologies. But at the same time, the mythologies didn’t define me because the hard questions my friends taught me to ask myself had already helped me define myself. What the mythologies did was enrich the experience and give me a cultural perspective.

I know that not everyone feels the “cultural perspective” thing is relevant or important. And it may not be for some people but it is for me to a degree that makes it hard for me to understand how the cultural perspective thing can be unimportant to someone – because it gives me some overall context for understanding the very way I think and react. Speaking here of incarnate otherkin rather than bloodline otherkin – I tend to believe that the soul has no “race”, and that by this token we are either all “other”, or none of us are. I don’t think there are very many souls who have only incarnated as a single race every time. What I believe sets those of us who identify as “other” off from those who don’t is not that we were once in another lifetime something other than human, but rather that the lifetime(s) we spent as other races so strongly impressed us at the soul level that even with the passage of cycles we still identify with those races more than we do the one we were culturally born into.

I find it difficult to understand how someone can claim to know they are a thing without any effort made to understand themselves from the heart out. If you look at a list of “you may be otherkin if…” and you try to match up what you are to what is on that list, you are trying to understand yourself from the skin in. This is useful only to an extent – it could possibly be a reasonable starting point. But if you want to understand who you are – not who your race is, not who your grandfather is – but who you are regardless of race or origin – you need to understand from the heart out. When you understand who you are from the heart out then the challenges to what you believe don’t threaten you. They become food for thought. And opportunities to understand yourself even better. And then it’s not “hard”, because it’s fresh and fascinating and enjoyable.

I believe the drive to understand oneself is an integral part of being aware of one’s Otherness. One of the things that seems to spark Awakening is the realization that one is not like others, and the desire to understand why. I have run across a few who call themselves Other who say they feel no need to understand ThemSelves, but I question if they are truly feeling the pull of Otherness or simply adopting the cloak because it’s shiny and pretty. How can you even wonder if your soul is Other without a drive to understand what that Otherness is? How can you claim a thing when you do not even want to know what that thing truly is? Being Other is not like being Goth, it’s Not Like you can just decide tomorrow you don’t want to wear this or that color all the time and presto, you aren’ t Other anymore. If that is all being Other is to you, then you aren’t Other. And so when someone comes on a list and says, “I think I’m (fill in the blank), what do you think?” I say to them, “Why do you think that? What makes you believe this? Why do you define yourself as this as opposed to human?” And when I am met with “how dare you question my reality?”, my response is, “I dare because I’m not trying to tell you I *don’t* believe, I’m trying to challenge you to understand why you believe.” So that you can learn who you are from the heart out. Every Otherkin I have met who truly *scans* Otherkin has such a burning hunger to understand why they feel and believe they way they do. That you can be so different and not burn to know why escapes me.

When someone else comes along and says, “naughty, naughty bad Tiernan being so mean and nasty to the poor widdle newbie – here, widdle newbie, you have X color eyes and phantom wings and Y memories, ergo you must be Z, wasn’t that easy?” I wonder how much of that reaction is a true desire to help, and how much is a desire to control, to be thought of admiringly, to be looked up to as a mentor type. It’s like Impressing hatchlings – you can convince yourself you’re very powerful if you have a whole crop of ‘kin who think and believe and perceive exactly the way you do – but how valuable is that experience going to be if someone has spoonfed it to you? And then it’s “go here to this website, go there to that website”. Websites are nice starting points but a true mentor doesn’t ment by pointing someone at a website and saying “go read this list and come back and tell me which one you think applies to you” – that’s goddamn lazy and if you’re too lazy to take the time to listen to what someone says, you have no business trying to mentor them. A true mentor says, “Tell me what you think. Tell me why you think that. Tell me where you heard that….”

A true mentor learns as much as sie teaches, and uses the tools appropriately. You cannot cannot cannot tell someone else what they are – if you do, you are lying to them. Oh, you may be correct – but you are still lying to them because your intent is false. If someone had told me I was Sidhe before I Understood it from the heart out, how much would it have meant? Would I have grown? Would I have learned? No, because I wouldn’t have done the footwork to try and understand why I felt/thought/experienced the way I did. I wouldn’t have come to Understand the culture that so impressed my soul that it continues to resonate thousands of years later, above and beyond any other I lived in. From the heart out.

Personal Mythology, Imagination and Metaphor

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

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

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

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

14 August, 2006

Personal Mythology, Imagination and Metaphor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Day in the Life of Otherkin

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

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

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

14 August, 2006

A Day in the Life of Otherkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I Otherkin?

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

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

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

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

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

So…Are you ‘Kin? Go find out.

New Report