A Simple Introduction to Otherkin and Therianthropes

Version 1.1 – Updated 2014-05-19
Created 2013-09-16
By Orion Scribner
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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.



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)
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/
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.
Belanger, “Dragons …”
Lupa, “Otherkin and the Pagan community.”
Lupa, A field guide to otherkin, p. 57-58, 162, 166.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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

Eyes Unclouded

I am more than I seem.
To the eyes, a girl,
Small, a grin at her lips,
A flicker of playfulness in her eye.

But to the soul…
I am the coyote,
The hunter, the runner,
The trickster, the teacher,
The seeker of wisdom, the walker of paths untrodden…

I gaze to the stars and call them by name,
I run amongst the clouds and wind,
I search for others,
Seeking to teach, to guide,
And still, to learn.

This is my body, my skin is true.
I walk upright, I sing, I speak,
But in my heart and in my dreams,
I have always been, and always will be
The coyote.


I am not you,
I am other,
When you lay down to sleep,
I wake.
In your light of day,
Your skin can be soft,
Your eyes do not see,
Things in the dark,
Your claws do not have to be sharp,
In your light of day,
I am not there.
When I awake,
My eyes see movement within the dark,
My fur keeps me warm,
My claws are easily unsheathed,
I prowl through the world,
That you can not see,
Surrounded by grey.
At that first light of day,
I lay down to sleep,
Your body stirs,
Alive with it’s weakness.
You cannot live in the dark,
I cannot fight in the light,
You are not me,
But I am of you.


did you hide my wings?
can I have them back?
so I can fly up high.
why can’t I reach the sky?
why are my paws not grey?
can’t we please go hunting today?
my hands can’t handle this.
they won’t obey
when you were little,
did the dragons soar?
did they whirl and dive?
why don’t they come anymore?
have you ever seen a faerie?
or maybe a nymph in the rain?
I want to see my old friends again.

Weres and Therians

Recently I got into a conversation and an interesting topic came up- Is there a difference between weres and therians? I have to admit it threw me off a bit because I had gone through my otherkinity without considering there to be a difference between weres and therians and then two people presented themselves to me adamantly insisting that there was a difference. At first I didn’t know what to think of it so I told them that as far as I knew there was no difference but I would look into it. That is exactly what I done and that is what this post is about. Throughout this post I will look at the official definitions of weres and therians, the history of weres/ therians, and people personal stances on the subject. I will eventually come to my own decision and hopefully you can come to one as well.

Werewolf originates from werewolf, or translated as human-wolf. Therefore when referring to it in otherkin terms of were(insert animal) it translates directly as human(insert animal). This is a pretty accurate translation to what weres/therians believe they are- humans who are whichever animal they claim to be. Whether they claim this spiritually, mentally, physically etc. they are humans who are those animals in some way. This seemed like a pretty sensible term to use in my opinion because it translates quite accurately into what these animal kin believe.

Therianthropy actually threw me when I first looked at the origins of the term. This is because therianthrope translates as part man part beast. Therian originating from the Greek therion meaning wild animal/beast. Thrope comes from anthropos meaning man but even with this therianthrope translates as wild animal/ beast man. In reality therianthropy is closely related to what our folk lore and movie ideas of werewolves are. Therianthropy can also be applied to the Egyptian Gods who had the heads of animals. Of course in otherkin terms therianthropy refers to the people in our sub-culture who relate themselves spiritually to animals. This is actually the “New-Age” definition of the term therianthropy, its also accepted but, after finding out the words translation, I started to wonder why.

What could be seen from these definitions in my opinion is that they both mean the same general thing although one term is more savage than the other and that term, to my surprise, is therianthropy. But this isn’t what was important in my research, I have found out that the definitions are similar so in that way the differences are quite vast if focusing on the original definitions. However if you look at the term were(insert animal) and the “New-Age” definition of therianthropy they are for the most part the same ideas just rephrased.

When I looked further into the history of weres/therians I found out some interesting information. The actual official start of the were/therians in the otherkin sub-culture originated around 1992 on a Usenet community called alt.horror.werewolves, when some of the users started to claim to be part animal- werewolves etc. Some of them were joking but it was revealed that quite a few were not and thus weres/therians were born. Of course it would have been a lot more gradual than this and no doubt that a lot of people knew of what they were before hand, they may have even clocked the term themselves, but this incident was the biggest that had occurred.

Anyway around about this time most of these animal kin called themselves were(insert animal), this was probably partly due to the fact that it translated well to their beliefs and partly because they had started off on a werewolf site. So when the were/ Therian community first joined the otherkin culture they were mostly going by the term were. So What changed? And why is it that now weres and Therian will sometimes consider themselves different?

After further research I stumbled onto quite a few answers and most of them seemed to make sense. These ideas came from therians and are their personal opinions on the matter so I personally consider them to be quite accurate. After a while of weres being accepted into the otherkin culture there became a problem with the term. Furries Werewolf, Werecat etc. also using the term were to define themselves. This meant that not only were true weres being mistaken for furries as soon as they said what they believed themselves to be but it also meant that they were less openly accepted into the otherkin culture because of this relation with furries. This would be understandably annoying and frustrating for weres, therefore some changed their otherkin definition to therianthrope which, as we have already discovered, are similar terms. There was also the dilemma of being associated with the traditional folk lore werewolf and the movie werewolf when Weres were declaring that they were Were(insert animal), not to mention the medical condition of lycanthropy. Although this was quite easy to overcome in the otherkin community, it made coming out of the kin closet harder. It’s a lot easier to say you’re a Therian then explain the word that your friends have never heard in your own way then say you’re a Were and allow them to have already come up with half of what you are themselves. So this is why therianthropy started being used- it was a word of basically the same definition, it was less commonly used and it was up to the same interpretation with less already assumed about it.

So if Were and Therian relate to the same type of kin then why is there a difference? Well from what I can gather it is all up to personal interpretation. When I asked my partner Grey Wolf if he thought there was a difference and what he considered himself to be he said that he thought there was a difference and he would only ever call himself a Therian and never a Were. This was because, and I quote “I’m not a bi-pedal wolf inside like a werewolf and I don’t physically shift like a werewolf, I’m just a normal wolf inside”. He had take the two words, Werewolf and Wolf-Therian, and made an interpretation of what he thought they meant and then fit himself into what category best suited him according to his personal opinion of the words definitions. There are Weres/Therians out there who will strictly only adhere to one of those labels then there are those who don’t give and damn and will slip in and out of using the labels Were and Therian when describing themselves .

In conclusion Were and Therian can only ever be different in personal opinion. This is because it all depends on how the person who is making the judgement interprets the words “Were” and “Therian” and then interprets whether or not it is important to them, whether there is an acknowledgeable difference or not. Because of this I accept that there is a difference between the terms Were and Therian and that difference is mind set.

I am not a Werewolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(En)gendering a Were/Shifter Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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