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.

(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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