Friday, July 6, 2012

PBP 16: Not Human: A Primer On Being Otherkin

(This is the 7-Pointed Star, also sometimes known as a Faery Star, which is the generally accepted symbol of the Otherkin community as a whole.) 

A quick note: it was brought to my attention that my use of the word 'crazies' in this article was offensive to those of us 'kin who also have a mental illness. I have changed my terminology to reflect this, because that's a very valid point. I meant no disrespect to those in the community who have both of those statuses.

In which I lose all credentials the majority of people imagine I have.

I've been keeping a secret from you, readers. Not just never came up. I mean, how do you break the ice with somebody about this? Hi, the name's Duskenpath, PS my soul is not human? See where I'm going with this?

Otherkin identities are often the fringe of the fringe. Often the butt of the Pagan Community's jokes, it's made it hard for people like me to just come out and say it.

Even in the accepting Pagan community, Gods can speak to you and through you and astral travel is possible, but start talking about how you have a non human identity at the soul level and you get JUST TOO WEIRD for some people to handle. And I get that. Quite frankly I would reject it too if it hadn't happened to me.

Or rather, it didn't happen. It just was. I was just made aware of it late.

But before we go into that tale (next week's post) this week I'm focusing on basic definitions on Otherkin and how that impacts my Paganism.

For ease of reading, I have bolded vocabulary terms and sentences I think are very important to understanding Otherkin.

Also, please understand I do not and will never speak for every Otherkin or Therian, everywhere. This is purely personal experience and understanding, from a single member of that community.

Part 1: What the fuck is an 'Otherkin'?

As per the wise Wikipedia:
Otherkin are a community of people who see themselves as partially or entirely non-human, contending that they are, in spirit if not in body, not human.
 Now. let me explain this in more detail in terms of how it relates to me and suchwith.

Otherkin come in all shapes and sizes, and all religions. Under the umbrella Otherkin you have people claiming to be Dragons, Gryphons, all manner of magical creature, Fae, Elves, etc. Also under that umbrella, you have people who consider their very souls the soul of those creatures, or those who disbelieve in souls entirely and consider themselves that creature on a psychological (completely non-mystical) level, or those who believe in past lives and have memories of being that creature to the point where a human body now feels wrong or alien, or those who are a mix of all these thoughts. You have Atheist otherkin, Pagan otherkin, Christian otherkin, Buddhist otherkin--name a system, and you'll find an Otherkin person in it. Ask 50 Otherkin what they mean by being Otherkin and you'll get 100 different answers.

In fact, probably the only thing uniting Otherkin is the fact we all identify as 'not human', in whatever context (physical, spiritual, metaphysical, psychological) that implies.

Also similar (but often considered not the same) are those who consider themselves Therian, generally meaning they identify as a living animal. (Example: Wolf therian identifies as a wolf, Cougar therian identifies with Cougars, Shark therian, etc)


Therian - Person who identifies as Non-Mythological Non-Human (Hawk, Wolf, Bear, Frog)

Otherkin - Person who identifies as Mythological/Other Non-Human (Higher Realms beings, Fae of all colors, Cryptozoological creatures)

Part 2: What does it mean to be Otherkin/How do you know?

Imagine that, from a young age you felt different. You couldn't place your finger on it, but you felt like an alien dropped onto the wrong planet. Things normal people took for granted looked strange to you. You would stare at your hands and wonder why they weren't something-else you couldn't name. Imagine that you would feel this longing for some other place and some other form you couldn't explain. Imagine that being human felt like a cage you couldn't physically escape and you didn't know why.

It wasn't about thinking you were special, or better. Just that you never felt quite right.

Then imagine that you filled your room with images of your 'kin-type and you didn't know it. You collected it fiercely, read everything there was on it and at the age of 12 found the internet and began searching 'Am I an X'? (X being species/kin type.) Imagine that when you would be walking on mountain hills, you would 'imagine' your feet as hooves and your steps would improve, and some days you swore you could feel a tail snag on things that weren't really there.

Imagine that you felt markedly different from everybody else. The more you grew into your body during puberty, the more dysphoria you would have. But it wasn't dysphoria driven by physical sex, but by body. By being in a human shape.

Imagine you blocked all of that out and buried it because the feelings made no sense. That you had considered 'What if I'm an X on the soul level'? before, but it sounded positively ridiculous, even to you. So you spoke to nobody about it and tried to ignore the feelings.

And then you gained astral awareness, and suddenly the feelings woke up again. And you found astral evidence it was true. And even though it still sounded insane and fluffy, even to you, you began to accept that explanation. That your soul was 'X', and not naturally human. Because it explained the feelings and it brought peace to your soul. It explained the phantom ears and the weird tail feeling. It explained the feelings of grand compassion and aversion to cruelty so deep it would ache for days. It explained the impulse to put your forehead to things when healing people with energy. It explained the dreams you had of running free without this body, and the memories you had of the time before time.

That's exactly how it felt for me.

Most Otherkin report some of the same symptoms: Phantom Limb Syndrome, which is the feeling an amputee can have, such as an itch on a limb that is no longer there, is one of them. Except, with Otherkin, we have phantom tails and ears and snouts and wings that are energetically there. In extreme cases one can feel them hitting objects, or other people unconsciously give those parts breathing space without knowing why. Often this awareness comes before one is aware of anything else, spiritually. You can imagine the confusion at first. Another common thing is feeling the instinctual need to do things normal humans don't. Like when confronted with an enemy, the urge to snarl and snap with teeth you don't have, or a feeling of wings making you look larger when you don't have any. For many people, heightened situations actually force the Otherkin nature to rise to the surface more than not.

Most Otherkin/Therians speak in terms of Awakening. This is kind of the moment where you awaken to your true nature. For some it's a dream that shows you the past, or for others it's a single epiphany moment that breaks your mind open and you realize everything your symptoms have been pointing to. It's the moment at which you accept that this is really happening to you, and maybe you're not insane for thinking so.

Are all Otherkin/Therians really legitimate? (Do you all have delusions of grandeur?)

I know being Otherkin can sound insane to other people. It does to me, even now, even when I know this is true for me. I hestitate to say it, because I know no matter what I do I will be thought illegitimate.

Why is that? Well, as in every community, when most people hear 'Otherkin', they think of the 'attention-seeking' types.

Every community has its attention seekers. Unfortunately, especially in the Pagan community, those people are often the loudest, and they drown out the humble regular joes who quietly go on with their business behind the scenes. Those people make it harder for us to come out and claim our titles, because we are already working against prejudice that many have.

Go on any forum for Otherkin on the internet and you'll see plenty of people claiming really out-there things about coming from planet X Y or Z or being royalty from X family of vampires or people claiming ancestral knowledge and great danger for humans in coming years. And while I can't prove those people wrong, I will say for every extreme claim you'll find a well-mannered, down to earth member of the forum who can calmly discuss their nature and past in a completely rational way. As with any culture, Otherkin run the gamut in all colors and flavors, and the mistake people make is to stop looking once they hit an attention-seeker. And it's sad that it has to be that way.

For instance, if you claim you're a Witch in polite company, you might get more than a few weird looks, because you're working against a long long loooong line of propaganda and myth. Otherkin are facing the same thing.

Do I think every single Otherkin claiming to be a Dragon Most High from the Celestial Order sent to earth to save mankind from the Great Black Menace is legitimate? No. While I cannot inherently prove (due to Chaos beliefs) that that is not the truth, I can be discerning. I look for things that tip me off that the person spent too much time in Fantasy MMORPGS. I look for hero complexing, or the idea that one is a savior to the entire world at the exclusion of others. I look for inability to function in physical life. As Lupa says here, the problem happens when being Otherkin is deliberately being used to cause a schism for the person in everyday life.

If you're sharp, you'll notice those are the regular markers I use to discern legitimate Pagan practitioners from the delusional/hero complexy. The methodology is the same.

Because, in the end, being Otherkin, like being Pagan, is a belief. So long as that belief is not encroaching on my personal will, I have no right to judge it. I can disagree with its legitimacy, but I can't outwardly prove it wrong because I'm not the person. So I refrain from doing so. There's a lesson in here, folks.

Otherkin and the idea of Soul?


The idea of the soul and what it is and if it even exists is a huge question for someone who is Otherkin.

I can't speak for everybody else, but I will explain how I see it via Pagan beliefs I have.

I believe the soul is like a many-faceted diamond, and so it has many parts. By virtue of having many parts, parts can break off and become lost resulting in a fractured soul, or parts can break off and live seperate lives from the original soul, and be their own conscious vessels accruing lessons and wisdom for the other parts of the soul. So if you have 9 facets, and each has a distinct personality and appearance, they are all 'you', but they are still highly individualized. You could almost say psychologically it's like containing many archetypes in one soul, to aid with faster progression on the whole.

I think in terms of being Otherkin, it's like the "Box" that holds my soul facets is not human-shaped, and the facets are secondary to that box. Most of my facets are not strictly speaking human, either, but I consider my soul overall my 'kin-type, and my facets like secondary parts of my main soul.

This bleeds over into Otherkin discussions on the soul and this body. Are you and your 'Kin soul the same thing, or are you two minds? Two spirits? While I consider myself my kin-type, I also see her as walking around conscious without me, but she is still me, and that's how it is. It's a very interesting question to puzzle out for oneself.

I also believe in past lives, which many Pagans do. It just so happens that my original life was not a Human one, and that imprinted my soul and memory to such an extent it's been a constant search to get back to that form.

Otherkin Shifting VS. Shapeshifting


Readers familiar with the idea of Shapeshifting and phantom limbs might say "Hey, that sounds like you're shapeshifting an animal, so what's the difference between shifting and Otherkin?"

Firstly, let me define shifting.

There are, in Otherkin and Shamanic terms, a couple words we use to talk about shifts.

P-Shifting: Physically shifting into your 'Kin type. This is like someone really becoming a wolf. As of yet has obviously never been proven to be possible, for obvious reasons.

M-Shifting: Mentally shifting into your 'Kin type. This is a sudden shift in mental processing or thought into that of your indentified type. This can also cover sudden awarness of phantom limbs.

S-Shifting: Spiritual shifting into your 'Kin type. This covers purposefully feeling energetically like your 'Kin type, all the way through projecting that way onto the astral.

Now, what's the big difference between the three types of shift listed above and regular Shamanic shape-shifting into an animal? For an Otherkin, you're generally shifting into the same thing, again and again. The exception to this rule is people who identify as Shifter 'kin, but that's the minority.

When we Shapeshift in Shamanic technique, it's often to learn to be closer to our Totems or Guides, or to learn some specific lesson from an animal spirit. We might invoke Lion for sudden courage or learn to ground and center with Bear, but it's often temporary and voluntary. We are usually planning and executing the shift with purpose. There is also an understanding there, that while you may take on attributes of Bear, your soul is not that Bear. Your totem is not YOU, necessarily. When you're Otherkin, the shift is often involuntary (though it can be voluntary) and centered around the same identity again and again. And it feels like just another side of you, and not an outside attribute. There is a difference in feeling there.

I know how both of these things feel because I have done both. I have Shifted a totem, and Shifted other guides for a lesson or purpose, and have even Shifted other parts of my soul. None of them feel "correct" like shifting my otherkin form does. It's a sensation of freedom and rightness that is hard to express in words.

In Pagan terms, you may invoke into your body (possession) a certain L'wa or Deity. It's understood you are NOT that deity/L'wa, and that you are welcoming it into your body for a purpose. When the work is done, you part ways. Otherkin shifting is not focused on a goal: it just happens. I couldn't tell you why, but it's like the soul goes, HEY WAKE UP. HEY WAKE UP. And until you pay attention it just gets more annoying.

How does being Otherkin impact my Pagan practice and daily life?

For me personally, I'm so glad I ended up Pagan AND Otherkin, because I feel like it gave me the tools to not go nuts in this body.

Pagan-speaking, I can astral project as my 'Kin-self, and I do, and that helps the trapped feeling enormously. I'm sensitive to energy so I actively encourage feeling my 'Kin parts in this life through phantom limb because it makes me feel more complete. I set up an Altar/Shrine space dedicated to my 'Kin-type, and sitting and meditating with it every day has been an enormous help to my well-being.

I collect crystals that mimic the energy of my 'Kin species, and tarot and oracle cards that aid me in connecting with it. I didn't realize it until I fully understood my Otherkin nature, but all of my intrinsic Pagan abilities (just knowing how to energy heal, knowledge of seals and sigils) made sense for my 'Kin species. Recently, through Auto-Writing, I've been encouraging my 'Kin side to give me information on my past lives and languages from that time.

Being Pagan and very Astrally aware has helped me puzzle through and solve my Otherkin identity issues much faster than any other path would have, for me, especially one that didn't accept Spirits at all. And trust me, everything I wrote here took a LOT of puzzling and thinking I was nuts. I realize this.

In Conclusion: Anybody else out there?

Do any Otherkin/Pagans who might be Otherkin read my blog? Please comment if you do! I want to know you! (And even if you're not, feel free to express anything about Otherkin, especially questions, in the comments below.)

Next Friday: Part 2: In which I reveal which Otherkin Species I identify as, and probably disappoint you all.


  1. Thank you for this explanatory post. I am one of those people who is skeptical of humans claiming to be Otherkin, for reasons you already pointed out. But from you? I believe it.

    1. Frankly that means a lot because I was expecting to wake up to no followers left because I crossed the invisible weird line.

      Also how have I not linked you on my blog roll?! This is happening!

  2. Thanks for a very interesting and informational post!

    Take a look at this forum:
    It may be of interest. :-)

    1. You probably saw but I joined already. Why not eh?

  3. I can definitely relate. I'm a Whale and Cougar Therian :-) Talk about phantom limbs, I've been there with tail, fluke, fins, paws, and tail! I've felt similar shifts when "Riding the Hedge", when I was trying to learn my species. I've also experienced Cameo-shifts with other creatures, like Wolves and one of my Spirit Animals - Ram.

    I'm skeptical of others who claim to be Otherkin/Therian just because they are crazies, phonies, and trolls out there (especially with this werewolf/Brothers Grimm/what have you craze). That and it seems like EVERYONE and their mom is a Wolf Therian! I've yet to find another Whale. But there are also some compelling stories out there; the most compelling for me having been a Chickadee and a Dragon.

    I'm skeptical about Otherkin as well, mainly because I've yet to have experiences with Mythological creatures/beings. Though my experience with a Spirit Kirin a year ago has opened me up a little bit. Since there is a lot that I don't know about the world, I do try to give others the benefit of the doubt.

    Great post. ~)O(~

    1. I HEAR YOU on the Grimm/fairytale craze. I think that's how it goes in popular culture. But yeah it does seem like EVERYBODY is wolf therian. Strange eh? I have often wondered what's up with that.

      Whale is an interesting 'kintype. Fascinating.

  4. Great post. I am a wolf therian and angelic being. Now, I'm not saying this because I think it's "cool". I am not roleplaying, either. Actually, I would much rather be a normal human at soul. I would give more details, but I am typing this from my phone and my fingers hurt. Kudos~

    1. I hear that. Sometimes it causes a lot of problems. But I would love more details!

  5. Thanks for your wonderful post :) I am a Tiger therian. I consider my soul part Human, part Tiger.

    I spent many years wondering why I felt different from others. It took much prodding from my totem to get me to realize I am therian, and a couple more years to find out there was a word to describe those of us with part/full animal spirits.

    I definitely feel the phantom claws, ears, tail, fur, etc., especially when I'm at heightened emotions or feeling sexually charged. I can shift at will (fully or partially), but with heightened emotions/sexual energy it might occur spontaneously. I've become much better at staying in control when I shift, which is good - the Tiger side is very strong.

    Purrs and Blessings!


  6. Hello! I've just now found your blog through someone's link on Tumblr, but now that I've found it I'll definitely be reading more of it. I just wanted to say that you're very brave for posting this-- I've only told one person about my phantom wings, partially because I don't even have a species to identify with, just the limbs. I'm also a new and learning pagan, so it's good to know that there are active 'kin pagans out there. Anyway, thanks so much for posting this! -Lee

  7. I apologize if this comment goes through twice, I'm not sure if I'm using this website correctly. >_> I just wanted to say how brave you are for posting this. I've only told one person about my wings, and that person is 'kin as well. I don't have a specific species, just phantom wings that are extremely insistent on their existence. I feel them nearly all the time, although it's stronger when I'm in a heightened emotional state. They actually change form too, depending on my emotions, which has been pretty interesting to explore. Anyway, I'm also tentatively exploring paganism, so your blog will definitely be one I follow. Cheers! -Lee

    1. I saw the message on tumblr, and greetings back. Even among my pagan IRL friends, only I think 2 know of my status. You can claim all number of things but that is beyond most people's capability of belief, which while I understand, is still sad.

      Weirdly enough, I get phantom wings sometimes too. But I think that's from other facets and not my core soul.

  8. I relate and thank you. I figured out at a younger age I was different and thankfully met a friend who was also. We would AP as otherkin/therian to run/roam and soon I found that this has impacted my spiritual life as well. I am lynx and wolf and I can say it affects everything from sex, parenting, spiritual practice, anger, and so much more. I am so glad someone took a sincere approach to this issue which is still something that not a lot of Pagans in the community are aware of or believe.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I knew I was taking a risk by putting this out there but I felt the followers and views I would potentially risk were a welcome loss if this was something they could not handle. I felt like I was lying by not mentioning this along with my other "hard x core" spirit posting shit.

  9. Hi there! Just saying hello from another pagan otherkin (I'm sidhe/faerie). I'm silveth on tumblr, btw - just followed you there.

    1. I THINK I followed you back. Have to check. *Dumb

  10. Hey! I'm a new follower of your tumblr blog and was creepin' around your stuff. Stumbled upon this, and found it very interesting. I can't say I'm Otherkin, but I've felt some of the things you described, like wanting to react to certain situations in a non-Human way-like when I get angry sometimes, or even just think about it, I immediately go to an animalistic/something else mindset. Like I don't understand why I can't just snarl or growl (or even bite) at someone who's pissing me off, it seems perfectly natural to me.

    I've also felt the wing thing you described-again, when I get angry, it feels like something is coming out of me through my back, and I feel larger than I am.

    I also really relish ripping apart food with my teeth-gives me an endorphin rush like no other.

  11. I'm another new follower. I as therian of the feline variety for many years, but some more recent experiences that kind of threw me for a loop have led me to identify more as otherkin, although still feline of a sort. I am loving your blog btw.

    1. Note: Should read "I identified as therian..."