So, What’s This “Therianthropy” Thing?
Therianthropy is the state of having a (soul, spirit, ka, essence, id, inner mind, insert appropriate term from your worldview here) which is wholly or partially that of a non-human animal, such as wolf, tiger, hawk, or just about anything else. Individuals who have such inner selves are known as Therianthropes, or just therians. Now, that being said, Therians come from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and religions (or lack thereof), and as a result many have very different opinions. 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). Others believe they were re-incarnated into the wrong body, while still others believe that their soul is part human and part animal.
Is it a religion? A cult?
Neither. The cynics answer would be that, in order to be a cult we’d need some level of organization, leadership and most of all, to actually agree about basic spiritual concepts. As for a religion, therianthropy on its own is merely a condition, an experience to be interpreted by the individual in their worldview (an essay on this is in the essay section). It’s more like a component that can be added to an existing belief structure, just as a member of any religion can be vegetarian for any number of theological reasons, but they are still vegetarian.
Animal souls? What are you, werewolves?
Ahh, the w word. Yes, we do use that term to describe ourselves, though usually just “were”, rather than anything species specific (yes, political correctness has infiltrated therian thought. Be afraid, very afraid). However, due to the connotations that “werewolf/cat/whatever” has, many therians prefer not to use it except informally, among other therians.
Wait, you Actually believe you’re were-creatures?
Not in the Hollywood sense. No bloodthirsty, drooling monsters that physically transform under a full moon and eat people. We don’t run around trying to attack people, the full moon’s effect on shifting is, for most, psychosomatic, and lead bullets are just as lethal to us as silver bullets, not looking both ways before crossing the street, freak lawnmower accidents, and eating too much McDonalds. As for physical transformations, some believe it to be possible, others deny such a possibility, but anyone claiming to physically transform will most likely be treated with anything from severe skepticism to outright, scornful dismissal to, most often, laughter. While some may entertain the possibility, there is an almost universal opinion that no one can actually physically transform, or if they can, they’re being smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
So, if you’re not the Hollywood or mythical werecritters, why use the term?
The term originated from a newgroup, 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. Of course, many therians had always found these myths attractive, due to common elements of a man-beast soul, transformation, animal mindset in a human, etc. 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. Suddenly every therian who had been reading knew that there was someone else out there who felt like they did, and the response was instantaneous and overwhelming (at least for such a sparsely populated newsgroup). Over the next few years, a great deal of thought was expended on this issue, our commonalities, our differences, various worldviews colliding. When the dust settled, and this new idea had some semblance of shape, it was realized that ‘were-____’ was no longer a fitting label, and thus the term ‘therianthrope’ was coined. But even ‘therian’ is a bulky and awkward term compared to the short and simple ‘were’, so the usage persists, a relic from the origins of the concept.
Ok. Wait, you implied that you shift, but then said you don’t physically transform. Make up your mind.
There’s more than one way to skin a were-cat. There are several occurrences that have come to be called “shifting”, and are distinguished by prefixes. Physical shifting, or P-shifting, is the mythic ability to actually change shape. The most common is M-shifting, in which the therian’s mindset switches or “shifts” from predominantly human to predominantly animal. There are others, including Dream shifts, Astral shifting, and several others detailed in the essay section of this site.
No, we haven’t failed to distinguish reality from a role-playing game. Or, I should revise, the real ones haven’t. Like many other groups, there is a perpetual plague of posers, in this case those who actually cannot distinguish reality from a game. There’s an essay in the therianthropy section of this site about distinguishing them, but in truth it’s fairly easy. While some therians role-play, myself included, we are meticulous about keeping RP and RL separate. And, to top it off, most Werewolf RPGs are, at best, only superficially similar to reality and the beliefs of the majority of therians.
So who are you? Are you all whiny 14 year-old boys living in their parent’s basements? Or overweight 30-something losers?
Hardly. Therians are all ages, races, genders, and come from all walks of life. We’re teenagers, college students, IT professionals, biologists, cops, artists, authors, and military personnel. Currently, the online therianthropic community displays a predominance of young, Caucasian males, however, this prevalence is actually in line with that group’s predominance of the Internet in general. The predominance of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans is likewise simply a result of the fact that the bulk of therian communities and resources are in the English language.
Ahh, the million-dollar question. Frankly, there’s no good answer for this. I could run through a laundry list of supposed signs, and recount countless personal stories of how various therians figured it out, but it would all be meaningless. Every explanation of why a therian thinks they are a therian sooner or later boils down to “It’s just what I am, inside. I just know.” or something along those lines. You either are an animal inside, or not, and if you deceive yourself, you’re the only one hurt. However, one note: a “connection” does not make you a therianthrope. Therianthropes don’t just identify or spiritually connect with an animal, they ARE, in whole or in part, that animal. A “connection”, a dream about being an animal, or a spirit guide or totem are all well and good, but they do not mean you’re a therian.
Well, I really like (insert species here), and I’ve read some New Age books recently about how to psychologically shapeshift, and did it. Am I therian?
No. Or rather, not necessarily. Shifting does not make one therian, nor do all therians shift (some are in a intermediate mindset 24/7). In fact, any Joe Sixpack can, with the right know-how, shift. The shifting you see in Newage (space removed on purpose, pronounced like ‘sewage’ and for good reason) books, often called ‘shamanic shapeshifting’, is basically the same method and experience, but with a few minor differences, and one huge one:
1) Therians don’t need complicated rituals or any such preparation to shift. We just do, without any more mental effort than mentally commanding your arm to pick up a pencil. In fact, certain stimuli can trigger a shift involuntarily, though many of us can control it well enough to suppress it if it’s not a good time or place.
2) While therians can shift into animals other than their animal-side, it’s generally much more difficult. We may not have to go through as much effort as a normal person, but it’s still a lot harder, though sometimes it does happen spontaneously, called a cameo-shift
3) It’s not something we can walk away from. A shaman may shift like a therian, but once the ritual is over, he’s back to normal. We, on the other hand, are like this 24/7, in situations both spiritual and mundane. The animal is always inside us, always there. For shamans, it’s something they do. For us, it’s who we are.
4) The BIG difference: shamanic shapeshifting is the channeling of an external spirit, usually a totem, spirit guide, or some other spirit. A therian’s M-shift is still 100% them, no external influence. The animal inside is part of us, not a external force.
Couldn’t this just be the Freudian id or something? Everyone’s inner beast, their Mr. Hyde?
No. Though several atheist therians are looking at ways to explain therianthropy in terms of an altered id or animus of whatever, they still acknowledge that this part of us is not human. Most of the key evidence that it’s not just the id, nor an affectation, either conscious or subconscious, comes from reports of therians exhibiting species-specific behavior before knowing of their therianthropy, or without noticing consciously and without enough contact to accurately emulate it from the animal in question. While I do not object to the possibility of a psychological cause, the simple fact is that many therian minds, both great and small, have applied themselves to this problem, and have yet to come up with an explanation that fully accounts for what is observed.
There are several strikes against those possibilities, including the rarity of the diseases, the fact that there have never been recorded MPD (or, as it is now known, DID) cases in which one of the personalities was an animal, the fact that Clinical Lycanthropy is usually classed as a sub-type of schizophrenia (of which weres show no greater symptoms than any other normal person), and that both involve a rigid partitioning of the personality/soul. In therianthropy, the two sides are not really separate, any more than the dark and light sides of the moon, but we often refer to them that way for simplicity of communication. Indeed, most therians are so integrated that it’s impossible to even draw a vague line, so to speak, of which is which.
Oh, wait, now I know what you are! Aren’t you those guys in furry costumes on (insert TV show about furs here).
My response is “No”, and the only other common response is “Oh HELL No!” Furs and therians share an uneasy tolerance for each other, with much grumbling on either side, with those furs aware of us (the furry community is much larger than the therian community) considering us insane at best, and many therians considering furs to be ‘furverts’, ‘wanna-bes’ or both. Mostly this animosity springs from people’s assumption that either group is equivalent to the other, as many furs and therians get along just fine. However, to clear the air, I’ll try to differentiate them. Furs are a fandom, in which art, costuming, movies, animations, and such which focus on anthropomorphic (human-like) animals are the central unifying element. Some furs do have spiritual beliefs about animals and such, and some are even also therians, but the focus of the furry community is not spiritual. In contrast, while therians may enjoy the same things as furs, and even be part of the furry fandom, the focus of the therian community is our shared spiritual phenomenon above and beyond all else.
Well, you sound convincing, but I have this book called The Magic of Shapeshifting by Rosalyn Green that says (insert BS here)…
Kill me. Kill me now. I’m serious, having an eyeless alien chew it’s way out of your chest from the inside is a day in the park compared to what that damn book has done for the therian community, especially because most people, therian or not, are perfectly prepared to believe that anything must be true just because it’s written in a book. I’ve read this book, and it consists of two parts:
1) Utter bullshit. I have no idea whose ass Ms Green pulled this out of, but the smell is still fresh. Her spiritual explanations hold water like a sieve, and her accounts of just about everything are terribly wrong. From ‘How to P-shift’ (when I read that, I almost crapped myself I was laughing so hard) to the idea that you can somehow become therian, it’s ridiculous.
2) Plagiarism. Yes, that’s right, boys and girls, Ms Green Stole information from a variety of were sites, relying especially heavily on shifters.org, included entire paragraphs verbatim from the sites, and then not only does not cite her sources, but directs people to the furs, since if they find the therian community they’ll realize she’s both a crackpot and a thief. The only reason legal action hasn’t been taken is that lawyers cost too much. On the bright side, at least there are some truths somewhere in that godawful book.
Frankly, the best use for that book is in the smallest room in the house, in case the usual paper in that room runs out, if you catch my drift.
No. Every therian I’ve met whom I’m sure is genuine (yes, we do have fakers) has been this was since their first memories, and so far many people’s attempts to become therian have failed. Nature works with what it has. If you don’t have it to begin with, you won’t ever. Sorry.
No. While, as a consequence of our animal natures we do tend to me more environmentalist than most, very few therians are extremist about it. As for veganism or vegetarianism, I’d say they’re no more common in therians than the rest of the populace. Yes, carnivore therians are sometimes vegan, but don’t ask me how or why, I don’t understand it at all.
More questions? Just ask. Also, if you know a frequently asked question which would be good in here, please send it my way.