All Beliefs are Welcome Here!
(this is copied from my blog. I thought it might be useful here as well. Enjoy.)
It has come to my attention that there is some discrepancy in definition between wolves. Assumptions are made. We all come together in kinship, sharing traits with one-another, coexisting in our little packs or individual lives, and find comfort in the idea that there are others like us out there. However, when it comes to specifics, we tend to vary widely, and seldom have a clear definition of what, exactly, we are. This can be frustrating. When you’re walking a spiritual existence that has more answers to a single question than thoughts in a mind, you can easily get confused. I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with different kinds of wolves. I’ve seen the different interactions, personality traits, and spiritual paths that various wolves have walked. What’s more, I have personal experience with “true” wild wolves. All of this has given me something of an insight.
Below are a set of definitions that I’ve come up with. They are my own definitions, the result of research, personal experience, and contemplation. They are by no means conclusive in themselves, and sometimes a definition may vary from its traditional root. When this happens, chalk it up to personal experience. What I experience, and what tradition dictates, may not exactly align. This is because the human element enters the fray, individuals that have given me information on their life that may not reflect ancient lore. Take what I say with a grain of salt. In any case, I hope the list helps YOU find a way to walk your path, and other people you can relate to. Have a good one.
Up first is probably the most common definition out there. Therianthrope is the root term for a series of conditions found within the Otherkin community. When I first started studying fifteen years ago, the Otherkin community was still young, figuring itself out. Even so, there was a clear, distinct definition for Therianthropes (also called Therians and ‘thropes). A therianthrope believes that his soul, for lack of a better term, is that of an animal. The soul and physical body are in constant change as they try to accommodate each other. This results in shifting: minor physical shifts that result in muscle tearing, tooth elongation, nail elongation, hand and feet calluses, eye color change, hair growth, etc. as the body tries to compromise with the self-image the mind is showing it. Mental shifts occur when the mind becomes more animal in nature: instincts, reactions, temper, all reflect that of an animal type. Phantom-shifting results in what is generally referred to as phantom-limb syndrome, except instead of missing limbs, more appendages are added: ears, tail, legs, snout. This is explained as the soul pushing out from the body, as it would during an OBE experience, resulting in the overlap of animal and human and a slight disconnect from both. Therianthropes experience these shifts for various reasons, and many philosophies exist to explain them: a condition in itself apparent at birth, a gift from a god or goddess, a spiritual evolution, etc. As it stands, therianthropes are the most common, and largest, group of Otherkin present on the internet.
Lycanthropes suffer from a medical condition known as Lycanthropy. Their bodies react to the full moon, demonstrating hair growth, muscle tearing, bone-breaks and sudden regrowth, appetite changes, sensory changes, and psychosis. THIS IS NOT A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE! In many cases, Lycanthropy can be CONTROLLED through spiritual understanding, but it is very much a physio-psychological condition. Some theorise that Lycanthropy is a psychotic response to a spiritual condition: meaning, the sufferer has a wolf side which wants to come out, but because the human side has preconceived notions held so deep that any kind of man-wolf is monstrous, that any kind of influence of the moon will turn him into a blood-crazed monster, his only response is psychosis. This is supported by the idea that, once a “shift” occurs, the person does NOT behave like a true wolf. True wolves are timid, skittery, and intelligent. A Lycanthropic reaction, however, has been observed to be psychotic and destructive, even self-destructive. This suggests the human mind gives in to a preconceived notion of the “ravening beast”, and actually suppresses the wolf side, using its presence as an excuse or trigger for the psychotic reaction. One theory suggests that if the person can be convinced of the wolf sides true nature, and coaxed into letting that side out during a psychotic experience, they can adjust to a normal life during the full moon. However, due to current psychological trends of not entertaining the validity of the “spirit wolf side”, this theory cannot be demonstrated in experimentation and therapy. A note: Lycanthropy should NOT be confused with Lycans, which brings us to our next definition.
Lycans, unlike Lycanthropes, do not have psychotic episodes. While they may experience physical sensations and shifts, it is not to the degree of the Lycanthrope. Lycans often experience sensory changes, such as heightened scent, hearing, and light sensitivity, usually in correspondence to moon phase (full and dark moons at their strongest). However, Lycans also follow what, for lack of a better term, could be called a philosophy. Lycans form “clans”, or large-scale packs, that have a specific organization and society. This is where the “werewolf subculture” originates, and it is within this subculture that the vampire vs lycan animosity originates. The rest of the world, including other wolves and vampires, are uncaring of their disputes, but to a Lycan and a “Leech”, a constant state of war exists. It can be argued that “Lycan” is nothing more than a lifestyle. However, considering attitude differences, and how the wolf side effects the individual within a Lycan community, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, I distinguish Lycans from other wolves.
Wolf personalities do not claim any physicality with wolves. Rather, wolf personalities have had early, direct influences from wolves in their life. Their personality, mental conditioning, even physical body language and reactions reflect that of wolves. These people are wolves in all sense but physical, and quite often have even experienced being a member of a wolf pack, being adopted by “true” wild wolves. Wolf personalities, while not subject to physical change, nonetheless hold a unique understanding of the wolf world, and are often accepted as kin within the various packs and organizations where one might find any other kind of wolf.
Wolf-kin, also known as wolf-brothers and wolf-sisters, are similar to wolf personalities in that they are not physically wolves. However, their level of psychic awareness gives them a keen understanding of wolves, even beyond the scope of body language. They are capable of “going wolf”, becoming entirely wolf within a mental state. They are often seen as animistic or shamanic psychics, though in many cases they are incapable of broadening their psychic abilities beyond the concept of “wolf”. In this way, they are said to be brother and sister to the wolves.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have never met a werewolf. I have no personal experience with werewolves. I include this section only because I feel that it SHOULD be included, both as a means of understanding the concept of the wolf-man, and because I can’t really bring myself to directly disbelieve anything, particularly something with such wide-spread cultural impact. Werewolves are the classic wolf-man, the two-legged beast. They can physically shift either into half-wolf or full-wolf shape. They’re often depicted as bloodthirsty monsters, though modern media and psychological analysis suggest other possibilities. They have shown up in lore throughout the world, including the United States and Canada, where the Loupe-Garou haunts both the eastern Canadian provinces and the southern Louisiana Bayou. Historical accounts of wolf-men, such as the Wolf Killer of Italy, the Dire Wolf of France, and the Wolf-Man of the Forest in Great Britain, always portray the wolf-man archetype as a tragic beast, elemental, living a life of emotional reaction and predatory instincts. While this may or may not be true, the concept of the Werewolf remains fascinating, and it captures the imagination of every generation, every clique, every social structure. It reaches into our primal nature and gives us a tug, in whatever direction that may be.
Totem-workers and Spirit-workers, while utilizing two different techniques, result in the same thing. Totem-workers use their family Totem, or clan symbol, to change themselves into that of the representation (for Wolf Clan, as an example, the person would spiritually, or as lore dictates, physically, shift into a wolf, channeling the power of their ancestors). The same is true for Spirit-workers, except instead of channeling their ancestors and the power of their clan, they are channeling spirits of wolves or other animals. Typically, a Totem-worker or Spirit-worker will choose a single animal type. This makes the transition easier, and gives the worker a more personal relationship with that animal. The spirit or totem can be said to be separate from the worker, yet uniquely bonded to them. In this way, the workers often find acceptance within the packs as a fellow wolf.
Skinwalkers are similar to Spirit-workers, in that they do change themselves into an animal that is bound to them. However, the difference occurs in technique. Skinwalkers must sacrifice something in order to gain their powers. At this point, I am unclear what the sacrifice is, however I have heard rumors that a death must occur before the act is complete. While the Skinwalker is seen as a powerful person within the tribes, historically they were often ostracized and feared. I would take a leap of logic and suggest this is due to the nature of the sacrifice involved. However, without solid data, I can’t offer insight.
There are many more kinds of wolves. These are the kinds I encounter most often. Also, a combination of the above may occur, or a new condition which may lack direct definition. While I have always considered myself a wolf personality, a secondary awakening has caused me to redefine myself. Due to my sensory sensitivity, reactions, emotional responses, and the constant flux of “wolf” and “human” sides, I have to explore new possibilities beyond the definition of a wolf personality. However, there are things that tie us all together. We all, in one way or another, have a kinship with wolves. We often react like wolves, have instinctual or emotional responses like wolves. We feel a need for a pack structure, but we become leery of strangers. We sometimes feel territorial at the oddest moments.
Sometimes we demonstrate differences. This wolf type may not react to the moon phase, while that wolf type does. This may crave meat, while that is a vegetarian. This can be explained by the balance of wolf and human, the constant state of shifting, or a personal knowledge of the balance involved. We are all at different points in our understanding, and we all have different definitions of ourselves. However, in the end we are all WOLVES, and we can find comfort in the knowledge that there are people out there whom understand the difficulties inherent with that, even within accepting societies like Otherkin.
I urge any wolf, or any ‘kin for that matter, to question, explore, and find balance. The mantra that gets bandied about constantly is “we are human in this life”, and we often take that mantra for granted, but this is the reality of our existence: Physically, we are human. We live in human society. We deal with human problems. We have to accept that, and compromise with our other sides, find a working balance in the face of ridicule, doubt, and violence. In this way, we band together to learn, to find comfort, to find understanding, and in the end, to find our place in life.
Good luck. I hope this has helped a bit.
Yes, nicely said.
Adding my own grain of salt: I feel "newly human." Yes, I'm human in this life, but I think I was dog previously.
This was incredibly informative, thank you for taking the time to write it!