“Fake or Real?”

"Fake or Real?"

I wrote this on some blog in response to the idea that therianthropy and otherkin identities could be a product of Western societies, which in the debate was also used as a point to imply they were not real, valid experiences.

I usually ignore these kinds of discussions because I don’t feel I have to justify who and what I am to anyone. It is, ultimately, only my own business if I identify as an animal, and I do not tolerate in my vicinity anyone who believes it’s okay to police others about their sense of self. However this time I wanted to debunk some misconceptions about the “constitution/construction” of identities, because the pseudo-scientific theoretical demonstrations some try to use against therianthropy are just inane.

One cannot just twist the concept of social constructionism; I mean obviously people try, but it simply does not work like that. Regarding socio-historical context influencing how individuals are constructed/constituted, there’s plenty of literature on the subject. On authors who write specifically about mental phenomenons that are more widespread in Western societies, from the top of my head I can think of Ian Hacking about Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder, and Alain Ehrenberg about depression and neurosis in general; this isn’t to say that mental illnesses are entierely social constructs, but if you read these authors you can get a glimpse of how the socio-historical context may also lead to what appears like an increase of the populations affected by those.

On a related note, there’s also more and more talking about how medical technologies and media exposure in the 20th century have brought trans paths of life into the realm of the “possible” and “reachable” for gender questioning people. To put it simply, when people know something exists then they are more likely to view their experience under this light and use that concept or term about themselves.

Now, the belief that one may be an animal at heart, or have an animal soul, is nothing new in regards to human history; but I’m not going to take that road because I don’t believe something necessarily has to exist in the past to be valid in the present days. I can take therianthropy as its own thing, a recent phenomenon with its subculture starting from the early nineties (and otherkin dating back to the seventies with the Silver Elves). Few surveys have approched these populations, it seems to have been mostly online studies, and thus there are some bias from the start such as who can answer these surveys (ie. primarily English-speakers and people with an Internet access).

That said and ignoring the bias, does therianthropy/otherkin seem something more typical of Western societies? Yeah it could well be. But does that also mean therianthropy/otherkin identities are delusional, “fake”, and that they can be “undone” in anyway?

That’d be akin to say that trans people or individuals who suffer from depression are making it up – not that I think of transidentities as mental illnesses, that’s not the case, and I also am trans and neuroAtypical. We know that these populations are not “seeking attention”, or “comforting themselves” with some fancy quirks. Maybe there is an actual increase in X population; maybe X population is just becoming more visible or that some condition is better diagnosticated. Maybe it’s Western societies putting the individual at the center of preoccupations, and many people having more time and resources to think about their own self.

Still, these people who have atypical identities, or suffer from certain disorders, have valid experiences. They’re not “making up” who they are, or what they feel. They may be partially or even entierely a product of their time, yet their experiences are still real. People go to shrinks or seek medication, or surgery and such as, because of very real phenomenons that affect their lives (such as dysphoria for a part of the trans population). Many therians experience supernumerary phantom limbs, which is a phenomenon that is known to the scientific community already. It’s not merely wishful thinking, even though delusion may also exist among self-declared therianthropes.

And I won’t even enter into the debate of “are these nonhuman perceptions actually like the experiences of the animal”. We don’t have the same biology to start with, I don’t think anyone reasonable is denying they have a human body. But similarly to how Quil put it in one of his writings, saying we are X animal is just the most simple, closest way to explain how we feel; that our behaviours and mental patterns and so on look like what we (yes, we as people who live in human bodies and human societies) think these animals are. We can’t know exactly, entierely how it feels being an animal that is not human-bodied, because we lack the practical experience. However even if we can’t know if a human wolf’s experiences are totally identical with that of a nonhuman wolf, we differ from “human-identified humans” in ways that can’t be ignored.

Lastly, we don’t know what causes therianthropy, but given the incredibly high percentage of people in the therian/otherkin community who also are trans, or on the autism spectrum or with other neuroAtypical conditions, there is very probably more patterns to this population than cultural ones. Regardless of the fact however, I would like people to remember that constructions aren’t less real or effective than what we consider innate traits – and as science has started exploring it in the past decades, there isn’t such a clearly cut nature/nurture divide in the first place.

Raw Raven

I will now tell you of my story as corvus corax, with the truthfulness, candidness and yet sentiment of pudeur that I feel suit this aspect of my animality.

I always say I’ve known I’m an animal-person since age seven, but this isn’t accurate. Seven is when I realized that I clearly was one of the Cats, inside, and that most people around me were not animal-people. Seven is the age I played with my dolphin friend as a jaguar, and then with my margay friend as an ocelot, except for me it wasn’t simply a game. On a more recent day though, unexpectedly, some of my earliest feelings of being other-than-human were brought back to my memory.

I remember my mother helping me dress up to go to kindergarten, which in my country is for children age 3-5 (elementary school starts at 5-6, where you learn how to read; except I could already read in kindergarten but I disgress). I had this coat, unlike any other, which I missed so much after I outgrew it, and still miss to this day like a stolen piece of my heart. It was this wonderful and thick, dark grey cape coat made of fleece, going down to my little knees, folding and closing on the front with these conical real horn buttons – which I liked putting in my mouth and chewing on so much.

Spreading my arms, the fabric would unfold and felt like real wings, not a trail like a cloak but an integral part of my body. And so I remember the playground, where we had our breaks, with me running around some of the buildings until I was out of breath, flapping my arms forcefully, and believing so hard that I was on the verge of taking flight; that if I flapped hard enough my feet would lift from the ground and I would soar to the sky into the clouds. Because it was meant to be.

This was Being Bird, with me at the same time performing and being completely oblivious of my true nature – like an unquestionable evidence. And the belief clung onto my soul for so long that even in my years of identifying mostly as an arboreal cat of some sort, climbing oaks and pines and standing there in the sunset, I would tell myself that if I curled my feet hard and long enough, growing up I would evolve them into talons. And so every year until I was ten or twelve I hoped it to be the year I would finally turn into my Self, of which I still have drawings from the time.

I don’t like lingering too much on my urge to fly, both because there is more to a bird than its wings and because I am mostly happy with being human in spite of my nonhuman animality. I do not experience strong dysphoria anymore, even though I would be happier if I could fly. Maybe I quieted the pain down to be able to live; and maybe one day I can afford paragliding to alleviate the itch. In a way, also, I do experience flight, through dreams and journeys in my raven shape. I am a raven of Raven, under the guidance of my kindred – but that is too intimate to write about in depth.

As much as the spiritual cats and corvids, there are the living ones around me. It was not until the recent passing of my grandfather, a butcher like his father was, that I noticed I am not the single expression of what I feel is our familial totem. Watching my father’s side of the family talking and being together, it struck me how raven we are in our similarities: our love of puns and language(s), our sharp tongue and readiness to speak our mind (but less so our feelings), our smarts and perfectionism and, yes, tendency to neuroticism. We are lawyers and magistrates, graphic artists and doctors, engineers or other scientists; add one priest per generation with the occasional wanderlust. We also are – with varying degrees – at times neophobic, prone to anger and anxiety-ridden.

The most animal of my relatives, though, was my mother; in retrospect I believe she probably knew what was up with me. She’d sewed this feline costume made of a sort-of-marbled fabric when I was maybe six, including a cotton-stuffed tail, so I could walk around at home and for the carnival as a Cat. She loved cats and was, in my opinion, most definitively one (it isn’t easy for me speaking of her, bringing back so many fond memories, like the sound of her voice calling out my name when I played in the nearby woods; in fact looking after the adventurous kitten I was). Isn’t it ironic that it’s when she was pregnant of me she developped an allergy to cats; I couldn’t have any feline companion at home until she died of illness in my early teens.

In a way, it’s almost as though I’m felid on my mother’s side and corvid on my father’s side. It sounds silly as I don’t believe specific animal types are passed down through our genes, but in a way it does feel like some sort of heritage, even moreso since certain figures have appeared in my journeys (as an animist). My personal tapestry is that of cat and bird entwined and it is difficult talking of one without the other. Both are behavioural, symbolical, and even spiritual to me. They do not oppose each other, and actually share much in common – like when I hold that chicken carcass in my human hands, cutting and tearing apart the tender meat with my teeth, it is both as raven and ‘pard.

Here ravens are seldom seen near humans – they prefer the remote cliffs and mountains. It’s the crows you see in town, or jackdaws. I didn’t live in the city though; I lived by the forest, a land inhabited by magpies and wood pigeons and boars. I remember my mother telling me of the ongoing war between the magpies and the [red] squirrels, raiding each other’s nest. I remember my habit of collecting pretty rocks and feathers and bones. My favourite findings were the lower jaw of a cat with all of its teeth, and a magpie skull and spine that my parents later threw away when I was not looking. I was fascinated with the dead birds, lizards and lesser shrews that the neighbouring felines would bring. Sometimes I think of our dead rodent pets burried near the house, how if I returned there and dug I could have their bones.

What can I say; this is being raven. It’s not romantic or even really mystical. Most of the time it’s a quiet, serious thing; I’m not a trickster raven of the Americas. Raven is a scavenger and, at times, a predator. Being a common raven is being the heaviest passerine bird around. To me raven is the ultimate, perfect bird-shape; not my favourite bird, but my natural one: it is a second skin inside and beyond human. It is watching both sides from over the fence – distinct from being mammal, but not entierely alien from it either. And being raven is not an ethereal experience. It is something of the senses and feather-quills and talons, and at times the plucking, the gut-tearing, bone-seeking. Intense, raw bird. Corvid.

The Wings, the Sky and the Bird

The Wings, the Sky and the Bird

human bodies are

temples for the human soul

cages for the birds

swanblood, Nonhuman Haiku

I find this haiku beautiful, and at the same time I feel conflicted. I wonder: is it really so? if some bird-people don’t exactly feel trapped in their human body, would it mean to others that they aren’t real birds? I have the experience and self-confidence to know better, to not let others’ words alienate or diminish who and what I am. I know this isn’t easy for everyone though, which is why I do not like making too definite statements about identities.

I used to be different, but I like to think I changed for the best. It’s okay if someone’s experience of being raven or clouded leopard isn’t exactly like mine, it does not mean they aren’t valid experiences. It only means that I don’t relate to them. And vice versa – it isn’t because one’s experience of being bird or feline differs from the norm that their therianthropy is unvalid.

I remember a recent quote from the nonhumanlibrary:

“Jack London writes amazingly vivid descriptions of Nature in all of his books, my favourite being The Call of the Wild.

Which is, naturally, a call that all of us feel, hm?”

Although it probably wasn’t the poster’s intent, such statements, as timid as they may be, end up restricting what it’s like being a “therian” or “otherkin”, excluding a category of individuals altogether.

What about people who identify as domestic animals or others folks who don’t feel such a “call”? Invisible, forgotten. And invariably I wonder “what even IS being wild?”. Is it living remote from human spaces? What about birds who live in urban settings but don’t let people approach them? What about common ravens, who can be extremely shy in the wild and extremely tame right after they get caught? Or is it about a lack of socialization? But animals such as ravens and wolves have social rules of their own.

More and more, I tend to think of “wild” as a human qualificative for everything they want to distinguish themselves from as humans, just like “animality”. It’s not something that exists on its own, it only exists in relation to humanity’s standards, in human heads, to set them appart from other animals or from the animals they can control. Beside, wouldn’t it be a bit appropriative to define oneself as “wild” – I’ve seen such a claim, that animal-folks must be “wilder” than non-therians – when they grew up with a roof above their head and many of the commodities human folks can access?

I think “wild” is merely a bad substitute for something else, like the feeling one does not belong with most human groups, or that one feels out of place in urban spaces, and such as. I understand the homesickness of someplace alien to “civilization” (another anthropocentric and ethnocentric concept). I understand the aches. Supporting a misconception is one thing, essentialism is another. I feel it can be harmful to imply that “all of us [who are therians] experience the Call of the Wild, naturally“. Because it isn’t true.

Animal-folks who are still questioning may be misled to deny who they are because they can’t find any statement that doesn’t erase their own experience. Just like “shifting” used to be mandatory to be a legit “were” in the past, many animal-people seem to have difficulties to depart themselves from an idealized version of what is supposedly “being animal”. By suggesting that this call is an experience common to all animal-folks, it translates as “if you don’t experience it, you’re not an animal-person”. Or alternatively, that you aren’t as much as others, ie. you’re a sub-therian.

I feel conflicted about some things I read from other avian-people, such as the yearning for the sky and flight. On one hand, I feel that I should be able to fly; there’s the phantom wings of course, and some undescribable sensations. On the other hand though, it does not define “bird” to me, and I don’t like it when other people reduce “being a bird” to “flight”. That’s why I’ve said little on the subject; I don’t like putting the emphasis on that part of my raven experiences.

Judgemental people might say that I’m not a bird as much as others, or that it’s because I’m also a feline – a flightless animal – and that it means I’m not a “pure” bird. In reality, there is more to “raven” than just the clouds and wind. This isn’t just about my experience, either. Many birds are primarily ground-dwelling, such a pheasants and other galliformes. Additionally, there are many birds that do not fly at all. From emus to penguins, from cassowaries to rheas, including some grebes and cormorants, these doesn’t even include the plethora of extinct birds and prehistoric relatives that were only or mostly terrestrial, such as terror birds.

Not all bird creatures belong to the sky, in part or in whole. Not all animal-people are “wild” animals nor feel trapped in a human body. It doesn’t make us less *anything* than others. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about the sky, it’s just I also wish there would be more talking about the rest.

“First of all what I feel is “avian”
Not like the idealized:
Doe-eyed greeting card doves, perfect blonde cherubim and seraphim on Christmas ornaments, American eagles keeping solemn protective vigil over the interests of rich men in suits, gentle internet gryphons holding tea-parties

But like the bird I know through my pets and my interest in biological history
Ruffled, neurotic, temperamental, beady-eyed and alien, beneath the feathers a reptile running at a warm-blooded pace”

crowgoblin, in “On tengu-ness”

– Akhila

Norms, short-term history and the collective memory.

Norms, short-term history and the collective memory.

[Originally posted on Beyond Awakening.]

This “essay” stems from musings I posted in private elsewhere and which have suscitated interest. I had been reading various websites and blogs from the latest wave of otherkin, and found the recents developments thought-provoking sociologically speaking.

When I first was around in the therian community, the norm was animal-people complaining about body-dysphoria and phantom limbs, or talking about how much nonhuman they felt or how difficult it could be to adapt/accommodate everyday’s life. The norm was the spiritual take on therianthropy (such as animal souls in human bodies), the discussions also were more spiritual in content, and forums that hosted a non-spirituality-centric view of therianthropy were a minority. In fact, they were about two active back then: the Werelist, and the Awareness Forums (note: at this point it was SO/TO/WAG, joint boards for Shifters.Org, Therianthropy.Org and the Were Artists Guild).

And now, we see a return of this take on things, only with an activist twist and more empowerment (as well as different media); and it’s cool to see this actually.

However, the overall short time – even if you consider our “community” started as recently as 92′ – where other voices had spoken up to say “this isn’t my experience of animality – here, I’ll write about what it feels like to me”, that time where some people dared talk about (non-pathological) mental therianthropy, or about animal identities that didn’t find immediate origins in past lives, or about having their animality functional and integrated into their daily life?

That era of the therian community seems to be perceived as “the norm”; maybe it now is in some places (the most influential? the largest?), but as I’m pretty reclusive I wouldn’t know first-hand. What is problematic in this understanding of the community, however, is that many people seem to not have any idea of how much criticism talking about this stuff could raise in most groups, at some point. There is a great deal of confusion between some attitudes that took place back then and other behaviours that they’re criticizing in the now, with no regards to historical context, and this fosters an innaccurate understanding of both the community’s timeline and the intents of certain groups of people.

I will take as an example my own writings and similar personal websites from the early 2000’s.

It bothers me a bit when I stumble upon certain present-day criticisms, and feel that because we used to say X or Y, we are thrown into some same big bag of “anti-fluff extremists” that are seemingly the norm nowadays. It make it as though websites like mine or Quil’s or others were law when, really, only a certain sort of people or circles were into that, and most of the community either didn’t know of our existence, or didn’t agree with us, or they did to some extent but saw us – as individuals, voices – as a threat for their authority, or they had more reasons to not appreciate our involvement on forums very much (for those of us who did post, because some others fully embraced their marginal status and have never involved themselves in communities).

We weren’t necessarily kicked out of a place, as most times it was much more insidious, such as the practice from the people in the place (thus who kept the legitimacy to speak) to question one over and over until the person backed down, shunning their views and self. So many people didn’t feel safe around those places and would give up trying to explain their point of view, or were reluctant to register and post at all, because they didn’t want to go through this hassle of always having to “prove” the legitimacy of their experiences. Many have gone offline now, or moved to blogging or other ways to express themselves.

The validity of my own animal-identity was questionned directly and indirectly for many reasons, such as the fact I identify as more than one animal, the fact that for some time I identified more with a taxon than a single species, the fact I don’t view my animality as spiritual in nature (even though I can be a spiritual person), the fact that I had no sudden “awakening”, the fact that I don’t experience “shifts” in animality, and so on and such as… Even the fact that I wasn’t a native English-speaker got me in trouble a couple of times (especially on the Crossroads or WereNET’s IRC prior to that).

So at the time I was quite the oddball, and people like myself were a minority or hidden, more controversial than anything – not the norm.

I originally created the writing group Animal Quills because it wasn’t possible to discuss certain matters elsewhere. The topics were frown upon on public forums because we didn’t fit the norms of what’s supposed to be a “true therian experience/identity”. Or in the later period, many people would participate with 101 types of comments and detract from the discussions, and other thought-provoking contributions wouldn’t be brought up anymore. Many of us eventually stopped trying, as it wasn’t possibly to discuss the things we were interested in on the boards. Others just went on with their offline life.

I have personally not supported the widespread use of “awakening” to describe one’s process of discovering their animality – not only it can be misleading for newcomers that it’s so reminiscent of the holliwoodian werewolf transformations, but there also was the implication that one’s awakening marked the start of people’s therian identities. I’m also not fond of shifting categories and a number of other labels. To the newer wave that feel they are “reclaiming” these words, this make me sound like one of the elitists or extremists maybe, even though I have no qualm against the actual experiences behind these words.

But I’ll tell you what. These words are the ones animal-people who constituted the majority used against another category of animal-people to disprove the latter’s identities. They reinforce the shifter-centric, werewolf-centric mainstream idea of therianthropy, actually erasing certain categories of animal-folk, such as the non-shifters, people who didn’t experience a drastic epiphany, and so on. For us, it can be a conscious choice not to use these words because we don’t want to support that practice of erasure, and the point back then was also to show it was possible to talk about animal-identity without using a shifter-centric ideology and such.

The norms of the community were quite tangible when a newcomer – who didn’t know of all the “rules” of the community beforehand yet quickly got an understanding of how things were supposed to work there – was brave enough to create topics such as “am I a real therian if I don’t experience shifting?” or “am I a real therian if I didn’t have a sudden awakening?” and so on. Because these experiences were believed to be mandatory in order to be real, and the widespread terminology reinforced that idea. Other experiences were silenced – until enough people begged to differ and spoke up.

So, what part of a generation of otherkin may see as reclaiming certain words nowadays, I see under a totally different perspective and I know I don’t want to rehabilitate some terms, because to me it feels less like reclaiming and more like the norm coming back again, the community returning to a shifter-centric point of view, et caetera. These folk may use our old writings as a basis to illustrate the “old ways” to better discard them, but they’re not setting themselves apart from a “us=community”, because we were never a truly integrated part of the community to begin with. Even though some of our ideas have apparently lasted, even though we left our mark somehow; I was not the norm when I was around.

The point is, people who belonged to this era? We were never an homogeneous bunch, and individuals like myself were more controversial than anything. What happened later, the lack of tolerance some have shown based on old writings they’d find inspiring, I’m not accountable for. I don’t agree with everything I’ve said in the past either, you know. I can take responsibility for myself and say “yeah, I used to be that person”; I cannot, however, answer for the actions of everyone who use past essays and rants to normalize the bashing of others.

It is ironic when a minority seemingly becomes a majority, even though it’s a common pattern for groups – opposing others to distinguish themselves and exist.

However, mistaking what we did when it was akin to “counter-culture” in reaction to the community’s norms, with the groups of people who are actively enforcing ideas as norms now (I do not support this practice)… well it’s a bit anachronistic, and disrespectful regarding what we actually accomplished. It erases as much parts of personal histories as a part of the therian timeline when people who were silenced spoke up. I remember countless hours of heated discussions where we’d raise points which were “out of the norm” back then, and it was nothing like the sort of hegemony some new-generation writings make it sound now.

This isn’t an actual rant; I hope to offer a perspective on the evolutions of “norms” (or the perceived norms), and some musings to chew on about the community’s memory. I don’t consider myself that old or wise, but I find it’s important to keep talking about these matters so that they don’t go forgotten, and to help correct a distorted view of this community’s history.

I am Not One-winged

I am Not One-winged

I’ve been struggling to talk of raven for a long time. It took me years to come to the simple conclusion I actually have no language for birdness, and that it’s not really a me-thing either – it has a lot to do with the culture I (we?) live in. We have a lot of vocabulary and imagery relating to mammals such as Cat (cats in general, not just the domestic species), we even have a term to describe the cat way-of-being, the essence of cat – felinity.

So writing about ‘pard has come easily; but what concepts do I have to describe being raven? I’ve tentatively used “ravenness” in my writings in the past, but who really gets what I’m talking about? There’s a lot to be said but the language is lacking. Not that this issue is unique to being a raven, of course – there are many much more obscure species – and it’s also a matter of who is around to build the language together. I’ve said it before and I think it’s still true for a lot of us, how much you construct things (including yourself) alongside others, not in a vacuum.

For years, a lot of the people I talked to about animal-things were cat-folk, not birds. Sure, there were others too, like the coyote/deer Liesk being an excellent partner-in-crime, and I also have a history of affectionate duos with wolves, but at some point there mostly were these loosely affiliated felines bouncing ideas off each others, and we were prolific in our writings. It didn’t matter so much that we were different sorts of cats because there was a lot of common ground. Sometimes we echoed each other, sometimes not. Yet everything added up to that big “background” of what cats are, a feline tapestry if you will.

I’ve talked to a handful of corvid-people before and I have yet to find any resemblance between each of us. I actually don’t know of many birds; and though I’ve enjoyed our conversations a lot, the bird-person I’ve talked to for the longest, Meirya, isn’t a close relative (rough-legged hawk/phoenix). To put it simply, I haven’t had the opportunity to discuss “being raven” much with other corvidae and I’m not sure our experiences are similar. One of the most corvid-like individual I’ve known actually is a fox-person.

After all, with the great versatility found in corvids, ‘plus the human-coat that might taint our experiences, maybe there isn’t much of a common ground to find. I think “birdness” is probably too broad as a category to define, and I’m not even sure a strong connection to the sky and flying is going to cut it (at least not for the non-flying birds). I’m not even sure how well I relate to that, since to me flight and wings are things both central and that I don’t idealize. Maybe because of the cat-thing or just me in general; practical, down to earth. That’s the way I am.

Ravens are heavy and inquisitive for passerine birds, and sometimes a bit of a paradox; they tend to be wary of unusual sights, yet wild ravens are also known to be surprisingly confident and tame, even taking food handed to them. They aren’t as social as crows and adults prefer to live in pairs in well-defended territories, however they’re sometimes found in large roosts. I’m not much of a social raven, though flexible enough when there is the need. I’m also not really a raven of the North or mountains, playing in the crisp air and rolling in the snow. I’m a raven of the coastal cliffs and forests of the South.

There’s also the fact that I am no storyteller and don’t relate much to the trickster raven of North America (on the other hand, I admit I am fascinated by the Japanese tengu). Simply put, my raven identity isn’t very “trickstery”, or at least not especially so , and neither is my Raven totem (which, I must say, is quite distinct from myself as well). “My” Raven didn’t create the world. I relate better to the Raven of the dead, the divine messenger and prophet of the Euro-Mediterranean. So that puts me further appart from a certain branch of raven-people maybe, thus harder to bond with.

In fact, before any symbolical associations, to me being a raven is being a scavenger bird, and it is a very mundane and concrete experience of reality. It is about the conflict between my human culinary tastes and my corvid interest in roadkill – corpses, dead things. It is about the awkward gait, the sturdy feet and talons, and the fluffy “feather trousers”. It’s about the long, broad, slighty pointed wings with strong muscles suited for long-distances as much as acrobatics. It’s about intimately knowing of the flap-flapping and soaring, of the primaries shivering in the air; the feel of one’s weight in the thermals and wind. Solid, yet flexible.

My body isn’t suited for flight, yet the sensations are deeply rooted in my flesh and light bones; not a dream or fantasy, it is first and foremoest intensely present in the here-and-now. I am not an archetypal corvid nor a bird-in-the-past (I’m not dismissive of these experiences, but they’re simply not mine). It’s simply hard to find the words for most things non-mammal. And whenever I want to talk about the feathers and flying, others only talk about freedom and infinity, and this isn’t what I meant. Then, all of bird is reduced to that part – the wings – as if they were one and the same or the sum of it.

It seems that a lot of people don’t register me as “corvid” though. People offline, because there isn’t such a thing as “corvidness” to describe humans in my language (but there always is felinity; some people have hinted at the birdness, but it hasn’t been as recurrent as the cat-thing). And people online then, because of different reasons. I’ve certainly written abundantly about being a clouded leopard, and not “enough” about being a raven, so that explains some of it. But it has also always been that people don’t give you as much credit as a member of X animal category if that’s not the only side you show. I’ve rarely if ever been asked to talk about my avian aspect when other birds were around. I possibly wasn’t as legitimate, in some people’s mind.

This is my bird manifesto, then: I am not “one-winged”.

I am raven, intensely and constantly. I am no less raven than any raven-person with a single animal side. I am not less feline than any other cat-person. I am not half-corvine half-feline; no halves. I am not a patchwork with missing pieces. I am both feline and corvine, with some “human” thrown in – simultaneously, no shifting, no switching around. No amount of coloured charts, sliding scales or terminology will ever be able to describe this properly. I may experience more certain phantom limbs over others, it doesn’t erase the fact I know, deeply, the complete range of my own identity. All of raven and clouded leopard are hovering over each other in a steady flow of bird-and-cat-ness; full and complete.

It’s tempting to now fill the white of my page with lengthy lyrical descriptions about what it’s like, deep down, being a raven; but I won’t, not here. I won’t because, basically, that’s what I’m asked if I want to prove that I’m a genuine raven. Been there, done that; I took off my website the old raven essay at some point because it felt too constrained – it doesn’t help that I had written it partly in a train and partly in a park as I came too early for an appointment. The writing was something that had to be done, for a reason or another.

When I’ll put it up again, it will flow better, because my quill won’t be as confined by expectations.

The trick is, I haven’t been very motivated to work on it for the past years because writing about your animal sides separately, like this essay was about, is yet another expectation I haven’t been much interested in meeting (anymore). A “purely corvine” essay, with all the negativity the term “pure” may carry, feels too artificial now; maybe it is. Probably not entirely, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to write at all about my animality in the past, but I want to question that practice of separating neatly what’s from what. I think, in the end, that it goes back to the same logic that makes your animal sides appear less “legitimate” if there are more than one.

It’s as though “felinity” or “ravenness” came in a finite, measurable amount and that writing about my animal identity without distinguishing the different species in clearly labeled, neat boxes (different paragraphs, different spaces…) would decrease the value of these experiences itself. I am no shapeshifter so I won’t speak for or about experiences that may be more fleeting, but regarding what I know of animality it seems like a foolish belief to hold, and an offensive one at that.

Which doesn’t mean that I’ll never write again about the specific experiences of “ravenness” or “felinity”, but rather, that it should be more of a conscious choice and less of a practice I follow out of habit or conventionalism. And above all, being a feline does not make me less of a corvid – and conversely. That is something that I’ve always felt and known, but that I haven’t said as firmly as I could have (I couldn’t bother with too much justifying when I was more interested in discussing other matters).

Old Fangs

Old Fangs

There’s too much Cat in me.

I could say it’s just the way I am, but some days I don’t find this satisfying. I could intellectualize everything, but again I find it too vain.

This has nothing to do with raven, either. I feel the need to stress this because most people in the past have overlooked the fact I am also a raven, and by that I mean as much. Raven is here in my body so intensely, but I’m not as well-equipped to verbalize and discuss it. This goes beyond me as a person, when cat essence is pretty much summarized as felinity and raven essence stays more elusive to us (as much in language as culturally). But my point was, this blurb isn’t about comparisons between the two.

When I say Cat is “too much”, I’m talking about the occurences of felines in my life even though I’m not crazy about them. Things could be different, as much identity-wise as in my spirituality and life; there could have been felines everywhere. But I haven’t grown up with cats, I’ve had various favourite animals that often weren’t even mammals, I don’t try to get closer to wild cats big or small, and the gods I worship aren’t feline gods. I’m not a multiple with feline parts either.

I’m a singlet who happens to be a corvid-feline and has a Jaguar totem, I may know of one other feline spirit and a handful of feline people, but that’s it. I haven’t asked for any of this, nor do I find felinity really more rewarding than other species. Likewise you could look at my art gallery, and outside of the occasional self-representation, you would mostly see different creatures (birds, canines, etc). I don’t obsess over felines.

And then, there is Scimitar Cat.

I say scimitar cat because it feels closest to Homotherium, but it could be some other ancient cat. I did consider the Smilodon family and even Barbourofelis (not a member of Felidae per se). Until I find a substantial enough element to change my mind, I feel scimitar cat is probably the best match; but information is scarce.

Scimitar cat is phantom limbs and alien body and flickering, not like (my) animal identity; it is not on equal terms with clouded leopard or raven. It does not feel like a spiritual thing either, or maybe I simply fail to get the message; everything feels too bodily-oriented anyway, it points to nothing in particular, it just is. A bodily experience. The strong neck and shoulders, the long front legs, the sloping back. The short tail. The canines certainly feel longer than a clouded leopard’s, but I am not absolutely sure to which extent (which is why I haven’t ruled out Smilodon and Barbourofelis entierely). I could elaborate on and on about what it feels like and how much it differs from my animality, but no matter how many adjectives I use to describe it, it will never answer the “whys”.

What is this? And why another cat?

I don’t even know if there’s an answer.

The experience has become pretty mundane to me; it’s been like that for years, so what else is there to add. Scimitar cat doesn’t even feel ancient or out of place to me in this modern, urban setting I live in. No more or less than clouded leopard and raven. Maybe it’s just the way I am, the way I live animality overall. Maybe it’s because I’m not a scimitar cat in the therianthropic sense, and I just feel it occasionally; so no value properly attaches itself to it. Maybe it’s a matter of all of these expectations of what is and shouldn’t be, and that as long as one thing is present in spite of being extinct, then it makes no sense for it to feel out of time.

At least it makes no sense to me; I feel I belong here and scimitar-cat-me as well, indistinguishable from the self. It is very much present and alive in my flesh, not myth nor cold bones. And it is nothing special. There is no sense of pride, and more often than not I just don’t know what to make of it. It makes no point and finds no place in my worldview either. Of course I could turn it into something special and idealize it and sublimate it, and wear it like a banner of otherkin whatever. Or I could declare myself a shapeshifter or metamorph and call this just another skin I can wear. I won’t, because neither would be true to my experience.

I am prone to be introspective and find meaning, but in the end I fail to see the point in Scimitar Cat. Sometimes it bothers me, and I feel there is too much Cat in me; but the rest of time I can only shrug and let it be.