The Contherian FAQ

The Contherian FAQ

Over the last years, numerous topics related to contherianthropy have been brought up on boards. The various “debates” developed around the definition of “contherianthropy” have proven that misunderstandings and misusages largely spread since the term was first used. After more than one year of writing, rewriting, ranting and (above all) pondering over the “contherianthrope” label, I have decided to write this FAQ, which I hope will clarify what contherianthropy is. Please also check out Liesk’s essay on the subject if you still aren’t sure.

If you are wondering whether or not you are a contherian, you must first know exactly how to describe your therianthropy, shifting experiences (or lack of thereof), perception of your animal-self, and such. You won’t find a label that fits (if there is any) if you don’t know what you are and aren’t able to define yourself in your own words. Until then, you don’t need labels. Faileas put this simply in his “Simple language and the were/therian community” essay: “No one is forced to feel that he or she NEEDS to stick to the definitions as set out by someone else… and if you can’t even say what you are simply, what use is jargon then?”. Once you are able to describe your personal therianthropy, and not before, you can then try to see if an existing term fits.

The term “contherianthropy” was created by J. Lion Templin in the AHWw times to describe his own type of therianthropy. Therefore, the label’s definition was never meant to be broad and inclusive. You can read Lion’s short view on modern contherianthropy (1997) and his other articles on the subject, in addition to this FAQ. Now, in order to make sure we understand the same thing when using certain words, I have to define some terms as I will use them here:

Therianthropy: therion (Greek for “beast”) + anthropos (“human being”, “man”); beast-man, thus an animal-person. Therianthropy is a state of being and way experiencing the world that leads a person to feel and believe they are partially or completely animal inside (in a mental, emotional and/or spiritual way). Among animal people, this term is used in a general way and can apply to all types of therianthropes; however, therianthropy usually is assimilated with dichotomic therianthropy, “where the therian ranges between humanity and animality on some level” (source: Shifters.Org).

Shifting: any change from humanity to animality and vice versa. This includes drastic changes, subtle changes, as well as the “shift in percentages” changes described as eclipsing by some. To make it simple, when (more) shifted into their animal-self, therianthropes may experience this one deeper (“I feel more wolfish”, “my tail/ears/fur became present”), may have other urges than their usual self (“I started feeling like pouncing/howling”), and such as; the experience (and therefore, the definition) of shifting varies from therian to therian. As a side note, shifting isn’t required to be an animal person, and non-therians can experience some kinds of shifting as well.

Contherianthropy: constans (Latin for “unchanging”) + therianthropy (see above). Contherianthropy is a variation of therianthropy where the therian’s human and animal(s) selves are one single constant and unchanging aspect of the person. In other words, the intensity of their animality cannot vary over time, they never feel more or less animal in any way. There is no opposition between their “humanity” and their “otherness”, they are merged together, thus making any change from side to side impossible, as sides are non-existent; this is why contherians are shiftless.

Again, if you don’t fit in, don’t panic, you don’t need a label (in fact, labels bring more problems than they solve) because “therianthrope” includes all types of animal people. If you aren’t sure about what you are or are struggling about labels, you can have a look at my “Soulsearching (and what then)” and “Labels” essays. Now on to the FAQ.

As contherians are both human and animal simultaneously, can I say they are constantly shifted? Why aren’t they howling on all four right now, then?

  • Contherians aren’t “constantly shifted”. In order to shift, it is necessary to first experience something (such as, feeling human-like) and then change to something else (feeling more of their animal); there must have been an original state or side. For contherians, the issue of shifting or coming back to a more human mental state doesn’t exist as there are no actual sides. There isn’t a “human way” and an “animal way” of feeling and being, but simply an infinite number of possible actions that all emanate from the individual “as a whole”; which may result in more human or more animal attitudes, but that is only in the eye of the viewer. A contherianthrope would receive both human and animal urges constantly and there is no opposition or takeover; acting according to these urges is just a matter of individual choice.

So, contherians are constantly animal inside? That’s like saying other therians are less animal than them.

  • Not at all! The only difference is that a contherian’s self is static while a therian’s self is fluid. A therian’s animality or their human thought process may range between the foreground and the background, making them feel sometimes more animal or more human. A friend of mine actually described his experience of shifting by saying that it is less about becoming more animal, and more about un-shifting from the human state of mind that he has to adopt to interact in society. Shifters are animals who have learned to make space for “being human”, shifting is just reverting back to their natural state. In contherians however, the human “thought process” is integrated into their animality, so they are one and the same. Therianthropy and contherianthropy are just different patterns or way of functioning, none is “more animal” than the other.

 “I am always wolf, the only thing that changes is how wolfish I am in comparison to my human aspect. I feel my wolf-self can fluctuate, but I am always “me”, my wolf side is not a distinct thing.

  • Contherians don’t shift into their theriotype, period. Any fluctuation from “more wolfish” to “less wolfish” is a type of shift. Shifting includes all kinds of changes, and fluctuations are simply more subtle changes than others. It’s not because you experience a shift into your animal-self that it means it’s not you! Your animal-self may not be entierely compatible with your human ways of being, but it’s still you as long as it’s not an external animal connection, such as a totem talking to you. It’s kind of like totemists have to borrow animal jars from totems or archetypes to tap into different sorts of animality. For shifters, shifting is tapping into the different jars they own, they don’t have to borrow.

 “Do contherian shift in percentage then? I have seen it’s called eclipsing.

  • No, again contherians don’t shift at all. Eclipsing is just another term for fluctuations, it’s a kind of shift since it is a change to more animal or more human. A contherian wouldn’t experience any change from human to animal or vice versa.

 “A contherian told me that sometimes he may feel slighty more wolfish, but not in the way of a shift, and mentioned “mood swings”. What does this mean?

  • It is not contherianthropy, because if this person does feel “more wolfish” at some point, then it’s a change again from an original or other state, thus a shift. A contherian wouldn’t feel more animal or less animal at any given time. He would sometimes act a way or another, but he would always feel the same. While a contherian may mean he is more behaving in one way, he would never feel more animal or human in any way, contrary to other therianthropes.

 “When you say contherians don’t shift, do you mean phantom and dream shifts as well, in addition to mental shifts? I don’t really experience true shifts, only dream and phantom ones.

  • “No shifting” includes all types of shifting. A contherian would have no mental shifts, and he would either have constant supernumerary phantom limbs, or no phantom limbs at all; but not phantom shifts. Dream shifts mean very little: non-therians could dream they shift into an animal as well, that doesn’t mean they are this animal. Therefore, any dream shift wouldn’t be a therianthropic one.

 “What about cameo-shifts? I’ve heard about contherians who can shift into their totems/guides.

  • Cameo-shifts or totemic shifts aren’t therianthropic shifts, as shamans and other non-therians can experience them. Contherians can’t shift into what they are because it’s their whole self, so there is no room to shift from an aspect to another. That doesn’t mean they can’t shift into something else. So yes, as any other person (therianthrope, non-therian, whatever), contherians can experience cameo-shifts or the influence of their totem, since this is shifting into a creature that isn’t you.

 “When I am balanced with my animal side in terms of shifting, is it the same as contherianthropy?

  • No it isn’t, because contherianthropy is not about being balanced: in order to be balanced, you need a side to balance with another side. A contherian has no real side(s), he just is, exactly in the same way as a non-therian. A balanced wolf therianthrope would have something similar to a 50/50 mindset. This is dissimilar to a contherian’s inner self, which would be 100% humanwolf, not 50% humanwolf and 50% nothing, nor 50% this and 50% that.

 “How many sides can contherians have? How do they switch from one to another if they don’t shift?

  • A contherian can identify as various animals just like a therian, and it would be a simultaneous experience with no shift. This means they wouldn’t switch from one animal to another and would experience all his types of animality constantly, like with humanity and animality in “standard” contherians. Why would it be different? Humanity is as much a side as any other; there is no reason to categorize having a human side as being different from having an animal side.

 “A non-therian has simply a human side, while a therian has a human side and an animal side. What about a contherian?

  • Like non-therians, a contherian would have one side, which would be both animal and human simultaneously, or a creature that would be something else entirely (an hybrid that would thus be something on its own). As there would be just one side, it’s a little silly to call it “side”, so it’s not a real side, just the contherianthrope’s wholeness.

 “How comes that contherians still talk about “sides” or “animal self” if they have no side?

  • Although they do not have real sides, contherians can tell which aspect this or that urge comes from. It may be a little confusing for non-contherians, but for contherians it’s easier to refer to their aspects as sides (although they are not distinct from each other) than saying “that wolf aspect that is a merged/integrated part of my wholeness”. It is just a commodity. Personally, I’ve used “aspect” to avoid misunderstandings.

 “So, an animal person who doesn’t shift at all is a contherian?

  • I wouldn’t say that for certain. I have seen therianthropes on boards who said they couldn’t shift anymore, but just because they are shiftless doesn’t mean that they necessarily became contherians. Maybe they just have a kind of mental block that keeps them from shifting from a side to the other, which is not akin to contherianthropy – it would be more like, a shifter’s human-to-animal ratio being frozen in a given state.

 “Can one become a contherian? I’ve heard of certain therians whose sides would merge into each others and who stopped shifting.

  • I’ve seen some. I believe it could be possible that one’s animalself merges in with their human side completely, becoming fully integrated. The thing is, you will also see many people in the community who pretend they became something else, because they were mistaking at first, or because they simply were a little confused and perceived things differently. So while some of the people claiming to have integrated their sides may say the truth, there are others who simply won’t admit that they mistook at some point. I’ve seen a lot of newcomers being so excited about finding the concept of therianthropy that they started experiencing a lot of daily shifts, until everything settled down when they didn’t obsess as much about their animal identity. This isn’t to say that what they experienced was necessarily “false”, I wouldn’t really know. But what is known is that one’s state of mind and how one view themselves can alter the way they experience their identity. I feel this is very true for animality.

 

If you have more questions to add, please contact me. I would also like to thank Quil and Liesk, among other friends, for correcting my English and for giving their input.

Growing and Learning

Growing and Learning

If you’ve been around in the community for what feels like some times for now, perhaps a year or even two, you can make the difference between the mass of newbies and you. You are probably familiar enough with the terminology, and when you are involved in forums you tend to post more thoughtful topics than newcomers. And, of course, you try to help others when you can. You give advices. And you tell people when they get things wrong.

Just listen a moment. I am not going to scold or mock you in a “I am an elder/ancient/greymuzzle®/what you want, because I am not, and that’s silly and useless. What I have to say is: I am not much more experienced than you, but I see you going through something I had gone through. I want to warn you so you don’t look like an idiot doing mistakes as I possibly did. My message is: you aren’t really a newbie anymore, but that doesn’t mean you get the bigger picture – and I guess it is the same for me. I’ve seen people who haven’t been around for very long, but who begin to spread their “experience” and “wisdom” in a manner that doesn’t just slightly irritate me, but which shocks me. You may be one of them, or maybe not, but what I can say may still be useful to you.

I am more shocked than irritated, because those people act as “know-it-all” or spread stupidities, and because they don’t realize it at all. Fine, you have been around enough to help people about basic and less basic stuff, and you know what you are – or if you’re still searching, as least you know how to soulsearch and you do it on your own instead of asking others what sort of therian you are. Okay. Does that mean you really are experienced? Does that mean you know everything? Does that mean you can start a revolution about labels just because? No. Does that mean you can post snarky comments about how wrong “other people” are? Please no.

Nobody should allow oneself to be harsh, to mock others, or to make them look like idiots. Nobody should make others feel they’re “just” newbies who should only listen to your judgments, by writing comments full of “good! good! GOOD!” or “Nooo! Bad!” (those are real quotes commenting someone’s intro details). Nobody should start giving advices about soulsearching when themselves can’t seem to follow their own advices. Nobody should explain things they don’t understand themselves. Nobody should turn a term that has sense into a label that has none just because they don’t understand it. The list goes on.

It worries me when I see people who want to help so much that they confuse their peers. An example I’ve seen recently is welcoming people who are unsure about the animal they are, and immediately starting suggesting they may be polyweres. Wow, slow down. Do you want these newcomers to jump on labels without thinking about it? We know it’s good to reassure them, to let them know it’s a possibility, but they will learn it on their own, and hopefully they will take their time to think about it. It’s the same for every label. Just don’t throw all these new terms to their face, you’re not going to help them at all, although they may swallow happily what you said – for those who didn’t get it: that’s what you want to avoid. Always be careful about what you say on forums, especially to confused people, you’re not always helpful to them.

That’s why you must be careful when posting in people’s introductions. Newcomers can be impressed or eager to be accepted, they may pay much attention to what they are told. It’s not just a matter of labels and advices, it is also a matter of the way you say things. Don’t talk to them as you would to a naive child who can’t see what is “right” from what is “wrong”. Sure, they may be confused. That doesn’t mean they are idiots. You shouldn’t allow yourself to make judgments on their therianthropy. It is ok to say things like “I don’t want to offend you, but I’m afraid this or that sounds more like roleplay than therianthropy to me”, or “I think many things you mentioned don’t sound like therianthropy” or “it seems to me you may be confusing totemism and therianthropy”. It is ok to tell people they have a good, interesting introduction, or that it’s short and besides the point. It is not OK to stroke people’s head and say “GOOD” when they act as good woofies, or to do the opposite when you think they did something silly. It is not OK to make definite judgments on them, not simply because you haven’t seen more from these newcomers than the intro they posted, but also because you may be unfair and make wrong judgments, because after all you aren’t so much more experienced.

And I don’t want to sound as a “know-it-all’ myself, but I have to say it; it makes everyone uncomfortable. Being in the community for some months doesn’t mean you are veteran or a fair one. I was involved on boards since October 2003, and I’m still discovering new things about the community and its people. And that’s why I can tell you you don’t know everything either so don’t be so sure of yourself.

Most people agree on the fact they are still learning, but they don’t really think about what it means, they don’t realize that their understanding of the werecommuntiy or of their therianthropy may be poor. They try to help others while they are still struggling themselves, and they sometimes build websites. When you are confused about your own therianthropy, do you think you are in the best position to mentor others? Sure, you can share a half-complete werecard and your personal therianthropy (although some may not have understood that it doesn’t consist in a simple biography with the list of shifts they experienced). But what then. This isn’t teaching, since people won’t learn much from it. Hell, I don’t even think I’m teaching anything here, and I’m not sure I want to. I simply think that when you haven’t constructive, personal things to say, sharing your views on therianthropy on boards is enough. Don’t take me wrong, I love websites, I love reading essays and personal experiences. The important word is personal.

I see many people who simply repeat over and over again what have been said by more experienced therians, and who just don’t fucking know what they’re talking about, because they never stopped to think about it and how it can (or cannot) relate to their own experience. “Nobody can tell you what you are!”, “we all experience therianthropy in a different way!”, “be yourself!”… How many times have you seen people saying this? Repeating “be yourself” like magic words won’t make you be yourself at all. Repeating wise words from other therians won’t make you wiser. Repeating others’ experiences won’t make you experience and understand these things. That doesn’t mean you can’t mention it, but it means if you have some experience, you should have more to say than that. If you do, please feel free to share, put it on your website and more. If you don’t, stop pretending you do. You, others. Most of people. When you realize you were spreading bullshit, you really look like an idiot. But that’s too late, and now you have taught two dozen of noobs what contherianthropy is not, or how you must be a shifter to be a therian, or how spiritual therianthropy is the only way, and that’s not easy to go back and say “wait! I was mistaking!”.

No matter how much you are convinced you are helping, you must thoroughly think about what you are “preaching”. You must be aware of the fact you are still learning and that one day you may very possibly learn that you were wrong.

That’s what is experiencing and learning and evolving. We all do. Try to stay humble, because we’re all humans, and we all do mistakes. I once tried to make everybody understand how much I knew what I was, whereas in fact I was mistaking. There is a moment when you have to say “sorry, I was wrong” instead of searching for excuses. An example of bad excuse is the whole “my therioside is changing” thing. While it may be possible, I’ve seen therianthropes claiming it happened withing weeks only, and I strongly doubt what you are can change so fast, unless you experience some drastic and serious event/issue IRL. Be honest. Animal sides don’t appear or disappear like that. Accept that you may be wrong sometimes, and accept that others can make mistakes too. No need to make them feel ridiculous about that, it happens to everyone.

Always keep in mind you may be mistaking about whatever you’re saying on forums and whatever you feel is related to therianthropy. You may not be a real newbie anymore, and your therianthropic experiences started far before you joined the community, but it doesn’t mean you are never wrong. It happens to everybody.

Norms within the Werecommunity

Norms within the Werecommunity

Old essay, old thoughts. I’d take it down seeing its low-quality, but I find it interesting to look back at this with more perspective.

I know some people still argue about whether or not the term “community” can be applied. I personally think it might fit in a certain way, as we, therianthropes of the Net, are a set of people – a group – who interact with each other and we share common points (share elements with).

Last September, after one reading, I started thinking about norms within the online therian community – and with “community”, I don’t only mean the therian boards, I also mean animal-people at large who know about the concept of therianthropy and know about the community, but aren’t involved in any public space (forums, chats, …). Obviously, the norms may differ a little outside boards and chats, whether it is because some people don’t fit in and stay apart, because they don’t like norms or the “boards mentality”, or other reasons. I am not a sociologist, I simply make statements made of common sense, from my experiences and observations. This is an attempt at listing traits that are considered as the “norm” and what is “out of the norm” in the werecommunity. By doing so, I am not listing what you must be to be a therianthrope, if such a list could exist; I am only specifying what is common, accepted, or rejected from the community as I am writing this.

As the concept of therianthropy was born in an English-speaking community, and spread first among the English-speaking side of the Internet, most of therianthropes are English-speaker and most of websites about therianthropy are in English. That means animal-people who aren’t at ease with English and don’t read English-speaking websites have less chances to find any information on therianthropy, join the community and know they are not alone. It would have been the case for me, and I know a few French-speaking animal-people who wouldn’t have found the term “therianthropy” to put on their experiences if they hadn’t been able to read English well enough, or hadn’t found someone who could tell them about the community. I can’t say if the fact the community is mostly English-speaking has any influence, but that may be the case regarding cultural references.

Obviously, being animal inside and showing an animal-like behavior (howling, mewing, …) is considered as normal. Outside the community (ie. offline) it is not. Within the community we expect others to understand and accept us as they experience something similar, whereas we expect most of non-therians, especially those who tend to be more conservatives, to reject us, deny the concept of therianthropy, and possibly think of us as freaks. Also, accepting otherkins and vampires as having legitimate, valid identities is close to a norm – or at least it is a more widespread attitude than outside the community, where they would be considered deviant or eccentric people.

The community seems to be more accepting towards unusual beliefs, ways of life, and such as. We could say that therianthropes seem to be more liberal than conservative, although this might be because conservative people don’t express themselves much in the community because of the liberal ones. Faiths like shamanic beliefs and paganism are much more common among therians than in their real life environment; people claiming to follow a pagan/shamanic path won’t be pointed out, whereas outside the community, they may. Same goes for other types of sexuality or gender identities (homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, transgendered people and such as): they appear to be numerous within the community, but those outside the community may simply be less willing to disclose anything about their sexuality/lifestyle for fear of rejection. As a side note, it seems that zoophilia is real taboo inside the community too and isn’t discussed; few are the therian essays dealing with zoophilia.

Shifting is considered as a norm within the community. Indeed, at the first glance it seems that most of people do experience shifts, and many therianthropes still consider shifting as the second “feature” of therianthropy after being an animal inside – whereas shifting isn’t necessary to be a therianthrope. Contherians are often misunderstood and forgotten in the various existing definitions of therianthropy. As a result it regulary happens that newcomers doubt their therianthropy if they don’t experience shifts, as they don’t know they don’t have to experience shifts to be animal-people. Last but not least, non-shifting therians may be questionned about the legitimacy of their animality.

Having one animal side ( one theriotype) is still considered the norm. The more theriotypes someone has, the more out of the norm the person is, and the less this person is seriously considered. Therianthropes with two animal sides are much more accepted than they were years ago, but because of confused people and “pokemorphs” posers (people who “collect” or switch animals every other week), who tend to claim a greater number of theriotypes, polyweres and hybrids are in turn considered as more suspect. As a side note, it has appeared a few times that people tended to unconsciously consider a tiger/wolf therianthrope as less “wolf” or “tiger” than a wolf therianthrope and a tiger therianthrope. The experience of those who have a single theriotype seems considered as “more valid” than the experience of people who have several theriotypes, as if identifying as more than one animal would make each of their animal side less “authentic” or less… “pure” (sounds like racism doesn’t it?). Polyweres’s experiences of their animals are often overlooked because of this, and needless to say the issue isn’t discussed much.

Theriotype-wise, as I am writing this article, mammal predators (especially canines and felines) are the norm. Mustelids and bears aren’t too uncommon; avians, cetaceans, reptiles and herbiweres (such as ungulates) are uncommon. Rodent, fish and especially insect therians would be considered as really unusual. Topics about “why are wolves more common” are often discussed in the community, with many valid or less valid hypothesis (from scientific to spiritual). Part of wolves could be posers influenced by tales and hollywoodesque movies about werewolves, they could as well be confused weres who identify better with wolves because of their importance in (Western) folklore and it would be harder to them to identify with something else. It is possible that some therianthropes unconsciously feel some sort of “pressure” that  forces them to fit in to the “wolf” or “tiger” popular molds rather than other lesser known species. They may also deny their true animal identity if their actual theriotype isn’t considered “big” and “magnificent” (which is sad since no specie is actually better than another). The explanation may be a mixture of various hypothesis.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. I can’t explore every possibility since each of us has a limited point of view. I hope this can still help people to start pondering about norms and their attitude towards them, and perhaps it can make them think some more about the animal(s) they are.

Labels

Labels

Therians who have been around for many years already know the issues I’m pointing out, but this should be useful to others.

What you must always remember about labels is that they are terms supposed to make things easier. They are words summing up a concept and they should be understood by everybody. A label that people won’t use, that everybody misunderstand, or that complicates the matter has no sense. Also, a label is only a label. It makes things simple, but it also is less accurate than reality. As an example the term “therianthropy” is about being animal inside, but no therian experiences therianthropy in the exact same way. You can’t assume that every therian, contherian, hybrid, etc is the same as others therians, contherians, hybrids and so on. You have to remember that because of this, words don’t exactly mean the same for everybody. To avoid misunderstanding, be very careful when using labels and make sure of what the person you’re talking with means. A simple example is the fact that while animal-people use “were” and “therianthrope” for the same thing, many furries in the furry fandom use “were” to refer to werewolves in art, movies and such as, or concerning anthropomorphic characters that have a more feral look (this is one of the reason the term has been used less and less among therianthropes). Sometimes people take over a word and use it in their own way, creating a different meaning – and possible confusion.

It may sound arbitrary, but… please don’t use poser-ish labels. Don’t use White Wolf terms to then complain about people who assume you are a roleplayer. Perhaps you think some of these words perfectly express what you are, but a label has to be understood by everybody, and while you may think “this is what I am, I can’t say it in another way”, most of people will think “this guy is talking about roleplay, he’s not animal”, period. Don’t use titles such as lord, master, alpha; the terrible combination “I’m Lord Darkmoonwolf and I’m the alpha of a real pack of garous” won’t make people respect you, it will make them shake their heads, laugh or become hostile. Avoid using the words “lycanthrope” and “lycan” when you can use “therianthrope”, because lycanthropy is used as a clinical term and lycan has become an Underworld (=fiction) reference. In certain contexts it might work, but most of the time these terms will make others consider your therianthropy as fiction, like the term you used to describe it, and not as a valid identity. Therianthropy is reality, it’s a real thing, not roleplay. While some forums might accept these terms, I know no serious therian who would call themselves alpha, lord, or garou. Also, please, don’t capitalize therian-related words, it’s not holy or whatever.

Ultimately it’s a good thing to avoid using labels when you can. What matter is to make sense, not to cut short. While m-shift or even p-shift may be known by most of the community, it’s not always the case for newcomers, and I’m not even talking about the numerous obscure types of shifts listed on certain websites. Frankly, you don’t need one term per sub-category of shift. They actually are all mental as they happen “in your head” (where your senses are processed). You may want to make a distinction between mental, dream and phantom shift, but most types (such as “perception”) fall under the “mental” category and other labels are pompous and confusing. Using so many labels doesn’t make anyone seem smarter, it only makes them sound obsessed with jargon.

As a side note: not all therians are shifters. Refering to shifts as something necessary to be a therian can be oppressing for others; similarly, refering to animal-people as “shifters” render non-shifting therians invisible. In the same vein: some people use the word “contherianthropy” if their experience of animality is unchanging (they are totally shiftless). If you experience variations in the intensity of your animality but feel like using the word because half of the definition fits… no. Please don’t. You’re going to make the word meaningless because you shouldn’t use it unless the whole definition fits. See the Contherianthropy FAQ for more informations. Think about what implies a term before using it, ponder about the meaning of “shift”, “contherian” and any word you use. Any change in animality, in one’s animality intensity, is a shift, you can’t both have an unchanging animality and experience variation in its intensity, because that’s pretty much the opposite. Think about what you experience, and if you find no label that fits, it’s not important. Don’t appropriate words that don’t fit.

There always is a logic behind a word, there should be some thought put into it. As an example many people consider hybrids are polyweres, and that it’s all about having several weresides. It’s not exactly the case. A polywere does have multiple theriosides, such as a therian whose sides are wolf and leopard; he may shift into a wolf, or into a leopard, or perhaps both at once. However they are distinct from each other. The situation is totally different for a wolf/leopard hybrid, because an hybrid has only one side: the result of wolf and leopard mixed up together. It is one single creature which has the characteristics of both animals. One single side. Therefore an hybrid doesn’t have multiple animal sides, although for the sake of simplicity you can say he has several sides to mean he has several components. But they aren’t distinct theriotypes. An hybrid’s inner self is a blend, you would consider the wolf/leopard mix as one single creature.

Do not use “therianism”, “therianthropism” and any other kind of “isms” instead of “therianthropy”. “Therianthropism” and “therianism” are incorrect and it gets on many therians’ nerves to see it because it is misleading about what therianthropy is: “isms” are used to convey an idea of ideology or belief, while therianthropy is not a religion or doctrine you can adopt and practice. Therianthropy is not a belief, it is a non-temporary state of being (if you stop believing in therianthropes, the animal experience and sensations are still there) so it isn’t etymologically right. Therianthropy is not a cult, doctrine or set of tenets. Don’t misuse words, the term “therianthrope” describes what you are, not what you believe in.

A recent issue brought on forums concerns the words “wereside” and “phenotype” [2004]. Indeed, a few newcomers pointed out the fact that the “were” root means “human”, which would mean “wereside” has no sense; on top of that “phenotype” has a very different meaning from its original one (in scientific fields) and is just as misleading. They suggested a better word concerning one’s animal side and then “theriotype” came out.

Some new labels may be useful. However more often than not, they don’t exist for their linguistic usefulness but for their social value. For exemple, one day some people got insecure over the “contherianthropy” discussions as the latter was getting more and more accepted, so they created a word for all the therianthropes who always feel animal inside while experiencing changes in intensity from more animalish to less animalish. Thus “syntherianthropy” came out (it has been misspelled as “suntherianthropy”, whereas the greek “u” turns into a “y” in our languages, such as in “synthesis”) [Discussions: late 2004 – early 2005]. So what they did was creating a label for… the majority, since the specific experience they described was that of most therians at the time. The reason behind the creation of the word was not to improve communication, but about satisfying some people’s need of having a fancy term, seemingly validating better their experience at the time it was becoming less of a prescribed norm and more of one of the many variations of therianthropy. This is regretable.

This leads to an important point: creating more labels requires that the “positive repercussions” really justify the “negative side effects”. Ultimately we don’t need more labels; we don’t need more confusion. What we need for the moment is to clear up things concerning the existing labels. The “let’s create labels!!” trend is a dangerous one, and while newcomers may have the feeling that some new words are necessary, as everybody they should pay attention to all the consequences, and should be aware of all the issues raised before taking any decision. Anyway people are free to use the terms they want, and if the suggestions they make are good, it will spread in the community easily (though confusion may still happen). In case it isn’t clear enough, what I explain in this essay comes from my experience and various discussions we’ve had in the community, I am not forcing people to agree. What I want is that people think about it, especially if they haven’t spent yet more than a few years on forums (and the “werecommunity” does not consist in a single site or two).

The “pick’n’choose” attitude is a common trap for many newcomers when they arrive in the community and learn about its terminology. It’s hard to put words on what we experience and feel, and therianthropes (more especially newbies) may feel the need to find and use every word they can apply to their therianthropy in order to make people understand what they are – and possibly to “fit in”, or because it is relieving to finally find terms to describe what you are. Many will apply to them terms that doesn’t really fit because they find nothing else and they are convinced they need these labels (to be understood, accepted, and more “were”). They may rush, they read one definition about a word and think it is the ultimate Truth – whereas some definitions they read are wrong or inaccurate. Perhaps it’s because of the fact I have a “literary” scholar background, that I had “too much” philosophy, French and languages courses, but I’m finicky when it comes to words. My English is not perfect and I work on that. If everybody could make the effort to use terms correctly, it would fix a lot of misunderstandings in the werecommunity. Don’t overuse labels. Explore what you are, soulsearch, think about it, and think about meaning, so you can then use some of these terms to sum up what you are if there is no other way for people to understand it. It doesn’t matter if you have no labels to refer to what you are at first, and it actually doesn’t matter at all.

Remember that we don’t really need labels. Labels don’t define our self. Trying to fit into the mold of a word won’t help you. A label is not your identity itself; it’s just a sign above your head to indicate briefly something relevant to your identity. If people criticize the spelling on your sign, or if they believe your sign is confusing or unwarranted, it is an opinion about the sign, not people attacking your identity. Last but not least, you must remember that therianthropes aren’t therianthropes from the moment they found this label. They had been animal-people all along; finding a word to describe this did not induce their experience of animality. You are an animal-person because you are animal inside, not because you found a community made of people similar to you who use fancy words. Going deeper into your personal therianthropy (and self-discovery process in general) isn’t about collecting labels, but about learning more about who and what you are – and understanding it.

Werecommunity …

Werecommunity ...

I feel lost in the flow of time.

I feel old whereas I’m not, I feel surrounded by confusion and noises, it’s like things are getting too much for me.
I feel I have to make a choice.

I remember when I learned about therianthropy as if it were yesterday. My first steps in the community, how ignorant I was, and how everything impressed me. I found forums, websites, essays. I started learning about the community, its words, its people, its variety. I went deeper into myself through questionning, introspections, soulsearchs. I learnt more about who I was; about others’ experiences, views, opinions.

I understood it, I realized how naive and ignorant I was about myself when I arrived. I discovered more and more about my animal sides, getting closer to my inner self little by little, not just thanks to what I learnt in the community, but also because I had always evolved and became more critical in a general manner, as a result of growing and being interested in many things. I learnt who and what I was (although I’m still learning more).

At some point I started answering people’s questions when I could, those questions I had pondered about when I arrived. I made researches when needed, and helped in the way I could. I became more and more critical towards the werecommunity, its bunch of posers, of so-called greymuzzles, of pretentious people. Its politics, contradictions, bullshit. Eventually I got fed up with it and started wondering what the fuck I was doing here. Instead of quitting, I went on.

I believe that we won’t fix many problems in the community. I also believe there are a few things we can fix, or at least work out. Doing something in that “community” is something I can, as a simple individual. I don’t claim people need me as an individual at all. That’d be damn arrogant. What I think is that it costs me nothing to answer questions when we can, writing things that may interest people, and in a more general way, help promoting communication, knowledge and wisdom, not from therianthrope to therianthrope, but from individual to individual. I’m not saying that everybody can and should do so, but I wish people become autonomous beings who think by themselves. Therianthropy is a pretext to soulsearch and introspect oneself. What matters is that people learn more about themselves and become more critical about everything.

The community is not a group of close and overfriendly animal-people who love each other, where you will only get wise answers, or where we can all grow together. The werecommunity is a bunch of various people, and while you will find some helpful and smart ones, you have much more chances to stumble across people who don’t know what they’re talking about, who are confused about what therianthropy is, or who are posers. You will also find therianthropes who will try to make you fit with what they want therianthropy to be, and who will expect you to be naive follower while scolding you for not thinking by yourself.

Right now I feel alone. I don’t have the mass of newbies to cling onto, I’m not a newbie anymore. However, I have never been part of AHWw, I never saw the whole thing start, grow and fall into what is it nowadays. I have my own experience of being an animal-person, but I know nothing about being among the first therianthropes in the community. I feel the same as a speck of dust with no roots and no future, because the community has lost its roots and has a fragile future.

It’s like nobody new knows about AHWw. It’s like nobody new realize all the greymuzzles from the community have left or are disappearing. People arrive in the community and they have everything here-right-now. The FAQs, the essays, and a few experienced people to answer their questions. They read websites, post on some forums, and then consider they know everything about therianthropy. Damn, therianthropy is not about knowing all the labels and their definitions, it’s not knowing a bunch of therian websites and their content. It’s about being animal inside and experiencing it on a daily basis. Many newbies arrive in the community, stop there, and don’t realize it’s not that way they will “walk their path” (or whatever you wanna call it).

What will happen when the last really experienced people will leave the community? Nothing is eternal. One day the last AHWWers will be gone, the few smart ones will follow them, and all the knowledge of what the community was will disappear. I don’t believe it is essential, but I do am afraid of what it could be like if all the informations and wisdom of the past slowly go away. I see too much therianthropes who, once they find the community, make some “werebuddies” and then disappear. I don’t see that much serious people who tale the time to soulsearch, and I see very, very few people who share their experience and give something back and new to the community as a whole, wether it is on boards or on a website (or whichever way suits you).

I fear for the few serious therian newcomers, finding only newbies, a self-proclamed greymuzzle or two, and arrogant forums dictators who will do nothing but put them into molds. And this it not just a nightmare, it’s already there in some places. I don’t think those who have never been part of the community can fully notice it, nor the newbies can. But I do believe that the community is changing, has constantly been evolving. That means some things can denegerate in a very negative way. Most of people aren’t aware of that; the community was there when they arrived, so it will always be there, right? I am not sure, and what will it be like? How much will remain? How many serious therians?

Perhaps one day I will withdraw from it too. Perhaps this day is closer than I think. For the moment I try actively to bring what I can to those who need it, before everything crashes, if it does. I care for the few serious people who might want help, I care about these animal-people. I had the chance to find good resources, and it helped me in some ways. I would like others to be as lucky, or even luckier. I want them to have the possibility to know what it was like before they arrived, and to find people who know what they’re talking about.

Before it’s too late.

[November 2004]

 … cages and illusions.

But it already is too late. I told you this day would come, and yes it came: I am withdrawing from this “were-scene”. I have grown up and realized I am not gaining anything anymore from being involved there. As for what I can bring, experience and thoughts, Thébaïde is where I share them. My opinion of the community has evolved with years, and if you don’t understand my views now, then perhaps someday.

I don’t know how to sum up my experience of this “scene” – as it is nothing more than a space for showing off. The problem is not just about the posers or fluffies. It is not about the confused people; they will eventually come to an understanding of themselves. The problem is that what you will find on forums is: on one side a few experienced people who claim to be here to help you, half of them actually wanting nothing more than control the place and possibly the minds – through their labels, rules and molds – and on the other side, a horde of people who convinced themselves they are animals, as well as real therians who are unable to distance themselves from the community, its terms and theories and politics. They want to sound more real and animal, “serious weres”, and I guess it wouldn’t be such an issue if they didn’t stomp on everybody around them in the processs of earning respect.

You will find cliques outside the community too. I just stick to the people who accept me, not those who would accept me if I buy their stuff. And this is what a lot of boards are about, they educate people in their own way. Learning some good things you also get formatted in the process. I believe one can find a balance between being in and out of the community, but I also believe that, from a certain moment, you just can’t stay in it unless ambition, fame or dependance keeps you in. Or just because you still hope that you can help people there, which I don’t believe in anymore. If you think I am insightful, okay whatever; e-mail me, but don’t expect me to get involved in pointless debates over werenames, past lives and packs. And stop with those topics about how does the moon affect therians and why are there more wolf people. Holliwood bollocks, that is all. And what about shifting anyway? You enter the community and “shifting” seems such a natural thing for everybody! But why? Wouldn’t it be because, again, therians must be similar to the werewolves of legends? Or because of the similarities with shamans and their science of shapeshifting? I believe that shifting is a valid experience, a natural way for our human brain to rationalize the animal side in us and deal with it, but it is surprising that nobody ever ask questions about it and that people assume most of therians must shift. This is a good exemple of how the community formats you, you just don’t question what you find there.

This has to be clear: therianthropy is not fast-food. Learning about your animalness is not about getting involved in a community as you enter in a restaurant to look at the menu and ask for what you want. The other day I was lurking on the ‘list, gave a link to the Con-word FAQ in case it could help, and this was soon followed by a comment from a newcomer asking “am I a contherian?” after a short, vague experiences summary. I’m not the one who will tell you, read and think for yourself, dammit. Reading is one thing, but pondering and questionning yourself is what matters. People don’t dig up old sites or research for the best stuff anymore. If you are interested in reading from others’ experience, don’t just join a board and sit on your ass until someone miraculously start an interesting topic. Go to people’s personal pages, search for the good places and read the content, check the links section to go to more sites, and so on. E-mail the people you think are interesting, with whom you could have constructive discussions. Let me tell you, interesting writing about therianthropy, I never found it on boards.

And this is why: informations on community sites are about the experience of the “werecommunity”, not of therianthropy. Most of the “2004” essays from the Nest deals with how to find oneself among all this shit; I’m almost done with it, and will now focus on personal experience. What do I mean with “articles dealing with the community”? Those articles aren’t about being animal-folk. C’mon, look at the forums. Newbies Guides. Terminology. Encyclopedias, wikis. Types of weres and shifts! *Snarls.* And yet “this is not for you to pick and choose!”. And while they say so, telling you that you don’t need labels, they create new ones so everybody can fit. You get it? Informations displayed on boards are about fitting in the community, in the terminology, and if you’re lucky you may find tips for introspecting and not-to-do’s, instead of just being told “go soulsearching!”by people who don’t even have a clue about how to do it. The knowledge over there is the experience you are capable of having on your own if you pay attention and if you question yourself as well as what you read. But this isn’t about being an animal inside and what it feels like.

The werecommunity is about anything but therianthropy. It is about the community itself, its rules and gurus. It is about young people who need to be accepted by their “peers”. People posturing. Arguing over labels and sementics. Pointless theories. People telling who and what they are with “I am similar to this or that label, and I experience this and that type of shifts, but…”. This space is not about being an animal, sharing one’s deep experience as being said animal, sharing what makes them different, how they view the world as being animal inside, how they integrate therianthropy in their life, and accepting the fact they also are human.

Being an animal-person actually isn’t about “growing and learning in the community”. It is about being yourself in your daily life. Those who understand it leave the place, because it’s a closed circuit. You don’t really grow in the community – you grow outside of it, when you question yourself laid down on your bed, sitting in a park or walking in the woods with others. Many of those who get stuck on the boards become passive, swallowing down what they read; people outside get active, stimulating each others while growing in their very own ways. And it’s not because there is a few exceptions that this is untrue.

And one last thing: this essay is not about telling you how foolish you are for staying in. I once was there and had some epiphanies, and I am writing this to let you know: if you are animal inside and if what you want is growing and learning as an animal-person, you don’t have to stay in the community. The people who know what they’re talking about may just no be there, and the right place to truely live who and what you are is offline, ultimately.

[June 2005]

Seniority

Seniority

Lately I’ve been pissed off by certain attitudes within the community. No, I’m not talking about the noobs who consider the community as a big resource of werebuddies, and don’t soulsearch at all once they found it. No, I’m not going to rant about the posers invasion either.

What gets on my nerves is some “ancient” members of the community, and their bunch of followers. A few therians who generally have been around in the community for a long time, sometimes since the beginning, and who brandish their “seniority” like a power over other therians. I am not talking about all the ancient people in the community, nor all the oldest. There are many experienced therianthropes I respect a lot, no matter their age, and no matter if they are inside or outside the werecommunity.

The people I’m talking about wouldn’t officially claim they know everything about therianthropy and the community, but it doesn’t keep them from acting as if it was the case in a very pretentious manner. They would bash newbies or use their seniority as a proof to valid their own assumptions, often trying to spread them as the Truth with a T, and use the influence they got within the community for their own comfort. Don’t think they are very marginal; they can be the people who own the boards you visit. Some of them are people you really respect.
They know it. They use it.

At first I didn’t notice either. What I saw was people who seemed to be critical towards flawed claims, who were experienced, who seemed to be open-minded. They would help people to question their therianthropy, sometimes bluntly, but honestly. After some times I noticed some of them (not all) weren’t that honest. I realized they could be harsh, sometimes really offensive. I began noticing when newbies were bashed before they could justify themselves and explain their thoughts, and I started to raise an eyebrow. When I saw these people claiming you couldn’t be what you are, I understood: yes, they can be open-minded… as long as you agree with their views. [See Shen Tirag’s essay The Therian is You for more about how to deal with people telling you the way you’re supposed to be and think.]

Another example. I was reading a famous therian board when I came across an introduction topic in which someone claimed to be a greymuzzle. I commented on that post saying it’s not humble to call oneself a greymuzzle; I find that saying so in one’s intro really sounds like a strategy to win the admiration of the masses, and it does work to some extent. The author replied that he uses the term for himself because other people would call him that way in the past. Ok, but does that mean there is no consequences when one uses the term? I disagree, no matter if people in the past called him so or not. Beside, I spend a lot of time looking up what’s left of the community’s archives and communities, and I never heard about that person as an active or helpful member. That’s the moment you wonder what the “critical moderators” are doing and why they allow some behaviours. But it doesn’t matter! People who had been around some times in the past don’t need to justify themselves as long as they get along with the moderators. Seems unfair, isn’t it? Well, it wouldn’t be a problem if other people on the boards would speak their mind. Unfortunately they rarely do. They prefer avoiding the risk of becoming a troublemaker and outcast.

I am really disapointed by some people I respected. It doesn’t matter if they are ancient or simple members of the community: I just can’t stand the former for being so arbitrary and power thirsty, and the latter aren’t any better when they act like brainless followers. I can’t tolerate that some of my friends leave the community because of people preaching their bullshit on therianthropy and ass-kicking when someone disagree. I’m sick and tired of it, I don’t think I’m going to stay involved in any place like that… in a place that doesn’t enable real discussions anymore, because your opinion get bashed when it doesn’t fit with the moderator’s Bible of Therianthropy. Slowly but surely, the list of boards where people can be themselves decreases. Some communities took advantage of the “good resource” label they got with time, and allow themselves to spread bullshit and act unfairly, because anyway newbies need acceptance too much to leave them and nobody would dare doing something against the most ancient and respected members of this community, no matter if the way they act now isn’t right anymore.

Don’t help any so-called experienced therian being an asshole. Stop sticking your tongue up these people’s ass. Don’t let them stand on your toes, speak your mind, and please don’t bangwagon and act the same as they do; you earn no respect in that. You don’t need a community made of people like that. Actually, you don’t need the werecommunity at all. If you are searching for advices, you can find plenty of wiser people who will be helpful and open-minded elsewhere. It’s not because some therians and communities are the most known or the oldest that they give the best help.

That’s my piece of advices.