Of Storms and Lions

Of Storms and Lions

By Kusani

Night One

It’s storming tonight, a rainless show of light and noise just southwest of us. My little dog, Orion, is shaking and shivering and terrified because she hates storms, so I’ve been letting her up on my lap (and half on the TV tray next to my computer) to shiver on me. And I just finished my first week of college and a long-ass day at work that started waaay too early, so I’m sleep-deprived and prone to switch moods at the flick of an ear and sore and utterly exhausted.

Then I realized, as another thunderclap shuddered through the hot, stuffy airlessness that is my bedroom–this is the storm I’d been asking for. Why not go out and play in it?

Well I couldn’t for long, since I was talking with my sister and my girlfriend. But I brb’d myself and stepped outside.

I had expected it to be raining. Sadly, it was not.

But the wind was cool, a lovely change from the heat of the non-air-conditioned house, and I hopped off the porch into our massive, steep-sloped front yard. Then, the entire southwestern part of the sky lit up brilliantly, and I froze in awe. Then, as another peal of thunder rolled across the clouds, I fell to all fours (hell, who would be awake to see me?) and padded quietly down the slope to the twelve-ish-foot willow sapling set apart from the rest of the trees that line our acre to make an all-too-thin boundary between yards. My eyes were rivetted on the sky.

It was a beautiful light show. Horizontal bolts, all-encompassing flashes, thick brilliant strikes near the earth–gorgeous. I sprawled on my back, paws resting lightly against my chest, and watched the sky and let the weariness drain from my soul, if not my body. I just let myself lie there, spirit-tail twitching restlessly in the long, unruly grass (we need to mow), and stared at the heavens.

Several times I closed my eyes for a moment to feel the wind on my face or glanced down as though I could pinpoint a cricket’s location in the relative darkness–and the lightning would flash spectacularly. Even in your dreams, you might dream of the wind on your skin and the lights in the sky–but there’s nothing better than being there in the physical, experiencing it with every iota of your being and body.

I wanted the rain. I wanted to dance and laugh as the wind drove thick sheets of cold liquid into my body (arms outstretched to welcome the downpour) and come back in totally soaked and reinvigorated. I wanted to give myself to the storm and let it wash away all the everything that’s been plaguing me, no matter the form it takes. I wanted to luxuriate in the feel of water on my skin and hanging heavy and cool in my clothes and turning my hair into sleek spirals.

Another day, another almost-full-moon of breathtaking beauty… and another storm.

I’ll dance the next time it rains. Until then, I’ll try to keep my eyes open, no matter how tired or stressed I am. I live for the beauty in this world–I don’t want to miss it.

…fade to black. All that’s left is a shadow-ridden slope of long, half-trampled grass and a lone willow sapling with supple branches swaying in the breeze. All that’s left is a lioness-shaped imprint in the field. All that’s left is a rainless storm, lightning and thunder vying for low-key glory in the night sky. All that’s left is an offered hand, a clarion call, an ancient song. All that’s left is a wish to follow and a command to return…

Night Two

The breeze was strong and cool, and the skies were clear, and the ground wasn’t soaked with recent rains… I was exhausted and unable to focus my eyes and needing release… so I decided to go outside.

I slipped outside and the nightwind rushed forward to greet me–it tugged me forward, and I slid to the edge of the porch and wrapped one arm about one of the three pillars and stared up at the sky in absolute awe. Every star in the universe seemed to be visible, and the pale streak of the Milky Way–normally not nearly so clear and bright–stretched across the diamond-strewn velvet like a celestial river. I drank in the sight until the nightwind, impatient, pulled at my billowing clothing again, and I leapt softly to the cool grass and fell to all fours.

I padded slowly forward, neck craned so that I could see the stars, and the shadows cast by the neighbor’s porch light striped my body as I traversed the slope towards my willow sapling. The wind was breathtakingly brisk, and once or twice, I rolled onto my back and threw my hands and bare feet ((paws)) into the air just to feel the breeze all over me. And I never got over the brilliance and multitudes of the stars…

I curled up at the foot of my willow, in the way an animal and not a human would, and laid my cheek on my wrist ((rested my muzzle on my paws, tail coiled next to my flank)). I closed my eyes and just breathed in the purity of the cool air, listening to the nightwind surge through the still-green leaves, feeling the tickle of dancing willow branches as they caressed my flank and hip.

I lay there for endless minutes, caught in the sweet serenity of the night, some part of my mind that wasn’t dozing in the embrace of the Mother wondering just what I was. Wondering if therianthropy could really be confined to one permanent, unchanging species of animal–or if the animalside evolved to match the soul’s own growth and change. And, I couldn’t find an answer, not within my intellect or the beast that was without as much as within at this point ((her ears splayed and tail stilled and breathing steady in the rhythm of almost-sleep)).

After what seemed a long, long time, I reluctantly opened my eyes again and pushed myself upright–stretched luxuriously ((tail curling over my back briefly))–and began the deliberately slow pace up the hill to the house, still on all fours and graceful despite the awkwardness of my human body.

Lioness

Lioness

By Kefira

I’ve noticed that many of the felines that I know and trust, either consider themselves to be, or have an very easy time becoming, androgynous. I think that it might be they don’t often, or rather, don’t really distinguish between what’s male and female. Which, if you think about it, rather makes sense in terms of therianthropy, as the vast majority of felines don’t have a marked mental sexual dimorphism. Being solitary creatures (except for some male cheetahs, and housecats), the males and the females have to have the ability to do the exact same things to survive. From my understanding, the only really female things about most cats is that she may be slightly smaller, with a smaller range, and she has kittens.

Lions, on the other hand, are the only feline species with such a definite, strong sexual dimorphism. That’s the main reason that I strongly stress that I’m a lioness, over just using lion. I have seen one female person say that their wereside’s a lion. I’ve tried explaining before what make lioness different from other cats, but I didn’t do a really good job at it.

So, I’ll try again, while I’m all druggy. It’s worked before. I’d also like to address some things I’ve heard that made me snort whatever I was drinking at the time. (Note: This is based solely on myself. I’d like it if any other lionesses who would read this could offer comments or corroborations.)

Anyway, I was trying to explain lionesses’s need for others. This doesn’t mean that lioness is any more friendly than other felines. They’re most definitely not. Anyone who’s studied a bit about lions probably knows this. Speaking for myself, I know I’m antisocial and bitchy. I like, love, and am interested in, certain people, but it usually has to be approached a certain way, and I definitely am not fond of people in general. The only real difference in this way between lionesses and other cats, is that lionesses just don’t leave their families when they’re grown, whereas other felines do. It burns my brain when I hear people say things like “my lion side enjoying socializing.” It’s your human side that enjoys socializing. I’ll be the first to admit that’s the case. I expect this may to be a bit different for males, considering that almost half of male coalitions are actually unrelated to each other.

What lionesses need is their families. The pride is the basic unit of lions. And not the constant company of their families either. While most documentaries and other media tend to show huge prides, the average number of pride members is actually fairly small, around 10-15 for African lions, and even smaller (although this may be mainly due to endangerment) for Asiatic lions. Lionesses also don’t usually spend most of their time with the whole pride, instead breaking into even smaller groups which will often go off by themselves.

Lioness is still independent. Even in hunting, a lot of kills are done by a single lioness, while her relations may watch her. But they’re always there. And they’ll be there when she needs them.

One of the harder parts about being a lioness is balancing the need for the familial support with the natural independence that all cats seem to have. I know that, personally, while I can exist on my own, and do the things I need to do, I still definitely prefer the support of my family, or those individuals that get accepted into my personal “pride,” such as it were, (although there’s few enough of those). When I have to go and talk to strangers, I prefer that at least one of them be in the vicinity, even if they don’t actually do anything. I think this mainly has to do with invading other folk’s territories, though. At home, I’m perfectly fine being by myself, and in areas that count as my extended territory (such as the largest amount of SJSU, Salinas, most of Prunedale, etc.) this is also true. The greater part of lioness’s identity is placed with her family and her home. She needs a place to belong and a structure in which to belong. Lionesses aren’t truly bold, but they don’t have to be. The safest place for a lioness is with her pride.

On the other hand, other felines will leave their mothers when they are grown, and these are the cats that have to be bold. They have to completely leave their families (although I read some daughters will share a territory with their mothers for a while, obviously not many of these can do so), and go out into the world, and make a place for themselves. They have to find and defend their own territories, alone. This will, of course, make them nervous and more skittish than lions in general, but at the same time, they’re should still be considered more bold then lionesses. Lionesses are comfortable. They’re not bold, but then, they don’t have to be. They’re born into the place where they belong, and it’s in that place, that, if things go well, they’ll stay for the rest of their lives. Lionesses formulate an individuality within a family structure, while other cats formulate an individuality completely on their own. Lions are considered, by human standards, to be more bold than other cats, but I consider that to be a more comfortability, a snugness. They don’t run away, and aren’t shy, and express more curiosity and the like simply because, on their territory, with their families, where they are familiar, there’s really very little that’s going to happen to them, so why should they worry? Lionesses will even play among each other, something not even lions do after they’re grown. (That’s certainly true for myself.) Lack of nervousness/worry is really the defining characteristic of lionesses. Get a lioness alone, and away from her home, and she’ll be as skittish as any other cat.

Another rather unique characteristic of lionesses is the structure of their pride. Wolves, humans, and other social mammals, that I’ve seen at least, tend to have hierarchical social structures, with the alpha, and the beta, and so on. Once I had a guy who claimed to be lion-wolf, who was, if I recall, the leader of his “pack,” tell me, when I told him why I didn’t like packs, that, with the human part of me, that I should intristically behave in a hierarchical fashion. While this may be so for others, this simply isn’t true for me. Instinctively, I have a lioness’s idea of social structure, which goes something along these lines: No one in my “pride” is better than me, or lesser than me, and they should all do what they should do. Okay, that sucks. So, I’ll be verbose, and god, is this going to be long. Lions don’t have a hierarchical social structure. They’re cats, for crying out loud. Once a lioness is grown, she’s the equal of every other lioness. There is no alpha, no beta, etc. From what I understand, this is true even for lions. If a group of males is in a pride, and there’s a female in heat, they might fight over her, and one might win, and by win, I mean the other one runs away. But the next day, they’ll be fine again, and equals. They do tend to share, though. Every member of the pride shares and contributes, even the sexist he-males. ;) While I do understand hierarchical society, having lived in it my entire life, and can exist, maybe thrive, in it, it’s also alien to the most basic part of my brain. I hate displays of dominance, and I equally dislike those of submission, and while I can do both, when I need to, hierarchy is not intristic to me.

And for god’s sake, lions ARE NOT SEXIST. Sexism is a human thing. Lions, like all other species, live to propagate more lions, and maybe have a nice time while they’re down here doing it too. Lionesses are the base of the pride, they do the hunting, and they raise the cubs. Lions give them the cubs, and protect the pride’s territory and the cubs themselves, while they’re being raised. They may eat first, but sometimes they’ll also allow their cubs to eat with them, which lionesses will not do. Lionesses are pragmatic, much more so than lions. Lions will protect their babies, and the rest of the pride. By letting lions deal with those problems as well, lionesses get a free ride, as they’re not risking themselves. Males and females tend to ignore each other, except for eats and sex. While lions may take over a pride, they’re not a part of the pride in the way the females are. Lions do have a function, as do lionesses. A single lioness by herself isn’t going to win against a lion, and perhaps not even two. Both lions and lionesses will want to raise their cubs to adulthood, and together is the best way to do it. Lionesses will hunt most of the food, because, let’s be honest, lions suck at it. They’re big and slow, which makes them good at protecting the pride from other dangers, like strange lions, etc. I’d expect a certain wander-lust in males as well. Their duty of patrolling a pride’s territory, and their natural instincts to leave and find other females cause them to travel a great deal more than the lionesses will. That doesn’t mean that lionesses won’t put the bitch-slap on males if they so choose, particularly when raising cubs. I’ve heard at least one example of lionesses uniting to fight a strange male, and he died of his wounds.

Life and Religion

Life and Religion

By Kefira

This was written a while ago. I’m putting it up here for my opinion regarding therianthropy and religious concepts.

I don’t believe that my soul is that of an animal. Through a long time of thinking about it, I find that I don’t believe in souls at all. I don’t believe that there is a ball of spiritual energy that makes me who I am. Or more to the point, I don’t believe that there is this spiritual thing that is recording who I am and what I become throughout my life, to be saved after death.

It’s for the two above reasons that I don’t believe that reincarnation is the reason for therianthropy. Most “past life” remembrances I’ve heard about I seriously doubt are real. Many people seem to view themselves as being exactly the same as they are now, only back in the past. Since I believe that it’s our lives that play a huge role in making us who we are, I tend to dismiss such “past lives.” I think that such a past life be so alien to the person that I am not as to be incomprehensable. Any type of reincarnation would be highly unworkable to my mind.

The only kind of reincarnation I can accept is physical, and most people would call that “decomposition.”

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I just never have. While I was learning about religions, I could parrot back the conception of the afterlifes, but I simply don’t believe in them. The idea is alien to my mind.

I’m not an atheist. I do believe in the gods. I just don’t worship them, really. I’m more of an apetheist: I feel they’re there, and I feel they know I’m here. We just kind of ignore each other. If one day I should be able to suscribe to a religion, it would be solely for the gods.

I believe that everything about me, and everything that makes me me is in my head. Mental. At the moment, I primarily feel that lioness is the base of who I am. So many of my thoughts, instincts, and mentality are inhuman, non-primate. I feel that lioness is the source, for me, the instincts and mentality. On top of that, I’ve got human understanding and training. All mental. I believe that the person I am, and the person that I am to become are based on my choices and actions, and is not influenced by a soul. I believe all the things that keep me living are biological.

I believe that when I die, I’ll be dead. Since the whole of my person is contained in my head, when that’s gone, I’ll be gone. I don’t want my body to be perserved. Unless, of course, I’ve been murdered. Then I totally want it perserved, in case anyone ever needs it again. I came lightly into this world, and that’s how I want to leave. I don’t want a big bang, I don’t want the world to mourn. I want my friends to say that I got up, I did what I loved to do and made a difference doing it, and now I’m gone.

I’ll admit I’m a closeted semi-existentialist. I don’t believe that there is any point to living other than that which we make ourselves. In the beginning, there was nothing. In the end there’ll be nothing. Whether happens inbetween is therefore inevitably doomed. Whatever actions I may have, whatever things I may do, will only reach so far into the future before I’ll be forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong. I like life. I enjoy living. I love being with and talking to all my friends. I love hanging out with my family. I think my life has worth, although that worth is short-term in the scheme of things. I think it’s worth perserving as much of this world as we can, and perpetrating as much good as possible, as long as we’re here. I think everyone should do so. I think that life is the most precious thing that we can ever have, considering that it’s the only thing we really have.

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.