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 non-human 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. It’s 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.