Let me clarify

By Aethyriek
I identify as a bat, but being human is an integral part of that (for myself, not so for all otherkin). There’s no religious or really even spiritual dimension to that for me. Parts of it are metaphor, some are not, but it’s not spiritual.
Being a bat contains intersections between (for simplicity’s sake) function, form, and symbolism.
Function is behavioural and unromantic. The ways in which I think, sense of place, areas of comfort, actual behavioural patterns, that intersect with or look like bat.
Form is the body. Dysphoria, and feelings of physical body structure that doesn’t exist, comfort in certain motion, etc.
Symbolism is the metaphoric and conceptual understanding of bat, intersects also with ‘home’ and sense of place, includes symbolic personal, and mythological interpretations of the species, because I am an intersection of human and animal, and being human framing some of my experiences through myth becomes meaningful, despite not being spiritual.
All three come together with ‘identify with’ (as opposed to ‘identify as’), where I feel less alienated when interacting with that species than I sometimes do with human people, or reading about that species. (Not all bats, of course, it’s an order not a species, but trying to keep it simple here.) All these boil up into self concept, not in a forced way, this is just how I naturally happen to be, a woman who feels more at home, more honest, more natural as something between woman and bat.
I’ve always said at the end of the day you can look at otherkin or bat as a label for a collection of experiences and that is valid. Likewise I look at being an artist and a woman as labels for a collection of experiences and as descriptors of certain traits. However, calling myself a painter or a woman are meaningful things. When I say those things they should have weight. When I say I am a bat, it should have weight. It is a word that hints at deeper, heavier experiences and state of being, at another part of me that (currently) tends to be masked and I only have an opportunity to share or express in a limited way.
Yes, it sounds initially pretty stupid, people saying they are faeries or bats or whatever. The idea of a word like ‘otherkin’ is so that we can find others who we can drop masks with, or share with if we aren’t using a mask to begin with, etc. My hope is one day more people will be aware of the deeper nuances of what being otherkin actually means, because it sounds a lot less stupid, personally, when people actually understand what is behind our saying we are other-than-human and why that is meaningful for us.

A Jumble of Musings

By Paleo
“If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve the man but deteriorate the cat.” – Mark Twain
I am not the biggest fan of anthro, furry, were or whatever the hell you want to call art that blends human and animal element in a half-and-half way. That’s not to say I never enjoy it. I often do. There is some beautiful, funny, and thoughtful stuff out there. Also, many such artists are animal lovers so I often find myself in sympathy with some of the messages and/or fantasies they create.
Some therians find the anthro form to be the best way to depict how they feel as an animal-person. I’ve read many essays and posts from such folk and understand their views. It makes sense for them. It does *not* make sense for me. If I had to chose some metaphoric way to represent myself it wouldn’t be a being that had mixtures of both in its physiology. It would be a being that had access to *both* a human and (dire) wolf body. The same being, two different bodies. Because two different bodies are natural to it.
That’s me. Whatever I might have been in the past, I’m kinda certain that I’m supposed to be human now. I know that the entity I am now would not exist without human components, those components being my body, brain, and culture. Then there are the dire wolf components. The behaviors, desires, quirks, and bafflement at my own body and environment that have stuck with me since childhood despite all attempts to make them go away.
I wouldn’t be me if I were fully dire wolf. I wouldn’t be me if I were fully human.
And if I had to artistically show my “true self” it couldn’t be a half-and-half creature. It would have to be a creature that felt as natural on four legs as it did two. That spoke from a human mouth and howled from a lupine muzzle. That is as equally tempted by the idea of ripping into a freshly killed cervid as chatting over sushi and tea with friends.
Why does something in my brain insist wolf is a natural form? Of course it could always be psychological which is a benign way of saying I’m nutty. Or maybe I was a dire wolf in a past life. Or maybe I’m mythologizing my psyche, using the species as an archtype to represent myself. Or maybe I truely am a child of Dire Wolf in soul/spirit/energy as I believe.
Whatever. I’m human in body and brain now. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it fun and interesting at least half of the time. Sure, I can make a long list of all the things I don’t like about being human. I can also make and equally long list of all the things I do like about it.
Looooong before I read my first werewolf novel or saw my first werewolf movie the question that arose from the bewildering sense that “wolf” was in some ways more normal for me than “human” wasn’t “Why am I stuck in a human body?” but “Why can’t I be both?”
Maybe I just wanted to have my cake and eat it too. But I feel that even in my younger years, I was slowly coming to an understanding that somehow, some way, I simply wasn’t me if I had to give up either “side”.
I spent a while fantasizing about being a “real” animal, most often a wolf. Once I started reading and watching werewolf books and movies I was hooked for life. I don’t think I ever had a moment when I thought I was or could be a Hollywood style werewolf no matter how much I wished it could be so. However I felt that there was *something* in it all. Some clue or understanding to be gained in the novels and folklore and myths.
When I was a child most werewolf novels and art showed them to take on fully wolf or nearly fully wolf forms after transformation. The idea of the anthro werewolf didn’t really come into notice until the eighties when “The Howling” showed such a creature and it was much later when “Werewolf: the Apocalypse” with its Crinos form would solidly influence both movie studios and internet artists to nearly always imagine werewolves as beings who turned into massive bipedal canines. For internet art, I think it’s kinda cool though often cliche but as I’ve said, there is much I do like. For movies. Ugh. Movies have done a crappy job with werewolves in the past decade and, anyway, making half-and-halves move on screen tends to betray to flaws of the form. It can work but so far it hasn’t been done, and personally I crave a return to full wolf or mostly wolf forms in werewolf flicks. “Blood and Chocolate” would have thrilled me if it wasn’t such formulaic teeny drek that butchered the characters and story from the book. Man I’m getting off topic. I’ll just say when it comes to Crinos or anthro werewolves in fiction I ultimately agree with what Mark Twain had to say about crossing man and cats. Except with wolves instead of cats. 🙂
So when I was a girl werewolves turned into real wolves. That immediately stirred something in me. Yes much of werewolf pop culture is about sex and/or violence, but that wasn’t the point for me. Later on I would find amusement in and use for the sex and/or violence threads in the werewolf mythos, but as a child the *only* thing that was important was that in these stories there was a depicted a possibility to fully experience humanity and lupinity. In some of these stories being wolf and being human were one and the same. To know what both were like was as natural as breathing. Being able to run as a wolf and still have humanity and walk as a human and still have wolfishness. From the first werewolf tales old and new found ways to make me think and rethink on where the line between human and animal was exactly in general and in myself. They illustrate what societies think and believe about animalness. Is animal the opposite of human? Lesser? Greater? The same? Is animalness dangerous? Natural? Sexy? Sinful? Holy? Werebeast mythos explores this and much more.
So yeah, I found a ***whole*** lot of fodder for philisophical and spiritual musings. I started seeing the werewolf as the best archetype out there to identify as in a spiritual and metaphoric way. I still do.
The term “werewolf” is to therians what the term “witch” is to Wiccans. Controversial. Some see the terms as empowering and the best and easiest way to cut to the chase when explaining to others what they feel inside. Others see them as unpleasant conterproductive terms which confuse outsiders and newbies. Every the contrary one, I am in both camps. Werewolf is an important term for me but I also believe that therianthropy should be mostly focusing on just being the animal. Werewolf is an archtype that carries some extra baggage beyond animalness that not all therians embrace nor should the be made to do so.
For me the archetype of Werewolf is a *tool* that I often use explore and understand my therianthropy. It is the psychological and spiritual *use* of that tool that makes me identify as werewolf, not exactly therianthropy. Therianthropy led me to werewolves and werewolves led me to therianthropy if that makes sense. To me the difference between being a therian and being a spiritual werebeast is that with one you believe you are somehow animal in mind and or spirit and in the other you are consciously using a mythological archtype for shapeshifting and other spiritual pursuits. Being one doesn’t make you the other but some people the two fit together rather nicely. Therianthropes and modern werewolves *are* different things with different focuses, on that fact I’ll be very insistant. I’ll also be very insistant on the right of mature, sane therians to use werebeast mythos and practice as a valid way to understand their animalness.
If I could artisticaly depict how I really and truely feel inside in real life it would be a being that is itself no matter which form, animal or beast, it took. In myth that is called a werebeast. In real life that is me. I just lack access to a lupine body.
Even if I didn’t want to claim the werewolf title, I don’t think I have a choice. It is often *given* to me by folks who know I’m not the sort to believe I sprout real fur on full moons and bite people.
When I come out of the closet as a therians to folks I trust to at least not lose respect for me because of it I am so, soooooo careful to avoid any references to werewolves and such. Most I come out to know of totemism and my practice of it so I normally use that as an opening angle and anchor for explaining everything.
After listening to my carefully constructed werewolf-free explaination of therianthropy, these folks who I have told specifically because I consider them smart and sane look me in the eye and say basically the same thing. “So you’re a werewolf.” or “I always knew you were a werewolf or something”.
I could choose to get frustrated and fussy over terminology. Or I could say what is in my heart. So I reply, “Yes, I guess I am”.
And yes, I immediately explain that not all therians identify as werebeasts as well.
But I do.
It is important to me.

Extinct Theriotypes

By Paleo
“What advice would you give to someone who is pretty sure that their theriotype is extinct? How would you advise them to come to terms with potentially never discovering the ‘name’ and type of their animal?”
My first suggestion to someone who suspects their theriotype is extinct is to keep researching and looking for matches among extant species. I say this because I do believe many people don’t cast their net wide enough in their search and tend to focus on more well known species. Fossa could easily be mistaken for a feline, Grackle mistaken for Crow. Also, even if you know in your deepest heart that your type is extinct, this reasearch will be valuable for the next steps.
The next step would be to start comparing and contrasting your inner beastie with extant critters. Nature loves variations of themes. What animals feel similar to or remind you of what you feel inside? Try to figure out why. Is it something in their physiology, behavior, habitat, and so on? Once you think you have a good feel on that similarity, what is different about your theriotype and this animal? For instance, I found my theriotype species partly because I felt a noticible differance between my therioside and Grey Wolf (the closest match I could make), yet recognized some of its traits reflected in Spotted Hyena. The problem for me was that even after realizing the fact I still was convinced I was more canid than hyenid. About a year later, I stumbled on a website that explained that the niches occupied by dire wolves and spotted hyenas are probably very similar, it clicked together…hard.
Try to keep in mind that this sort of searching is primarily an intuitive process. Sometimes connections aren’t obvious at first, so don’t dismiss a recognition simply because the animal that triggered it seems to be very different from your theriotype. I see traces of Eel in my housecat’s love of dark crevices, flexibility, and quick predatory strikes. As I said, Nature loves variations of themes. A therian who is quite sure they are not an eel or even a marine lifeform could possibly feel kinship with Eel due to a recognition of similar ambush tactics and love of dark hidey-holes. It is for these reasons that I feel extant creatures hold the keys to finding extinct inner-creatures. Studying them helps you start to learn what is and is not possible, what forms and behaviors keep showing up over and over again, and it helps you find the creatures that may hold clues to help make educated guesses about what sort of life your theriotype may have lived.
There is a second path to discovering clues if you feel like you have memories or a sense of the lands and times your theriotype lived in. Of the few other “extinct” therians I’ve found, most do claim a sense of feeling out of place/time or feel like the Earth as it is now is not the Earth they came from. They, like myself, often feel this way long before coming to an understanding of the extinct status of their therioside. If this is the case for you, one way to try to find the era you are from is to see if you can figure out if any extant creatures, plants, or landscapes seem very familiar to you or very alien to you. If a group of animals like birds is absent from your “memories” or if you picture many varieties of fern but never any trees, this may help you start narrowing down the time your theriotype roamed the earth. This method can be a bit tricky if it ends up that your theriotype had a small range or lived an area kept isolated from migrations of newer species. For this reason and many others, I am convinced that research into evolutionary biology, ecology, paleontology, ethology, and similar fields is vital to any therian’s searchings for their therioside. The science helps you stay grounded and new knowledge always has the potential to open up new doors.
The second part of this question asked how to deal with the possibility of never finding a name for ones therioside. I’m afraid I don’t have much sage advice on this because I know I was terribly frustrated when I knew I was *something* but didn’t know exactly what, but later I *did* find it. I’m fairly sure I would still be flustered today if Dire Wolf hadn’t whacked me upside the head. I can only say honor yourself and your feelings and keep searching. Over 95% of all species that have ever lived on earth are extinct and humanity will likely uncover knowledge of only a fraction of those, so the possibility of a theriotype remaining unknown not just to the therian but to all people is certainly there. You may get only as close to your theriotype as “ancient whale”, “desert-dwelling dinosaur”, or “raccoon-like mammal”. That is still something, and that something is you.
And oh, if you do undergo a quest to find an extinct therioside, please do write about your findings. This sort of “spiritual paleontology” does exist among therians and totemists but little is said or written on it and speaking as a dire wolf, that is a shame.


By Kusani
The mindset of a lioness is a strange things, sometimes. Full of contradictions (adaptability to different circumstances) and paradoxes (well-rounded-ness).
Take, for example, a lioness-mother with her cubs. It’s the heat of the day, and she’s half-dozing in the shade. Her senses still report on what other animals are nearby – the reek of a buffalo herd upwind, the occasional flutter of a bird in the acacia tree overhead, the lazy movements of distant grazing gazelles. Her body, both warmed and drained by the sheer heat, is in a state of almost-sleep – like a trance. Her cubs are her most immediate concern, and her head will turn as she keeps track of them if they play, or she’ll “listen” to the feel of their small bodies pushed up against her flank to nap. She is both conscious and asleep, alert and aware, yet there is no sense of action – only the ability to react.
Take, for example, a lioness-mother on the hunt to feed her cubs. There is cooperation and intelligence amongst huntresses – make no mistake – and it is both similar and different to how a wolf pack works. She must be alert and keen to pick out the target, pegged by his weakness or his distance from his own mother – and her fellow lionesses must choose the same target by the same criteria. The one that is easiest to get. She feeds on the input of her senses, can almost taste the wind, and she moves forward without any signal from her companions. They know – they operate on the same instinctual level, and on that level, their minds are one. And now, she must be both reaction and action. She is fast and strong, and with her pridemates, she is a killer – but she is not unstoppable. Prey have taken back their calves before – or other predators have claimed the kill and driven her off. But gone now is the sense of passive existence – she is moving and breathing and there will be blood and meat. Adrenaline and flesh-stench is already in the air, and the herd is restless as the lionesses close in. They are focused and yet still listening-with-all-senses to everything around them.
Active, and reactive. Passive, and aggressive. Single-minded focus, and mindless diffusion. Lioness can do all of these things. Her life is easier than some, sometimes – she has pridemates to help her hunt, and she has a male or two to defend herself and her cubs. The pride together will protect its hunting grounds, but they are not bound to one patch of land – they can and will move if the food leaves or the water dries.
Active, when I can feel my heart beating in my ears and I’m moving and there are claws on my fingers and a tail slung out behind me and my lips are curled to show off fangs that no one can see. Active, but still aware, when the music is loud – almost louder than my own heart – and I’m moving in response, instinctive, subconscious, never trying to think but only letting myself -be-.
Passive, when I am still, and warm, and cozy, and all of my senses report but I pay no more mind to one over the other. Passive, reactive, when I am curled up with my mate or my animals, listening to my skin report their warmth and weight, listening to the air move as people move, listening to things that my ears can’t fathom ever hearing but it’s listening all the same. Almost mindless, almost not-conscious, when all that exists is a quiet self and the external world – no internal chatter, no thoughts, only input of senses and the ability to react if need be.


By Kusani
I am a lioness. It’s natural for me to say that now, secure in who and what I am. A lioness-woman. Not wholly any one thing. I’m an animal person – I’m not just an animal in a human skin, and I’m not just a human who really likes this animal. I’m both. I’m a new breed.
I wasn’t always this comfortable in my own skin and identity as I am now. My childhood and young-teen years hold much the same story as many other animal people – wanting to play as a not-human, wandering the house on all fours, huge attachment to animals, spending a lot of time in the woods, and making all the sounds and expressions of a not-human. A lot of therians that I knew at one point reported that, in order to fit in with schoolmates and family members and society at large, they had to suppress their animalistic actions. No more growling, or hissing, or what have you. Walk flat-footed. No headbumping or nuzzling or whimpering or mewling.
In sixth grade, I had read Raptor Red, which is my favorite dinosaur book hands-down. I spent my days that year as a raptor person. In school, too. My arms were bent and held close to my chest, and my extra two fingers were tucked against my palms, and I walked on the balls of my feet with my unseen tail stuck out straight behind me, and my head bobbed, and my body was tilted at an angle that was, somehow, balanced by my nonexistent tail. My parents never told me to act normal. My friends got used to me. My teachers never disciplined me for causing trouble, because I was still smart and sociable. Just because I was a raptor at the time didn’t stop me from still being part-human.
I never learned to not act as I felt. And I don’t know why not, but no one ever mocked me for it. I’d bare my teeth and growl, and refer to my long nails as claws, and my hair as a mane or as fur, and no one cared. My ears move, just a tiny bit – I can move the right one alone, or both together. So I got used to flattening my ears (by moving them backwards), or pricking them. I can also do an ear-flick with the right ear. No one cared! It was awesome.
There isn’t a ‘but’ to this monologue. Even before I found out what therianthropy was called, and that there were others who were like me, I was able to strike a functional, expressive balance between animal and human. I never had to repress that part of me. So I never did.
The difficult part came when I -did- discover therianthropy. It all made so much sense and I was just gleeful to know that others felt like I did. It had never bugged me to be the only one like me, and I had never questioned my sanity for how I acted, but it was still really awesome to think of people who knew where I was coming from.
So where’s the difficulty? Well, in my voracious reading of every bit of “were” material I could come across, there were a ton of indications that people have one primary animalside. Some rare ones have two or three, but a lot of “regular” therians scoffed a bit at these people.
So what the hell was I? In my life, I’d been a panther (black leopard), a wolf, a raptor, and a horse. Those were the animals I acted most like, and they had come in stages – dogs/wolves when I was very young, then horses (and sometimes deer), then raptor and panther kinda came at the same 9-years-old-ish stage.
I observed and analyzed myself. I looked up and learned about the most likely animals. At that stage in my life, I was very strongly a loner – nevermind that I was a bit miserable being that way. Wolf had been one of my favorite animals for years, and I felt a lot of kinship with them. Cougar, surprisingly, came up as a very close match to me, but I kept having issues with, somehow, wanting to make my cougar-self melanistic – which is insanely rare with cougars.
At various times, I decided I was a black leopard, a wolf, and/or a cougar. For about a year, I went back and forth, genuinely trying to figure out what the hell I was. For the majority of that year, the latter half at least, I decided I was mostly cougar, but also a bit of wolf. (Melanistic cougar, and grey/timber wolf.)
It didn’t fit. The identities made me restless. I kept searching. I knew something wasn’t right. Despite my whole-hearted love for and kinship with Cougar and Wolf, I didn’t think I really -was- either of them.
I had not considered the bigger cats – jaguar, lion, or tiger – although I was fairly certain I was feline. Lions and tigers were too mainstream, too well-loved – I didn’t want to be something so popular. (Popular in the general public’s eye, at least – I knew wolf therians are by far the most numerous, and I also hesitated on ‘being’ Wolf.) But, I decided to investigate even the more unlikely options.
Lioness wound up sounding more and more correct. At that time in my life, I was a loner through circumstance, but digging deep enough found that it wasn’t my first instinct, nor would it ever be a choice. To make a long story short, lioness was my closest fit. And so I adopted it as my identity, still wary of being wrong yet again.
The months and then years proved lioness to be the best fit of them all. I identify rather seamlessly with lioness now, to the point where I am blatant about self-identifying as lioness, even to those who have no knowledge of or interest in therianthropy. I’ve never stopped being animal-expressive, and to this day, people just get used to it. I don’t get weird looks or many questions or any insults or teases. This is probably because I know when a situation calls for a professional or a neutral attitude/act.
So there’s my story. I’m a lioness, and I don’t claim to be any other animals.
Here’s the kicker. I don’t believe that souls have genders or species. I believe that a soul is a part of all life that flows through all that exists – my soul is just a part of the Universal Soul. And as such, I am not separate from anything, nor could I possibly be an animal-soul in a human body. My soul has no race!
So then, what is therianthropy? Why am I an animal person if souls don’t have species and I’m wearing a purely human skin?
I believe in reincarnation. Many lives, many experiences. And it’d be silly if my lives were only constrained to one species. I believe my soul has tried on many, many different skins – as well as being a part of a big Whole, some of whose other parts are wearing various skins as I wear my human one.
My soul’s favorite skin is lioness. It enjoys the human one, but it remembers the lioness one, and connects with other parts of the Universal Soul who wear lioness skins, and that becomes a strong part of its own expression and characteristics. This means I am a lioness-woman.
This does not mean that my soul has no fondnesses for any other skins. Wolf is very, very close to me still, and I strongly identify as Wolf sometimes. But what does that make Wolf to me? A second animalside? My “furry” self? (I see the difference between non-creepy furries and therians as being, well, voluntary. Furries choose an animal to express themselves because they like it in some way; therians -are- that animal instinctively, beyond conscious choice. So I have often wondered if I consciously choose to identify with wolf, which – by my terms – would make me a wolf furry. Not that I actively label myself as that – too much bad rep.)
So if I’m a lioness-woman, what’s Wolf? What’re Jaguar and Cougar, who are also extremely close to my spirit and my heart?
Things get fuzzy here. I am an animal person. I’m a lioness-woman. I’m a soul expressed through a body but who is still linked to the Universal Soul. So am I also a wolf-woman, or is my affinity to Wolf somehow different, other than being less immersive than my affinity for Lioness?
Questions, questions. I’m not sure I even need to define it. I portray myself as a white wolf. The snowy tundra is as much my home as the blue-skied savanna. I can howl as easily as I can roar. A thick white pelt is as familiar on my skin as a smooth tawny one. Pack dynamics are as familiar as pride arrangements. I might be more lioness than wolf, but does that mean wolf is any different than lioness in its relation to me?
This line of questioning and lack-of-definition (meaning shape-definition more than dictionary terminology) has been in my head for, literally, years. I brought it up with my sister last night because she has the same sort of duality as I do – ironically, the reverse. I am primarily lioness and she is primarily red wolf, yet I’ve always had a wolf connection and she a feline one. More ironically, my wolf-connection is to arctic wolves, who are radically different than red wolves – and her feline-connection is to cougars, who are radically different than lions. We expounded on this and neither of us came up with a sure answer.
But really, it doesn’t matter what I call it, or how others look at it. I exist as I am, and that’s perfectly good enough for me.


By Kusani
I am a lioness-woman. I love that fact and I love how saying that sounds; I love being who I am.
That said, being lioness and being human do not always overlap and mesh well. There are times when I have two completely different urges or instincts pulling at me. And there are times when part of me understands something and the other just … doesn’t get it.
And, being me-human and me-lioness, it’s not like the two species are pure, unadulterated representations of the archetypal creatures. I am one person, not two ideal spirits shoved into corporeal form. I’m me – mind, body, spirit, heart, lioness and woman all in one big mishmash.
This is a winding, roundabout way of saying that, even though I’m not just human, not just any one thing, and even though I do believe that people are microcosms of the entire potential of the Universe… despite all of that, there are still things that feel alien to every single bit of me.
Like wandering out of my territory fearlessly, and alone, to explore.
It’s no big deal to most people to take a walk down their street and look around, or to take the long route home from work and see if there’s anything cool on the side streets. When I was younger, I used to want to do that all the time.
Now, though, it’s a something. Not exactly scary, just unsettling (ruffling) and makes me second-think why I’m doing this. Why do I need to go here if I can just go home to Den? This isn’t my place, my land, my pridemates. I don’t need this place. I should just go home.
Lions are often regarded as the most bold and inquisitive of the big cats (and possibly of the smaller, too – not sure). A lioness, within her own territory and without cubs to watch over, will go off and investigate strange or interesting things rather fearlessly. Most other cats, who live alone and have to survive alone, do not have the luxury of doing that often. They’re primarily concerned with survival, because they don’t have the backup of pridemates that a lioness does. Not all cats stake out a firm territory that they will defend without question, as most lion prides do. A lioness on her own land, with her pride within hearing range, is confident.
Take a lioness off that land, away from that pride, and she is just as cautious and wary as the next lone cat.
Put me alone, in a new or unfamiliar place, and suddenly I am rethinking why I need to be there and can’t I just leave already? It’s ten times easier if I have even one person with me, because I have pridemates and I can rely on them to know what to do, if I don’t, or to be able to figure it out with me. Entirely too much energy goes into fretting about simply going new places and experiencing new things.
And, unfortunately, the me-human doesn’t counter this… at all. Humans are naturally curious too, right? Well, I guess my curiosity does not extend this far. Either that, or it’s drowned out by being out-of-territory and nervous. Not really afraid – just very wary, very quiet, hoping no one notices me and seeing how fast I can get my business done and get out of there.
It’s very strange. Also very annoying and a bit strangling, when I look over at my bicycle and think, “Well hey, I should go riding today, it’s gorgeous out!” and my brain immediately thinks of the crappy streets and the people and the lights I’d have to cross and this isn’t Den this isn’t territory why do I want to be out -there-?
And there’s those times, of course, where I get fed up with myself, or I am feeling unusually confident and vagabond-ish, and I wander off alone and check things out and usually enjoy it immensely, because all-of-me loves new experience and new things to learn and see and touch and feel. And that love is actually stronger than the nervousness of stepping outside my comfort zone, but the one comes before the other and usually wins.
I am working at forcing myself to go new places and do new things. It helps to go with people, like my mate or my best friend. It’s just really slow work.
I should go biking today. It’s gorgeous out. =3


By Merf
Written for Animal Quills November 2006 writing prompt.
Monday, the 20th of November: It was my day off, and I was walking back to my apartment with a fresh DVD rental when I felt a bit of a pain in my lower abdomen. I thought I was just a bit hungry and initially ignored it. I was in the emergency room by the end of the night, and in the operating theater surprisingly soon after that.
Turns out I was suffering from Appendicitis, which is good, considering their first theory was kidney stones. It was a simple procedure, since I didn’t rupture, and was in the hospital for about thirty-six hours. Now, I’ve always been a remarkably fast healer, physically, so that’s not proving to be a real concern, but something else remarkable did happen. I was in and out of consciousness for most of Tuesday as I slept off the anesthetic, but woke at one point to find my mother there beside me. When she’d heard of my operation, she’d found a sub for her fifth-grade class and drove out to see me. In the three seconds I was awake, I managed a smile at her, which she returned, but she spent the next three days or so in Omaha, helping me through the first few days of recovery.
We wound up having Thanksgiving dinner together, as well. Originally, I’d been planning to spend the day alone, since my sister (my only family living in the area) was spending it with her in-laws, but now here I was with my mother. Both of us are food geeks, and we got creative with the meal and surprised ourselves with our innovations. We talked a lot about spirituality in living life and she found herself encouraging my artistic endeavors professionally. Previously, she’d encouraged me artistically, but only if I’d pursued it in my spare time.
To top the day off, my baby brother, who had until very recently avoided the whole family like the plague for years, called me, that day. He’d heard that I’d been in the hospital, and wanted to be certain that I was all right before getting shipped off to the Middle East. We had a very personable conversation and for a few minutes, it was as if we were kids again.
The whole experience strengthened my belief in family and seemed to hasten my recovery from surgery. It helped to give me a stronger sense of well-being and helped me to feel okay as I healed.
Part of my recovery from Depression over the last couple of years has had to do with my discovery of the therian community. When I found that there were other people like me out there, and that they had words for what I experienced, I was able to accept myself for what I really was. When I was able to look the Bear in the eye and not be afraid of her, I was finally able to begin seeing myself as okay. I was able to begin exploring my inner world without shame or fear. One revelation that this led me to is that the body, the mind, and the spirit (or identity) are not separate things, as classical “reasoning” has historically suggested. They are intrinsically linked, for good or ill. They cannot be separated. What affects one must affect all others.
On Thanksgiving, however, I was reminded of something else. Through spirit, a person is also his connections to others. I remember reading, years ago, a book in which the author claimed that the word “I” in the English language is much more fluid than most westerners choose to believe. He believed that “I” is actually similar to “here” and “now,” that it’s meaning is indistinct. In many cultures, the word for “I” could mean one person, a whole family, or a whole tribe. It was reading this that first got me thinking of Spirit and the Divine as not an intelligent being outside the universe, but as a force of nature, similar to gravity. Whereas gravity draws us towards the earth, Spirit draws us towards others. We are not as separate as most of us choose to believe.
This is why I believe that there must be a therian (or “animal people”) community. To know of and interact with others of one’s own nature is a very healing and strengthening thing. Like most bears, I tend towards being by myself; I am slow to trust strangers, and I need a lot of time to myself. But on the other hand, once I do accept someone as a trusted friend, I am loyal (or so I think), supportive, and dependable. Even solitary creatures like me must have others around, once in a while, especially others that we can relate to.
I often wish that the therian communities were less divisive. There is so much potential for mutual support and aid, but a lot of it is lost to popularity contests and power struggles and it sometimes becomes unhealthy to be there. I am just as often reminded, however, that every community in the world has the same problem, from families to church parishes to sports teams to bridge clubs. Gather a bunch of people together, and they’ll often squabble, just for something to do. When the chips are down, though, they’ll just as often surprise each other with demonstrations of generosity and support, like my family did, last week.
Between the attention hogs and the posers, I often think of giving up on the therian communities. I don’t think that I will just yet, though. There’s still hope, just as there is with my family.


By Adagio
What does “crow” mean, anyway?
The word crow technically encompasses all the birds in the genus Corvus, but the word implies so much more than that.
(Keep in mind, throughout this essay when I use the word “crow”, I am using it to specifically describe the carrion crow and the common crow, and not every member of the corvid family.)
Crow means adaptation. I am a crow because I change. I’m a scavenger. I do the best I can with what I have, and find ways to get the things I need or want. This doesn’t just apply to food or actual objects, but also to knowledge, guidance, success, things of the more intangible nature. I look and find and take.
I used to live in New York City. I was young, but not so young that the city didn’t make an impression on me. It was fast and required me to keep moving, looking around, being aware of things. I adapted. It wasn’t anything personal, just something that had to be done. Then when we moved to where I currently live, a very small town surrounded by farmland, I adapted. It was different than living in a big city, yes, but it still required me to change in order to fit into my new environment. I prefer the small town, but I didn’t hate the big city. They just have different requirements. They ask different things of people. The big city is not for everybody, just as small farming communities are not for everybody.
Me? I adjust. I am a crow.
Crow, as much as it represents change, also represents stability. Crow is always there, and I’m always a crow. Crow seems old, and smart, and always knows what to do (and if he doesn’t, then he improvises.) This again relates back to survival, but I perceive these two aspects in different ways. Adaptation isn’t necessary, but it is a good idea. However, without intelligence, adaptation is nearly impossible. Intelligence is a constant.
Crows have quick thoughts and analyze every situation, to figure out how it can be a benefit. Many animals also display this ability to adapt, but it is an essential and core part of the crow’s nature, and is the focal point of experiencing being crow. I do like knowing things, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I will find out. That way, if I encounter the same question or problem later on, I will know how to handle it and hopefully make the outcome be to my advantage.
A common stereotype of the crow is “trickster”. Tricksters like to joke and play tricks, and laugh at the expense of others, even if the other person is hurt or embarrassed in the process.
That is not how I experience the trickster attribute of the crow. To me, “trickster” means manipulating a situation so the crow will benefit in some way, but still being able to appreciate the humor and possible irony that results. This serves to help me not get frustrated and upset (although that does happen from time to time, of course). Maintaining a good outlook about a situation is vital to making it work out for the better.
I also associate sarcasm with crows, even though that is not necessarily a crow behavior, since sarcasm is a human concept. Still, the two are inexplicably linked in my mind. Crows laugh and look at things differently, with a question in their eyes, and they don’t worry about keeping up false pretenses. I tend to do the same.
Everything about crow is related to survival. The crow, essentially, is a being of instinct. It’s all about survival, changing, staying alive, and doing what you have to. All of the crow’s intelligence and problem-solving skills are to help the crow thrive. Crows are successful and it is in their nature to try to conquer any situation and benefit from it.
Expanding on the sense of humor attribute: Crows do have a sense of humor. The crow is not particularly mean, he just sees the humor in situations that others may not find funny. Some people may think me insensitive, but I figure life is too short to take everything too seriously. True, I may also laugh at the folly of others and get great enjoyment from it, but I also keep a sense of humor about myself. When I fail to achieve something, I take it as a lesson. I laugh at myself because I was so silly to make a mistake. Errors are something to be learned from and laughed about. They only cease to be funny when the person fails to learn from their mistakes. Dwelling on things will not help. You have to move forward, fly away, adapt, fix it.
Humor is also tied in with flying. Flying is pure joy and freedom, and I laugh at that because it’s so funny, so enjoyable. It’s an opportunity to forget. It’s an opportunity to realize that nothing is so serious that I can’t still enjoy life. I enjoy laughing and I enjoy finding things to laugh about. It’s much easier to adapt and survive with a flexible and humorous view of life, instead of a bleak and pessimistic one.
Learning from mistakes, adjusting, surviving, keeping it all in perspective. This is crow.

Anger and the Animal Person

By Merf
Originally posted on Animal Quills.
In my own experience, very few children take responsibility for their actions when angry.
“He hit me first!”
“He called me a sissy!”
Thankfully, most children grow to learn how to take responsibility for how they express their emotions. Anger and frustration are natural defensive responses to a situation like being pushed around. Violence, however, is a choice. Self awareness – the ability to step back and examine our own thoughts as they happen – affords us the ability to choose how we will respond to our own emotions. This could very well be the very definition of the term responsibility (response-ability).
Some, however, do not learn this valuable lesson. Some go through life a slave to their emotional responses and the ideas of what they’re supposed to do with them. If they are angry with something, they hurt it. If they are afraid of something, they either run from it or fight it. If they desire something (or someone), then they pursue it. I can recall a number of instances in which larger classmates, after having beaten me silly, blamed me. If I hadn’t talked back to them, you see, they wouldn’t have had to hurt me. That’s the universal cry of the bully. “It’s your own fault.”
Learning this lesson takes time, however, and some self-exploration. One has to think about the roots of one’s actions and emotions, and learn why they responded as they did.
“Why did I punch him, knowing he would beat me senseless?”
“Because he was laughing at me.”
“Why not simply walk away?”
“People were watching and laughing. I didn’t want them to think I was weak.”
“Why do we care what they think?”
“Because I have to care. If I don’t stand tall, they’ll ALL laugh then.”
“So this is about pride…”
“Hey! If you don’t have pride, you’re nothing! I have to defend my image!”
(and so on and so on…)
It is not entirely surprising, then, that some animal people, upon encountering their animal aspects, erroniously believe that their animals are to blame for their emotional responses. Animals, after all, have a reputation for passionate responses to threats, dangers, or hungers. Animals are seen as wild and free, and believed to do whatever they like, responding to everything by instinct. Having an “animal nature” can offer up a temptingly quick and simple explanation (or excuse) for one’s emotional actions. It takes time to look past the “inner animal” for other explanations, and not everyone is ready to do it very readily.
It can be especially confusing when one first encounters their animal aspect as a child. Now, I can not speak for anyone else, but I know that I, myself, have always been more aware of my animal when I was feeling very emotional. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because strong emotions – especially “fight or flight” emotions – intensify awareness. When I was bullied, it often felt as though the bear seemed to leap up out of somewhere deep inside me when I was pushed around, and I reacted by clawing and growling. It’s a simple step from that perception to thinking that the bear was responsible for what I did. “It leaped out and took over.”
I think that I may have originally feared “the beast” because I thought she was “making me fight.” I was supposedly acting like an animal because of her. I pushed her away, mentally locking her in an imaginary cage and trapping her deep inside, because I wanted it to stop. That may have been the very beginnings of my own lessons in emotional responsibility.
I can look back now, of course, and realize that the bear was always there. She and I are one. I simply became more aware of her – and every other part of me – as I became angry. I chose the violent response to the situation, myself. The presence of the bear only meant that I clawed instead of punched and growled instead of yelled. I can easily imagine, then, that other animal people draw similar conclusions.
These days, after so much time exploring my image of “Mama Bear” and I, I’ve come to see us as essentially strong, both physically and emotionally. Strong enough to stand against the flood of our emotions. Strong enough to be able to choose to walk away. I have a strong sense of my own “response-ability.”
…But I can only speak for myself.


By Adagio
The snowflakes are falling silently. I can see them through the window, little white dots drifting down, sticking to the grass and the sidewalk and my car. The sky is grey and cloudy, and I am drawn closer, compelled to stand up and walk over to the window so I can have a better view. I visualize myself flying through it, black and shining, contrasting sharply with the sparkling white landscape beneath me. I am swirling with wings outstretched and the biting cold air is forcing me to keep moving, keep moving. Then I open my eyes and I am still standing next to the window, one hand raised with fingers touching the icy glass, my feet planted firmly on the ground, featherless, undeniably human.
The crow in my head preens his feathers, waiting to see my reaction. In a way, the idyllic winter scene outside my window is compelling, and makes me want to just disappear into the clouds, glossy-stiff feathers propelling me forward… but I am human, and so vulnerable to cold. A shiver runs down my spine as I think about it. So the crow fluffs up his feathers, and I wrap a scarf around my neck and zip up my jacket (but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming) and I have no choice but to restlessly await spring so I can fly.
[feb. 2007]
Call me crazy. I get the opposite of what most survival instincts will tell you.
Find warmth! Eat a lot of food! Hibernate! Fly south!
Fly! Fly! Fly! is what I hear.
My computer desk is situated facing the wall, and the door that leads to our back yard (our back yard is a parking lot – we live in an apartment) is to my right. I keep glancing out as I write this, pausing, sometimes for minutes at a time, to look at the 8+ inches of snow and the sleet that is sprinkling gently against the windowpanes.
This is not a sparkly, crystalline, entrancing winter – this is grey, cloudly, wet, bitter cold, windy, completely unbearable… and completely alluring. The cold is invigorating. The cold makes you want to keep moving! keep going! keep flying!
Call me crazy. But I sit here at my desk, making numerous typos because all I can focus on is the snow and flying, flying, flying, and the invisible wings that grow from my shoulder blades are itching to be used – but I can’t, because it’s not real, the feeling of wings and feathers. What’s real is this desk and this computer and these hands. So instead of flying off through the cold like the crazypersonbird I am, I sit here typing about flying off through the cold, because it’s the next best thing.