Otherkin are a subculture of people who identify as partially or entirely nonhuman. Some otherkin believe their identity derives from spiritual phenomena (such as possessing a nonhuman soul, reincarnation, or the will of God), ancestry,[1] symbolism, or metaphor.[2] Others attribute it to unusual psychology or neurodivergence and do not hold spiritual beliefs on the subject.

EtymologyEnglish: "other" + "kin"
DefinitionOne who identifies as not entirely human
SubcategoriesVarious, see below
Other terms
Associated termsAlterhuman, Non-human

The otherkin subculture grew out of online communities for people identifying as elves in the early-to-mid-1990s.[3] The word has since come to be treated as an umbrella term for a number of nonhuman identity subcultures which developed around the same time.[2]

Etymology edit

"Otherkin,” as an adjective, was defined in the Middle English Dictionary (1981) as "a different or an additional kind of, other kinds of".[4] In 2017, the Oxford English Dictionary defined otherkin as "of another kind; other, different."[5][6]

The earliest recorded use of the term otherkin, in the context of a subculture, appeared in July 1990 and the variant otherkind was reported as early as April 1990.[2] The word "otherkind" was initially coined from the word "elfinkind", to refer to non-elf others who joined the communities.[7] The terms "otherkin" and "otherkind" have since come to encompass a wide variety of unique non-human identities.

Terms and identities edit

The term otherkin includes a broad range of identities. Otherkin may identify as creatures of the natural world, mythology, or popular culture.[8] Examples include but are not limited to the following: aliens, angels, demons, dragons, elves, fairies, foxes, horses, sprites, unicorns, wolves, and fictional characters.[9][10][11][12] Rarer are those who identify as plants, machines, concepts, or natural phenomena such as weather systems.[13]

The term "therian" refers to people who identify as an animal of the natural world. The species of animal a therian identifies as is called a theriotype.[14]

Community edit

With regard to their online communities, otherkin largely function without formal authority structures and mostly focus on support and information gathering, often dividing into more specific groups based on kintype.[12] There are occasional offline gatherings, but the otherkin network is mostly an online phenomenon.[12]

The therian and vampire subcultures are related to the otherkin community, and are considered part of it by most otherkin but are culturally and historically distinct movements of their own, despite some overlap in membership.[2] The word alterhuman exists as an umbrella term which intends to encompass all of these subcultures, as well as others such as plurality.[15]

Symbols edit

A regular {7/3} heptagram known as the Elven Star or Fairy Star

The earliest symbol used to denote nonhuman identity was a regular {7/3} heptagram, known as the Elven Star or Fairy Star. It was designed by the Elf Queen's Daughters and first published in the Green Egg newsletter in March 1976.[2]

Experiences edit

Some otherkin claim to be especially empathic and attuned to nature.[10] Some claim to be able to shapeshift or "shift" mentally or astrally, meaning that they experience the sense of being in their particular form while not actually changing physically.[2][16] Moreover, the claim to be able to physically shift is generally looked down on by the community.[17] They may also describe being able to feel phantom limbs/wings/tails/horns, that coordinates with their kintype.[17][18] Some otherkin claim to also go through an 'awakening' that alerts them to their kintype.[18]

Some otherkin experience a sense of unease and unhappiness due to the mismatch between their physical body and that of their kintype or theriotype. A controversial but frequently made analogy is to gender dysphoria, leading to the terms trans-species or trans-speciesism[19][better source needed] and species dysphoria.[17]

Beliefs edit

Many otherkin believe in the existence of a multitude of parallel universes, and their belief in the existence of supernatural or sapient non-human beings is grounded in that idea.[12]

Joseph P. Laycock, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University, considers otherkin beliefs to have a religious dimension, but asserts that "the argument that Otherkin identity claims conform to a substantive definition of religion is problematic".[20] Many otherkin themselves reject the notion that being otherkin is a religious belief.[20]

History edit

1990s edit

The oldest Internet resource for otherkin is the Elfinkind Digest, a mailing list started in 1990 by a student at the University of Kentucky for "elves and interested observers".[7][better source needed] Also in the early 1990s, newsgroups such as alt.horror.werewolves (AHWW)[21] and alt.fan.dragons on Usenet, which were initially created for fans of these creatures in the context of fantasy and horror literature and films, also developed followings of individuals who identified as mythological beings.[2][22]

On 6 February 1995, a document titled the "Elven Nation Manifesto" was posted to Usenet, including the groups alt.pagan and alt.magick.[23] Enough people contacted the original author of the Elven Nation post in good faith for a planned mailing list to spin off from it.[3]

Rich Dansky, who worked on the development of Changeling: The Dreaming, said that after the game's release in 1995 the darkfae-l listserv had "a rampaging debate... over how the folks at White Wolf had gotten so much of their existence right", adding, "Finally, one of the list members came to the obvious conclusion that we'd gotten it right because we ourselves were in fact changelings." Dansky denied being non-human.[10]

From 3–11 April 1996, a week-long gathering of therianthropes called EuroHowl ’96 was hosted in Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom. It was the first known otherkin gathering outside of the United States.[7]

2000s edit

On 6 August 2003, the Russian therianthrope community hosted their first official gathering Howl 2003 (Вой 2003) by the shores of Lake Onega in Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, Russia.[7]

On 18 December 2005, the Minneapolis-based newspaper Star Tribune published an article about dragons that included a section about the otherkin blog Draconic. The article quoted from the mission statement of the blog, written by site founder Chris Dragon, making it the first known description of “otherkin” to be published in a major newspaper.[7]

2010s edit

On 7 April 2010, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an article titled "Ibland får jag lust att yla som en varg" (“Sometimes I get the urge to howl like a wolf”) in which Lanina, founder of the Swedish language otherkin and therian forum therian.forumer.com, described the basics of what it's like to be a therian.[24] The article is the first known article to offer a description of "therian" identity by a major European newspaper.[7]

In 2011, the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP), a Canadian-American multidisciplinary research group, expanded the scope of its annual International Furry Survey to include otherkin and therians for the first time.[25]

Research edit

Daniell Kirby wrote the first academic paper on otherkin in 2008, which served to introduce the community to other academics.[12] Kirby described otherkin as sharing ideas with the neopagan movement, however she called this an "interim classification", and warned that "to construe this group as specifically neo-pagan or techno-pagan obscures the focus of the participants".[12] Despite this, much subsequent research treated the otherkin community as having an essentially religious character.[20][14][26][27]

From 2016 onwards, otherkin research has taken more of a narrative identity approach, investigating how otherkin come to understand their experiences.[28][29][30] Revewing prior research, Stephanie C. Shea criticizes the prevailing conception of the otherkin subculture as being, or being alike to, either a religion or a spirituality.[31]

Public perception and media coverage edit

Outside viewers may have varying opinions about people who identify as otherkin, such as considering them psychologically dysfunctional.[9] Reactions often range from disbelief to aggressive antagonism, especially online.[32]

Otherkin have been called one of the world's most bizarre subcultures,[33] and a religious movement (and a "quasi-religion"[34]) that "in some of its forms, largely only exists on the [Internet]".[35] Although otherkin beliefs deviate from the definition of "religion", they share the primary interest in the paranormal.[34] Laycock argues that the otherkin community serves existential and social functions commonly associated with religion, and regards it as an alternative nomos that sustains alternate ontologies. He feels that the negative public reaction to the subculture may be because of how these beliefs challenge the predominant social worldview.[20] Professor Jay Johnston similarly feels that nonhuman identity "is perhaps not so much pathological as political".[36]

According to Nick Mamatas, they represent a dissatisfaction with the modern world, and they have taken fairy lore out of its original context.[10] [needs update?]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Michelle Belanger; Father Sebastiaan (2004). The Psychic Vampire Codex: A Manual of Magick and Energy Work. Weiser Books. p. 274. ISBN 1-57863-321-4. /--/Some feel that their difference is purely spiritual, while others believe there is a genetic difference between themselves and humanity. /--/
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lupa (2007). A Field Guide to Otherkin. Immanion Press. pp. 25–26, 50, 52. ISBN 978-1-905713-07-3.
  3. ^ a b Polson, Willow (2003). The Veil's Edge: Exploring the Boundaries of Magic. Citadel Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-8065-2352-2.
  4. ^ Sherman M. Kuhn (1981). Middle English Dictionary: O.3, Volume 0. University of Michigan Press. p. 344. ISBN 0-472-01153-7.
  5. ^ "Oxford Dictionary Adds 'Squad Goals,' 'Yas' and 'Drunk Text'". Time. 2017-02-24. Retrieved 2023-07-20.
  6. ^ "otherkin - Quick search results | Oxford English Dictionary". www.oed.com. Retrieved 2023-07-20.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Scribner, Orion (8 September 2012). Otherkin Timeline – The Recent History of Elfin, Fae, and Animal People (PDF). Kitsunet. Archived from the original on 3 September 2023. Retrieved 20 July 2023.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ Michelle Belanger (2007). Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-7387-1220-8.
  9. ^ a b Isaac Bonewits; Phaedra Bonewits (2007). Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, And Substances to Heal, Change, And Grow. Career Press. pp. 196–197. ISBN 978-1-56414-904-6.
  10. ^ a b c d Mamatas, Nick (February 20, 2001). "Elven Like Me: Otherkin Come Out of the Closet". The Village Voice. New York. Archived from the original on 2015-05-16. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  11. ^ Penczak, Christopher (2007). Ascension Magick: Ritual, Myth & Healing for the New Aeon. Llewellyn Worldwide. pp. 416–417, 441. ISBN 978-0-7387-1047-1.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Kirby, Danielle (2006). "Alternative Worlds: Metaphysical questing and virtual community amongst the Otherkin". In Frances Di Lauro (ed.). Through a Glass Darkly: Collected Research. Sydney University Press. ISBN 1920898549. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
  13. ^ Beusman, Callie (August 3, 2016). "'I Look at a Cloud and I See It as Me': The People Who Identify As Objects". Vice Media. Archived from the original on December 22, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  14. ^ a b Robertson, Venetia Laura Delano (2014-01-13). "The Law of the Jungle: Self and Community in the Online Therianthropy Movement". Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. 14 (2). doi:10.1558/pome.v14i2.256. ISSN 1743-1735.
  15. ^ "Otherkin are the internet's punchline. They're also our future". The Daily Dot. 2020-09-25. Archived from the original on 2020-11-20. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  16. ^ Raven Digitalis (2008). Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-7387-1318-2.
  17. ^ a b c Proctor, Devin (2018-09-29). "Policing the Fluff: The Social Construction of Scientistic Selves in Otherkin Facebook Groups". Engaging Science, Technology, and Society. 4: 485–514. doi:10.17351/ests2018.252. ISSN 2413-8053. S2CID 55833371.
  18. ^ a b Baldwin, Clive; Ripley, Lauren (2020-08-07). "Exploring Other-Than-Human Identity: A Narrative Approach to Otherkin, Therianthropes, and Vampires". Qualitative Sociology Review. 16 (3): 8–26. doi:10.18778/1733-8077.16.3.02. hdl:11089/38377. ISSN 1733-8077. S2CID 225433670.
  19. ^ PhD, Brian Clowes. "3 of the Most Bizarre Trans Rights Movements". Human Life International. Retrieved 2023-06-04.
  20. ^ a b c d Joseph P. Laycock. “We Are Spirits of Another Sort”: Ontological Rebellion and Religious Dimensions of the Otherkin Community Archived 2020-06-13 at the Wayback Machine. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Vol. 15, No. 3 (February 2012), pp. 65–90. University of California Press
  21. ^ Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray (2006). The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-84511-158-3.
  22. ^ Cohen, D. (1996). Werewolves. New York: Penguin Books. p. 104. ISBN 0-525-65207-8.
  23. ^ "The Elven Nation Manifesto.....everyone must read this!!!!". alt.magick. 1995-02-06. Archived from the original on 2021-03-31. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  24. ^ Lerner, Thomas (7 April 2010). ""Ibland får jag lust att yla som en varg"". Dagens Nyheter. Archived from the original on 9 September 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  25. ^ "International Furry Survey: Summer 2011". Furscience. Retrieved 2023-07-19.
  26. ^ Bador, Damien (2019), "J. R. R. Tolkien et Ferdinand de Saussure : un héritage en fiction", Tolkien et la Terre du Milieu, Éditions Rue d’Ulm, pp. 55–74, doi:10.4000/books.editionsulm.4020, ISBN 9782728806799, S2CID 246344364, retrieved 2023-07-15
  27. ^ "Spirituality and self-realisation as 'other-than-human': the Otherkin and Therianthropy communities", Fiction, Invention and Hyper-reality, Inform series, New York: Routledge, pp. 54–71, 2016-11-18, doi:10.4324/9781315582283-11, ISBN 9781315582283, retrieved 2023-07-15
  28. ^ Bricker, Natalie (April 25, 2016). Life Stories of Therianthropes: An Analysis of Nonhuman Identity in a Narrative Identity Model (Thesis). Lake Forest College Publications.
  29. ^ Baldwin, Clive; Ripley, Lauren (2020-08-07). "Exploring Other-Than-Human Identity: A Narrative Approach to Otherkin, Therianthropes, and Vampires". Qualitative Sociology Review. 16 (3): 8–26. doi:10.18778/1733-8077.16.3.02. hdl:11089/38377. ISSN 1733-8077. S2CID 225433670.
  30. ^ Shea, Stephanie C. (July 2020). "Exploring Other-Than-Human Identity: Religious Experiences in the Life-Story of a Machinekin". Religions. 11 (7): 354. doi:10.3390/rel11070354. ISSN 2077-1444.
  31. ^ Shea, Stephanie (June 2019). IDENTITY AND BELIEF: An Analysis of the Otherkin Subculture (MA thesis). University of Amsterdam.
  32. ^ Th'Elf (2006). "Otherkin". In Sebastiaan van Houten (ed.). The Vampyre Almanac 2006. Lulu. ISBN 1-4116-6084-6.
  33. ^ Geoffrey Lancaster; Lester Massingham (2010). Essentials of Marketing Management. Taylor & Francis. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-415-55346-9.
  34. ^ a b Kirby, Danielle (2009). "From Pulp Fiction to Revealed Text: A Study of the Role of the Text in the Otherkin Community". In Christopher Deacy; Elisabeth Arweck (eds.). Exploring Religion And The Sacred in A Media Age. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-6527-4.
  35. ^ Dawson, Lorne L.; Hennebry, Jenna. "New Religions and The Internet: Recruiting in A New Public Space". Essay published in several books:
  36. ^ Johnston, Jay (2013). "On having a furry soul: transpecies identity and ontological indeterminacy in Otherkin subcultures". In Johnston, Jay; Probyn-Rapsey, Fiona (eds.). Animal Death. Sydney University Press. pp. 293–306. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1gxxpvf.23. ISBN 978-1-74332-023-5. JSTOR j.ctt1gxxpvf.23. Retrieved 2023-08-17.

Further reading edit

External links edit