Wolves and Dogs and Therianthropy

Part of my personal mythology involves identifying myself as a wolf therian–basically, I believe that on some nonphysical level of myself, I am more wolf than human. This is something that goes wayyyyyy back to a very young age; therianthropy is just the general framework that I’ve been using to explore and explain it in the past several years. I’ve been evolving into more a personal mythology framework the past couple of years–but not completely disavowing “therianthropy” as a concept. I’m currently explaining it (in my case) as a part of the metaphorical story (that is also true–more on that in a minute) I tell about myself, rather than trying to take the (relatively) literalist perspective of “There’s something wrong with my neurobiology, and that of every other therian, that causes a fundamental miswiring related to identity/senses/etc.”, or the other popular opinion, “I was a wolf in a past life/my soul is that of a wolf”.

Let me make something very clear: I believe that metaphor and mythology are not “just made up”. They come from a complex interplay of the mind and the environment, to include what I believe to be autonomous beings. The modern Western conception of myth/metaphor is that it’s “all in the head’, with no bearing on the real world. I believe these are as much a part of the fabric of reality as physics, and other more materialistic things. I choose to believe that metaphor/myth have autonomous existences independent of the human mind, but that there is interdependence as well. This is a case of both/and instead of either/or. I make this choice A) because I have experienced things that prove to me as an individual that this is true in my subjective reality, and B) because my spiritual path functions much better when I believe this is true.

So. Back to the topic at hand.

As I said, myself-as-wolf is a significant part of my personal mythology. It explains to me a number of traits that “human” doesn’t quite fit–or, at least, that “wolf” fits better. Taylor brought up to me a few weeks ago the concept of myself-as-dog, however. I have a lot more experience working with dogs than I do with wolves, and being a somewhat domesticated critter myself, “dog” may be something to explore in more depth.

What is a dog? One way of looking at it is essentially a domesticated wolf. That’s a very simplistic explanation, but it’s a starting point. A dog is what happens when wolves interact over a long period of time with humans, becoming interdependent. If I am a wolf in human form, interacting within a human paradigm for a lifetime, wouldn’t that create some kind of change in the self-as-wolf? After all, I can’t say that I am only wolf, and while I can guess at how close I am to the experience of being wolf, it’s all conjecture in the end. No on can prove that my experiences when I am in a more wolfish mindset are anything more than my mind’s approximation of what I might assume to be “wolf” things.

Dogs, though, are more of a known quantity. Again, I can’t get inside the head of a dog, but I can observe doggish behavior more often and have a better idea of what a dog is. And from a purely analytical viewpoint, I can compare the outsider’s perspective on wolves and dogs to see where the similarities and differences are.

So working with Dog energy may be an interesting way to get a better handle on myself-as-wolf, filtered through myself-as-human. It’s not a complete parallel, since that part of myself still identifies as wolf rather than dog. However, dogs are the closest things to wolves I have access to on a regular basis. It can’t hurt to at least explore the connections.

Totemically, I may also try working with the totems of different breeds of domestic dog. I’ve always had a particular fondness for more primitive, wolfish breeds–I had German shepherds growing up, and also like malemutes, huskies, and other such breeds. I’m still undecided about what I think about wolf hybrids; I haven’t had much experience with them, and I’ve heard lots of both good and bad testimonies to their temperaments and safety. Still, I’d much rather be around a German shepherd than a Bichon Frise.

I don’t think that I’ll ever give up embracing “wolf” as the primary theme in my life, though the work with “dog” may bring some interesting perspectives. “Wolf” is too deeply ingrained in my fundamental self, and there are certain things that I know will always fit “wolf” better than “dog”. However, I’ve also been embracing the concept of feralness again, the idea of a once-wild being (or lineage of beings) that has been brought into captivity, and then released to the wild again. Your average dog is not feral, but has the capacity to be. It may be that I can find some parallel patterns in my own life as I find once again the part of myself that was born wild, was made captive, and is only now finding itself free again. Given that this part of me is very closely tied to myself-as-wolf, this work with wolf and dog and related concepts may be valuable indeed.

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8 thoughts on “Wolves and Dogs and Therianthropy

  1. “If I am a wolf in human form, interacting within a human paradigm for a lifetime, wouldn’t that create some kind of change in the self-as-wolf?”

    Perhaps. But a socialized wolf and a domesticated wolf (dog) are *very* different creatures. So, the question would be if you felt more socialized or domesticated?

  2. I like what you wrote here about mythology. I too have elements of personal mythology that go back a long way, can not be explained by conventional thought, and has been validated by my life experience.

    The idea of exploring “dog” is fascinating. . . What occurred to me as I read it is that my understanding is that breeds of domestic dog developed because humanity deliberately bred the original wolf stock for different purposes. From a kind of sideways perspective, one could see you as original wolf stock put into a body that has also been shaped to live comfortably with humans.

  3. Ohhh, you expect me not to reply to this one? *grin*

    I’m definitely with Paleo on this one. A socialized wolf, a wild wolf and a domestic wolf (dog) are very different behaviorally, and even morphologically between socialized wolves (read: captive) and wild wolves (mainly based on captive diet, living conditions and social structure from forced living conditions.) I’d probably suggest in this case picking up more books on canine biology and behavior to flesh these ideas out a little more…I still have yet to update my bibliography on Cynanthropy.com with updated reading material, but Ray Coppinger’s Dogs I would highly recommend, as well as Stanley Coren’s How Dogs Think and The Intelligence of Dogs. Roger Abrantes’ work The Evolution of Canine Social Behavior is also highly recommended.

    particular fondness for more primitive, wolfish breeds

    I’ve always been the same, though note that just because a dog looks wolfish doesn’t mean it is so. And there are many dogs that are feral breeds in and of themselves…they were domesticated at one point, but returned into the wild. Examples of this are: Australian Dingo (duh), The Carolina Dog/American Dingo, and the New Guinea Singing Dog.

    Some nice examples of primitive domestic breeds are: Basenji, Native American Indian Dog, the Canaan Dog, and the Korean Jindo Dog. One of my personal favorites is the Shikoku Inu, for various personal reasons *grin*

    As for personal mythology, etc…its a good way of looking at things, and how I tend to explain the past-life thing to others. That said, I’m not going to throw out the pastlife idea simply because it is no longer popular. Then again, I never stick to one particular, ah…”excuse” as to my therianthropy. Personal mythology plays into it big, but so does the spiritual, the psychological, and everything in-between. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my neurobiology, for example. Do I think its wired differently, or perhaps a bit more canine? Yes, or so that’s how I reason it to myself. I was a canine–possibly many canines in a past life, but my personal mythology also states so. Which came first, chicken or egg? The metaphor becomes the pataphor. The dog is the human is the dog. I stand solidly on my beliefs regarding my cynanthropy, regardless of popular opinion. However, to sum it all up as personal mythology simply wouldn’t do it complete justice. Nor would a simple reply here!

    Anyway, I’m beginning to ramble. I hope this helps, and good luck! Feel free to poke me any time, as I love discussing all things canine and the many facets of identity, etc.

    ~Solo

  4. One thing I forgot to add…

    If you want to work with wolfdog energy, why not try the Czech wolfdog? Out of all the more modern attempts at crossing, it seems the more stable, and doesn’t seem to have the behavioral problems of the Saarloos, for example (Askani, 2004).

    Also, when working with totemic breeds, certain breeds are tied to specific dog-deities or deities associated with canines or canine-energy. I’ve been composing a list of correspondences, but you’d have to poke me off-blog, as it’d be a bit complicated to rehash in a reply atm. For example though, to connect with Hermes, meditate on Greyhound and ingest some caffeine. Run yourself to exhaustion. At least, that’s the most simplistic example–poke me privately and I can bounce you some ideas.

    ~Solo

  5. That feral quality you mention is something I continue to explore. I identify very strongly with that sense of being wild, then captured and then set free again. But readjusting to that freedom is difficult, I find.

    I’m just scratching the surface on this…

  6. Not that this is of much consequence at all, but I noticed the mention of “feral dog breeds” in relation to therianthropy and its practice.
    I own a Carolina Dog, or American Dingo.
    (Although, saying I own him is a little strange to say. I mean, I do legally speaking, but saying you have ownership of someone who’s basically your only friend is kind of, well, over-assertive, I suppose. I digress…)
    But, the Carolina Dog is really a very interesting breed to research, and infinitely more interesting to own. They are essentially free of all the eugenic wiring that’s prevalent in virtually every domestic dog breed, so what one ends up interacting with is something much more blank and clean, and thus more feral than what can be encountered with most other breeds.
    For what it’s worth, the energy he is generous enough to give me is a joy to have, and my journeys in totemism have been exponentially enriched by his presence and cooperation (I would say participation, but I wouldn’t flatter myself). As one with a definite lupine heart, it feels closer to home than the energies I can gather from other dogs.
    That’s not to say by any means that he is a wolf or equivalent to one. He isn’t. But that spirit that is missing in most dogs, that wild, unfettered soul, is present there.
    However, in spite of that ferocious grace, I am happy to report that I have heard of no American Dingoes taking babies in any way, at any time.

    Something to consider, perhaps.

  7. Paleo–good thought. I’d have to say “socialized”, honestly. More adjustment, less internal nature.

    mythicanine–Good gods, but if I do some work with various Dog totems, I am most definitely going to be starting with your reply! You make some good points regarding the more primitive breeds. And with coming up with things like the Hermes-Greyhound connection, there could be some creative ideas coming into play!

    Argos–Thank you for the first-hand account! I love researching rare breeds,and this one could be a neat project!

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