Letting Go of Therianthropy For Good

Back in 2007, I published my second book through Immanion Press, A Field Guide to Otherkin. When I started the project in late 2005, I was feeling pretty confident with my first book due to be out soon, and I wanted to follow it up with something awesome. “Well, why don’t I take a shot at the book on Otherkin that everyone’s been threatening to write for years?” I thought. And so the challenge was set. Little did I know just how much I’d bitten off!

It took me over a hundred surveys, countless footnotes, and gods only know how many hours banging my head against the computer, and it was by far the most difficult book I’ve written due to the sheer amount of information I had to wrangle from scratch. But it happened, and as far as I know it’s still the only book wholly dedicated to Otherkin as a general topic (as opposed to an entire book on one specific type of Otherkin, or a book that mentioned Otherkin in the context of a different topic, etc.)

Which makes it tougher for me to make the decision to take A Field Guide to Otherkin out of print at the end of this month, because it is the only book out there. There are plenty of good websites and online resources available, but some people really like the format of a book (dead tree or ebook, your choice). And I know I’ve managed to fulfill most of my goals with it, primarily in offering a basic introductory guide to the subject matter at hand. I’ve gotten lots of emails and messages and in-person comments since it came out from people who have found it quite useful in exploring their own identities. Each one has shown me that, to an extent, I’m doing my job as a writer.

But please allow me to be selfish for a moment. Every book I write is a piece of artwork, every word infused with a bit of myself. And, like so many authors, my relationships with my books change over time. The books remain the same, but I am constantly moving and evolving. Even in the time between when a manuscript is turned in and when the book goes to press, I cease to be the exact person I was when I wrote it. Meanwhile, the book remains a snapshot of the time period in which it was written, a reflection of the knowledge base and headspace I brought to that project.

Some books age better than others. Unfortunately, Field Guide feels like it isn’t keeping up very well. A lot of this is because I feel it’s a flawed work. For all the effort put into it, and for all the help it’s done people, I could have done a better job.

I took on the project before I had proper research training, and so even as a qualitative review, it’s lacking. The 140+ surveys I got were a pretty meager representation of Otherkin as a whole. Even though there weren’t as many resources for Otherkin when I was writing it seven years ago as there are now, I might have been able to get a less biased sample to work with, since I spent more time on Livejournal than anywhere else at the time. And yes, I’m well aware of the many typos and other errors in the text. That’s one of the downsides of publishing with a small press; while Immanion is pretty damned good for what it is, human resources are stretched more thinly, and so it can be harder to find professionally trained editors and proofreaders to work on a part-time scale.

Not that the blame lies entirely on the publisher; far from it. I wasn’t as experienced a writer as I am today, and if I were writing it now, there are a lot of things I would do differently, and not just with more careful editing. Part of it is simply that the community and its ongoing  dialogue have changed and expanded over time, and I’d have a lot more to present to people as far as who and what Otherkin are, what their concerns and perspectives are, etc. And it’d be better written, too. The bulk of the writing happened in 2006, and I’ve had the better part of a decade since then to refine my craft, both with writing and with research in general. And, of course, I’ve grown and changed as a person, which always affects creativity; who here can say they’re the same person they were seven years ago? The Field Guide was written at one of the most challenging times in my life, and I think that affected its quality. Since it came out, I’ve moved several times, gotten divorced, changed careers entirely, and shifted my spiritual focus, all for the better; maybe a 2013 Field Guide would be a better book. It would certainly be different, just as I am different now.

Speaking of time, since it has been out since April of 2007, a lot of the information is out of date. Online resources come and go, and lot has happened in the Otherkin community in the past several years. So why don’t I just make a second updated edition? When I first wrote the book, I was sure I’d update it in a few years. I just needed a little time away from the whole Otherkin “thing”, to take a break after having been part of the community to some extent since the late 1990s. Problem is, I never really came back from that break. I got burned out, and while I still liked hanging out with my friends who happen to be ‘kin (and yes, I still want to come to the PCon meetup because you people are awesome!), I never got back into the community-at-large again.

So now here I am in 2013, and I have a confession to make: I no longer identify as a therianthrope, and I haven’t for quite some time. I’ve sat with that reality for a while, checking in with myself and making sure it wasn’t just a phase. But no, it just doesn’t fit any more; it’s not a framework that explains me. There’s still a piece of me that I feel resonates more with wolf than human, but at this point I don’t think it’s anything more than a bit of creative personal narrative, part of the ongoing myth I tell about myself. For me, the wolf is a metaphor, a piece of spirituality internalized. Sure, I’ve always leaned toward the personal mythology hypothesis of “what are Otherkin”, but the idea that I am fundamentally not human on some level just doesn’t fit. I am a human animal, 100%, just with a particular connection to the idea of “wolfness”. Call it an inner connection to my totem, or a super-charged “favorite animal”; either of those fit me better than “therian”, or “shifter”, or any of the other terms that set animal-people apart from humanity as a whole.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret exploring myself in the Otherkin framework. For the time, well over a decade, it was what fit best in explaining that resonance with “Wolf”. It was a fascinating interpretation of reality that allowed me an outlet for exploring imagination and flexible identity in a way that is usually reserved only for the play of children. Sure, there are those few who take it to the point of impaired functioning and enabling of some unhealthy mental patterns, but there are also plenty of people who have an Other identity and still manage to be quite well integrated into consensus reality, even if they aren’t quite happy about the current state of affairs. If nothing else, interpreting my wolfness as therianthropy was a fun way to take play seriously, if that makes sense.

But my head’s just not there any more, and my heart’s not in it, either. I can’t really force myself to write a second edition for the hell of it, either. It’s hard to write about something I’m not passionate about. You can look back at all the books and other writings I’ve created over the years, and you can see where my heart was at that time. And it’s gone in very different directions in the past few years.

Finally, to be quite honest: I’m tired of talking about Otherkin. Even before the book came out, it’s what most podcasters and other interviewers wanted to talk to me about, and even today it’s a frequent topic when people ask me about my writing and spiritual work. Never mind that for years I’ve been writing extensively on my work in neoshamanism, on animal and plant and fungus totems, on ecopsychology and bioregionalism and a whole bunch of other things that I am deeply fascinated by. Invariably, people want to talk about the Otherkin thing (though to be fair some of them wanted to talk about other things, even if Otherkin ended up being a dominant topic). It was fine when it was still something that I identified with and was actively working with, but I feel like my later work has been somewhat overshadowed by the topic of Otherkin simply because I “wrote the book” on it.

I don’t want to be the only person to have written a book on Otherkin, and it’s not just to get out of having to talk about it in interviews. I had hoped that once Field Guide was out, it would entice other writers to make their books happen. Just because there’s one book on Otherkin out doesn’t mean there can’t be others; and diversity of voices gives a topic more strength. (And I wanted more reading material, dammit!) Maybe with the book out of print, someone else will feel they can fill that niche now.

I know I’m taking away a resource by pulling the book out of print, even if it is imperfect. But it’s not the only resource out there. Even if there is a scattering of broken links here and there, Otherkin.net has always been one of my favorite resources. Otherkin Alliance has, for several years, offered a good collection of essays along with an active and well-moderated forum. Dreamhart.org is run by one of the most reliable long-time members of the Otherkin community, and features a relatively recent wiki that’s undergoing current expansion. And while O. Scribner hasn’t written a book per se, the excellent writings on this page are, in my opinion, essentially an ebook in several parts.

And there are plenty of other people besides these writing on Otherkin, on blogs and websites and the like. Hell, Otherkin are even being discussed in terms of social justice on Tumblr. I know for a fact you all can find lots to work with without my book being in print any more. The internet has the added benefit of being easy to update, unlike a dead tree book written by someone who’s already stretched pretty thinly.

To be honest, I think there are people out there who could do a better job at writing a book on Otherkin, even better than a carefully overhauled second edition of the Field Guide; for all the reasons I’ve stated above, I’m not that person. Even with the flaws I still like the book. But I think it’s run its course, and rather than try to patch up its imperfections and put forth something I’d still not be happy with, I’d like to see someone else take on that project.

Finally, please don’t take my moving on from therianthropy as a personal worldview as a wholesale denial of the entire concept. I am not the arbiter of anyone’s identity but my own. My path is taking my further and further away from “Lupa the therianthrope”, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow me. Nor should you use this as an excuse to tell other people who do still identify as Otherkin/therianthropes/etc. that they’re wrong. Let each person set their feet and their will wherever they choose.

As for me? I’ll keep exploring the world around me and finding my place in it with every hike I take. And I’m happy to keep talking about the work I’m doing today on a variety of levels. One door closes, another opens, and I’m taking that first step through.

(I mentioned A Field Guide to Otherkin is going out of print the first of May. I wanted to give people time to grab a copy while they were still available; I have a few left here, and the page also has links to other sites that may have a limited number left. Yes, there will be copies available a while after it officially goes out of print on May 1, since shops will need to sell off their remaining stock. Give it year and even used copies will be selling on Amazon for exorbitant prices, since only a few hundred copies exist in the world. So now’s your chance!)

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29 thoughts on “Letting Go of Therianthropy For Good

  1. To be honest, I’ve been interested in Otherkin and learning more about it. However, as you said, there are plenty of opportunities to do that online and by talking to people. Not to say that reading your book wouldn’t be informative, but I prefer to reading about what you write on shamanism and fungi and mushrooms and everything else you’re interested in NOW.

    I’m very glad to see that you’re growing as a person, and learning more each day. I strive to do the same. (You’re such a good role model, Lupa! 🙂
    I realize that sometimes what I’m trying to convey doesn’t come across the words I write, but needless to say this is something I’m VERY happy to hear. I’m disappointed with people in that they’re seemingly holding you back because they want to talk about the ‘Kin topic, when it’s so blatant (to me, at least) you’ve moved on, and have had moved on for quite some time. I’m glad that you’re making the decision; you do what’s best for you, don’t mind anybody else. ❤

    • Thank you for understanding. I don’t think people who want to interview/ask me about Otherkin are necessarily trying to hold me back. Otherkin are often reluctant to talk to people just because there’s been so much negativity toward the community over the years, and so it may seem easiest to talk to “the person who wrote the book”. But there ARE other people who are willing to talk about it, people who have their fingers more on the pulse of the community as it stands today. I’m just not a very good go-to at this point, and I’d rather be a resource for the things that I can be genuinely excited about today.

      I do hope you continue to enjoy the things I write about now, with the lichens and the soil and the odd little life lessons 🙂 Thanks for being here with me on it.

  2. I have a few feelings to express – I want to make it clear, though, that I am not attacking you. I’m just trying to get my feelings out here.

    I’m sad to find out that you don’t identify as a therian anymore. I’m happy for your self-realizations, however. I’m sad because since I learned what a therian is and realized it was part of what I’ve felt my entire life, there were several prominent therians that I have looked up to from that moment.

    Several years ago, Goldenwolf, who was one of those people, came out as a “born again human” basically. She was the first other dire wolf therian I knew, and her “dire wolf page” helped me figure out what it was that I was. She took that down, and to this day I wish I’d saved the information on it.

    She did a long post about why she didn’t believe herself to be therian, but took it “too far,” I felt. She basically denounced therianthropy as the imaginations of lonely and crazy people. While I still watch her art, I admit – I see it as nothing but a money-making venture now, which seems to be all she does. There’s…no heart in it, anymore.

    So when I saw you posting this, I had a flash of that moment and thought “please, please not another one…And not LUPA…” So I’m very happy to see that you’ve done this the way you have, and that you still believe in therianthropy as a phenomenon – it just doesn’t speak to you as a part of you anymore.

    Still, I’m sad to lose you as a part of the community, though I admit that I do see you more as a spiritual worker these days than a fellow wolf, and I think that is explained by your feelings.

    I’m also annoyed that I STILL haven’t been able to get together the free funds to buy the book before it goes out of print. But that’s just my own annoyance with myself.

    You are a wonderful and amazing person, whether or not you’re personally a wolf. I still consider you a part of my personal extended pack, and I hope that doesn’t offend you. I’m still looking forward to meeting you in May at GU!, also. And I know several others are as well.

    I’m happy for your realization, though. And I will continue to read everything you write that I can – it’s always wonderfully insightful.

    • Thank you for being willing to share those feelings! I can understand your trepidation, but I’m glad your fears weren’t fulfilled. Just because therianthropy doesn’t fit me any more doesn’t mean it’s not good for anyone. And I am incredibly grateful for all the awesome, wonderful people I’ve met in the community over the years; why would I throw them away just because something inside of me has changed?

      I’ll see you in May 🙂

  3. You’re welcome! I’m glad to know that you are continuing on with what you’re enjoying. It really comes through in your writing! I enjoy living vicariously through you! lol

    I do want to state that maybe I was wrong in saying that their holding you back. I guess that wasn’t quite the best way to put it. What I should have said was ‘why can’t they talk about the new things that you’re putting out, instead of talking about the past’. I hope that makes sense? I hope I’m clearer on that. You did say that the Otherkin seems to overshadow your newer work – that’s what I meant about ‘holding you back’.

    Also, in case you didn’t get the facebook comment, I got your wings! I love them. OMG I LOVE THEM!

    • Still doing my job as a writer, then 😀

      Ah, I see. Again, I think it’s due in part to a dearth of people who seem willing to talk to a relative stranger about it, plus the artificial authority that writing a book seems to impart in various communities. In short, visibility and accessibility. But I do hope people will continue to take interest in what I’m doing now, and I hope that those who still run across my writings on Otherkin find those helpful, even if I’ve moved on.

      Woohoo! Thanks for letting me know!

    • Good question. It was never really a “therian shamanisnm”. More that it was a way to express myself-as-animal, and over the years I’ve come more to appreciate myself as human animal. So I’ll keep the “therios” part of it in that regard. (Thanks for the reminder to finally update the FAQ after a year and a half!)

  4. The most important part of movements like Otherkin that have something to say about identity — the absolute, critical core — is letting ourselves be completely honest about who we are. This applies equally to “my spirit and my body don’t match” and to “they do.”

    What’s most important is that we have a self-image which helps us in our spiritual and personal development, rather than an image which constrains us. If you’ve given deep thought to your identity (and clearly you have!) … if you realize that being honest with yourself means being your human self … and if you’re still respectful of others’ paths to their own identities (and clearly you are!) … then anyone who has a problem with you being YOU can kiss my scaly dragon ass.

    > “at this point I don’t think it’s anything more than a bit of creative personal narrative, part of the ongoing myth I tell about myself …”

    Sometimes I wonder if there IS anything to us other than the myths we tell about ourselves.

    Anyway … I really ought to talk about otherkin more. That’s a moral “should”; it’s clearly not something that’s been high on my priority list. Like you, my head hasn’t been in draconity for a while. I don’t know that I have anything useful to say. The main difference is that my heart has nowhere else it would rather be.

    My best (as always),

    Bax

    • Thank you; that means a hell of a lot coming from you. You’re one of the people I would have hated to lose if thishad turned into a “OMG LUPA’S ABANDONING US!” thing. Not that I think you would have reacted so, but I appreciate the confirmation as such.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I’ll be honest in that I noticed you haven’t identified as wolf for a long time now too. It seems to be a common progression within the community. I myself am not solely a wolf therian now either, although still Otherkin identity-wise.

    I know my own answers to your survey would be much different now than those published in the book show. And when I re-read my answers several years ago, I cringed at how naive my answers read!

    “I had hoped that once Field Guide was out, it would entice other writers to make their books happen.”

    As had I, although as you said, it was a huge undertaking, so other books in the same theme would require the same, and even more, work than your first book did. After all, other books regarding Otherkin as a whole have a lot to live up to with A Field Guide to Otherkin. 😉

    That being said, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and my interest in Otherkin is high, so maybe this will push my tail into gear to at least think about publishing my own experiences.

    Thank you for all that you have done in publishing this in the first place, I know I always appreciated being a small part of it!

    • It was tough to let go, not just because it had been a big part of my life, but also because so many people looked up to me because of it. The last thing I want to do is disillusion people in their own paths just because mine’s drifted in another direction.

      If you do decide to embark on that project, please let me know if I can help in any way 🙂

      • I appreciate the offer, thank you!

        My main problem is attention in being able to accomplish such a thing! Between a full time job and life in general, I barely have any “me” time as it is, let alone enough time to properly devote to a book! Still, I’ve always wanted to. 😉

      • I hear ya on that. I’ve done writing while working 40+ hours a week, and it’s a challenge. But if you can find time each week to write, maybe it’ll happen!

  6. Wow, that’s a big step. I can sort of understand; as I’ve gotten older I’ve drifted away from therianthropy somewhat too and have become perfectly comfortable with my human self.

  7. I’ve never met you in person, Lupa, but you put so much of yourself in your books that it’s impossible not to feel some level of kinship. That said, I’m very sad. It’s the same sadness I’ve felt when a long-time friend and pagan returns to agnosticism or their birth religion; it’s not a death, and it’s not a horribly bad thing… but a thread in the web of the universe that connected us is severed. I look forward to future books and writings, though, because the creator and artist inside of you is clearly still present.

    • I am sorry for your sadness, and I knew it would happen with some people. I can understand, because it’s one of those things that helped me connect with so many people, you included, and it makes it harder to put it to rest. But we’re both still here, as are so many others, and even without that one element of my personal identity, that doesn’t have to change. Thank you for your support in the past, and ongoing 🙂

  8. Went and bought the article at the start of reading this article… since it’s the only book written as of yet, for me, it is a piece of history, even if you do not regard it as your best work (I am starting to collect various publications as they come out, so it’s important to me). Thank you for the courtesy of letting us know that it is going out of print and thank you for being the first to write it! I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

  9. So very gracefully said. It’s very difficult to ‘be’ something out loud and then perceive that that out loud image has changed without feeling mistaken or wrong somehow. But your description eloquently describes the natural process of moving from one way of seeing Self to another.

    • Thank you. It’s always difficult to let it be known that you no longer ally yourself with a particular identity, especially one in which people can be so invested to the point of feeling that someone letting go of said identity is a form of abandonment. But people have been wonderfully supportive, and even those who have felt saddened or shaken have owned those feelings.

  10. I have a suggestion and alternative to pulling the book out of print completely. Make an account on Lulu.com. Its free to do. State that you don’t identify as Otherkin\Therian anymore, but that you want to allow the Otherkin Community to be able to continue to obtain copies of the book as needed or desired. Would this be something you’d be willing to consider?

    • If it were just a matter of the publisher, that would be a viable option. However, if you read back through the post, I have very personal reasons for not wanting the book to be in print in any form any more, to include its many flaws and the fact that it hasn’t aged well. I would rather that the Otherkin community respect my wishes to take the book out of print permanently, and leave it at that. I apologize for its inconvenience, but this is what I feel is the best option all around. Hopefully someone will come along and write a better book that’s more up to date and whose author can learn from my mistakes.

  11. Ordered a copy via eBook (Smashwords) and have encouraged some like-minded friends to do the same. I hope they carry forth your project actually! Thank you Lupa for the work that you did – it is a good foundation for others to carry forth their efforts! 🙂

  12. I just found out you wrote an entire book on the subject. also from a spiritual point of view its good to see that otherkinism is becoming less popular as a subject, more and more do I see that people are leaving and new souls are joining, and the ones that do join, are much more calmer and serene.

    I myself, am a proud dragon and it truely defines me as who I am, especially as human bieng, my spiritual awakening came in steps, and during one of those steps I realized my higher essence, after which I continued down the spiritual path and came closer to god, as a dragon. Nowadays more people join in but their otherkinism is more a part of who they are, but still defining. I read the first pages of your book, and it saddens me it comes to an end as unfairly I havent had the chance to read it. But Iwant to start writing myself, more oriented toward the highly spiritual side of otherkin, and making a connection with shamanism and new age. Maybe you could help me…

    I hope so. as I have studied some psychology, neurology, theology and philosofy (dragons, always thirsty for knowledge, especially SeaDragons). I always tended to disregard the superficeal social concerns and isolated myself only to those openminded enough, so I could swim deep, very deep down the secrets of existence through the roads of otherkin and new age spirituality, and there I found happiness. I really wish to return to the surface with my newly found discoveries, and not only share to those who are otherkind, but also and especially the entire spiritual community of mankind, to aid in ascention.

    Kind Regards,

    Nikanor, SeaDragonST

    • As the author, I have the right to have a book in print–or not–as I choose, to include choosing to get paid for my work. Regardless, if you go back and re-read this post, you’ll see I have very personal reasons for not wanting it in print any longer. Please respect that decision.

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