Therianthropy’s Rarer, Fuzzier Shifts

Yes, here’s yet another dive into therianthropy/Otherkin history.

Therianthropes and Otherkin claim to experience “shifts”, episodes where their purported non-human true identity asserts itself. Commonly reported types of shifts include the mental shift, a change in behavior resembling the animal’s mindset; the sensory shift, where their perception mimics the animal’s; and the phantom shift, where a therian feels the animal’s body as phantom limbs. Other types include dream shifts (guess) and cameo shifts, where therians/Otherkin experience a new identity temporarily. Contherianthropes believe they’re always halfway between human and animal, and suntherianthropes are similar, but do experience variances in the human-animal ratio.

One type of shift that’s widely regarded as impossible by therians is the physical shift. P-shifters, as they’re called, are a subject of mockery and scorn in the community, especially when they try to start a cult.

But once upon a time, a wider world of shifters existed, buoyed by, if not acceptance, a casual flirtation with p-shifting as a hypothetical. This culture likely died out with the switch from Usenet to forums, and with the rise of “grilling”, extensive questioning meant to gatekeep therian communities from…I don’t know, silly people? Kids? Whoever they felt wasn’t taking it seriously enough?

I will be drawing principally from the Shifters.Org definitions, which hail from 2001 but were first created in 1999, and an expanded encyclopedia of the same on Therianthropy.org circa 2006.

ASTRAL SHIFT: You astrally leave your body and become that of another form, either by shifting the appearance of the spirit, or entering the body of another being on this plane (this too is included in the Walk-In section, and overlaps with that of the shapestealer definition below).
AURAL SHIFT: The aura (if you can see them) takes on the shape of the animal/wereside. In addition AS, the person can take on some characteristics of that animal, mentally, but not a total mental shift.

These two are a bit of a cheat: both are still part of therianthropy, and more serious lists of shifts list them neutrally. But they show off early therianthropy’s links to other branches of new age culture. Not only was astral projection part of therian culture, but so were walk-ins, the classic New Age concept of enigmatic astral spirits with nothing better to do than step into your body & attempt to unfuck your life. Auras, too, make an appearance.

Bilocation Shift: In this shift, the “spirit body” of the were in question leaves the “physical form” and reforms itself outside of the human body.  The “new form” the spirit takes is a physical form (ass opposed to the Relocation Shift)

Here we reach the casual flirtation with p-shifting (and with the parapsychological). A modern, more serious therianthropy site describes bilocation shifts more cautiously:

“Bi-location Shifting is when the body supposedly makes a carbon copy of the animal inside the body and travels the lands…not likely.”

But in the therian culture of the late 90s – early 00s, the idea that perhaps someone’s theriotype could physically assert itself was at least entertained.

Therian Nation dates the bilocation shift to a Usenet discussion from 1993 where one member reported a out-of-body experience.

And yes, it says “ass opposed”. You may laugh now.

The relocation shift, meanwhile, is a bilocation shift, but the theriotype emerges from the body as a spiritual entity instead of a physical one; it’s helpfully noted that “the shifter can be both awake or completely oblivious to what is occurring during this shift”.

Shadow Shift: This usually takes place when there is little available light, a sort of mass hallucination if you will, but whatever the case, the object being focused upon, appears to be something else. Unlike the PS, this type of shifting is “looks only,” you wouldn’t gain any extra senses, or characteristics from this… it is, in fact, very similar to just putting on a fursuit (but without the suit).

https://web.archive.org/web/20010424145805/http://www.were.net/WAG/You might think this sounds like pareidolia. A contemporary satire agrees:

“Shadows will sometimes play on a therians features giving them an intimidating and animalistic looking figure. I’ve noticed this occurs more or less in dim and dark rooms, with not very much light. A bright and full moon, insomnia, and/or a bottle of Jack Daniel can also aid in creating a shadow shift.”

(I recommend that piece highly for its early-00s internet edgy humor, by the way.)

But shadow shifting is a nice entryway to the kingpin of the fuzzy end of therianthropy: the p-shifter.

PHYSICAL SHIFTING: The stuff dreams are made of… This shift alone, for those who believe, is a goal for the majority of “Weres” want to experience. This is indeed going from form A to form B with the body as the artistic media. A shift in body, many weres feel with the PS, they can become what they truly are on the inside, now reflecting on the outside.
Also termed the “Holy Grail” of  Awereness.

 

The physical shift is sometimes called the “Holy Grail of Shifting.” But much like the Holy Grail, the actual idea has never come to fruition. Many Therians do not believe the physical shift exists. Of the countless many that have claimed the ability, none have given proof. Anyone that claims the ability to PS shouldn’t be taken seriously until tangible and irrefutable proof is given.

Our satirical friend notes that it’s strangely the “biggest, loudest, and most annoying a$$holes” in the community who are blessed with p-shifting; truly mysterious. But while older sources are willing to entertain it as at least a hypothetical, modern sources are not:

“Widely belived to be impossible, to the point of the concept being considered complete nonsense both by psychological and spiritual therians/otherkin…In no way, shape, or form will you be able to physically shape shift…I personally find that these communities are dangerous especially for younger individuals…If this idea of physically shifting spreads, we will become even less acknowledged and respected…”

I said most of what I had to say about p-shifting in my post on the Therian Temple; so let’s explore the other fuzzy parts of early therianthropy.

SHAPESTEALERS: Also known as ‘Skinwalkers’ and ‘FleshDancers,’ this is a type of shifting feared the world over.

An enigmatic force out to steal people’s shapes, I can’t find a single reference to this not taken word-for-word from the Shifting FAQ. But the idea of an “enemy” out to destroy a tiny subculture of people identifying as nonhuman persisted, up to AWTOK, a bizarre conspiracy theory about a group hunting down Otherkin…but that’s a story for another time.

SHIFTER’S DISEASE

A moment of skepticism, Shifter’s Disease refers to newbie therians attributing everything to shifts.

What’s the ultimate point here? Nothing, except to note the evolution of a subculture from its origin as a bunch of posts on a Usenet for werewolf movies, to a collection of personal websites, to forums and finally to the endless array of personal, yet faceless, Tumblr blogs and Amino boards that form it today; to flashback to a time where some therians could entertain the idea that they could change their shadows, their soul, and even their very bodies, and who’s to say otherwise? After all, people found images of Mary in their toast, and the nascent paranormal web didn’t yet aspire to the extremes of science or outright comedy it does today. And now let’s bilocate my theriotype outta here.

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Living on the Fringe: Space Elves and the Origin of Otherkin

Beyond the normal reaches of our society lies an endless array of others: some living, some dead; some known, some obscure. This is about the fringe of the fringe.

Otherkin were perhaps once best known as “those people online who think they’re dragons”; now they’re best known as “those people on Tumblr who think they’re anime characters”; but in truth, the origins and history of Otherkin date back much further than most might expect.

A quick definition of terms. Otherkin, or “kin”, are a subculture that identify as nonhuman. This is commonly a spiritual, “I was this in my past life”, identification, but some Otherkin believe their identity is psychological in nature. Otherkin traditionally identify with fictional creatures, such as elves, dragons or fae. A closely related concept is therianthropy; therians instead identify with animals that, whether currently living or extinct, exist. A relatively new addition to the nomenclature are “fictionkin”¹, who identify with fictional characters; unlike Otherkin or therians, many fictionkin identify with beings that, while fictional, are generally human.

Otherkin and therians claim to experience their identity in different ways: via memories, and via “shifts” – commonly mental shifts in behavior, sensory shifts in perception, or “phantom shifts”, where they feel their identity reassert its body via phantom, ie mental, limbs. It is important to note that Otherkin and therians do not claim to physically change, and so-called “p-shifters” are usually a laughingstock in the kin community.

Though today it’s seen as a youth subculture, Otherkin trace their origin to the burgeoning pagan & new age movements of the 1970s. An invaluable timeline by Orion Scribner places the first group that we would today call “Otherkin” in at least 1975, when a group called the Elf Queen’s Daughters placed their first public ad in a pagan quarterly. The term itself dates to 1990, invented as a catch-all for the many non-elven identities Otherkin now possessed; therianthropy found a name and a home on Usenet circa 1994.

But all that can wait. Today, we’re zeroing in one specific facet of the Otherkin community: a elfkin subculture with an involved mythology that flourished briefly, but brightly.

The Elenari started on now-lost mailing lists in the late 90s; in 2000, a newly-created site called the Elenari Nexus became the community’s home.

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Living on the Fringe: When Anti-Vaxxers thought their children were aliens

Beyond the normal reaches of our society lies an endless array of others: some living, some dead; some known, some obscure. This is about the fringe of the fringe.

Adherents of fringe beliefs don’t tend to see reason when their favorite nonsense is debunked; they just slide on to tanother. They go effortlessly from Gamergate to Pizzagate to QAnon(gate) with nary a bit of self-awareness; from the Rapture of 2011 to the “Mayan” apocalypse of 2012 to the arrival of Nibiru in 2017; from starting a Final Fantasy cult to starting a Hannibal cult. Yes, really.

When this happens, the old bullshit tends to go down the memory hole. And so it is with anti-vaccine maven Jenny McCarthy, who’s done all she can to bury that she once explained her son’s autism not with debunked science, but by believing she, and him, were literally magic.

Such is the way of the Indigo Child believer: the precursor to anti-vax, and a strange movement in its own right.


McCarthy’s awakening came when a woman on the street yelled at her.

No, really. Someone told her that she was an Indigo & her son was a Crystal child. And on the word of a Lady Screaming On The Street, she found her purpose in life.

McCarthy embraced the Indigo child identity hard, but only a few years later, she deleted all pages about her belief in Indigo children – and her crusade against vaccines began.

But what exactly were Indigo Children? And how were they related to anti-vaxxers?


Well, let’s look them up. In a delightful field of embarrassingly sincere artwork, we find a succinct, 14-point checklist of Signs You May Be An Indigo Child:

This is a narrow list that limits Indigo Children exclusively to: every overly-sincere-and-awkward teen; every liberal arts student who just discovered politics; every Weird Horse Girl. Wow, truly a paranormal phenomenon at work.

But the Indigo Child phenomenon relied on its vagueness, on the ability of just about any mom to fit their child into their rubric. Other countdowns make it even more weaselly: you may have had a difficult childhood. Or a nice one. The Indigo Child tent is big. Pagan author Lorna Tedder claimed every pagan mom she knew had an “Indigo child”, and some believers claim as many as 95% of children are born with Indigo or Crystal ~ E N E R G I E S ~

But what are Indigo Children?


To put it simply, Indigo Children are children born with indigo auras, and Crystal Children are children born with crystal auras.

“Ah”, I hear you say. “Ah.”

The internet’s most respectable resource, Crystalinks dot com, seems surprisingly dubious on the phenomenon, but does quote the original 10-point indigo child list:

They come into the world with a feeling of royalty (and often act like it).

They have a feeling of “deserving to be here,” and are surprised when others don’t share that.

Self-worth is not a big issue; they often tell the parents “who they are.”

They have difficulty with absolute authority (authority without explanation or choice).

They simply will not do certain things; for example, waiting in line is difficult for them.

They get frustrated with systems that are ritually oriented and don’t require creative thought.

They often see better ways of doing things, both at home and in school, which makes them seem like “system busters” (nonconforming to any system).

They seem antisocial unless they are with their own kind. If there are no others of like consciousness around them, they often turn inward, feeling like no other human understands them. School is often extremely difficult for them socially.

They will not respond to “guilt” discipline (“Wait till your father gets home and finds out what you did”).

They are not shy in letting it be known what they need.

“Born feeling like royalty”, does not follow rules, doesn’t respond to consequences – a magical indigo child, or a rich kid? The results will NOT surprise you!

Commentary on the Indigo child is effusive in its praise, but hazy in the specifics. Indigo children have ‘special auras’. Indigo children will ‘change the world’. But what of the specifics? Let’s look at THIS reasonable looking site:

“Put simply, thousands of years ago we began to “think” instead of “feel.””

Ah.

“With past as our guide, we gave our power to the ego, which made us fearful. The intellect caused us to lose our connection to the collective consciousness, making us feel alone.”

Ah,

“Some adults have been able to gain at least a part of this former knowing. They in turn are giving birth to children who remember how the collective consciousness works and they are using it. The indigo offspring is their descendant.”

Ah…

But this site lays bare the truth. A Indigo child ‘bores easily’. Is ‘prone to insomnia’. ‘Has a history of depression’.

“Has probably been diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD”.


Indigo children were almost universally children with ADD or ADHD, raised by parents who would rather believe their child was an alien than that their child need Ritalin.

And here is where we see the seed that birthed anti-vaxxers; that made their transition from talking about auras to talking about debunked medical science.

“Indigo Children who take Ritlin or other psychotropic drugs soon lose touch with their intuition, psychic abilities, and warrior personality. These children were sent to Earth with these three spiritual gifts for the express purpose of cleaning up our planet, environmentally and socially.” Care and Feeding of Your Indigo Child, Doreen Virtue

Suppressive drugs such as Ritlin, can cause an indigo child to forget their life’s purpose, which only delays what HAS to change on our earth for us to continue living on it.

Indigo parents believed their children didn’t really have ADHD; in fact, ritalin suppressed their natural, magical gifts, and so parents should deny their children medicine that could help them.

One of the reasons an indigo, crystal or rainbow child has trouble sleeping is because wayward spirits are attracted to them. These spirits know these children can see and sense them. This makes them more irritable and restless in school. The schools and doctors decide from this they are ADHD or ADD.

Crystal children, meanwhile, were typically diagnosed with autism. And that’s how Jenny McCarthy found her way from crystal auras to antivax: how people went from denying their children medicine so as to not ‘suppress’ their gifts, to suspecting the medicine itself was the problem. From a more outré type of denialism – doctors are trying to drug the MAGIC out of your ALIEN ghost child! – to the more simple “this one discredited doctor’s study proves this vaccine is bunk, so let’s bring back measles.”

But both are related to hatred of their children – of love that’s conditional. Indigo and crystal children believers could only love their ADD-diagnosed child if they could rationalize it as them really being special in some way; vaccine believers would rather their children be dead than autistic. And both abuse their children by withholding healthcare. Neither is kooky or harmless; and when anti-vaxxers finally disappear, let us hope they disappear for good, and don’t move on to something new.

…though there are also New Agers who think their kids are literal aliens. Or angels. So uh, not holding my breath.