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)
“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.
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).
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.
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.