A Balanced Study
The term Otherkin refers to those people who consider themselves as ‘Other than Human’. Some so-called experts claim that it is a subculture, while others argue that it has the characteristics of a religion. Basically it stems from the belief that one is not entirely human. This can mean literally, as is the case of those who believe that their present state is as a result of ancestry - in which one or more ancestor was non-human - or because of reincarnation - a non-human soul dwelling in a human body. It can also be used metaphorically: One might identify with a certain being more than others, and thus attribute this affiliation with sharing one’s identity with that particular being.
Others who claim to be in-the-know attribute this phenomenon to a particular kind of psychological disorder. This has been compared to gender dysphoria, and has been given a number of names, such as Trans-species, Trans-speciesism, or even Species Dysphoria. As a reminder of what dysphoria actually is, here is a definition: Dysphoria, otherwise called a dysphoric mood, is a mental state in which a person senses a profound feeling of unease or dissatisfaction. While these people would not go as far as to admit that it is in itself a mental illness, they do say that it is a symptom of various psychological disorders such as: Stress, anxiety, depression, or even those associated with disorders caused by substance abuse.
Be that as it may, the analogy with gender dysphoria may be valid, with some obvious changes: By definition, gender dysphoria is a sense of unease or discomfort as a result of a mismatch between their biological gender and the one with which the person identifies. The same can apply to those who believe themselves to be Otherkin: They too believe that their physical appearance belies the fact that their soul is different in that it is not human. But the assumption that these are symptoms of mental illness is erroneous at best. It would be the same as saying that those ‘suffering’ from it can be treated and even cured.
After all, one only has to look at humanity’s track record to see that those who experience a sense of disillusionment with the species are perhaps not without very good reason for feeling that way.
Other statements made concerning the Otherkin are not only controversial, but make little sense even to those who made them originally. Like the one professor of religious studies who claimed that the Otherkin belief has some sort of religious connotation, but then contradicts this by saying that the argument - that he put forward himself - is problematic because it does not conform to a substantive definition of a religion. After all, many who identify as Otherkin would reject this notion themselves.
In the Middle English Dictionary of 1981, the term Otherkin meant: ‘As a different kind of - ; an additional kind of - ; or other kinds of - .’ However in July of 1990, the first reference to the term Otherkin in terms of it being a subculture was made, although an earlier variant of this title was seen in April of that year, and this was ‘Otherkind’, which originally was called ‘Elfenkind’, and referred to non-elf ‘others’ who joined elven communities online, from which the subculture grew. Non-elf others were those who identified themselves as being non-human, but not as elves specifically.
In February 1995, a document was first posted on the Usenet site called the ‘Elven Nation Manifesto’, which sparked a massive response, so much so that a formal mailing list followed. One of the greatest influences on the Otherkin subculture was the game ‘Changeling - The Dreaming’, which sparked a huge debate, which resulted in one of the members of that debate concluding that the success - and resulting reaction - was because they were in fact ‘Changelings’ (a word associated with Otherkin). (I have included a copy of this Manifesto at the end of this article, if anyone is interested in reading it.)
Outsiders view the Otherkin phenomenon in a number of ways, ranging from - on the positive side - believing that Otherkin are human/animal relationship pioneers, to those who are less than supportive who believe that they are merely psychologically disturbed and dysfunctional. From the latter, reactions can extend from mere disbelief to aggressive antagonism, while some consider the whole subculture as being made up of those who use their so-called identity to express dissatisfaction with the modern world, and have taken the whole concept of fairy lore out of context.
1. My Own:
I have been made aware of the concept of Otherkin fairly recently, but in doing so, was able to make sense of many aspects of my life - some positive and others negative. Firstly, I have always felt that I was somewhat different, and that I did not belong in ‘normal’ human society. Ever since I first learned to read, I was fascinated with the worlds of fantasy and fantastic creatures. This was strengthened when my grandmother first introduced me to the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis. From that moment onwards I was determined to create my own ‘Narnia’ wherever we lived. At first it was made easier by the fact that we lived on a farm where there were still large tracts of land that had been left in their natural state, and on top of that, the farm was situated at the junction of two huge rivers. There were even two islands, one huge and the other smaller. Thus there was no shortage of places where my secret land could be. I also had a large collection of toys, teddy bears, a large Snoopy dog, and even a toy lion, who naturally became Aslan.
Another related fascination was with horses. Again I had the advantage of growing up with these majestic creatures and learned to ride at a fairly young age. But while I loved most animals, horses were by far my favourite. It was more than just the joys of riding them. I really felt a connection with them, as if I could form a relationship or special bond with them that I could not do with any other animal. This was so intense that I was determined to work with horses, in one way or another, when I grew up and left school. Alas, my dreams were shattered when I discovered that I was actually allergic to them! I developed debilitating eczema all over my hands that only cleared up properly when I stopped dealing with horses completely. It seemed that life had dealt me a very cruel hand indeed!
My sense of not belonging in human society was further strengthened when, from a very young age, I was picked on, teased and ostracised by the kids at school. This was long before it was discovered that I was dyslexic and had minimal cerebral dysfunction. The latter was because I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, due to the doctor that was treating my mum at the time insisting on turning me around in-utero before I was born, and that without any form of scan to ensure that this was done safely. I was also born at 8 pounds 10 ounces, nearly 4 kilograms in wait, and that despite being a month premature.
The teasing and bullying continued for most of my school life, and resulted in me hiding away in my childhood fantasies even more. My bedroom became my own sanctuary/country filled with people who accepted me for who I was rather than mocking me. I also started exhibiting some rather unsociable behaviour, and could not relate properly with others, especially members of the female gender.
Even though the teasing stopped later in senior school, the sense of alienation and discomfort have remained with me. As a result, I do not have many friends. Although this has changed drastically with the advent of such innovations as the internet, and especially sites like Facebook, there is a sense of anonymity that makes finding contacts that much easier.
It was indeed through the internet that I was first informed about the phenomenon of Otherkin. Before I joined Facebook, I read an article on the subject that my present partner sent me. At the time our relationship was mainly thanks to Skype, although we actually met through an online group of which we were both members at the time. My partner herself is also Otherkin, being of Elven descent, according to her family’s tradition. She also has a condition called ‘Stahl’s Ear’, originally called ‘Elfin Ear’, in which extra cartilage at the apex of the ear causes it to be pointed to some extent or another. This condition is hereditary, but is often surgically corrected soon after birth in order to prevent the child from being picked on later on in life. In her case, however, her family embraced it as proof of their elven lineage. This was further aided by her being born in the region in France known as Brittany, and comes from a very old Breton family. This part of the country has a rich tradition of folklore that includes elves, fairies, sprites, and all kinds of mythical beings.
It was because of a Facebook community that I joined that my belief in my own Otherkin lineage was strengthened. The forum had a questionnaire specifically for those who thought that they were Otherkin, but were either uncertain or not sure of where exactly they belonged. After answering a number of questions, the response I received was a great deal more detailed and precise than I could ever have expected. Here is a copy of part of it:
“You are of The Vilori (pronounced: vie - lore - rye) clan of the Larhåmånde (lair - hah - mon - dee) tribe. These are Centaur folk who like to live in the deep woods away from Mankind and the mundane folk and who feel they have been exiled from the normal world, but are also more or less comfortable with that fact. Or, at least, they've grown used to it over time.
When we say they are centaurs we don't mean that they are simply a combination of a horse body with a man's upper body. We are talking about horse bodies that would be about half the size of a grown elephant. They were fairly common in the Second Age, before development of species and the tendency to genetic isolation, but with the coming of the Third Age and the rise of Men and their persecution of nearly everything and everyone different from them, these Centaurs were hounded nearly out of existence.
Due to that fact, in the modern world, the Larhåmånde began to reincarnate into very large, giant humanoid bodies, which still makes some people uncomfortable but they are not usually killed for being hybrids or aberrations or abnormals, as Men tended to call them.
None-the-less, in the modern world they are often still bullied as children for their large size and sometimes, interestingly, told that they are "as big as a horse" or giants, among other such things.
Now long past, they were called the Jentil by the Basque peoples, and have also been associated with the giant Fir Bolgs of Irish myth and legend, or Irish prehistory as we would call it. They are often hirsute like the Jentil, having a lot of body hair, but that is not always the case …”
Now - looking at this in detail, there are a number of interesting parallels between this description and my own experience: Firstly, as I have mentioned before, I have always felt a special bond with horses, which can be explained by the fact that my original form was that of a Centaur - part man and part horse. But perhaps the most intriguing is the mention of the word Jentil, a reference to a race of small - by comparison - giants that are referred to in the folklore of the Basque region of Spain. The reason why this caught my eye specifically was that one of my dad’s nicknames for me, especially once I grew up, was ‘Gentle Giant ', something that I had not mentioned on the survey. And then - of course - there is the reference to my being picked on and bullied, not so much because of my size, but more because I am somewhat slow, partially because of the minimal cerebral dysfunction, but also because I am just not ‘built for speed’.
2. In General:
This section is a summary of responses I received online when I asked people to share their experiences as Otherkin.
Often a person would say something like: “I just knew somehow that I was different”, an almost instinctual sense that has always been there even before one realises that one is Otherkin. There is also the difference in what drives one that can indicate that one is not quite human. For example: Instead of being habitually competitive, and needing to prove that one is better than those around one, a person who is Otherkin - in certain cases - may seek to live in harmony with others, and thus seek a more supportive and harmonious existence with one’s ‘fellow’ humans. In others it manifests itself in an almost total lack of materialism. That which drives humans to always crave more and more material wealth and goods might seem foreign - even alien to certain Otherkin types.
Others have been made aware of their being Otherkin through re-occuring dreams, perhaps in which they saw themselves as their ‘Other’ being. And then there are those who became conscious of this during specific meditations in which their identity was revealed to them.
Some refer to the experience as a sort of awakening, while others discover their identity by means of interaction with fellow Otherkin. The latter is especially true of those who had no previous knowledge of or exposure to the existence of this phenomenon in the first place. As someone said, suddenly there was the realisation: “Oh - so that’s a thing is it?” Then there are some who have always presented certain behavioural characteristics, often without realising why, that are more akin to non-humans - more specifically animals. I once knew a girl who used to stamp her foot and snort like a horse whenever she was upset or agitated about something. At the time I just thought she was weird, but thinking about it now, perhaps she was acting like her horse kin instead.
As one person commented, each person experiences the awareness of being Otherkin in different ways. Alas, some of them have a much darker tale to tell: Some experience bullying, even before they realise their true identity. It is as if those around them sense that a person is different, without that individual even knowing it him/herself. Others are afraid to tell those around them, even those close to them, that they are Otherkin. This is hardly surprising seeing how many perfectly diagnosable conditions carry such a stigma with them. In the past it was even worse when a physical disability had one labelled as ‘Crippled’, whereas the slightest mental condition could have one being called ‘Spastic’ or even an ‘Imbecile’! Even though these terms are considered to be draconian nowadays, the attitude of certain people in today’s society remains the same, if not just a little more refined than before.
Some are made to believe that what they see themselves as is a sign of mental illness, and are forced to seek psychological treatment for it. This makes one wonder how many Otherkin there are in hiding, either because they believe that they are indeed mentally unstable or because they are afraid of being treated as such by those around them. Looking at the first section of this article, this would hardly be surprising. Then there are those who are convinced in their own hearts and minds that they are different, but find it that others are either sceptical or even downright critical of these claims. The result of this is that these individuals suffer from a lack of self-confidence and a low self-esteem. This is because their need for validation from others has never really been realised.
Still others just feel - as I did, and that apart from the way I was treated by those around me - that they just don’t belong among the rest of ‘Normal’ humanity. Either that or they just don’t feel comfortable being human, or being in strictly human situations or places. This causes them to seek to isolate themselves, something that would be further exacerbated when those around them either ostracise them or mistreat them.
The Otherkin Identity:
Far from being a mere expression of one’s dissatisfaction with one’s identity as a human, or with one’s being associated with the human race, it is clear that this phenomenon is real. I was taught some years ago never to invalidate another person’s experience. So many so-called ‘experts’ make the mistake of saying: “Oh - whatever the problem might be - is not real. It’s all in your mind. It’s just your imagination …” and so on. Even if this is the case, it does not make the problems associated with that experience any less serious, and thus - in that regard - doesn’t make it less real to the person experiencing it.
Now - I’m not contradicting myself here. I am strongly of the opinion that the Otherkin are a reality, and not just a mechanism by which some learn to cope with their sense of dysphoria. If that were the case, then everyone who believes that he/she is Otherkin would experience the same sense, but as we have seen, there are those who came to the conclusion that they are Otherkin merely because they themselves realised that they were just different from others. Others realised their identity either as a sense of awakening, or as a result of meditations or even dreams.
In my own experience, as I have mentioned before, I was treated differently by others for no apparent reason. Only after I came to the realisation that I was Otherkin did this kind of treatment make sense, but it by no means influenced my discovery. The experiences I had growing up were largely the result of others seeing me as different, and that strengthened my own sense of not belonging. My discovery offered me an explanation as to why this happened in the first place.
People have tried to categorise the different kinds of Otherkin. These include such labels as ‘Fictionkin’, those who identify themselves with fictional characters and beings. It is even said that there are those who would call themselves ‘Conceptkin’. In other words their Otherkin identity revolves around a certain concept or idea. More frequent are those who describe themselves as being related to beings of myth and legend, such as dragons, elves, fairies and sprites. Another common type are those who believe that their kinship is with animals and birds found in nature. Examples of these would be wolves, foxes, horses and the like. Then there are those that call themselves ‘Therians’, meaning that they believe that they are animals spiritually, but have taken on a human form. Some identify themselves as aliens, and others as supernatural beings such as angels, demons, or other types collectively known as ‘Godkin’. Those who adopt the identity as vampires are also included in the Otherkin circles These that I have mentioned are but a few of the categories that one can come across, and no doubt there are many more.
Some common beliefs include the notion of the existence of a multitude of parallel universes, and that many of the supernatural and sapient beings originate from their. The idea of shapeshifting - either mentally or astrally - into their Otherkin selves is also frequently referred to, as is the sense of empathy and being attuned to Nature, a force that many Otherkin revere, and for which they have a deep respect and love.
For many of us it is a reminder that whatever physical form we have taken on at present is only a transition. I once wrote a poem that started with these words: “I am. I have existed before time began, and my soul will persist long after I have shed this mortal form.” This I believe encompasses the whole Otherkin experience. What we are in our souls is of greater importance than whatever body we have chosen to inhabit. Sometimes our soul connection is so strong that we even display certain behavioural characteristics in our present form. For others it is this that makes those around us treat us differently, sometimes for good, but often to our detriment - if we let it!
Thankfully today, largely thanks to the internet and certain social media, there are whole communities with which those who are experiencing this, perhaps only recently, can turn to those who have been on their own Otherkin journey for longer for support and advice. Personally I have found this to be of great comfort and encouragement.
To conclude: By this study we can easily see that, far from being a reaction to the ills of our modern society, or a mere sense of discomfort with the disparity between one’s soul identity and that of the physical, The Otherkin experience is an intensely personal one. One that is never taken lightly, but in earnest. If it were just some kind of fancy or phase, then why do those who suffer from the abuse and ostracisation of others not merely leave it behind? No-one chooses to endure such treatment unless they sincerely believe in what they hold as being the truth.
And then there is that instinctual sense that one is different to other humans. It is more than just a desire to express one’s individuality, but rather it is rooted in the sense that one is not like anyone else, until one finds kinship with those who share one’s identity.
We are all on a path of endless self-discovery, whether human or Otherkin. The difference is that it is easier to be accepted if one elects to fall in with what society dictates as normal, some of which has often been proven to even be harmful to those who adhere to it. Take - for example - the trend of the ideal model. Many people, in their desire to have the ‘perfect body’ - whether this refers to the figure or facial features - have caused terrible, irreparable and even at times fatal damage to themselves. In a world where the media by and large dictates what is the norm, it is no wonder that anyone who does not fit that definition is considered as unacceptable and even outcast.
But we the Otherkin have as much right to acceptance and validation as the next person. Just like with what is now known as the LGBTQ community, we need to stand together against the dogma of those who seek to brand us as dysfunctional or disturbed. We are indeed pioneers, and have a special place in society. I also believe that we have a specific and vital role to play in the future of our planet, something I will be discussing in a later article.
The Elven Nation Manifesto:
"I raise this rallying cry for all fellow non-humans around the world. It is time those of elven, dwarven, and others stopped passively letting out heritage slip away into the mists of time. It is now the end of helplessness. We must not allow our gifts to atrophy further. We shall bring back true magic; break down the dam that allows only a small trickle of the magical into dominant, mundane reality. It is the duty of all those who have achieved enlightenment to help those not as far along the path. It is the imperative of all those who achieved a personal magical reality to implant those ideas into consensual reality.
We will use force if necessary, though teaching otherwise. The Veil to the Otherworld has thickened over the years. It is our duty as beings who are still able to perceive and manipulate the veil, due to our non-human heritage, to rend it to the point where magic is as free flowing as the oxygen we breathe and as commonplace as technology. This will allow our oldest brethren, The True Fae, and other magical creatures to once again live among us in acceptance. We must help those who are caught on this side of the Veil suffering torment from the lack of magical energies. We must provide a basic magickal literacy for the world.
To this end I propose the formation of a The Elven Nation, a group being a rallying point for all non-humans to focus their energies onto these goals. To provide a common meeting ground for discussion and debate of all things non-human and/or magical, as well as sharing strategy to attain them."
Perhaps this should be the basis for our drive for acceptance and so that we can take our rightful place in society, and fulfil our role in the world today, for the future.
About the Creator
I was born in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and currently live in South Africa. From an early age, I seemed to have a knack for poetry. I have written a number of stories, poems, and several novels, ranging from fantasy to non fiction.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.