It’s been a long time since I’ve had a Q&A post! The last one covered one important question in detail, but this time I’ll be answering two questions. The wonderful thing about these two questions is that while they come from different people, they’re actually related. (The questions, not the askers.) Let’s dive right in and get started with “Amber’s” question. Amber asks:
Is there a way to tell if you are a therian for sure? What does it mean to be a therian? How do you find out?
All interesting and very valid questions, Amber. It all comes down to soul-searching. I have an essay on this site by an avian therian by the name of Redfeather that covers a bit of this topic. However, I’ll take the time to go into it in my own words now.
Therianthropy is a very personal experience. While there are some commonalities that most, if not all, therians share to some extent, there is no universal list of signs that you are a therian. However, I can outline some of the common experiences and exemplify them from my own life.
Fascination with a certain species of non-human animal is by far the most common reported sign of therianthropy. This, by itself, however, is not quite enough to go on to make a decision – but it IS a good starting point for discovering one’s theriotype. My fascination began with canines in general, when I was very young. And I nursed a simultaneous fascination with the prehistoric past. This started, as it does for many young children – male or female – with a fascination with dinosaurs. I ate up all the information I could find on canines and on dinosaurs.
I played with any dogs that I could, and watched all nature documentaries I could find on wild canids. I read books – both young adult books told from the animal’s point of view (John R. Erickson’s Hank The Cowdog series was/is a personal favorite), and adult-oriented science books that gave all sorts of behavioral and physical details. I devoured all the information I could find. I even pretended to be a dog.
However, as all those who read this likely know, I’m not a dog. I’m a dire wolf. So how do you get to a specific theriotype from a broad generalization of “I love this kind of animal”? Let’s look at another of the common signs of therianthropy.
The experience of phantom limbs is another commonly reported aspect of therianthropy. Again, it is NOT universal – almost nothing is. But it is common enough to merit in depth discussion and thought – especially when trying to narrow down one’s theriotype from a general feeling to a specific species – and possibly even sub-species.
What exactly is the experience of phantom limbs? Well, when people have lost a limb in an accident or whatever unfortunate circumstance has taken it from them, they will often report still experiencing sensation in a limb that’s no longer there. This is caused by the brain being aware that there WAS something there and feeling as if it is still there. A person who’s lost their arm may feel cramping in a hand that’s no longer there, or the sensation of being able to move and flex their fingers and elbow, for example.
Now, a therian isn’t (usually) an amputee. However, as some part of us, be it spiritual or mental, is a non-human animal, there are certain limbs and bodily aspects that we lack in a human body. The most common reported phantom limb for a therian is by far the tail, and the next most common are external ears and muzzles/beaks, etc. But let’s just focus on the tail for now.
As human beings, we DO have a tail – sort of. We have a tail bone, known as a coccyx. This tailbone is the last few tiny vertebrae of our spine, fused together and curved as part of our pelvis, designed to help support our bodies when we’re in a sitting position. While some people are born with an external tail, most parents elect to have doctors remove those things, regarding them as birth defects.
As you can see from the image, it’s not exactly a tail the way we think of, say, a cat’s tail. However, it does show us where the tail would come off a human body if we DID have one, as exemplified by anthropomorphic artwork showing bipedal non-human animals with tails.
Therians that report the phantom limb sensation of a tail generally report it as a feeling and a sense of the presence of a tail that they can feel, but no one can see, coming off of this area. It generally takes the mental shape of that person’s theriotype’s tail, but I have also heard reports of people’s tails that changed throughout the years – effected by spirituality and other outside forces. Or even that people could force to change into a different type of tail via meditation. In this way, phantom animal parts are not a therian-only experience either, but again, they are commonly reported.
As far as personal experience in this area, I have been aware of my tail as long as I can remember. It’s always been a “long” tail, and always responded in a canine way. IE, wagging when I’m happy or excited, tucking when I’m afraid or nervous, bristling when I’m angry, etc. All of these are sensations, obviously, as the phantom limb itself is invisible. I learned to move it consciously later on in life – I remember asking my mother at one point if everyone could move their tails. I don’t think she knew what I was talking about at the time – from what I remember, her response was “I don’t know what you’re moving, but it’s not a tail.” Or something to that effect.
Having never had a feline tail, an avian tail, or any of the other myriad of possible species versions in the world, past and present, I can’t say how any of those might feel. But I do believe that if you have one of these phantom limbs, you are likely aware of it in some way. Feel it, move it, see what it feels like to you. Do you get an impression of the length? How fluffy or smooth-furred is it? Is it furred? How does it respond to your emotional states? All of these answers will help narrow down a person’s theriotype.
Another common thing among therians is the experience of having a desire to (if not an actual ability to – though some have it!) make the sounds that are appropriate to their theriotype in appropriate situations. Growling when angry, howling to contact a missing family member, whining when upset or frightened – these are just some canine examples that I experience personally. Every animal species has it’s own forms of communication. Focus and see what feels and sounds right to you. What animal sounds always get your attention when you hear them? Do you feel like you somehow might know what the animals are “saying” when you hear different sounds?
Ultimately, discovering whether or not you are actually a therian is an extensive amount of soul-searching and self-discovery. Meditation is a good way to get in touch with your inner self and see what feels right to you. Research is always important! Remember, just because you feel you might be a wolf right now doesn’t mean that’s what you are! There are hundreds of different canids, and many different species of wolves – extant and extinct.
It comes down to whether or not therianthropy strikes a cord with you. Does it feel right to think that you are both non-human and human? Do you experience some or all of the common therian-related experiences discussed in this post and others? When I first heard the term “therianthropy” and it’s definition, it resonated with me in a way that very few things ever have. It felt like me. It felt RIGHT. Does it feel that way to you? If not, maybe you need to keep searching! It could be that your animal-ness is a totemic communication or something else entirely.
How do you tell if you’re a therian? If it feels right to you, then you are. Whether or not you ever narrow down your specific theriotype (or theriotypes – it IS possible to have more than one!), if it feels right to you, then it likely is right. What does it mean to be a therian? That’s different for everyone! Some people take their therianthropy as a reason to get closer to the natural world. To go on nature hikes to experience their theriotype’s natural environment. Some people become animal activists, fighting for their theriotype’s right to exist alongside humans in this world. Others go into the sciences to educate the world about their theriotype and it’s place in the planet’s ecology, or to open people’s eyes to the ancient landscape their theriotype once inhabited.
Self-discovery is a personal journey. It’s different for everyone. And I wish you the best of luck on your journey, Amber!
My next question comes from “Spirit.” Spirit asks:
Do you know how I could find other therians that are of the wolf kind?
That’s a fantastic question, Spirit. And as a matter of fact, I do! I know it can be hard for a shy person to reach out to others, but unless you give a howl, no one can answer you, right?
There are many places on the web for therians to find each other. I started out on Werelist, in it’s original incarnation, when it was still run by Coyote Osborne. Now it’s mostly just a forum, but it’s still a great place to meet others and find and participate in interesting discussions.
With the popularity of social media sites, however, it’s fairly common now to find therian groups popping up on Facebook. Here are a few that I’m a member of and can vouch for the veracity of the admins and members:
These are just some of the groups on Facebook, but as always personal safety should be your first priority. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is asking for personal information beyond a vague general location of where you are, don’t answer them. If someone is making outrageous claims, up to and including being able to physically turn INTO an animal, they are either lying or delusional. Either way, get away from people like that quickly.
Common sense is a requirement for being on the internet these days, and therian groups are no different. Beware of trolls, and don’t feed them. If someone attacks you personally, block and ignore them. Other than that, feel free to post and ask if there are any other wolves around! You might meet some new friends, and you’ll definitely come away with a safe place or two where you can express yourself and your therianthropy among people who understand what you’re dealing with.
Remember – there are many different kinds of wolves! Not all wolves live in the same environments, hunt the same prey, or communicate in exactly the same way. Some of us, like my kind – the dire wolf, are extinct. Some of us are endangered, and some of us are safe. The thing to remember is that what makes us all fellows is that at our cores, we are not just all wolf – but we are also all human. Revel in the dichotomy of therianthropy, that lovely blending of human and non-human that makes us each unique.
I hope this answered your question, Spirit, and I look forward to seeing you in the groups!
That’s it for the questions I’ve received recently. If you have a question for the Q&A sessions of These Ancient Eyes, feel free to submit on the contact page. I’ll answer them as soon as I have the time. Thanks for reading!