Wolf In The Fold
Personal culture is made up of those aspects of society that an individual person uses to define themselves and their world view. There are thirteen of these aspects: history, social status, social group interaction patterns, value orientations, language and communication, family life and processes, healing beliefs and practices, religion, art and expressive forms, diet, recreation, clothes, and politics. The five of these aspects which I use to define my own personal culture are history, religion, art and expressive forms, recreation, and clothes.
One of the defining moments in a person’s history is a transplantation, or a move from one place to another. In my case this was a move from my biological parents’ home in Houston, Texas, into my sister-by-love’s family’s home in Santa Ana, California. On September 16th, 2007, I will have been here two years. The move was a big step for me, as my family was very poor and I would have spent my entire life in a dead-end retail job with no further education and no way to become the Paleontologist I’ve always wanted to be. My sister offered me a place to stay, and her family graciously opened their home to me. After moving I have begun to redefine myself in many ways, including getting my GED and going to college, putting myself on the right track to become a Paleontologist.
Another thing that has always helped me define myself is my personal religious beliefs. I was raised non-denominational Christian, and while I still hold the core of those beliefs to be true, I believe man has altered the original meanings of God’s word to the point that they are all but unrecognizable. This, combined with the fact that I have had many past life memory experiences, and the fact that I am a Therianthrope (a human who believes their spirit to be that of another animal, in my case the extinct Dire Wolf), have caused me to reevaluate my beliefs in recent years. While the core is still Christianity, I have many pagan beliefs, such as reincarnation, Therianthropy, spiritualism, and a bit of shamanism. My beliefs are still undergoing this evolution, helped along by prayer, meditation, study of all the major religions (as well as some minor ones), but religion will always be one of the defining aspects of society that I relate to myself.
My clothing is another thing that I use to define myself, and is related to my personal religion. Whenever I can, I wear clothing with one of my spirit animals on it. Most commonly I will be seen wearing one of many t-shirts made by the manufacturer “The Mountain” which specializes in nature themes and animal likenesses. I have three shirts relating to my main Theriotype, Wolf (though not Dire Wolf as there are no shirts depicting it), a shirt with one of my former lives on it, Red-Tailed Hawk, and a shirt with my strength totem, Dragon, on it. Any time I wear these shirts, I feel more comfortable in my human skin. Added to this the various necklaces that I rotate through, including the knuckle bone of a wolf on black leather, a pewter wolf head with a claw on it, also on black leather, a dragon pendant, and a wolf fang, and my clothes continue to mark me as Therian, to anyone who knows what they are looking for. Having attended many “Howls,” which are organized gatherings of Therianthropes, I have found this to be a recurring theme among my fellow Therians. Clothing is one way we define ourselves within human society, and definitely one that defines me.
Another aspect that defines my personal culture is my art. I am both an artist of prose (a writer and poet), as well as a visual artist. The mediums I choose for my art are varied. I have used everything from a pencil and a composition book to the computer program Photoshop 7.0 and a Wacom Graphics Tablet. In the medium of visual arts I consider myself a digital painter. While the base for my artwork may be a hand drawn sketch that I have scanned into the computer, it is usually just a guideline for the finished work. I use many digital aspects of the Photoshop program that mimic traditional artists tools, such as a paintbrush, eraser, and pallet. My visual artwork is showcased online at http://tygerwolfe.deviantart.com. However, I consider myself to also be an artist of prose: a writer. I have written one complete novel which I self published through a subsidy publisher, and many short stories, poems, and fanfiction (writing building on another writer’s characters and situations). I continue to work on that book and other literary works on a constant basis, sometimes much more than I work on my visual artwork. My stories and my paintings say something about me and my personal beliefs, and that is why I consider art and expressive forms to be one of the defining characteristics of my personal culture.
The last aspect that I feel defines my personal culture is recreation. In my free time I would much rather read, sleep, draw, write, listen to music or play a video game than go “hang out” at malls or other places that teem with humanity. If I am going to go out for the day, I would much rather go to a large, outdoor area such as a park or a zoo than any more populated area. The closer to nature I can be, the better I feel. I use my recreation time outdoors to reconnect to my spiritual sides through meditation and communion with nature. The one exception to my “no large masses of people” rule is Disneyland. This surprises some people until they get to know me. I prefer going in the “off season,” so it is not as crowded, but even when it is crowded the masses of people do not bother me in Disneyland. I dislike standing in lines, unless there is a ride or food at the other end. I will stand in lines at Disney for hours and be perfectly content. I believe this has to do with the spiritual aura of happiness and calm that permeates the entire area in and around Disneyland. Disneyland, to me, is rather like a large dose of naturopathic anti-depressant medication. Any time I feel upset or depressed simply driving into the Disneyland area and knowing I’m going there makes me feel better. So in that way, recreation is one of the defining aspects of me.
My personal culture revolves primarily around religion, my other aspects almost all relating back to it in some way. My clothing, my recreational choices, and my art all reflect my personal religious beliefs, ever-changing as they are. My history has placed me in a position to continually explore and change as I feel lead. My personal culture is just that: personal. And I feel blessed to be where I am, who I am, and what I am today.