Warning – Views expressed are personal and may not reflect popular opinion or even contemporary views. Read at your own risk. This article is mainly here due to the historic function of this site as a therianthropy resource.
Therianthropy on this site is generally used to describe a spiritual belief.
The term ‘Therianthropy’ was first used in conjunction with spiritual beliefs in the early 20th century in 1915 according to Wikipedia. Today, online, it is often used to describe a spiritual belief that arose from the newsgroup alt.horror.werewolves in the late 1990’s.
In a nutshell those who identify themselves as Therianthropes, or ‘therians’, believe that they share a spiritual connection with an animal. Unlike conventional shamanism, which identifies with an animal entity that is separate from the self, the therianthropic belief is that the animal is not separate and is a part or aspect of the self.
For most therianthropes, ‘shifting’ is considered an important part of the spiritual life of a therianthrope. This is generally described as a sort of altered mind state where the therian can experience a profound connection with their identified animal bond ( sometimes called a ‘theriotype’). The exact nature of the experience is often described as meditative, although appears to be highly personal and individual.
Unlike clinical lycanthropy, spiritual therians do not assert that they are actually turning into an animal physically, although many wish that they could. Most therians treat their inner animal connection as a sort of spiritual guiding force.
Therianthropic beliefs are quite varied, and often appeal to younger people more so than older ones. Most individuals who first connect with the ideas of spiritual therianthropy do so at a young age, normally between the ages of 14-21. The confusions of youth, the acceptance of the therian community and some misconceptions regarding the ‘shape shifting’ aspects of therianthropy are highly appealing to the young and naive.
The core of therianthropic belief is that one shares a spiritual connection within the self with an animal. Popularly this is often some form of large canine or feline. (ie: wolf or tiger) although other animals, such as bats, snakes, insects, deer, or even common house pets are identified as theriotypes. There is generally a belief held that one does not ‘choose’ their bonded animal, but rather is inborn and requires much research into the self to identify its exact nature. This is normally accomplished through research of personal and animal behaviors and attempting to match ones own behaviors to animal ones, as well as through meditative introspection.
Therians and otherkin are sometimes confused with each other, or included into the same category. The key difference is that therianthropes identify with real terrestrial animals either currently existing or historical, while otherkin identify themselves with beings which are mythical in nature.
Getting into Therianthropy
Many people come looking into therianthropy because they have a love for or are fans of werewolves, shapeshifting, and transformation in general. Some come because they are lost and looking for meaning and something to make them feel special spiritually. Many will ask the question, “how do I know if I am a therian?” as many therians assert that therianthropy is not something one choses, it is something that one is born with. This creates a sort of mystique around Therianthropy, creating a sort of ‘chosen one’ mentality around it. In reality, therianthropy is essentially a variant of a nature faith, and has borrowed, adapted, and morphed traditional natural spiritual practices such as Shamanism and wicca. But instead of being focused on manipulating the world around oneself, it is about exploring the inner self and how the world around connects with the self. The spiritual ideas of therianthropy are very egocentric in that they are all focused around the individual. Highly internalized, highly meditative, most of the best parts of therianthropy are extremely personal and are not the sort of thing one shares online. They are quiet discoveries, personal wisdom, and spiritual growth through meditation, reflection, real world experiences, and shifting exercises.
Many people who get involved in the therian communities do so for the wrong reasons, and ultimately find themselves disappointed, disillusioned and jaded with the ideas of Therianthropy. Just as in any other group or community the Therian ones have their own snake oil salesmen, unscrupulous sorts who will sell poisonous ideas to young, callow minds, ultimately jading and disillusioning them through disappointment or actually causing mental or spiritual damage. People looking into therianthropy will need to have a very high ‘bullshit’ filter. Anyone claiming to be able to teach you for money things that are impossible (such as physical shapeshifting), or trying to sell you things or get you to divulge personal, private, RL information, is probably not someone to be trusted.
Terminology and Symbols
Therians have developed a variety of terms to describe aspects of their spirituality from types of shifting, to types of therians, to status terms within the community. There are various lists of shifting terms floating about the internet, so I won’t repeat them here.
Therians use the delta-theta symbol, which consists of the capitol Greek letter delta (Δ) laid over the capitol Greek leter theta (Θ) as the symbol for their group. Not all therians buy into it, but some do.
Its difficult, especially these days to find good, objective and well thought out resources of information to help people who are researching therianthropy to find solid, non fluff, non biased information. I have attempted to provide some of the strongest, most objective resources in this section for further reading.
Project Shift – A therianthropy 101 type site, providing good balanced resources for information about therianthropy.
The Werelibrary – A huge community repository of many many essays written over many years by therians for therians.
Therian Wiki – A wiki for therianthropy and the community. Still kind of incomplete but a lot of the basic information is there.
The Werelist – One of the oldest original therian communities and gathering spots on the web.