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This is my great big WIP for the therian article. Feel free to add to it.
Yes, yes, I know I should find sources first, write later, but much of this I remember but can't recall where it came from.
Background of Therianthropy
Other Areas in Africa
Lions and leopards figure heavily in African folklore, frequently as sentients that ravenously eat cattle and other livestock (or humans), possibly as a result of their frequently antagonistic relationship with native African peoples. Often these big cats are given human characteristics or said to be able to transform into humans. This last is often done so that they may marry human women, who typically (with the assistance of a male relative) discover the deception and arrange for the lion shapeshifters to be driven away or killed.
During the early and mid 20th century, the Leopard Society, from Western Africa, was active in countries such as Liberia, killing individuals with metal claws, wearing the skin of leopards, and eating the flesh of those they killed in the belief that it would bring them strength
While the true concentration of therians in Africa cannot be determined, for many intents and purposes there are few to none. Africa has a fairly low level of Internet penetration (though that's rapidly changing), and any therians in the area would generally have to rely on lower-tech methods of communication, if that, making the presence of a noticeable therian community in Africa unlikely outside of the urbanized areas.
Werewolves, werecats, and similar creatures were common across European folklore and legends. Primarily, these were not kind creatures; they were evil, degenerate, and killed and ate humans. Frequently they gained their abilities to transform through dealings with demonic forces. If the Christians saw themselves as sheep, evil was seen as wolves. They were to be mercilessly hunted down and destroyed, whether they were literal wolves or figurative wolves--or both.
While it might seem like being a wolf in mind (and not managing to hide it) would earn one an automatic death penalty, this wasn't always the case. It was (depending on the area) understood that some individuals thought they transformed into wolves but actually didn't, and they were treated as other mentally ill individuals, though the conditions such individuals were kept in at the time were hardly liveable.
In the contemporary era, therians have a significant presence in Europe, particularly in countries such as the UK and Sweden. Swedish newspapers have mentioned therianthropy (either by name or not)Cite error: Invalid
refs with no name must have content, and Susitar once gave an interview in a Swedish newspaper regarding therianthropyCite error: Invalid
invalid names, e.g. too many.
Asian shapeshifters were often trickster characters, and were most famously foxes, in the example of the kitsune. Cats were also sometimes presumed to be shapeshifters, and it wasn't unknown for cats to be killed over such suspicions; tricksters were frequently not benign. But there were stories of good shapeshifters, even among the cat shapeshifters.
Animals given human attributes are relatively common in various Native American mythologies, with CoyoteCite error: Invalid
refs with no name must have content and RavenCite error: Invalid
refs with no name must have content being some of the more common examples. Shapeshifters themselves, as a specific set of entities rather than just specific characters with the ability to shapeshift, were far from widespread, with a notable exception in the Southwest.
Skinwalkers legends were told among the Zuni and the Navajo. The entities [verify]were believed to have figured in the demise of the Anasaszi[/verify], and were considered evil and corrupt--they were the equivalent of witches in European mythology, and indeed were sometimes called witches. Besides shapeshifting, they had other powers, often ones associated with dead bodies (considered unclean), and could only be killed with certain special weapons.
Therianthropy currently seems to have its heaviest presence in North America, where most of the individuals seen on the Internet are based. Exactly why is up to debate, but the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s may have something to do with it, and its known that otherkin were present in the same subculture that Greenwhich Village was part of. The Internet is also generally prevalent in the United States, and the lineage of therianthropy on the Internet is generally traced back to Usenet discussions that [verify]were in English.[/verify]
Despite the best efforts of networks like Discovery, therianthropy is not a commonly known about phenomenon, though this may change as knowledge of therianthropy slowly spreads throughout the Internet and begins to trickle into the offline world, and as more and more individuals try to get money by making therianthropy a freak show. While there have been efforts to produce a therian-written documentary about the subject of therianthropy, for the most part these efforts are small or died (Project Pawprint of the Werelist being an example).
Therianthropy has a fringe presence in the offline community if one looks carefully. While formal howls are themselves not necessarily the most common event, it's hardly unknown for therians to plan meetups, and in some cases live together, even if they aren't mates (and in the therianthropic community, quite a few therians have mates that are therians). The matter has received relatively little scholarly attention; Laycock is apparently writing a paper on the matter, and therians were mentioned in "We are Spirits of Another Sort" but for the most part the phenomenon hasn't been studied, and when it has it typically has been in the context of sociological studies or studies of belief systems rather than as psychology. Of course, the number of studies where therians were mentioned but not mentioned by name due to being called otherkin are probably higher.
Various concepts for planned therian communities have been floated, and the vast majority have failed or simply never gathered enough interest, though Ashen has recently formed a moderately active social group on the Werelist to discuss the issue.
Queztalcoatl was depicted both as a human and as a feathered serpent that killed and devoured his enemies. Other deities were also associated with animals--Smoking Mirror, for example, was associated with the jaguar and said to turn into one. [verify]Werejaguars were associated with him, and to some extent they have made their way into popular culture, though to a lesser extent than werewolves.[/verify]
Therians are most prominent on the Internet. Utilization of the Internet allows therians, which under other circumstances would be far spread and quite possibly go their entire lives without realizing that there were others like them. Due to the rather unique issues faced by therians, the fact that there is an online community that affirms their identity and provides a sense of not being alone has probably made it invaluable to many.
Over the years, a number of therianthropy related message boards have sprung up, with some of the more active ones being Weresource (with the chat only being very active), Wulf Howl, Therian Wilderness, and the Werelist. The wide availability of webhosting has also allowed a multitude of small personal sites to spring up, and it isn't uncommon to see individual therians having their own websites to host their essays.
The personal essay as it relates to therianthropy is relatively common among therian Internet culture, with forums frequently having entire sections devoted to it, and entire groups focused around the writing of essays. It's hardly universally written, but there's a definite tendency among therians to write long essays about their philosophical views in relation to therianthropy, what they think causes it, their own experiences, how they interact with their theriotype, interactions with non-therians, and a variety of other matters.
Schools of Thought
Origins and Causes
The origin and cause of therianthropy are the subject of lively (sometimes, some might argue, too lively) debate on the subject. The average group of ten therians probably has twenty different ideas on what causes therianthropy, many of them probably mutually exclusive and held by the same person. The bottom line on the matter is that no one really knows for sure. Naturally, in the gap a multitude of different ideas on how therianthropy originated have formed. They range from the metaphysical to the religious to the neurological to the psychological to basically the therian version of Unitarianism.
A substantial number of therians profess the belief that therianthropy is due to metaphysical causes, whether phenomena such as reincarnation (one of the more common explanations given) or other similar happenings.
Infrequently therians will turn to religious explanations, or metaphysical explanations that are integrated into religious systems. Religious systems that believe in reincarnation, such as Buddhism, would seem to be natural choices, but religions such as Christianity also have had reincarnatory themes worked into it, despite the fact that Christianity traditionally hasn't held reincarnation to be fact.
The opinion that therianthropy is psychological or neurological has traditionally taken a backseat to metaphysical and religious explanations, but recently has gained a certain amount of popularity (the fact that the Werelist, one of the larger communities, is run by individuals who take a psychological/neurological approach to the matter may have had something to do with this). And in many cases suggesting that therianthropy is psychological is, if not necessarily given immediate credence by all, not resulting in the same stigma it used to.
Individuals adhering to this viewpoint sometimes face criticism for (allegedly) equating therianthropy with mental disorders, a charge which is frequently responded to with the argument that a mental condition is not the same as a mental disorder as mental disorder implies that the condition is maladaptive.
Noticeable rifts exist between the therian and otherkin communities; it is not uncommon to see therians who consider otherkin to be incorrect in their beliefs (to put it politely). The criticism frequently boils down to several points:
1. Theriotypes are commonly known to exist. Kintypes are not. 2. Among therianthropes taking a more clinical or psychological approach, the fact that many otherkin claim spiritual reasons such as past lives gives them a certain quantity of distaste. 3.
The vampire and therianthropic communities
- . 1963. African Myths & Tales
New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
- . 1900-1950: The Leopard Society in 'Vai country', in Bassaland
http://www.liberiapastandpresent.org/RitualKillings1900_1950b.htm. (accessed April 28, 2012).
- Wulf Howl articles
- Animal Quills