December 2017
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therianthropy & totems -- my beliefs on spirituality relating to animals


I've been reflecting on this for days. It's a deeply sacred part of my beliefs and my spirituality, yet I find it hard to express. I'm going to write in a broad sense at first, and then explain how this is a part of my life. disclaimer: I'm defining these terms as I feel them, and must add that others may define them in different ways.

Taking from the userinfo of the therianthropy community, "therianthropy is a state of being/philosophy/condition/etc. in which a person identifies in some way as a nonhuman, Earthly animal." Therians feel (some wholly, some in part) that they ARE an animal, which is very different than the totem concept of having an animal spirit as an external guide. I feel therian, in a sense, but I don't think that being 'therian' is something that only certain people are, which most therians seem to believe (from the little that I have read). I also do not interpret the thing I believe in a broad sense as 'identifying,' and I don't see it as an animal spirit trapped in a human body/mind (both of which are beliefs of SOME therians, not all). Those are fine beliefs of course, they're just not the thing that I believe, which I call spirit-shapes.

I personally believe that all people have more than one spirit-shape, but most people are unaware of this. By spirit-shape I mean a shape/awareness which the spirit can shift into; I think all people have both a human spirit-shape which looks very like their body (sometimes with wings), and at least one animal shape. I think that when a person shifts their spirit-shape, they are in a very real sense shifting into another form, even if it doesn't look different on the outside. I've seen people spirit-shift and whoa, is that an intense thing to witness (especially if they are a predator shape, heh). The eyes, mannerisms, and instincts change -- but most of all, I feel the presence of the animal that they are. I think that some people feel this as an intense identifying with a certain animal, but when it is allowed to assert itself freely, it becomes more than that; the difference between having a favorite animal and BEING that animal. I think your favorite animal(s) can give you a clue as to what spirit shape(s) you may have, but it's a completely different concept. I also think that so-called 'mythical' animals (dragons, unicorns...) and humanoid creatures (fae, merfolk...) can be spirit-shapes.

I also believe in totems; I believe that certain animals will appear in your life when you need a message from the universe. Sometimes these might be lifelong guides for you, and sometimes it might be a one-time visit, but their purpose is to bring you wisdom. They might come to you in a dream, you might see them outdoors, or you may even see them repeatedly as decorations. A lifelong totem differs from a spirit-shape in that it is an external guide rather than a part of your being; though you can identify with them in the same sense that people identify with the Deity(-ies) or spiritual leader(s) they follow.

I've started my post on my own spirit-shapes and totems, and it's turning out to be quite lengthy so I'm going to post this on its own first. (I'm also going to gather photos -- I'll probably end up posting that this evening)

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Comments
sabr ══╣╠══
-x glee x-
belenen ══╣spiritual╠══
;-)
jenniology ══╣Spiritual lotus╠══
That's a really beautiful and interesting thought - I'd love to hear more. :)
belenen ══╣nuzzle╠══
thank you ♥
adamantplatypus ══╣╠══
The spirit animal philosophy is why I have a wolf's paws print tattooed on my lower back.
belenen ══╣mysterious╠══
lovely! I want to get something to represent my snow leopard self but I'm not sure what yet... maybe some spots somewhere...
tindomerel ══╣phoenix flame╠══
I can relate to what you write even if put in words they seem new & fresh way of thinking to me but deep inside me I feel they resonate. I've met people who are so close to what they call their power or totem animals that they actually are them. I've met people in their animal shape in my dreams and known who they are.

My spirit-shape/otherkin self is a mythological/magical being (Phoenix). It is strongly present in me. I also have several spirit/power/totem animals and seem to be introduced to new while my life changes.
brightlotusmoon ══╣╠══
My spirit-shape/otherkin self is a mythological/magical being (Phoenix).

So is mine.
*blink*

Nice to meet someone else who has that!
tindomerel ══╣apricots╠══
:) Nice to meet you too.
belenen ══╣dreamy╠══
ooohhhhh, I love that about meeting people in their animal shape in your dreams! How wonderful ♥
the_magpie ══╣Magpie╠══
I definitely identify with this. I've never really considered myself as a "therian", or as anything other than fully human - but I also know on some level I'm a magpie. Your explanation of spirit-shapes explains how I feel about magpies precisely. Thanks so much for sharing this, I've got a *lot* of interesting things to think about.
belenen ══╣mysterious╠══
oh I'm so glad! ♥
roina_arwen ══╣Red Panda - cute╠══
That's really quite interesting. Although I don't think I have a spirit-shape (although if I did, I think it would be a faerie since they resonate with me), I definitely feel like my totem animal is a bear - primarily a koala, although red pandas also feel "right" to me. Thanks for sharing!
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
very cool! I loooooooooooove koalas. ;-)
sylvanfae ══╣Magic╠══
This makes as much or more sense than other theories I've heard.

I know what you mean about shifting, as I study Shamanism. I'm also otherkin, though not involved in the community at all. I've known I am somehow an elf, since I was 16.

Can't wait to read your upcoming post. =)
belenen ══╣eccentric╠══
well, it took me long enough but the first half finally got posted, haha! The part about my totems is coming soon (to a theater near you?). *giggles*
aliyna ══╣Religion - Demeter Ring╠══
My mother fell into the whole early-eighties craze for unicorns, so ever since I was born, in '83, my life has been filled with them. Literally. Figurines on the bookcases, plushies in my bedroom (and hers!) Jewelry that she always wore that I now wear, art on the walls, calendars, you get the drift. Few things remind me so strongly of her, and it's a passion/adoration that she inadvertently passed on to me.

She was more in love with the clean, short haired, pretty, virginal idea of a tall white sparkly unicorn, whereas I am far more drawn to the "medieval" unicorn, ones edged in ruffs of long curls, with unkempt manes and wild eyes. The Michael Green sort of unicorn.

And now Ro's room is decorated with them, pages from those 1981 and 1982 calendars are hung on her walls, and I am planning a tattoo on the small of my back of a rampant unicorn, straight out of medieval heraldry.

Without intention, unicorns have become so important to me because of the link they've created between now three generations of women. My athame on my altar is a brass unicorn letter opener that was my mother's. Their presence brings me comfort, makes me smile.

*

When I was little, a red fox and his family, whom my grandmother named "Skeeters," used to visit her home, which was situated right near a marshy area that had a large pond full of snapping turtles. I always found him mysterious because he would almost never show up for me, but Nana would tell me stories about how he and his cubs acted, what they would do, the scraps she would leave them, how close they'd get.

She sort of imbued the red fox with true mysticism for me, and it holds to this day.

I don't like to admit to it, but I used to be a pretty cunning, pretty sneaky person. I was very talented at shoplifting and spent some three years doing it as a hobby before I became careless and got caught. I'm an excellent liar, I can be manipulative if I have to, and I can still hear years of my mother, to this day, yelling at me about how fucking clever and downright sneaky I was, and how much she hated it.

Needless to say, I feel a natural affinity for that sly creature, too. =)
biznessman_alfa ══╣anne boleyn╠══
I am far more drawn to the "medieval" unicorn, ones edged in ruffs of long curls, with unkempt manes and wild eyes. The Michael Green sort of unicorn.

i'm the same way. i love unicorns, but the ones i'm drawn to arent the "pretty" clean sparkly unicorns.
belenen ══╣spiritual╠══
ohhhhhh yes, the unicorn!!! I feel the same way. There's this book called "The Colt From Moon Mountain" which I read when I was little and I get annoyed at how people draw them 'wrong' today, heh.

I love what you shared about the fox, too ♥

thank you for this amazing comment!
mourningdoveava ══╣elegance╠══
I'm curious about how to expand some of these thoughts to other points, and I'm not sure if I'm going to articulate myself clearly, but...it's inherent from this that you value animals highly, and their function in spirituality, so I'm curious as to how this touches with your feelings about domesticated animals? Given the sentient function of animals (especially as they might be totems, for example), I guess I'm wondering...are you thinking mostly of wild animals, domesticated ones, when you speak of totems? Any/all?

I'm just curious because those who value animals, and the wisdom of animals, do often have interesting views about how they're treated, kept, used...

Just a thought.
sidheblessed ══╣╠══
I really identify with this post. It's good to meet someone else who thinks someone can have a mythological creature as a spirit-shape or totem.

I personally believe that your totem is the animal that best reflects you as who could ultimately grow to be and has the lessons you must learn to get there. Because of this, I believe people only have one life long totem. However, I believe people can have a multitude of spirit guides and can have many spirit-shapes.

I definitely believe there are therians and otherkin in this world. I myself identify as otherkin. I may make a post about my totem and my otherkin in my own LJ very soon.
flyingshaman ══╣╠══
Oh I would be so interested to read about your totem and your otherkin!

I identify as otherkin as well - I feel so strongly fae (and still thinking up that post you asked about, because it's definitely there) and elven.
belenen ══╣intrigued╠══
I would also love to read about your totem & otherkin!
painted_dreams ══╣david tennant╠══
Really I can relate to a lot of what you write. When it comes to my spiritual beliefs I find it hard to explain to others as they aren't truly traditional and are very eclectic. I believe that humans and animals are kin. What happens to one will happen to the other. All of us are unique but we all work together to keep this world we live on going. I think on a subconscious level we can all feel the joys and pains of others.

I think our spirit and our physical beings work together in harmony. Both must be honored in order to feel balanced.

I could go on but this is a conversation for a messenger or something.
belenen ══╣interconnectedness╠══
yes, I definitely believe that what happens to one will happen to the other -- that we are all interconnected in the most deep and intimate way, even if we can't see/feel it. That is a big part of everything I believe.
jendaby ══╣cinnamon╠══
We have long believed in an animal totem or spirit shape that speaks to our souls and helps define who we are. It is one of the earliest things Gryph and I talked about. Then we played an RPG called Immortal, and the concept was for adventure, certainly, but you played yourself, only you found that you had powers and could take an animal form (that's a VERY basic/nutshell description of the game) anyway, everyone had to answer these in-depth questionnaires about themselves, and there were questions about what animals one identifies with and why - and right with all these questions that got right to the core of one's being, and it made it all seem so clear - and that had nothing to do with the game, except that it helped us all to know ourselves better. :)

My special animal is the red kangaroo.
belenen ══╣spiritual╠══
oh wow! That game sounds wonderful.

and I can totally see red-kangaroo-energy about you. ;-)
biznessman_alfa ══╣happy kitty╠══
I think that some people feel this as an intense identifying with a certain animal, but when it is allowed to assert itself freely, it becomes more than that; the difference between having a favorite animal and BEING that animal. I think your favorite animal(s) can give you a clue as to what spirit shape(s) you may have, but it's a completely different concept.

have you ever seen Brother Bear (disney)? your post made me think about of that. how the older brother became his spirit animal (eagle) and of course, the younger one became the bear and learned the lessons he needed to learn. i dunno if i ever thought about therianism, but i think i'm gonna think more on this. if i can form a coherent post on it, i may do so.

i've always felt a strong affinity toward unicorns and bats (one time about 6 years ago, i had a bat land on my leg and lick me. which was weird, but cool at the same time. then he flew around the house. i'll scan the pic if i can find them)
belenen ══╣adorable╠══
I haven't seen Brother Bear, mainly because that style of animation annoys me, but now I might see it!

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww about the bat!!!! that is SO AWESOME!!! I wanna see the pic. ;-)
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.