I am Earth Listener. I am a therian with two theriotypes, a dire wolf and quilled shark. I am also only one of several people sharing the same body and living life as a multiple system. And finally, I am a dæmian whose dæmon is named Danteberos who takes the shape of a Hovawart. If any of these terms and concepts or the differences between them confuses you it is my hope that I clear some of those questions up in this article.
The nature of being a therian, a daemian, and/or part of a multiple system are different entities unto themselves, though at times any one of them can share some small similarity in overlapping traits. The online communities that any of these three topics can be found in certainly reflect this as it is not unheard of to find a member of one community who also identifies with another of these communities. However, the majority of each community’s members are often completely separate to the remaining two, and does not mean that they are subsets of either or the other in any which way.
Therianthropy is an identity phenomenon in which a person integrally and personally sees themselves as being a certain animal or animals whether it be spiritually, psychologically, or otherwise. One identifies as being a certain animal or even animals which is referred to as a theriotype. It is an internal identification that is greatly integral to the person and their identity and sense of self.
Multiplicity, or being part of a multiple system, on the other hand is an umbrella term for a number of phenomena of having more than one person and/or individual in the same body. Multiplicity can include a wide variety of phenomena from walk-ins, mental constructs that gained separate sovereignty, multiplicity that is natural from birth, and much more. The number of individuals in a system can vary from two onward and upward. The connection and relationships between these members, often referred to as headmates within the multiple community, can vary greatly beyond simply being like a ‘friend’ or ‘sibling’ or ‘roommate.’ The term ’multiplicity’ is truly quite an umbrella term and no two systems just as any group of people will be or act alike in relationship structure and life together.
Daemonism is a concept/philosophy in which an individual, referred to as a daemian, imagines seeing and speaks to, often exultingly mentally, their daemon. A daemon is often likened to by many daemians as a mixture of an imaginary friend, a mental construct, and Carl Jung’s archetypal anima and animus that basically embodies part of that person’s mental thought process. The drive towards having a daemon varies among daemians, though the most common reasons stem from influences involving self-introspection, entertainment and/or comfort.
The shape of an animal, commonly referred to as a daemon’s form, ideally is usually set to reflect on the person’s personality. Unlike a theriotype, it is not uncommon for a daemon to change form seeing as how they are only limited by the daemian’s imagination. Regardless of a dæmian’s age, as long as they have the imagination and care to do so, their daemon can take the form of just about anything. However, one of the defining features and draw to daemonism is the prospect of finding one’s ‘settled form.’
A person’s settled form unlike the books, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman from which the beginnings of the concept of daemonism first got its initial base and some terminology, by far is not based on symbology or archetypes but instead goes for deep, great detail into an animal’s behavior, temperament, adaptability, lifestyle, and more. With the concept of daemonism itself, daemians are naturally encouraged to not only see inside to discover as much as they can about themselves, their personality, and who they are, but also research and look into the animal kingdom in search of an animal whose behavior not only suits a person’s personality completely but also has a form a person is comfortable with projecting.
Despite being a concept that could take on the shape of virtually any animal and the idea of who wouldn’t want a large and ’exotic’ animal to be them, there is actually a great variety in not only the forms of people’s daemons who are not settled but also to those who are. Large and ‘exotic animals’ are actually not a majority among most daemians. Small animals, from countless breeds of domestic dogs and cats to a wide variety of birds and reptiles and so on, are far more common than wolves and big cats, unlike the therian community.
Another common reason often given for a person being a dæmian is for entertainment reasons. The act of speaking to and projecting a daemon, either from time to time or constantly, naturally keeps one’s mind from becoming too idle or bored from mundane activities. The act of having a daemon splits a person’s normal mental monologue chatter (“My alarm went off… need to get… need to get dressed…where’s my shoes?”) into a mental dialogue (“My alarm went off.” “Yep, and that means you need to get up.” “Fine, just now let me get dressed.” “Wait, but now where are your shoes?”). This breaking up of a person’s stream of consciousness can help a person open themselves up and away from circular thinking by allowing part of their mind to think as the person’s own personal,internal ‘Jiminy Cricket’ normally and even their personal devil’s advocate when need be.
Some have often tried to liken this mental dialogue within the mind as similar to multiplicity, but again the similarities are only at face value. For the daemian, their daemon is still a part of them and their consciousness. The daemon is a mental construct – a bubble within a bubble, rather than two bubbles outside one another. The daemon is still them and it is something that they are willingly diverging from themselves to a point, rather than being actual separate and independent entities such are the headmates of a multiple system. Within a multiple system, a headmate can and/or does control and operate the body, often called Fronting; however this does not happen with daemians and their daemons. A daemon, instead, is often ‘seen’ by the daemian as being beside them similar to how a child sees their imaginary friend during childhood. The other members in a multiple system do not, at least not traditionally or that commonly, ‘see’ any other member outside their physical body. While it is not unheard of for certain multiple systems to have nonhuman members or even members which are animals, such members and the animal identity they have is their own and is not inherently connected to another system member.
Originally, much of the community’s terminology and thoughts sprang from concepts found within Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. However, the daemon community as it exists today bears only slight resemblance to the work of fiction’s dæmons, most of which is only in the use of certain common words alone rather than their meaning. This is a hauntingly similar parallel to how the therian community originally began from Alt.Horror.Werewolves: something of fiction sparking the realization of something vaguely similar regarding identity rather than fiction and fandom. In the very beginning for both communities, terms and certain thoughts stemmed on or around their fictional counterparts, however as both communities have existed over the years both have matured away from that. As within the therian community, there is less talk and wondering over ‘physical shifting’ and ‘the effects of the moon on shifting,’ so too is there less talk of ‘daemons ever possibly becoming corporeal’ and ‘how old someone has to be before they are settled.’
The primary similarity between being a therian and a daemian might be the existence within a person of an animal shaped identity; however from there these two topics diverge rapidly. For with a therian, their animal identity is a strong, integral part of their very identity and self (they see themselves as that animal in a nonphysical way more often than not), while with a daemian their animal is quite symbolic within its form and is simply a part of a person’s consciousness rather than direct identity. A daemon is not actually an animal, just a construct in the form of an animal. The form of a daemon is who someone is and how they behave, not what they are. A therian’s theriotype is what they are despite having a human body, and what theriotype a therian has is not dependent on their personality.
Of course, these descriptions are only rough and general concepts of their subject matters. All of these above phenomena are highly based on an individual’s experiences and views which no one person will be exactly the same, so the basic descriptions in this article are but an overview and part of the overall different subject’s spectrum. In fact, this whole essay is actually somewhat biased despite my best intentions with only my own limited experiences of these communities over time and my own personal experiences within these topics.
In the end, this is only a rough over view of the differences and similarities of daemonism, therianthropy, and multiplicity, and there will always be people who experience things somewhat differently or those whose experiences fall around a gray area between one topic and another. Just as someone’s experiences with their theriotype can almost be totemistic in ways, so too with these topics and more, can lines blur for some. At times someone’s experiences with their theriotype can take on third-person-like qualities and so be somewhat more easily confused with certain aspects of either multiplicity and/or daemonism. And for some, their experiences with their daemon might be so unconscious and with so little mental effort and focus when it comes to projecting and/or speaking to them that one could begin to question if their daemon was actually another entity.