I am the Bewylderbeast and I am not a therianthrope.
I have considered myself a therianthrope since around 2001, but as of July 2008 I decided it was time to open up and embrace my lack of therianthropy. I decided to write this little essay for two reasons: to share the path I followed and to possibly help other people who have doubts.
When I was a child I was always playing make believe with my friends, and did my best to always find an animal role in those games. I’d stay up watching documentaries on animals. I’d spend as much time with the family pets. I think it’s important to mention that the majority of the pets in my family were dogs.
As is the way, we grow up. You have to stop being one way, and become another. Other kids lost interest in make-believe games, and naturally so did I. I spent more time reading though, and watched more documentaries. I got through high school and made it to university.
I did my degree at art school, which gave me a lot of freedom to be myself a lot more. All of my projects revolved around the animal kingdom, and in my later years, the ideas of animals within totemist beliefs. I’d spend my days meditating on what it would be to be an animal, and what their energy meant. I believe this was me becoming a self-taught shapeshifter, which holds me in good stead to this day.
At this time, I had access to my first ever internet connection. Naturally, as someone who was interested in animal symbology and mythology, I eventually stumbled across Werewolf.Com. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that this was the place that opened me up to therianthropy. Perhaps if I had discovered the idea elsewhere, I wouldn’t have been so seduced by the concept.
This discovery triggered feelings of being “canine”. I should have known then that the idea triggering the feelings was wrong and that it should have been the other way about. But I pressed on, and decided that I was a wolf. That was that. I was a wolf therian, just like every other wolf therian out there. I eventually left Werewolf.Com for the Werelist and the Awareness Forums. Here, the discussion was far more rational, so I started to doubt my therianthropy. I wasn’t really a wolf, was I?
This point was very painful for me. I couldn’t pin point a species, which seemed very important within the community. I did experience shifts, and they fluctuated so much! The majority of them at the time were of canine species. I mentioned this on the Awareness Forums, was it possible to have a non-species specific theriotype? Mokele coined the term “cladotherianthropy” to describe this experience. Happy that I had a nice shiny label, I left any self-discovery alone.
As these things tend to be, I eventually was dissatisfied with being a cladotherian. I was experiencing more regular shifts at this stage, which I sketched out. A former friend of mine, who was pretty experienced with identifying canines, guessed that I was either an Ethiopian or Maned Wolf. From here, with some help from wikipedia and a trip to Edinburgh Zoo, I discovered that I was a Maned Wolf.
This was a very emotional day for me. My heart welled with emotion and it felt like I had come home. No matter what I say about my therianthropy, Maned Wolf is still a major influence on my life, and I still shift into him/her several times a day.
I was very content at this stage. By this time, Jakkal had given me space on TO’s server, where I hosted a lot of my own essays on the subject of therianthropy. I kind of hate myself for doing that. From where I am now, I kind of feel that I was bullshitting everybody, even though it wasn’t intentional.
I drifted off from the community at this time, around 2006, as I felt I had all the answers I needed.
So how did I escape from the idea that I was a therianthrope? It took the help of my best friend, who is non-therian. Last summer (July/August 2007) I was describing therianthropy to him, starting with the basic definition then describing how it actually affected me. While talking out aloud, my mind was saying “You know this isn’t right. You know this isn’t you”. So I returned to the communities, as a lurker. By this time, I was more happy taking time out to question myself and had some knowledge of totemism and shamanism. (I hesitate to add that it is a very small amount of knowledge!)
I thought, and thought and thought.
I noticed several things. As a therianthrope, I experienced several cameo shifts. I can induce these or they can just happen. These shifts stay with me for days or weeks. They were separate entities, and I genuinely believed I could have conversations with them. They share my body, but were not of my body.
From this, I noticed that while Maned Wolf was nearly always present, I could hold conversations with him/her, and that they too were sharing my body but were not of it. From here, I started to think more about the gaps, those times I wasn’t shifted. They can tell you so much! I became aware that when I wasn’t shifted, I was just me. There wasn’t another aspect, part of myself, however you want to describe it.
Logically, if the animal isn’t a part of me, then I can’t be a therian.
So where does that leave me now?
Well, I have to say I’m very happy. When I first said out aloud “I am not a therian!”, I felt a huge wave of relief. I could see clearly how I came to trick myself into thinking I was one. I felt foolish, yes, but you have to learn somehow.
Now that I am not burdened with the label of “therianthrope” I feel freer to work with the random shifts I have, without trying to justify them in terms of therianthropy. And I do work with them. I consider myself a totemist-druid mutt at present, and a student of animal lore. I am quite privileged to be able to shapeshift, and to be able to speak with animal spirits, but I know I still have far to go.
Maned Wolf is still very close to me. I guess she is what would be referred to as a primary totem. Other animal energies come and go, I try to experience them as much as I can. From here, I’m starting to learn about the land spirits, and moving more into a druid-based philosophy.
I feel that I went through all of the above for a reason, to get to the path I’m currently on – the path of an animal person.