This essay is designed to explore the nature and effects of cameo shifts in relation to therianthropy; not solely the definition of the term. Keep in mind that as therianthropy is a highly personal experience, all statements and information (however researched) are still subject to the scrutiny of the individual reader.
I. What is a Cameo-shift?
The term “cameo-shift” in regards to therianthropy references a shift (of any kind) into an animal which is not one’s own therioside. For example, a wolf therian who experiences a mental shift into the state of a leopard, for however long a period of time, or however many times this occurs, would be said to have experienced a cameo-shift.
It is more the personal experience of the individual therian that determines if this shift is caused by some external force, or by some internal force. It could most likely be called non-integral, due to the fact that therianthropy is most specifically referred to as “A person who is, feels, or believes he/she is in part or whole (non-physically) one or more non-human animals on an integral, personal level”(source 1). This non-integrated feel of the cameo-shift is basically what separates it from being a shift into one’s actual therioside.
It can be extremely hard for someone who is newly “awakened” to their therianthropy to determine which is a cameo-shift and which is not. As such, it is highly recommended that one (even one not precisely new to thoughts on therianthropy) delve deeper into the nature of a shift, before jumping the gun and claiming it a therioside.
II. Brief notes on shifting in general.
“When you get into any sort of altered state, which humans do on a regular basis, through practice, adrenaline, drugs, etc., you have shifted away from your normal baseline state of mind..” (source 2)
This statement by Morg is extremely well said. Anyone can shift. Everyone has the ability to either induce or experience a shift of some sort in some way. Therians and non-therians alike can, for example, experience a mental shift into that of a wolf or a tiger; or a phantom shift into that of a hyena or a bird. It can also be said from this that any non-human shift a non-therian experiences is indeed a cameo-shift.
Morg goes on to say in this essay, “The difference between [non-therian] shifts and the way a therian shifts, is that a therian’s shifts are innate.” Since a therian is said to actually be their theriotype, whether in part or wholly so, the shift is much more integrated.
III. Cameo-shifts in Therians.
Most therianthropes who experience cameo-shifting can isolate the differences between a cameo-shift and a shift involving their own therioside. Even when a cameo-shift is as strong, or even stronger, than one’s own therioside’s shifts, there is a difference (however subtle) that separates the two on a more integral level. Only the individual can truly determine the nuances of each shift and how each shift relates to them personally.
In the case of some therians, a cameo-shift can be as short as a single second, or as long-lasting as (but not restricted to) several years. For some it is a very brief shift, occasionally even non-recurring. For others it happens many times, and yet again others never even experience this sort of shift.
IV. Cameo-shifts in Contherians
As this is not an essay on Contherianthropy itself, only a brief definition will be listed:“Contherianthropy is a variation of therianthropy where the therian’s human and animal(s) selves are blended together into one single constant and unchanging aspect of the person. This condition makes any change from side to side impossible, as sides are non-existent; thus contherians are shiftless.” (source 3)
Although rarely mentioned in the context of Contherianthropy, it is just as possible for a contherian to experience a shift, just as a non-therian would. All this entails is that the contherian experiences a shift into an animal other than their own therioside; since a Contherian does not experience shifts into their therioside in the first place, an animal shift experienced by the contherian would be a cameo-shift. But just as some therians and some non-therians never experience this shift, some contherians also never experience this shift.
V. Causes and Methods of Cameo-shifting.
Just as any shift occurs, a cameo-shift is usually caused by something. Whether this something is internally or externally based, instinctual or induced, there is some underlying factor to the occurrence.
Differing at times extremely based on the individual, there are several “causes” that can be attributed to cameo-shifting. Of these only two are going to be discussed at any length, due to amount of resources available.
Totems are generally related to the ancient belief in “a reverence for animals and a respect for what they can show us and teach us” (source 4). As such, totem animals and their symbolic meanings are usually used in situations – mostly in reference to a more shamanistic point of view – wherein totem animals are message-bearers, guides and power animals for those who call upon/work with them.
In this capacity, totems animals can be worked with and used to gain the aspects of that animal. Say, working with Bear (who is mostly known for its aspects of power and healing) for example, one might experience a shift into a mental state of a bear, becoming closer to this animal guide and what it represents. This is not to say that each time one works with a totem animal they experience a cameo-shift; only that the process can sometimes end up with a cameo-shift in that person.
Very near to this is the subject of spirit guides. Occasionally it has been documented through personal experience where a therian will identify enough with their spirit guide to find themselves undergoing a cameo-shift. For example, a fox therian who feels they have a wolf spirit guide/guardian may connect to their spirit guide so strongly that the fox therian will almost feel that they were wolf.
Other methods/causes for cameo-shifting can include any effort or motivation used or experienced in a therian’s ‘normal’ shift into their therioside. From emotional changes such as anger, frustration, happiness, to external forces like music or actions of other people/animals, each can trigger a cameo-shifting response in an individual.