Theories of origin

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There are many theories of origin which alterhumans may use to explain where their identities came from. Many people have divided these theories into two broad categories of spiritual and psychological origin. However, a diversity of theories of origin exist,[1] and a person may hold that an identity of theirs originates from multiple causes,[2] or attribute different origins to different identities. Additionally, some do not see the reason for their alterhumanity as important and give little to no thought to the origin of their identities.

Spiritual origins[edit | edit source]

Reincarnation[edit | edit source]

Many alterhumans believe in reincarnation, believing that they had a past life or multiple past lives as their phenotype, will be their phenotype in a future life, or were meant in some way to be their phenotype in this life. In A Field Guide to Otherkin, Lupa describes this as "by far the most commonly referenced explanation for being otherkin".[2] This theory is oftentimes used to explain why some alterhumans have memories of being their phenotype or experience déjà vu.[2]

Many fictionkin use this explanation in combination with the idea of multiple universes. They believe that fictional worlds exist and that a person from another dimension may reincarnate into this one. Some see this theory as also explaining why multiple people may see themselves as reincarnations of the same character, as the character in question may have existed in multiple different universes.[3][4]

Some alterhumans believe that they were incarnated into this life for a purpose, whether it is to learn a lesson or to do good towards humanity. Others believe that their incarnation as a human is some kind of accident or punishment. Still others have no idea as to why they are here at all.[2]

Walk-ins[edit | edit source]

"Walking in" refers to a new soul entering a body partway through its life. Usually, it is believed that the soul that was originally in the body then departs. Some people describe a distinct, specific moment in which they walked in, whereas other people experience a more fuzzy process. Walk-ins may or may not identify with the memories or self of the body's previous inhabitant. As with reincarnation, many walk-ins believe they came to this world with a specific purpose.[2] In the past, this has sometimes also been referred to as the "Dual Souls" theory.[1][5]

The phenomenon of walking in is also described in the plural communities, however in this context, the person simply joins in the body as one member of a collective.[2]

Sharding[edit | edit source]

Some alterhumans may feel that their soul is a fragment that split off from a being that continues to exist separately. An example of a community centered around this belief is godshards, who feel they are fragments of extant gods.[6] This belief may also be applied to other spiritual entities such as angels. In the past, this theory of origin has sometimes also been referred to as "Soul Splitting" or "Soul Shattering."[1][5]

Other spiritual explanations[edit | edit source]

Some people may feel that their soul or immaterial body takes the form of a specific entity which does not match their body. This belief may be held regardless of if the person believes they have had past lives. Relatedly, some may feel that their alterhuman identity is their "higher self" - a spiritual, semi-divine being which is the person's true self, and of which their earthly body is only an emanation.[7]

Psychological origins[edit | edit source]

Neurodivergence[edit | edit source]

Some people feel that their alterhumanity is simply a natural variation in human neurology.[1][2][8] They feel that this variation caused them to imprint on another entity from a young age.[2][9] This belief is particularly prominent among therians.[2] It has also been used as an explanation as to why so many nonhumans are "popular" animals such as wolves and cats.[9]

Alternatively, some people may feel that their experience with a neurodivergence has caused them to develop an alterhuman identity later in life.[10] Examples of this may be things like:

  • An autistic person feeling that they are a robot or alien because of how they perceive the world
  • A person with a dissociative disorder feeling like a ghost
  • A person with BPD considering themselves a changeling or polymorph because of the way they mirror other people

Trauma[edit | edit source]

Some people say that their identities manifested as a result of trauma.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) and other specified dissociative disorder type 1 (OSDD-1) are associated with multiplicity/plurality.[11] These disorders are also associated with "overwhelming experiences, traumatic events, and/or abuse occurring in childhood."[12]

Animals such as dragons, tigers, and fairies are associated with strength, flight, and other protective attributes. Because of this, trauma may also be a cause of nonhumanity, especially in those with dissociative disorders.[13]

Metaphor and archetypal resonance[edit | edit source]

Lupa talks extensively about archetypal animal identity in A Field Guide to Otherkin, and ultimately concluded that this was the reason for her wolf feelings, dropping the therian label.[2] However, metaphor and archetypal resonance can be seen as an explanation for any type of nonhumanity, and therians, otherkin, linkers and even furries may consider this the case for them.

The two systems of form-finding used by the daemonism community employ metaphor. The analytic system treats real animal behaviours as analogies for human personality traits. The Pullman system uses the traits ascribed to animals in folklore and popular culture. Daemians who feel a particularly strong connection to their daemon's species because of this may additionally identify as otherhearted.[14]

Archetropes are an identity explicitly based in archetypal resonance, where people embody roles common to fiction and mythology. They are typically based on a combination of innate feelings, life experiences and deliberate choices.[15]

Delusion[edit | edit source]

Some people identify as alterhuman on the basis of delusion.[16][17] Many people who experience delusions are still able to critically reflect on their experiences - or simultaneously experience their delusion alongside reality[18] - and do not necessarily take significant or harmful action because of what they believe. On the contrary, many such people find their experiences add meaning to their life,[16] and that accessing support through the alterhuman community can help them cope with the more negative effects.

Delusional alterhumans advocate for self-awareness in deciding whether or not it is safe to base an identity on one's delusions. They assert that it is the personal responsibility of the delusional person to understand if it is safe to engage with, and not that of non-delusional people who they might interact with.[16][19]

Other origins[edit | edit source]

Voluntary creation, direction or reinforcement[edit | edit source]

Some people deliberately cultivate alterhuman identities for a number of reasons. This may be as a coping mechanism for some trouble in a person's life,[10] or simply for fun. Some people may use magical avenues to create an alterhuman identity in themselves or others, such as through incantations and rituals.[20][21]

There is debate in the modern community as to whether or not otherkinity or therianthropy can be voluntary. Some people have pointed to statements by the Silver Elves as supporting the idea of voluntary otherkinity.[22][23]

Genetic[edit | edit source]

A small number of people have claimed that their alterhumanity is genetic.[1][2] Some otherkin believe themselves to have fae or elven ancestry.[24][25] This belief is controversial.

Some vampires assert that it is a physical difference in their bodies that causes them to experience needing to feed, having a sensitivity to sunlight, and other vampiric traits. One theory considers the complexity of genes, putting forth the idea that a vampire’s awakening might cause biochemical changes.[26]

Transmission[edit | edit source]

Some people feel that alterhumanity, particularly nonhumanity, is transmittable. J. Lion Templin, who viewed therianthropy as a psychological phenomenon, theorized that many people who awakened were not originally therians. He believed that hearing about another's therianthropy could cause someone to begin to see themself in the same way. He called this process "infection", and described the therian perspective as "viral".[27]

A natural part of everyone[edit | edit source]

Some people have theorized that everyone is alterhuman, but only some have 'awakened' to their alterhuman natures.[1] Relatedly, some people may feel that animal identities are a manifestation of a human's natural instincts bubbling to the surface after being repressed by society.[2]

Plurality[edit | edit source]

Plurality, itself having many possible origins, has been considered an originator of other alterhuman identities. In some periods of the otherkin community's history, it was described as a cause of otherkinity.[2] Some felt that simply having a nonhuman system member made the system as a whole otherkin. When this was the case, they were referred to as "otherkin hosts" - 'host' referring to the entire collective (as in "heavenly host") and not the 'main' system member.[28]

Quoiluntary identities[edit | edit source]

"Quoiluntary" is a term used by people to whom origins are unknown, irrelevant, or otherwise do not fit into established models. The term may even be used by people with established identity origins who want to challenge the perceived obsession with origin in the communities. It was coined off-the-cuff in a conversation in the Alt+H discord, by analogy to words like quoigenic and quoiromantic.[29] As with other forms of quoi-identity, it is frequently misunderstood as only having its 'unknown' meaning.

As a political statement[edit | edit source]

Some alterhuman labels have political overtones. For instance, some transspecies people use the label to draw parallels between species identity and gender identity as social issues.[30] Daily Dot reporter Ana Valens also noted that the word alterhuman itself is associated with "radical politics".[31]

Voidpunks are an example of a political nonhuman subculture which is not necessarily alterhuman, however many do identify as such. These people claim nonhuman identities as a response to the dehumanization of marginalized groups they belong to.[32]

Controversy[edit | edit source]

📚 This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve it by adding some.

Some people have criticized the reduction of theories of origin into a dichotomy of only spiritual or psychological. Some have further criticized the focus on establishing origin in general, feeling that it distracts from the relevant part of alterhuman identity - the experience of being the thing here and now.

The focus on origin has also been criticized as excessively divisive. Some alterhumans have used theories of origin to exclude others from their groups. A common claim used to justify this is that different origins produce fundamentally different experiences, and so no common ground or community can be found. A more extreme version of this claim states that certain origins are outright impossible.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Meirya. (2006) "Theories of Causes of Otherkin" Project Shift.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Lupa. (2007) "A Field Guide to Otherkin" Megalithica Books.
  3. "Fictionkin Basics"
  4. "Multiverse Theory" (Archived version)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Therianthropes.com. (2006) "Therianthropy Theories"
  6. Shezep. (April 5, 2015) "Shards"
  7. aqua-aureum. (December 31st, 2014) "Otherkin and Beyond: An FAQ and reading list for curious and confused parties"
  8. Akhila. (September 2005) ""Different" isn't "Insane""
  9. 9.0 9.1 Liesk. (2007) "A Comprehensive Introduction to a Psychological View of Therianthropy by Liesk"
  10. 10.0 10.1 Alt+H. "Alterhumanity and Mental Health: A guide for therapists and other mental health professionals"
  11. "Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD), OSDD and Partial DID"
  12. American Psychiatric Association. (2013) "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition" American Psychiatric Association.
  13. Sally, Amira, and Chloe (DissociaDID). (July 1, 2018 (reuploaded December 30, 2021)) "SWITCHING ON CAMERA & NON-HUMAN ALTERS | All About Alters 3 | Debunking DID Ep 5 | REUPLOAD"
  14. various. "Therian Chat"
  15. Vyt. (June 18th, 2021) "Re: Term Coining Drafts (Thoughts?)"
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 vagabond-sun. (March 12th, 2018) "hey, otherkin community?"
  17. borderlinewere. (March 19th, 2021) "fun fact: i’m alterhuman, caused by a delusion called clinical lycanthropy."
  18. Josef Parnas, Annick Urfer-Parnas & Helene Stephensen. (September 8th, 2020) "Double bookkeeping and schizophrenia spectrum: divided unified phenomenal consciousness" European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience vol 271.
  19. strawberrybabydog. (January 17th, 2022) "early on in this blog’s new life i talked a lot about knowing your limits when it comes to delusions and how an individual “accepts” their delusions [...]"
  20. She Demon Wolf. (February 20, 2002) "WereCreature MoonScape - -Thoughts-"
  21. Winged Watchers. (December 5, 2002) "Winged Watcher Homepage Frequently Asked Questions"
  22. flock-of-changes. (August 19th 2018) "fedora-dragon inquired: I'm neither hearted nor a linker, but I've never really understood the whole anti-choice thing in how people are now defining otherkin..."
  23. aestherians. "Choice or Chance?: Exploring voluntarity and categorization in the otherkin and therian communities"
  24. The Silver Elves. (September 15, 2009) "Elves and Brownies * A letter to Keith Olberman"
  25. Rannirl Windtree. "Here and Now"
  26. Deacon Gray. "Genetic Biochemical Interaction Theory"
  27. J. Lion Templin. (1997) "Fun with Faith - The Fallacy of Therianthropy" (Archived version)
  28. The Crisses. "Otherkin Hosts"
  29. mordecai midas. (February 14th, 2023) "words coined in the alt+h discord server"
  30. mordecai midas. "transspecies: two flags and an FAQ"
  31. Ana Valens. "Otherkin are the internet’s punchline. They’re also our future" The Daily Dot.
  32. arotaro. "Since voidpunk seems to be gaining some steam lately [...]"