Today’s post deals with BDSM (bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism) and Power Exchange, and the usefulness of scenes in achieving a “travelling” mindset. While it will not be sexually explicit, these themes can be upsetting, so consider yourselves warned. As such, the post is behind the cut. Continue reading “Subspace & Shamanic Trance”
I see this question not infrequently: can extinct animals be totems? Can creatures from mythology?
Short answer, as I see it, is yes.
Getting into “why” takes a bit more digging.
First, let’s go over the difference between a totem, a guide, and an astral form. These definitions can vary from tradition to tradition; the following is how I see them in my practice:
Totems are spirits who are with you your entire life. They may be inherited, or they may “adopt” someone. Totems tend to reflect the inner reality of a person and “speak their language.” The study of one’s totems is a path to wholeness, self-understanding, and gnosis. They can act as envoys to the spirit realm and the ancestors; they may act as protectors, teachers, or “astral parents.” They reflect truths about one’s self and personal history that may be veiled from the conscious mind. There may be one or several- some traditions claim nine. Personally, I have two.
Guides may come and go, or they may stick around your entire life- but they’re a presence “from without.” Sometimes they may teach you a thing or two and then go on their way; they may put you through a whole curriculum. Sometimes they’ll show up to point the way, and sometimes they simply seem to take a liking for someone and pop in now and again. There may be only a couple, or many. It seems that the more journeying a shaman does, the more “contacts” they make, and so one can accumulate a significant number of “friends on the other side.”
Astral forms are the forms a practitioner may take when journeying in other realms. They come from within and may be adopted for sheer usefulness combined with natural affinity, or they may be a form that is simply intuitive to the practitioner. When journeying, I tend to take the shape of a dragon roughly the size of a German shepherd- a form that came quite naturally to me even as a small child.
(Of course, if you zoom out, it’s all part of one whole- “within,” “without,” these are relative terms–)
These various spirit-forms seem to vary in how specific they are- for example, my primary totem is Spotted hyena or cave hyena, which are simply different subspecies of the same animal. A more generic guide I’ve done work with is Stag, who has shown up as a Red deer (Cervus elaphus), Wapiti (Cervus canadensis), Chital (Axis axis), Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus). These species are only distantly related (aside from the Red deer and Wapiti) but all were undeniably STAG: crowned with antlers and with more than a whiff of testosterone! Some people do have a “class” or genus of animal as their totem- they may click with equines, felines, cetaceans, and so on.
So, then, back to our T-rexes and Unicorns.
Regarding extinct animals, many species who once lived here survive through their descendants and relatives. Even if the living members of the species have died out, or been driven to extinction, the overall essence of the creature lives on. Therefore, someone with an extinct totem may be introduced to them through an extant species, or even honor the extant species alongside the extinct totem. However, even if a species has no living descendants (such as in the case of the Thylacine) its essence is still out there, both in the spirit realm and, in some cases, within human memory. Just because a species no longer wanders this planet doesn’t mean they’re gone from the astral, too.
Sometimes we may not even know the species but get glimpses of it in our subconscious or during journeying. For example, my secondary totem is some sort of birdish dromaeosaurid. I dreamed of this animal for years, and sometimes borrowed its form while journeying, all the while not knowing what it was. It looks like a “raptor” but has feathers (reddish-gold, not unlike a Golden eagle’s in color) and is very active and avian in nature. Skittish- rather like a small wildcat or coyote in mannerisms. This information came to me before it was commonly accepted that dromaeosaurids were feathered, and when dinosaurs were still assumed to be ectothermic and more closely related to crocodiles than birds. I’ve always felt a draw to raptors- birds of prey- and chickens, several of which I had as pets. (They were no less affectionate or responsive than a family cat or dog.) Turns out that chickens are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs .
Could this be coincidence? Absolutely- but when facts align with intuitions, it does tend to lend them a bit more credence, at least in terms of personal practice.
If you suspect you may have an extinct animal totem, research as much as you can about their relatives and, if they have them, living descendants. You never know what your real world allies may show you.
Mythological animals may present a bit more trouble.
One thing to keep in mind regarding the astral is that things exist there- and potentially on other planets or in other realms- that do not exist on Earth.
Furthermore, there are very few mythological creatures which do not have counterparts the world over. Beasts such as dragons hold a place in human consciousness; whether originally chimeric composites of mundane animals or a reflection of beings from the astral realm, they have been acknowledged and honored as powerful spirits in their own right.
These animals have their own energy- even such creatures as the gryphon- which is not simply the sum of their parts. Gryphon teachings are similar to, but different than, lion and eagle teachings. So yes- mythological animals, too, can show up as totems or guides. If you are working with such a creature, perhaps begin by looking at the pieces, lion and eagle for a gryphon, for example. Some of the energy may be different, but it’ll still lead to understanding and inner knowledge if we but listen.
Speaking in generalities here, because it’s more concise. ‘Kin are a diverse bunch, so obviously different individuals hold different beliefs, and this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive treatise on the topic. I can only speak from my personal experience and from my interactions with individuals I trust within the community.
That being said…
what otherkin is:
-The belief that one is, in some way (usually in a spiritual sense) some species other than human. “Therian” (therianthropy) tends to pertain to extant species, while “otherkin” is often used as a catch-all for those who may identify as extant species or species represented in various lore (i.e. dragons, elves, etc.). There is sometimes infighting between therians and otherkin, whom they may view as “too far out” due to the presumed nonexistence of such creatures. Some therians reject the ‘kin label. I tend to use ‘kin as an umbrella term encompassing therians, otherkin, fickin, and so on.
what otherkin is not:
-A religion or cult. Otherkin may be Christians, Pagans, agnostics, atheists, or just about any other religious (or areligious) group you can think of. There are no ‘kin “authorities.”
-A belief in literal, physical shapeshifting.
-Psychosis. This one requires delicate wording, but it comes down to the ability to function in this world, regardless of whether or not one believes in other worlds. Every ‘kin I’ve known is fully aware that biologically speaking, they are human.
Can they function, i.e. discern “real world” fact from fantasy? Do they think there is a literal world inside their television? Do they think they can fly? These are (extreme) examples of psychosis vs. the holding of unconventional beliefs. ‘Kin may have mental illnesses, of course, but being ‘kin does not indicate one is psychotic. I have only met one psychotic ‘kin in my fifteen or so years of interacting with the community, and plenty of non-‘kin people also suffer psychosis.
-A belief in totem or other teacher-being. Some ‘kin believe in totems, others do not. Those who do believe may or may not identify as the same species as their totem.
-A gender identity. ‘Kinness is unrelated to gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria.
-A slippery slope to “transethnicity,” which isn’t even a real thing.
-Oppressed. Yes, ‘kin frequently get razzed, trolled, made fun of, etc. This is not oppression. To the best of my knowledge, no ‘kin has been fired, physically assaulted, evicted, refused medical attention, or otherwise been persecuted because of their belief. People often react poorly to those things they perceive as “weird,” but speaking openly about any unconventional belief is likely to draw scrutiny. While this might be unpleasant, especially when discussing topics that pertain to our sense of identity, it’s a risk of voicing a minority opinion or belief.
-A call for alternative pronouns. Most people demanding to be referred to with individualized pronouns like “catself,” etc. are trolls. See also “Special Snowflake Syndrome” below.
-An excuse to act like an asshole. Every now and then you’ll run across someone who uses their ‘kinness to excuse shitty behavior. Shitty behavior is shitty behavior, regardless of the reason. Most ‘kin don’t do this. Some do, but these people, if they weren’t ‘kin, would find some other way to rationalize being a jerk. That’s a behavioral issue (or in some cases, a personality disorder) and not a ‘kin issue.
what otherkin may or may not be:
-A coping mechanism. There’s a divide here that can get heated from time to time. On one hand you’ve got those who do not literally believe that their soul is whatever species, if they even believe in a soul at all, and embrace ‘kinness as a method of coping with trauma or mental illness. Totally legitimate. (Although I would consider such folks more “animal-hearted” than kin, per se.) On the other, there are those who believe in ‘kinness as a spiritual descriptor no different than the belief of, say, reincarnation or other hypotheses regarding the nature and “life cycle” of the soul. Also totally legitimate.
-There may or may not be a belief in “astral” shapeshifting, or “m-shifts,” mental shifts where the beast within becomes more prominent. Many ‘kin isolate when they sense an oncoming m-shift, because of the social unacceptance of acting outside of a relatively narrow range of behaviors. Examples of m-shifts can include a desire to walk with a digitigrade stance, eat one food and refuse another, and so on. M-shifts are not exclusive to ‘kin- “sub space” and other alterations of consciousness could arguably be considered a mental shift. Shamanic practitioners also have experience with these altered states.
-There may or may not be a sense of “phantom limbs,” which may or may not be related to m-shifts. This is the sense that one has wings, a tail, horns, etc. when the structures do not physically exist.
-Dysphoric. Some ‘kin feel dysphoric; others do not.
-“Special snowflake syndrome.” Trust me, most of us don’t want to be “different.” It’s far easier to not be “different.”
Still, there are some folks who, in attempting to assert their identity, go a bit overboard. This is common with people who have finally found a label that applies to them. Older ‘kin, who last more than a few years identifying as such, tend to have little time for the troublemakers. They’re usually easy to spot. There’s an accompanying self-entitlement that these types usually ooze: they tend to claim to be inanimate objects, “godmod” (“I’m not just a dragon- I’m the king of ALL dragons! From the Pleides!” and so on.) Special snowflakes definitely exist, but they tend to alienate others due to their crushing hubris.
-A belief in other worlds. There are ‘kin who identify as fictional characters, which usually entails some belief in alternate universes, but this minority of the community is frequently ostracized by the majority. My experiences with fickin have been mostly pleasant and any problems encountered have been unrelated to their beliefs. Most of them are not so egotistical to believe that they are the “one true Sephiroth” (or whomever) and therefore, there isn’t really any reason to have a quibble with them.
Spiritual beliefs, almost by nature, deal in the intangible. While the initial reaction of people outside the community is one of incredulity, consider any number of other religious/spiritual beliefs- many of which sound irrational when boiled down. Virgin births, reincarnation, resurrection, the survival of the soul after physical death are, to me, no more or less ridiculous than the belief that the form of a soul can take various shapes.
Again, I cannot speak for the entire community but if anyone’s got any questions or anything to add, feel free.