|Ah, Otherkin. |
I hadn't heard about this up until about 2 years ago when a pagan girl I hung out with informed me of the rather odder side of her personal paradigm, which apparently went beyond herbalism (which, I gotta admit...she was damn good at and damn serious and informed about)...and into something about being some dark prince from another land, and that her epilepsy was related to some non-synch between her physical body and her previous incarnation.
I'm not really concerned if that last run on sentence made sense. Because its about as much sense as I could ever make of that subject. So...we just avoided talking about that and stuck to anime and swords.
I think that, as previous posters have mentioned (GL in particular), one of the real problems with figuring out if any Otherkin are legit or not is factoring in the signal-to-noise ratio on...well if any of them can actually practice magic, or if they're just fantasizing.
In the example above, the girl in question was VERY imaginative and went so far as to draw out what she felt her "Other" self looked like, as well as said self's various relations (reading the novels now I can't help but be reminded of Elric), and had an incredibly complex story. At the same time, however, she DID know her shit when it came to magic, especially anything involving herbs and plants, and she did give some very sound advice. So while I think there was a great deal of fantasy involved, she DID have an actual talent which was, oddly enough, unrelated to her fantasy life. I also found it interesting that she explained her seizures in terms of said "Other" self, which were in and of themselves pretty bad (she was on, IIRC, pretty strong medication for them). I'm still not sure what to make of it. I've lost touch with her, which is unfortunate because, other than the Otherkin thing which I found ever so slightly disturbing, she was a really good person to hang out with.
With the above noted, I'm wondering if Otherkin-ness is related perhaps in some way to classic psychological lycanthropy. I don't mean turning into a wolf, but the condition wherein the individual believes that they are, or can turn into, a wolf so strongly that they will, at times, act out these urges. While a large number are almost positivly just very imaginative people looking for a coping mechanism, I wonder if it might not be a community that would attract some people with heretofore undiagnosed psychological problems?
I think a certain amount of the "animal reincarnation" bit is due to the psychological and personality traits that we as humans have associated with given animals. I notice that many folks who claim to have been Egyptian temple cats or wolves tend to talk about themselves more in terms of some noble and mystical qualities than in terms of their affinity for catching mice (I honestly really do wonder if this is natural cat behavior...our cat does it, apparently without prompting, but I know other cats who were afraid of mice), marking their territory, or growling/biting/scratching/hissing at people who anger them.
Now, while I won't discount the 'animal reincarnation" theory, I WILL note that it seems to be, as previous posters have mentioned, limited to a very small stable of real animals, and a considerably wider grouping of fantastic ones. Predators are VERY common (though most often for idealized aspects that are really more human-associated traits than how the animal either actually acts or avoid explaining WHY the animal acts that way), as are birds (but not pigeons...why WOULDN'T someone want to be a pigeon? They are THE bird of the urban jungle), etc.
This sort of logic leads to comments like "He's a real bulldog" because said individual is viscious, or "Doesn't she remind you of that cat Uncle Chester used to own?" because she does her own thing and is very acidic...not because she brings people dead birds as "gifts". Because it IS a sort of association that is very common in "mundane" society, its really only natural that people would begin turning that sort of identification inwards. And if you're going to associate your personality with a wolf, or a lion, why not a dragon? Or an elf?
The elf thing, I think, bothers me more than dragons or gryphons (why in god's name would you WANT to be the reincarnation of a gryphon? Its a monster who's soul purpose was, IIRC, to EAT people!). Not because elves disturb me, but because I have yet to see an elf Otherkin who actually acts like one of the fair folk from mythology. They seem to be very big on pointy ears, badly interpreted Celtic myth, and...err...yeah. I'm also not entirely sure how people justify being reincarnations of an, apparently, immortal race. There can't be THAT many dead elves.
It's bad scholarship's what it is.
And now I'm ranting. I'll quiet down now.