Posted by: nieophyte | October 1, 2007

The Otherkin and Me

Hi everyone! Nieophyte here, logging my first entry at the merginglanes site.

This past week, I packed up my suitcase and headed to San Antonio, Texas, where I joined with other writers to hear experts discuss hot topics on religion. While I was excited to hear about the future of evangelicalism, the phenomenal growth of the Hispanic and Asian-American church and how top-tier democratic candidates are courting the values voter—I was most fascinated by a seminar on the Otherkin.

Who are the Otherkin, you ask? Wikipedia defines them as a group of people who consider themselves non-human or having a connection to a mythical archetype in some way. Common creatures to which Otherkin claim some connection include angels, demons, dragons, elves, fairies, lycanthropes, and even extra-terrestrials. While the panel on the Otherkin was presented as a light-hearted session to give reporters ideas for quirky Halloween stories (“thriller” was playing in the background), I was intrigued. Do these people really exist? I had to see for myself.

A quick blingo search later and I was on numerous websites devoted to communities of vampires, elves and fairies. Not only were these websites informational, with sections devoted to carefully explicating the definitions of Otherkin and the rules by which they live, but many of the sites served as “coming out” platforms, where people would reveal their true identities (“I may look human, but I’m really a dragon”). As crazy as it sounds, it was in these confessions that I found a point of connection between the Otherkin and me.

As I read vampire after vampire, and fairy after fairy share their journey from isolated freak of nature to full-fledged member of the Otherkin community, what started out as a casual look into an underground subculture of the paranormal, changed into a growing sense of compassion and even—dare I say it?—respect for the Otherkin. In the thick of their loneliness, they wouldn’t give up on community. In the age of technology, they reached for the supernatural. Amazing!

Ok, don’t freak out. I’m not going to be writing my next post about my newfound fairy community—but does anyone else see something to admire in the Otherkin? Nick Mamatas seems to. In his article, “Elven Like Me,” for the Village Voice, he writes, “Elves are now what people once were, before we all got office jobs, health insurance, and credit card debt, before life became like running across a flaming rope bridge. Thanks to modern society, we’re all Frankenstein’s monster. None of us fit.”

Rob Bell makes a similar argument in his book, Sex God, where he laments the absence of dirt under our fingernails and the ubiquitous-ness of air conditioningwhich makes me wonder, have we lost touch with the world and in the process, have we lost touch with one another? Is there anything worth emulating in the Otherkin’s abject refusal to fully succumb to modernity’s trappings? Do we all need a little elf in us?

More next time…

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Responses

  1. Ah, the calling of the archaic, the mystical, the otherworldly. Perhaps it’s not so much that we all need more of the “elf inside”, but that the elf is a manifestation of what we already have written on our spiritual dna. Does this not bear witness to something already inside of us that believes this world is more than it appears? That there is, in fact, the fingerprints of something truly INHUMAN that has left us wondering if we’re really all that meets the eye.

    The quick google brought me to this protracted explanation of “Otherkin”:
    http://www.otherkin.net/articles/what.html

    One of the factors the article mentions is that Otherkin may be looking to escape their present reality. It’s hard not to feel sad about this very eccentric but very real identity crisis and self-effacement. We are, in fact, fearfully and wonderfully made.

    But Otherkin, while in touch with a side that people of faith should remember (we are, in fact, otherworldly and should shake loose the bonds of modernity’s numbness!), have resorted to finding hope in supernatural imagination instead of in supernatural revelation.

    It’s an interesting subculture, in any event. I have my own closet obsession with sci-fi/fantasy (I’ve been downloading and re-watching all of the Star Trek:TNG series for the last month and I was very sad to know that Robert Jordan, author of fantasy series “the Wheel of Time”, passed away last month), but even as we consider the farthest stretches of human imagination and the healthy spice it can add to life, we can also trump that with a being far greater than anything “we can ask or imagine”.

  2. I’ve been thinking about something related. What has the enlightenment done to Christianity, or to humanity (geez louise, think of all the theologians we cling to that scoop up modernity’s iron fist)? I’m aware of the tons of books on this subject, but I wanted to think through it all myself before I got to professional guidance.

    I hear someone say that Christianity is a “thinking man’s religion.” But I’m realizing the power of emotion as well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little mysticism when it comes to the Gospel that is so very human, and so very not.

    The beauty of the Gospel is its utter humanness. The beauty of the Gospel is its radical transcendence. I’m happy to be an elf right in the middle, so long as all of me is in a wonderful and magical place.

  3. Hi there,

    This is probably one of the best “outsider” perspectives I’ve seen on Otherkin. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    As someone who is Otherkin, I just wanted to add in my two cents. I am a wolf therianthrope, someone who identifies on some level as more lupine than human. While I see it as a psychological and spiritual thing, I also see it as metaphorical, and deeply tied to the innate human need for mythology (after all, Otherkin are human as well as Other). “Otherkin” isn’t a religion, but it is a belief system that ties into religion for some ‘kin.

    While I don’t speak for all Otherkin, for my own part, personal mythology is a big part of my perspective on my experiences. IMO, we need mythology to be complete beings, regardless of what that mythology may be. Myth lends a certain amount of structure, both to society and to the individual’s understanding of the world around hir (can you tell I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell?). We live in a postindustrial civilization that lacks a single cohesive cultural mythology, and in some cases any mythology at all. There’s also a strong emphasis on the individual as opposed to the community here. So it’s not at all surprising that for some people, mythology manifests itself on a personal, individual level.

    Additionally, many (though not all) Otherkin are neopagan. Many neopagans come from unhealthy manifestations of Christianity, and very few come from a neopagan family regardless. This means that you have a lot of people who are actively seeking their mythology, perhaps even rebuilding it from the ground up. So, again, you have that detachment from an existing mythology (or the remnants thereof) and the subsequent search for metaphorical structure.

    Anyway, just a little rambling from my own perspective. Again, I don’t speak for anyone but myself–if I’ve learned one thing about the Otherkin community, it’s that we’re a whole big group of individuals that put cat herding to shame 🙂

  4. Thanks for the input Lupa. I find it oddly fascinating that although our language may differ, our search is the same. we both don’t call what we believe in religion. for you, it’s a belief system and mythology. for us, it’s a spiritual journey and relationship with a living God.
    and as you go on, I just see so many parallels of ideas and journeys. for example, there’s a whole new wave of Christians that are very much like neopagans – deconstructing and reconstructing faith, but unlike the neopagans, held onto a hope and belief that God is indeed still out there… just the way that faith in God is expressed now isn’t as beautiful and complete as it should be.

    When I first read this entry, I was like… what the heck is this nieophyte writing about…
    but now that I actually hear this from your perspective Lupa, it’s definitely eye opening and stimulating.

  5. Lupa’s already added most of what I’d like to say in better words than I could put it so I’ll add only this..

    Most of us otherkin are perfectly aware of the possibility that we’re simply bonkers.

  6. Lupa and Freetha– welcome! I am so glad to make contact with you both. Please continue to check back with us and offer your important insight.

  7. Matt – Spirituality is a social phenomenon, and it’s not surprising that you see similar patterns in different religions. It’s a good reminder that, despite our variances in belief, we’re all *people*, and we’re not so different as may sometimes be assumed. (Which, IMO, just makes things even better 🙂 )

    nieophyte – Hi there 🙂 I’ll see about popping back in now and then; there’s good reading material 9and food for thought) here.

  8. I echo the welcome. How cool is the internet where we can run into each other like this? The Otherkin are not an underground subject of conversation, but rather the neighbors that stop by and chat. I like it. =)

    Lupa, thank you for your comments here. While you say you don’t speak for Otherkin everywhere, I stopped and read some of your web material and found that you are certainly one of the voices of the Otherkin community, published and vocal. Your insights are weighty, and if not representative, then at least well crystallized. I echo Nieophyte’s invitation to come by again; I hope you can find something of interest in our discussions as well.

  9. Lupa,

    I would argue that spirituality goes FAR deeper than simply a social phenomenon. Rather, it’s ingrained into our humanity. If it was simply social, spiritual quests would have disappeared long, long ago.

  10. […] all riled up about race but I personally would draw the line of concern at such subgroups as the Otherkin. Because they’re just so completely other that there’s no way that I need to pay […]

  11. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on Otherkin myself recently (most of which has led me right back to Lupa) and came across another interesting phenomenon. Sorry, but I really don’t know what else to call it.

    A link from an Otherkin site led me to a primitivist site – the author had let himself back into being spiritual by reconnecting with the wild side of humanity. He’d re-taught himself to walk barefoot, learned to find edible plants, taught himself all manner of wilderness survival skills, and in the process, found a spiritual side of himself with a deep connection to the world around him.

    Why, I wonder, should we be limited to one mode of spirituality? I identify myself as Christian – I go to church, read the Bible, and argue with myself and others relating to all sorts of spiritual and religious themes – but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a connection to the here and now, and it also doesn’t mean I can’t feel respect for the people who have the courage to go out on a limb and proclaim what they feel in their souls.

    I think that we’ve all got some connection to something beyond us, be it God, beast or other. What’s more, I think that I know a lot of Christians who could use a dose of the courage and conviction it takes to stand up and proclaim yourself Otherkin.

  12. Dear Nieophyte:

    I’m not sure if you’ll like my comment here, but here it goes: I’m less kind than you. Perhaps your winsomeness trumps my desire for truth; but i wonder if we’ve given up too much ground. Here’s the ground to which i refer: By suggesting that their “reach[ing] for the supernatural” is “Amazing!” seems to give them too much credit. I think rather than amazing it is simply honest and natural. B/c of the god-shaped hole in our souls, it is expected they search for god. What is unfortunate is that their search is so terribly misguided. And to credit them with honor seems to silently salute their confusion. It’s obviously not explicit endorsement – but perhaps it allows them to feel comfortable in their unbeknownst confusion.

    Perhaps i’m over-reading the situation. Perhaps i’m giving not them a chance. But i just wouldn’t want them to think that they could stay where they are and feel justified in doing so.

    I especially don’t agree with Bell’s take on air conditioning (see my post on june 14: http://www.philosophyprof.blogspot.com). I think it’s error to equate modernity with unnaturalness. I think we can embrace technology with giving up our selves, our souls one bit. I think it’s a fallacy to associate technology with evil and earth (dirt) with good. I doubt we need any elf in us. I think we need the good, the true, the beautiful (GTB) in us. I think the GTB must be in and come out of us even more so. I think our culture needs to see these lifted up so high and hitting the streets so hard that Otherkin and Othersin are not even an option.

    We live in a world wherein the GTB are disdained and the Evil, Error, and Excrement are honored. This must be inverted. And any opportunity to do so is our duty to do so.

    I realize, though, that often the pursuit of the GTB often results in ugliness itself – the ugliness of lacking winsomeness. But abuse of practice of a thing should never preclude the thing; i.e., let not others’ (my?) poor approach or attitude discourage the pursuit of the GTB by others (myself?) who can do so winsomely and wonderfully.

    – philosophyprof

  13. […] with some questions About the dimensions Of church, even in virtual space. Connecting to Otherkin, the people discoverin’ that they are a whole other […]

  14. I’m intrigued by this article 🙂
    I was googling for otherkin blogs to see if there were others out there and came across this.

    I can’t write as articulately as Lupa, but I would like to say thank you for being positive towards the community at large. Most of what I see and hear from “outsiders” is that we’re all insane and should be locked up, and so on, but I’ve met kooks in various communities of faith 🙂


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