We have all heard the phrase "If you asked ten people what [NAME HERE] is, you would get eleven different answers". Some people think this is true of therianthropy. Actually, it would most likely depend on who those ten people were. For the purpose of this section of the site, let's assume they are weres. They would all have in common a beleif that they have the spirit of one or more animals, often dubbed "weresides". Having more than one wereside is known as "polywereism". Sound pretty simple? It is, but it isn't. Even within that common denominator there are personal variations. For example, there are weres who beleive that they do not exactly have the spirit of the animal(s), but that it/they co-exist(s) with their "human side". Of those who share that particular beleif, some beleive the animal spirit(s) are always manifested within them (and yet another division is between the ones who beleive a wereside is effecting them constantly as opposed to those who beleive that although it never "goes away", it does at times lay dormant. What I like to call "wereside on stand-by") and some beleive the wereside comes and goes depending on any varying number of conditions, usually environmentally and emotionally related. This particular view of therianthropy sometimes is looked at as being a form of totemism, especially when the individual's take on it is that the wereside is a seperate entity itself rather than a side of that person's being. Another common point of debate is how a wereside affects the individual, if at all. That is a tough one, because we are not usually the best best qualified to be our own pyschoanalysts. In short, to place a single ultimate definition on therianthropy is virtually impossible, despite how simple "someone who beleives they have the spirit of an animal" might sound. In the end, what matters is how you define yourself as a person and how your therianthropy fits into that. Some people are sure enough of their therianthropy that they can define it for themselves. The majority of us have yet to be able to do that.
Another task many find difficult. After all, where does one look? Alot of people are under the
impression that the internet is the best source of knowledge about therianthropy. The reason
for this, supposedly is because it allows weres to communicate with each other and share their
ideas. Sounds great in theory, but countless times it spawns bandwagoners following whatever the
popular idea of the moment is for fear of not fitting in, as well as flamers convinced their
point of view is absolute. To many people calling themselves weres who did little or no real
soul searching of their own before they found other weres on the web, therianthropy itself exists
primarily through the internet. The worst case of this is when your average Joe, usually
somewhere in their early to mid teens, who never had any real feeling that there was the spirit
of an animal within them happens to stumble upon a personal webpage written by a were. The were
tells of their personal beleifs through the webpage, and the person, being intruiged by this
newfound sense of (someone elses) self, which to them has the appearance of being so mystical
(because the page designer through a combination of beautiful graphics, poetic diction, and even
the occasional enchanting MIDI and/or wolf howling wav romanticized their personal therianthropy
to make it appeare more impressive than it really is by itself) decides "Wow this is cool! This
is what I'm gonna be now!". They think whatever the webpages say is all there is to go by.
Essentially they become role players without the cards and books, acting out whatever they think
their wereside is supposed to act like. This is why I'm thankful that the internet had nothing
to do with the earlier periods of my "therianthropic awakening" as I sometimes call it. I feel
that because I began to develope a sense of who and what I was before I had other sources
influencing me or before I even knew there was terminology with which to label different
elements of therianthropy, my beleifs were not swayed as easily in one direction or another as
they might have been had the net been in my life from day one.
Another source alot of people look to is literature. Usually it is in the form of mythology and folklore. The problem with this is that those tend to deal more with actual shapeshifting creatures, which really have nothing to do with therianthropy. Other work, some of which is based on actual well-documented scientific study examines the psychology of humans as relates to the still present primal behaviour in human nature. Lycanthropy arguably can be compared with therianthropy. Many weres however do not agree with this comparison, which is understandable because actual lycanthropy renders the effected person clinically insane. Not the sort of stigma most people want their beleifs associated with.
I was once involved in a rather heated debate over the topic of whether or not therianthropy
is a religion. I was firm in my view that it is not. Another person in the discussion was
equally firm about their position that "it could be". One user interjected with the question of
if therianthropy could be a religion, what would be the center of its worship? Religion is the
beleif in supernatural powers, usually in the form of one or more diety governing the order of
the universe. Most religions have some sort of philosophy which its followers are advised to
use as guidelines for how to live their lives. While beleiving in the existence of animal
spirits or spirits at all is itself a type of beleif in the supernatural, no one really pays
homage to their weresides, or beleives they dictate the order of the universe. Doing so would
basically be a form of self-worship, since the general school of thought is that the wereside is
literally part of that person's soul, or essence. There is however, the school of thought which
says that the wereside acts as a spirit guide of sorts, and in this case it may be possible to
say that it can replace the guiding philosophy of religious scripture, advising the individual
on situations in their life as they happen rather than using mythology of past events. But even
then, this leans more towards totemism/animal spiritual guides, which is really one aspect of
a religion rather than one itself. It is also be important to note that these are just the
bare essentials of what makes a religion. The argument just presented does not even point out
other religious subjects such as prophecies, formal customs, rituals, congregations, or other
practises, none of which therianthropy has in reality.
And finally on this topic, it should be aknowledged how many weres are already members of a religion, and often an organized religion at that. There are weres who are Christian (of just about every branch), Buddhist, Jewish, various forms of Pagan (Wicca seems to be the most common) and Native American beleifs, as well as many others. While there are some weres like this who feel an internal struggles due to a conflict between the teachings of their faith and their spiritual therianthropy, most see their wereside as a valid and harmonious part of their personal religious faith. Again, therianthropy becomes only a single peice in the puzzle rather than the whole picture. In conclusion, it is probably most accurate to say that therianthropy, at the most can be a component of a personalized take on religion, but never a religion on its own.
If you read this page because you wanted to better understand therianthropy whether it be your own or therianthropy as a whole, or because you felt like you had the manifestation of an animal within you and wanted to know what it meant, you might be thinking to yourself right now "Wow, I thought this was something pretty unique, but when it comes down to it, what I am doesn't really set me apart much at all". If that is so, you're absolutely correct. It is nothing really that special. And if you read this hoping to find the answer to it all, you are probably very disapointed, but I don't regret that in the least as this was meant above all else to be a reality check. The one absolute in therianthropy is the beleif in the manifestion of the animal spirit in or around the human essence, and everything else, every other theory, philosophy, logic is arguable and therefore there is no universal "path" to therianthropy. If you want to know why you are the way you are, no webpage can or should attempt to answer that for you, as you are the only one able to that with any serious level of credibility.