This is the follow-up piece in a two part series exploring otherkin, a subculture of people who consider themselves not human in some way. In “Not of this world: An otherkin primer,” I covered the basics of otherkin history and culture, how we conceptualize ourselves, and experience our identities. Here I would like to speak more specifically about the process of awakening, that is, realizing that one is otherkin, and how that can change an otherkin’s spirituality, as well as take the time to offer some practical advice to anyone going through that process.
I am fascinated with the spiritual practices of otherkin and the journeys they take to find them. A lot of kin return with unconventional and eclectic practices reflecting their own experience and identity. It’s not that otherkin can’t find fulfillment in existing spiritual paths, it’s that many faiths have a basic assumption that the practitioner is human, or have some pretence that the earth or humans are somehow special or superior. And the process of awakening tends to shake people up and make them question themselves, which creates a fertile ground for new ideas, but also for confusion.
It’s taken me quite a while to make a cohesive practice for myself. In retrospect, I went through three stages — withdrawal, transition, and incorporation — similar to a rite of passage, and I began to notice this pattern in other awakening stories. Granted, this framework is vague enough to apply to nearly any significant change, but it works well here. Likewise, these stages, journalling prompts, and activities are written with otherkin in mind, but they could be helpful to people going through other intense spiritual changes.
In a rite of passage, this is the part where a person is isolated from society and prepares to transition from one role or status to another. After awakening, I went through what could almost be described as a period of mourning. I felt I could no longer connect with my old practices so I pulled away from them. In hindsight, I needed to find a way to separate myself from the “thing that should not be” narrative that permeates cosmic horror — a mythology that deeply informs my identity as otherkin — and to separate the truth of what these writers understood from their xenophobia.
The genre operates on fear of both the unknown and the insignificance of humanity, using indescribable aliens and monsters to communicate that. Though some writers have a more nuanced philosophical approach, many cosmic horror stories revolve around the idea of a thing outside of the writers’ and the protagonist’s understanding and experience that is evil and the cause of madness and degradation.
Not surprisingly, these stories often have overtones of racism, misogyny, and general social conservatism as well. But in the end, I had to understand myself on my own terms. This sort of struggle is common, especially for people whose kintypes are generally considered malevolent, such as demons, monstrous creatures, or anything associated with death, darkness, chaos, etc.
And when the way you conceptualize yourself changes, the way you conceptualize and relate to deity can change as well. During this time I went on a break of sorts with a deity I’d had a close working relationship with for several years. For a while I was afraid it wouldn’t work anymore, but our relationship has since evolved into something that satisfies us both.
- How do I feel about myself now, and how is that affecting my search for meaning?
- Are there any things that have happened to me that make more sense in retrospect now that I’ve awakened? Are there any things that seem more confusing?
- Has my basic understanding of reality/cosmology/the universe/etc. changed after awakening?
- If gods, spirits, or powers-that-be are part of my practice, has my relationship with them changed? Do I need to make contact with new gods, or have they made contact with me? Do I need to take a break from or end my relationship with any of my gods?
- If I practice magick, has my understanding of its nature or use changed?
- Which parts of my practice no longer serve me?
In a relaxed, meditative state, imagine yourself as your kintype and go for a walk in an area that feels safe and comfortable for you. Take time to really feel your astral body and focus on how your body and mind react. Has your body language changed? Are you focusing on different senses, or noticing new things? Try to keep this focus in your everyday life and spiritual work.
Make two lists: one of things you want to keep from your old life and one of things you want to let go of. Revisit these lists often and add or remove things as necessary. When you’re ready, destroy the list of things you want to let go of however you like, and keep the list of things you want to keep in a safe place, or make something artistic or meaningful from it.
Even if you’re not a fan of online communities, it may be a good idea to join an otherkin forum or read some otherkin-run blogs to understand other’s perspectives and memories.
This is a liminal time between states, where you aren’t one thing or another. This time is ambiguous by necessity, so I can’t define what you might experience. This ambiguity can have negative consequences, such as confusion, loneliness and escapism, but it can also provide a tremendous amount of freedom and allow your mind to bend in ways it hadn’t before.
For me, it was like sorting through a wild grab-bag of new ideas trying to find the right ones. I played with different ideas for my kintypes, seeing if there were any that would fit my memories or experience more. I researched spiritual paths that hadn’t appealed to me before, made contact with new beings, and though much of what I explored didn’t become a permanent part of my practice (in fact, I’m a little embarrassed by some of it now), I am glad for the experience and perspective it has given me.
I also began receiving communications from my personal guides, and I realized that many of the experiences that I had attributed to other entities had actually been these beings all along; I simply wasn’t ready to acknowledge them for what they were until I could acknowledge myself for what I was.
At first I tried to relate to them in the “traditional” way, with offerings, honourifics, and all that, but it wasn’t really working. I think of them and treat them like long-lost distant relations, so our interactions are much more informal and friendly, though I still respect their knowledge and experience. After meeting them I came to realize my way of approaching other entities would change as well.
A lot of people seem to view mortals, gods, spirits, etc as distinct groups with rules on how one is to treat the other. I see it as more of a spectrum or continuum, with interaction based mostly on the personalities and preferences of the beings involved. This has benefited me on a spiritual level, since I work with entities that prefer this approach, but I have had encounters with other Pagans who find this attitude disrespectful.
- How do I feel about being in a liminal state? Am I utilizing it well? Am I trying to end it too soon or stay in it for too long?
- What exactly am I looking for? A god, a guide, a philosophy, something else?
- Am I more focused on the inner questions (kintypes, memories) or the outer (relationships with other beings, community)? Why? Am I focusing too much on less important things? Am I neglecting any questions out of habit or fear?
- How certain am I of my kintype(s)? If my ideas about what I am change, how will that affect my search for meaning?
- What kind of relationship do I have with my physical human body and this world? What kind do I want?
- Am I on earth for a specific reason?
- Am I remaining open to communications from beings that might help me?
This is a time to expose yourself to new ideas, even if they don’t stay with you. If there’s something you’ve been interested in learning, start now. Find ideas at random (whether that’s pulling a random book off a shelf, wiki-hopping, or anything else) as well and see what you find.
Spend some time researching mythology involving transformation, or death and rebirth. Pay attention to which stories speak to you the most, as they can provide valuable advice. For example, the myth of Persephone and Demeter is one that has been useful thinking for me.1
After gaining some cohesion and settling into a state, it’s time to re-enter the world with your new status. For me, it’s been a time of reconciling the old with the new, and seeking out new communities. I’ve been a solitary witch for the most part, largely out of necessity while I figure things out. My practice is still heavily steeped in the western magical tradition, which informs how I direct energy and focus my will when working magic. And I’ve spent a lot of time puzzling over how my earth heritage and kin identity interact with each other, and I don’t have any answers there yet, but Celtic mythology resonates with me on a deep level, so Druidry influences my practice somewhat and I work with several Celtic gods intermittently.
Finding space in real-world communities can be tricky for otherkin. While I’ve had mostly positive experiences with people I’ve disclosed to, other kin haven’t been as lucky. I can’t really speak to which groups would be more accepting than others; I suspect that would be a matter of both kintype and the individuals involved. A good rule of thumb is that anyone who complains a lot about eclectic and “fluffy” Pagans (in this instance, meaning anyone who disagrees with them) is probably not going to accept you, while people who are open about their spiritual experiences and past lives or have beliefs involving your kintype will likely be more open.
- Which parts of my old practice would still benefit me? How can I integrate them?
- What parts of my practice are specific to me, which are specific to otherkin, and which parts could apply to anyone?
- What parts am I comfortable sharing with others, and what do I want to keep to myself?
- How can I relate my identity, beliefs and practices to spiritual communities I may be part of? Do I need to find new communities?
- Can I be happy among humans or do I need to seek out other kin? Am I ok with these relationships being online?
- How openly kin can I be in my day-to-day life? How open do I want to be? What changes do I need to make to make that possible?
Set up a small space in your home for your kinself, in a place you will see or walk by often. This can mean images of your kintype, or things that help you connect to it, or things that jog your memories.
Think about how you might describe your practice to someone. Even if you’re a solitary and have no intention of joining a coven or other magical group, this can still help you define it for yourself.
If your kin-ness has given you a mission or a particular set of values, find ways to incorporate it into your day-to-day living. You might volunteer, make art, join a discussion group, change jobs, or any number of things.
Again, I want to extend an invitation for people to speak to me privately if they need. Much of this article is vague by necessity, but I hope I’ve given any awakening kin or others going through significant change a push in the right direction.