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Home > Temple Questions > Spiritual Therianthropy

What is spiritual therianthropy?

The simplest definition would be "spiritual identification with an animal". Given that the word "therianthropy" is etymologically related to "lycanthropy", with the Greek root therion ("wild beast") substituted for lykos ("wolf"), there is also an implication of shapeshifting, though not necessarily into wolf form. If a lycanthrope (lykos + anthropos - "person or human being") is specifically a wolf-person, then a therianthrope (therion + anthropos) is an animal-person.

In practice, that can take any of a number of forms. The word therianthropy was originally coined in a folkloric context, with reference to myths of non-wolf shapeshifters in the folklore of various cultures, such as weretigers in Asia, bear people in North America, and selkies (essentially were-seals) in Ireland.

So in a mythic context, a therianthrope would be a magical creature that can shift physically between human and animal forms, but in the specific context of spiritual therianthropy, the animal identity and shapeshifting experience are non-physical - typically a matter of feeling that one's spirit or soul has an animal aspect to it or goes through human and animal phases. In some cases people also deliberately pursue spiritual shapeshifting, in meditation and ritual, by working at shifting their awareness or mindset to that of an animal, or assuming animal form during otherworld journeys or lucid dreaming.

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