Wild Ideas FAQ
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But how can anyone really know what it feels like to be a fox or a cat or something like that? It's not like you can talk to them and find out.
I suppose on a certain level, you can't ever know for certain. But I think it's also important to recognize that you can't always known with complete certainty what anyone's experience is like, even people you can talk. Words don't put you inside someone else's skin, or open their mind to you completely. Not everything can be conveyed that way.
But yes, with animals it's more challenging. It's entirely possible that what therians feel when identifying with a specific animal is not necessarily how that animal experiences its life at all. We will probably never be able to truly know, and that's an uncertainty we simply have to deal with.
But there are ways of at least learning a certain amount about an animal, as a way of reality-checking one's perceptions. There are plenty of resources out there on the biology, evology, behaviour, etc. of animals, though some species are better studied and understood than others. It is probably going to be easier, for example, to find detailed information on the lives of timber wolves than those of, say, spiny-tailed geckos or meadow voles. This may partially account for the greater popularity of certain well-known species among therians. But most known animal species have been studied at least to some extent by someone, so there should be some data out there on most of them.
Another information source, albeit of a very different kind, is folklore and mythology. True, these are human-created and may not necessarily reflect the animals' own experience. But given that we are discussing spiritual therianthropy here, matters of the spirit are very relevant. Therians are, at least as I see it, humans who feel a strong spiritual connection to animals, so researching other humans' spiritual concepts of animals is a legitimate way of furthering one's own knowledge and understanding of what a particular animal means.
And finally, there's always going to be a component of one's understanding of one's own animal side that is purely intuitive and experiential, that can only be known by living it.
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