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Home > Temple Questions > Spiritual Therianthropy

Is it something you do, or something you are? A practice, or an identity?

That depends to some extent on the person. I think the majority of people who involve themselves in the therianthrope community regard it as a bit of both, but the balance is different for each individual. For the vast majority, it's an aspect of their identity, a part of who they feel they are, but not everyone views this in an essentialist manner. Some view it as a spiritual path, and would only say it's what they are in the sense that one might be a Wiccan or a Buddhist. Others feel it's something more innate.

But most would say that it's also something that needs to be actively practiced in order to fully integrate it into one's life - that it's necessary to devote time, thought and energy to nurturing your animal side and cultivating that connection, or else it can slip away from you... or at least go dormant and become a less central part of your life.

There is real distinction to be made, though, between therianthropy as an aspect of identity and spiritual shapeshifting as an occasional practice. Many people practice shapeshifting as part of a pagan or shamanic path without identifying as therian. The difference is expressed well by therian writer Swiftpaw:
"I think that's the large difference between shapeshifters and therians; shapeshifting is putting on a costume for awhile, using the surface gifts that come with it; therianthropy is having that native shape be a fundamental part of me forever, always available, and far deeper than a shallow, temporary moment of 'thinking like a bear'."

I would add to this that I don't personally feel that everyone who approaches shapeshifting in a non-therianthropic context experiences it in a shallow way, but I do agree that there's a major difference between a one-off or even occasional spiritual contact, and an ongoing connection.

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