Wild Ideas FAQ
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What about this shapeshifting thing? What does that mean? Are you talking about people physically turning into animals?
Very few people in the therian community give any credence to the idea of physical shapeshifting. You will encounter a few people from time to time, particularly on the Internet, who claim to be capable of it, but they are greeted with considerable skepticism by the rest of the community.
Spiritual shapeshifting can take a variety of forms, from deliberate meditative practices in a ritual context, to experiments in lucid dreaming and astral/otherworld journeying, to spontaneous "mental shifts" experienced when a person finds themselves suddenly feeling an intense sense of identification with an animal in a non-ritual setting.
It's also important to note than not all therians experience their animal connection in terms of shapeshifting, though a considerable proportion do. For some, it's more a matter of having a constant low-level sense of identification with an animal, that doesn't come and go in marked "shifts" but is present to some degree all the time.
Those who do feel that shapeshifting is an important part of their animal-spiritual identity often identify strongly with the mythic image of the shapeshifter or were-beast, and may refer to themselves as such, or by the shortened form of "weres", though this is etymologically incorrect - the "were-" half of the word "werewolf" comes from the Old English wer meaning "man". So calling oneself a "were" literally just means you're a (male) human being. But as with many of the terms used within the therian community (or any community, for that matter), it's understood by people within that community as having a different meaning. Still, I dislike that particular term because of its etymology, and don't tend to use it. And don't get me started on hybrid linguistic monstrosities like "polywere" - please.
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