Otherkin are people who identify as partially or entirely non-human. Some say that they are, in spirit if not in body, not human. This is explained by some members of the otherkin community as possible through reincarnation, having a non-human soul, ancestry, or symbolic metaphor. Some scholars categorize this identity claim as "religious", because it is largely based on supernatural beliefs. Adherents more typically deny the religiosity of otherkinism, referring to it instead as simply a congenital condition, or a state of being.
Otherkin largely identify as mythical creatures, with others identifying as creatures from fantasy or popular culture. Examples include: angels, demons, dragons, elves, fairies, sprites, aliens, and cartoon characters. Many otherkin believe in the existence of a multitude of parallel/alternative universes, which would explain the existence and the possibility to relate to fantastical beings and fictional characters.
With regards to their online communities, otherkin largely function without formal authority structures, and mostly focus on support and information gathering, often dividing into more specific groups based on kintype. There are occasional offline gatherings, but the otherkin network is an almost entirely online phenomenon.
Some otherkin (such as elvenkin) claim they are allergic to iron (and products of modern technology), while other otherkin (such as dragonkin) claim that having no allergies is a sign of being an otherkin. Some otherkin also claim to be especially empathic and attuned to nature. Some claim to be able to shapeshift mentally or astrally—meaning that they experience the sense of being in their particular form while not actually changing physically.
The therian and vampire subcultures are related to the otherkin community, and are considered part of it by most otherkin, but are culturally and historically distinct movements of their own despite some overlap in membership.
The earliest recorded use of the term otherkin, in the context of a subculture, appeared in July 1990 and the variant otherkind was reported as early as April 1990. The word "otherkind" was initially coined from the word "elfinkind", to refer to non-elf others who joined the communities.
The oldest Internet resource for otherkin is the Elfinkind Digest, a mailing list started in 1990 by a student at the University of Kentucky for "elves and interested observers". Also in the early 1990s, newsgroups such as alt.horror.werewolves and alt.fan.dragons on Usenet, which were initially created for fans of these creatures in the context of fantasy and horror literature and films, also developed followings of individuals who identified as mythological beings.
On 6 February 1995, a document titled the "Elven Nation Manifesto" was posted to Usenet, including the groups alt.pagan and alt.magick. On Usenet itself, the document was universally panned and considered to be either a troll or an attempt to frame an innocent party. However, enough people contacted the original author of the Elven Nation post in good faith for a planned mailing list to spin off from it.
Rich Dansky (who worked on the development of Changeling: The Dreaming) said that after the game's release the darkfae-l listserv had "a rampaging debate... over how the folks at White Wolf had gotten so much of their existence right", adding, "Finally, one of the list members came to the obvious conclusion that we'd gotten it right because we ourselves were in fact changelings." Dansky denied being non-human.
Outside viewers may have varying opinions about people who identify as otherkin, ranging from considering them animal-human relationship pioneers, to psychologically dysfunctional. Reactions often range from disbelief to aggressive antagonism, especially online.
Otherkin have been called one of the world's most bizarre subcultures, and a religious movement (and a "quasi-religion") that "in some of its forms, largely only exists on the [Internet]". Although otherkin beliefs deviate from the definition of "religion", they share the primary interest in the paranormal. Religion scholar Joseph P. Laycock argues that the otherkin community serves existential and social functions commonly associated with religion, and regards it as an alternative nomos that sustains alternate ontologies.
It has also been said that they represent a widespread dissatisfaction with the modern world, and that they have taken fairy lore out of its social context.
- Lupa (2007). A Field Guide to Otherkin. Immanion Press. pp. 25–26, 50, 52. ISBN 978-1-905713-07-3.
- Michelle Belanger; Father Sebastiaan (2004). The Psychic Vampire Codex: A Manual of Magick and Energy Work. Weiser Books. ISBN 1-57863-321-4.
/--/ Some feel that their difference is purely spiritual, while others believe there is a genetic difference between themselves and humanity. /--/
- Joseph P. Laycock. “We Are Spirits of Another Sort”: Ontological Rebellion and Religious Dimensions of the Otherkin Community. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Vol. 15, No. 3 (February 2012), pp. 65–90. University of California Press
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- Michelle Belanger (2007). Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 25. ISBN 0-7387-1220-5.
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- Raven Digitalis (2008). Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 178. ISBN 0-7387-1318-X.
- Sherman M. Kuhn (1981). Middle English Dictionary: O.3, Volume 0. University of Michigan Press. p. 344. ISBN 0-472-01153-7.
- "Otherkin Timeline: The Recent History of Elfin, Fae, and Animal People" (PDF). 2011-05-31.
- Polson, Willow (2003). The Veil's Edge: Exploring the Boundaries of Magic. Citadel Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-8065-2352-2.
- Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray (2006). The Curse of the Werewolf: Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-84511-158-3.
- Cohen, D. (1996). Werewolves. New York: Penguin Books. p. 104. ISBN 0-525-65207-8.
- "The Elven Nation Manifesto.....everyone must read this!!!!". alt.magick. 1995-02-06.
- Th'Elf (2006). "Otherkin". In Sebastiaan van Houten. The Vampyre Almanac 2006. Lulu. ISBN 1-4116-6084-6.
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- Lorne L. Dawson; Douglas E. Cowan. Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet. Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-97021-0
- Lorne L. Dawson. Cults and New Religious Movements: A Reader. John Wiley & Sons, 2003. ISBN 1-4051-0181-4
- Anna Peachey; Mark Childs (2011). "Ch. 4: Liminal Phases of Avatar Identity". Reinventing Ourselves: Contemporary Concepts of Identity in Virtual Worlds. Springer. ISBN 0-85729-360-5.
- Zack Parsons (2009). Your Next-Door Neighbor Is a Dragon. Citadel Press. p. 272. ISBN 0-8065-2759-5.
- Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (July 21, 2015). "Meet the people who don't identify as human". The Week.
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