Costel Hidlr of The Infinite Battle and I have been talking over the last few months about a shared experience we both have and we’re not sure how many, if any others might have similar experiences. So we decided we’d both write about it and at least then a few more people would know where we’re coming from.
Both of us identify to some degree as being “wolf” and find that animal aspect of ourselves is a strong component of how we interact with our Gods. Costel’s post went up earlier this afternoon and can be found here and here I’ll share my own personal journey and perspective on this. This will also explain a little of why I call this blog Grim’s Wolf.
It started back… I’m going to say when I was in high school. It started at first as just a favorite animal. Then it was more of a totem and a role model. Not so much the actual animal, but the symbolic idea of the animal. Strength, Endurance, Loyalty and Family were all things I saw as Wolf and as values I held very dear to myself.
It didn’t stay that way though. I started noticing that at times of extreme stress especially I would act in ways that were somewhat canine and not at all what was considered normal civilized behavior. I would crouch as if about to pounce when I felt cornered, growl, and typically kinda perch on all fours either on the ground or floor because it felt more comfortable than sitting. It freaked a lot of people out so I learned to censor my actions most of the times. Other times I just didn’t care enough to bother. That went on for awhile, but I didn’t think of myself as Wolf at the time.
Eventually I discovered the word Therian and that there was an entire culture of people called Therians and Otherkin who identified as other than strictly human. “This is me!” I thought for quite some time. Only, it wasn’t. A few things didn’t quite fit.
First: Shifting. The idea of dramatic shifts where you’re one moment your human self and the next all your animal self. I never did that. The Wolf aspect was always there nagging at the back of my brain. Sure, if I got myself really over stressed it got a little stronger, but that didn’t stop other senses from coming unbidden that discussing with the few friends I had just weren’t normal. This varied from things that made me comfortable like resting closer to the ground, to the odd way I could notice details like a chipmunk hiding in the leaves that no one else could see until it ran even though I have rather poor eyesight. (“It’s staring right at us, can’t you see it too?” “No I think you’re just seeing things… you’re kinda… oh, now I see it.” “Now that we startled it into running away…”). Other things too, like being able to pick up on scents long before others, sounds too, also despite medically not having the greatest nose or ears do to constant congestion. Also the ability to close my eyes and just know when someone was passing by or trying to sneak up on me (I still frighten people with that one… but I’m sorry, just because I look like I’m sleeping is not an excuse to try and put something nasty in my hair or whatever). All of these things, which I saw other people expressing they got while “shifting” were just facts of life for me. No “now I am and now I’m not”. … since I bothered to bring up shifting at all, I should probably mention that there are Therians who believe that it’s possible to physically shift into their totem animal and refer to this as “P-Shifting”. Uh. No. Maybe on some other plane of existence, but I’m not holding my breath for such a thing happening here and now.
Second: A seeming focus on the idea of having been the animal in a past life, or else having been born into the ‘wrong’ body. Maybe I was a wolf in another life, but I just don’t know and I’m not worried about it. I also was definitely not born into the wrong body. I have transgender friends who do live with that experience daily and really as hard as I may try, that isn’t something I’ll ever truly be able to comprehend. I like my human body with it’s odd soul squished inside. I do have what I’ve decided to call ‘impressions’ of a life where I was a wolf, but I don’t think of them as clear memories. Maybe those thoughts in my head are details about the past, maybe they’re just my brain trying to connect the dots. One day I may have that sorted out but I don’t feel that it’s important right now.
Third and last: Valuing the animal side over the human side. A lot of Therians I dealt with went as far as to state frequently how they hate all humans, are nothing like humans, humans don’t understand us and… on and on. That pretty much cinched it for me. I am human. I just seem to have this other aspect to myself. That aspect isn’t more or less important, it’s just there. Like having hair that isn’t quite blonde or brown or… I have no idea what color to call my hair sometimes. But I have hair, it’s a part of me and as long as it doesn’t get in my eyes or really start irritating my skin it isn’t such a big deal that I have it and other people say… just prefer to shave their heads. We’re both humans still.
I should note that most of those experiences were dealing with various online forums where I tried to connect with Therians and Otherkin and not with people like Lupa Green Wolf who I haven’t read as much as I’d like of, but I did enjoy what I’ve been able to read about connecting the ideas of being a Therian to Shamanism and Totemism. Maybe if I had been able to connect to some more mature people to talk about this with back then rather than the usual internet fun , I would have had more positive experiences and impressions to share.
For me, the wolf aspect compliments and teaches the human part of me that is dominant. I’m not an animal and a human, I’m a human who also has this other aspect that is constantly trying to teach me how to be a human animal. Things that I find bother me as a wolf: overcooked food, too much heavy clothing, lack of fresh air, restrictive footwear etc. Really are things that aren’t healthy for me as a human either. Even what I thought was a difference in the fight or flight response between my wolf and human aspects, I’m finding isn’t much of a difference at all as I left the wolf teach me to be human. I’m starting to realize the difference is that the human me is sometimes a bit too civilized for it’s own good, so the wolf teaches me how to be a wild animal again.
For some years I alternately gave up talking to anyone about this and poking at the occasional new Otherkin/Therian board hoping to make a connection I never really made there. The idea of being Wolf got filed away in the back of my mind as “I’m probably just weird and that’s ok but not worth worrying about any more,” and just about forgotten at times. It was always there, and as I matured into an adult unconsciously more and more of my mannerisms became closer to the pet dogs my friends kept and less like other people. People noticed, at home and at work, but I had just stopped worrying about it.
Then, He came into my life. The Old Man, Odin. In a very very loud and forceful fashion to come and say “I’ve been trying to look out for you for years now and I try to keep you safe, but you keep straying off and getting yourself hurt. Now heel and stay put where I can keep an eye on you already!” (Without getting too far into it, before this point I had gone through a string of messed up relationships and fucked my life up in some pretty big ways). Ok, the literal words didn’t come to me like that at the time. I couldn’t hear Him that clearly at the time. It was all in various impressions ranging from physical pressure pushing me down to a trembling fear I couldn’t comprehend, especially when I couldn’t remember the last time I really felt afraid of anything. That was it. In those moments I wasn’t human in my mind anymore. I was down on my belly with my tail tucked around me and my ears folded back whimpering and whining and just wanting Him to know how very sorry I was. I didn’t know why, but I wasn’t human in front of Him. He treated me like a wolf, like a dog really, and I responded in kind. It felt incredibly freeing, right, comforting and joyful.
And… shortly after that, I strayed again. Let myself be drawn into another messed up situation that very nearly lost me my wife and what little else I had gained of value in my life. During that time I stopped reaching out to Him and shoved the Wolf deep down within. I knew I had fucked up and wasted time and energy that could have been devoted to Him, trying to learn what the heck I was supposed to be doing for Him (I still don’t know really, but I’m learning more again). I just… couldn’t bring myself to go to Him and admit it.
Finally I went to Him and did just that (with help from a kick in the ass from Loki. More on that… if I feel like sharing). I expected Him to be extremely angry and punishing. He wasn’t, though He was very worried and wanted to know what took me so long to get back to Him where I belonged.
Since then I guess I’ve just stopped questioning if this wolf thing really was a part of me or not. I’ve begun to notice in my mind how it colors my interactions with various deities, especially Odin, and other aspects of my life. I’ve also begun to experiences things that are part of what a wolf isn’t that I didn’t give much credence to before. The wild beast inside me that I first met in times of great stress and adversity is still there for when I need it’s strength, but there’s also a playful side. That’s started to color even the moments when I’m feeling the most submissive before a God. I’m down on my knees and that in and of itself just feels good in front of one of Them, but I’m also just wiggling and bouncy and happy as… well as a dog who’s master just got home or a wolf bouncing around with his pack mates.
I also identify it in how I feel when with a decent group. My mind tends to be a constant blur wondering about how everyone in the group is doing: is anyone hungry/thirsty, did they get enough sleep, does anyone feel excluded right now, etc. I tend not to voice or express those thoughts though, partly because most people are just fine at taking care of themselves and partly because even when they’re not my concern might not be welcome. That’s the trend though: the group is more important than I am. That… sounds kinda submissive come to think of it, but it isn’t always a feeling of putting myself at a station below others (though sometimes it is). Sometimes I end up in positions where I feel like I have to lead, not because I wish to but because someone needs to and no one is. So I do, quietly and gently hoping no one pins me into that role.
Now I’m at a point where I’m slowly trying to learn where this is going to lead me, how it fits in with my relationship with my Gods, etc. My sense is that whatever role it is that I’m being called to play, it isn’t all that uncommon or flashy special in any way. That I’m one of many, not one among many. I just don’t know how to find the others yet.