(Originally posted on Tumblr, by me) My awakening to the wolf in me was not a single event, but a process, I think.
When I was a small child, I distinctly remember some behaviors and thoughts that stand out to me now as very non-human in the context of my later experiences…
I remember being jealous of my dog, the way she slept, and ate, and ran. I tried to be like a dog. I remember curling up and trying to sleep the way canines do, ignoring the pain and discomfort it caused to make myself more canine, if only in this small way. I would sometimes sit in my room for hours “pretending” to be canine, eating from a bowl on the floor, trying to scratch my ears with my foot, and awkwardly trying to run on four legs, limbs all gangling and strange. This continued for a long time.
Then, as I grew up, there were games. I don’t think it’s uncommon for groups of children to play animal games, but the way that I felt during them was so glaringly different to me. When I joined in a middle school werewolf pack game, something in me *clicked*. I was a wolf, and it was right, and I had this opportunity to be wolf without restriction or negative reaction, but it became clear very quickly that I was far more serious about it than the others. To them, it was a game. They made jokes and mocked me when I got upset with them for acting more like humans than wolves. Why were they so “out-of-character”, for lack of a better term? Why didn’t they feel the same need to be so fully canine that I did? Why, when we howled together, did they not feel the same shift in being that I did—the same animality?
And when we howled, I did shift. I noticed it every time. I thought it was part of the game until I realized I was the only one actually affected by it or acting more beast-like at all. I still didn’t know exactly what it was, though.
It wasn’t until my 11th or 12th birthday that I stumbled across it while surfing a website called The Experience Project. The group was called “I am a Therianthropic Werewolf.” I was intrigued, and looked into it. What I found were people who reported the exact same feelings I’d been having my whole life. Feelings of being an animal, of “shifting”*, phantom paws and ears and a tail that had never been there before. I was astonished. There was a word for it and there were others like me and I finally knew why I felt the way I did. I told my best friend at the time, who confided in me that she had felt the same way about dragons for just as long.
From there, I ended up walking a tightrope between extreme fluff and being well-versed and knowledgeable on the experience of therianthropy. I wrote essays and spent a lot of time thinking about myself as wolf and the nature of therianthropy and where it came from. At the same time, though, I had fallen back on what I knew of animal games from earlier childhood and made a pack with my best friend (an actual nonhuman**) and another friend of ours at the time (who I believe was pretending and never really grasped therianthropy). We eventually added two more members, an Elenari elf, and a person we thought was human, but who was close enough that we added her anyway. I still believe forming that pack was more an act of middle school suburban boredom, especially because we became preoccupied with trying to physically shapeshift (which is impossible, as much as I’d love to believe otherwise), and wrote “prophecies” foretelling the second coming of the “Corruption” (related to our Elenari friend.) This played out until maybe the middle of my 7th grade year. 9th grade is where it ultimately stopped and we experienced a lot of fighting when I officially disbanded the “pack” that had been all but disbanded anyway. Eventually, though, we moved on. We no longer needed our bored suburban kid fantasies.
For someone who was just playing pretend until this point, this would probably be the time when they would “grow out of it” and drop any identification as an animal person, and I did question myself a LOT after we disbanded. I considered not calling myself a therian anymore multiple times, but…something made me keep it. Some part of me still felt not quite right with calling myself human. So I kept it tucked away in the back of my mind for a long time. And then forgot about it.
Two years passed.
I hadn’t been part of the therian community for a long time, at this point. The most that I thought about it was in those moments where I was stuck in a mental slide, which became rarer. Sometimes I’d mention my animality in passing, or tell a partner because I thought it was important in case I eclipsed around them. But for the most part, it had entirely left my mind, until I met the person who would eventually become my fiance and joined pagan Tumblr. I had noted a number of otherkin among the pagans I became friends with, and when my fiance*** began questioning their own nonhumanity, I was forced to re-examine why I had ever thought I was a wolf. I researched wolf behavior and found it was still in line with the ways I had behaved during eclipses/mental slides. I put forth my experiences to two other nonhumans in as honest and detailed a way as I could, and they both agreed I sounded like a wolf therian. When I felt out for my phantom paws and ears, they were still there. And when I looked at wolves, especially melanistic grey wolves, I still had the strongest sense of…seeing myself.
The fact that, even though I had effectively forgotten about my identity for so long, I could still feel so strongly canine was probably what really solidified it for me. That was the “proof” I needed for myself to make sure it wasn’t all the result of middle school power fantasy. I needed to question it and peel it apart and make sure it was genuine. And it was. It still is.
I still rarely think about myself as wolf, now, unless something triggers an eclipse or I’m actively engaging with the community. The only other time it hits is when I feel species dysphoria, but that’s another essay. However, regardless of whether I’m aware of my animality at all times or not, I can be confident that it is still there. I am still wolf, with all that comes with it.
My journey to “Awakening” was not a single event, but a long process of questioning, picking it apart and being honest with myself about what I was experiencing, and the conviction it affords me now was worth every bit of questioning and skepticism I put myself through. I sought the truth about my identity, and I found it.
I am a wolf. That is my truth.
*I consider myself a suntherian despite debate over terminology. When I first came into the community, there was a large focus on shifting, and the way it was described never quite fit with me. I didn’t shift so much as…eclipse (thanks to Sonne for mentioning this word in a discussion of suntherianthropy on Werelist). I would slide slightly toward “more wolf” or “more human” while I honestly felt like a bizarre mix of both at all times. I still rarely experience the kind of shifts I heard others talking about, outside of maybe phantom ones.
**for the purposes of reducing wordiness, I will refer to therians/kin as nonhuman and non-kin/therians as human. I am more than aware that we are all, physically speaking, human.
***I will refer to hir as my fiance, even in retrospect, for convenience.