Otherkin is a description applicable to people who believe themselves to be partially or entirely non-human. They consider themselves to be other creatures (real, fictitious, or mythological) in spirit if not in body. This is explained by some members of the otherkin community as possible through reincarnation, having a nonhuman soul, ancestry, or symbolic metaphor. According to Joseph Laycock (who wrote a book about contemporary vampire culture), ‘scholarship has framed this claim as religious because it is frequently supported by a framework of metaphysical beliefs.’ Not all otherkin necessarily share these beliefs; some may simply prefer to identify as non-human.

Otherkin largely identify as mythical creatures, with others identifying as real-life creatures or creatures from fantasy or popular culture. Examples include: angels, demons, dragons, elves, fairies, sprites, and plants. 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 even fictional characters.

Some otherkin (such as elvenkin) claim they are allergic to iron (and products of modern technology). Others (such as dragonkin) claim immunity to all allergies. Some claim to be especially empathic and attuned to nature. Others claims the ability to shapeshift mentally or astrally—meaning that they experience the sense of being in their particular form while not actually changing physically. The therian (human to animal shapeshifter) 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 Otherkin subculture is largely based on the Internet, growing out of elven online communities of the early-to-mid-1990s. The word ‘otherkind’ was initially coined from the word ‘elfinkind,’ to refer to non-elf others who joined the communities. The oldest online 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 (an internet message board that predates the world wide web), 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.

In 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 in good faith for a planned mailing list to spin off from it. Also that year, ‘Changeling: The Dreaming,’ a fantasy role playing game where player characters are changelings was released by White Wolf games studio. Rich Dansky (who worked on the game) said that after it’s release the darkfae-l listserv had ‘a rampaging debate on the list 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 this.

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 (‘spirit of the law’) that sustains alternate ontologies (philosophical study of the nature of being).


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