Dear Papa Bear,
First off, I just want to say that I think it's wonderful that you run this column and promote all the love and acceptance for so many people. Now, onto the question. It's more of a question of personal mental and spiritual juxtaposition. You see, since I don't talk to an awful lot of people in the fandom, I've never understood major consensus on everyone's motivations for being furries. I assumed there would be a large amount that simply do it because they find the roleplay fun, or because they are trying to escape their mundane identities.
As far as myself, my motivations run deeper than mere fandom. I remember someone else here that mentioned the same thing, but I'm a therianthrope (person with an animal soul) and my theriotype (animal species of alignment) is a Siberian Husky; the same as my fursona. This piece of my identity kind of sits on the nexus of a lot of other personality traits that mostly line up with "insanity" or other anomalies that most would think are contrary to the model of a sane, healthy person.
I wanted to know if you had a certain calling to being a furry that came out of a connection you have to your persona's animal that stemmed from just your personality, or if it came echoing from deeper into your core being. The main reason why I ask is because I wondered how many people felt the same as I do, or at least similarly or partially the same. I remember you said you dabbled a bit, or at least used to look into pagan practices, so I was curious about your take on the situation.
If it clarifies anything as far as my background goes, I'm a pagan and practitioner of magick, so I have studied a lot about all sorts of spiritual alignment, animal totems, and shamanism. I've always wondered how closely animal totems and therioshamanism line up with the furry fandom and what exactly set the "furry fandom" apart from other people.
Anything you have to say would be greatly appreciated, so please speak freely. Thanks for taking the time to read this; I really appreciate the input.
Johnny Sonshine, Husky Extraordinaire
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Hi, Johnny, you extraordinary person you ;-)
Mundanes think that all furries are alike, but those within the fandom who have been here a while know that we are just as diverse as, say, Americans. Within America you have all different kinds of races, ethnicities, nations of origin, religions, and so on. What makes us all Americans is our being part of a nationality.
Same with furries. Although we all share a love of anthropomorphic animals, within our group we are quite diverse—not only races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual preferences, but also different ways of approaching furries. We have hobbyists (people who see the fandom as a hobby, akin to, say, being a Trekkie or collecting butterflies), we have lifestylers (more seriously into it, and doing things such as fursuiting and really relishing seeing themselves as part animal), therians and otherkin, Bronies (yes, I include Bronies), and those who are very spiritually connected to their animal side. We also get something of other fandoms mixing in with ours, such as anime fans and steampunk aficionados.
I adore fursuiting and just love the bear suit Beastcub made for me. I love the art of the fandom, too, and some of the comic books and such that I see out there. Spirituality is also very important to me. I have, of course, a strong connection to bear, and I have learned some things about the Medicine Wheel from my erstwhile teacher Blackbear and how my bear side is positioned in the West part of that Wheel and how it is important to seek balance with other animals, even though bear dominates in my case. Not only is that true spiritually, but it relates to my sexuality and my connection to the gay bear community.
You are not insane to believe you have this connection, too. My definition of insanity is when you have a disconnection with reality such that you cannot function in the real world. For example, say you believed you were a husky, ran around on all fours, ate dog food, barked, and refused to speak English, you would be insane. But, given your letter as evidence, you understand perfectly well who you are, who others around you are, and you can function in the daily world.
Anyway, back to your question. In my case, I discovered furry first and, later, my connection to bear and the spiritual side of it. It wasn't a spiritual calling, but a fascination with the artwork and characters that initially drew me to furries. I’m sure there are others out there who have had the reverse experience.
You are certainly not alone in your feelings. I’m sure you have found other therians such as yourself online in their own groups and also among those in the furry fandom. I’m not sure of exact numbers (although a 2013 survey found that about 11% of furries identified as therians). Probably, just guessing, there are thousands like you out there, given we are a nation of about 317 million people. Still a small minority, but definitely enough to find people online and to discuss your shared feelings and, perhaps, make some friends. Within the fandom, there are therians and there are those who are interested in shamanism and other spiritual beliefs that go back far before the days of Christianity and even Judaism. You’ll find them on Furry4Life, Facebook, SoFurry, FurAffinity, and lots of other places if you look.
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