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Therianthropy is the
mythological Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as gods, demigods, and other supernatural figures ...

mythological
ability of human beings to
metamorphose Metamorphosis is a biological process Biological processes are those processes that are vital for an organism to live, and that shape its capacities for interacting with its environment. Biological processes are made of many chemical reacti ...
into other animals by means of
shapeshifting In mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitud ...
. It is possible that cave drawings found at
Les Trois Frères ''The Three Brothers'' (french: Les Trois Frères) is a 1995 French comedy film written, directed by and starring Didier Bourdon and Bernard Campan Bernard Campan (born 4 April 1958, in Agen) is a French actor, film director and writer. He i ...
, in France, depict ancient beliefs in the concept. The best-known form of therianthropy is found in stories of
werewolves In folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * A ...

werewolves
.


Etymology

The term "therianthropy" comes from the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
''theríon'' ηρίον meaning "wild animal" or "beast" (implicitly mammalian), and ''anthrōpos'' νθρωπος meaning "human being". It was used to refer to animal transformation folklore of Europe as early as 1901. Sometimes the term "
zoanthropy Clinical lycanthropy is defined as a rare psychiatric syndrome that involves a delusion that the affected person can transform into, has transformed into, or is, an animal. Its name is associated with the mythology, mythical condition of lycanthro ...
" is used instead. Therianthropy was used to describe spiritual beliefs in animal transformation in a 1915 Japanese publication, "A History of the Japanese People from the Earliest Times to the End of the Meiji Era". One source, "The Human Predator", raises the possibility the term may have been used as early as the 16th century in criminal trials of suspected werewolves.


History of therianthropy and theriocephaly

Therianthropy refers to the fantastical, or mythological, ability of some humans to change into animals. Therianthropes are said to change forms via shapeshifting. Therianthropy has long existed in
mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the ca ...

mythology
, and seems to be depicted in ancient cave drawings such as ''The Sorcerer'', a
pictograph A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon An icon (from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, ...
executed at the Palaeolithic cave drawings found in the
Pyrénées The Pyrenees (; es, Pirineos ; french: Pyrénées ; ca, Pirineus ; eu, Pirinioak ; oc, Pirenèus ; an, Pirineus) is a mountain range straddling the border of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Républi ...

Pyrénées
at the
Les Trois Frères ''The Three Brothers'' (french: Les Trois Frères) is a 1995 French comedy film written, directed by and starring Didier Bourdon and Bernard Campan Bernard Campan (born 4 April 1958, in Agen) is a French actor, film director and writer. He i ...
, France, archeological site. ' Theriocephaly' (Gr. "animal headedness") refers to beings which have an animal head attached to an anthropomorphic, or human, body; for example, the animal-headed forms of gods depicted in
ancient Egyptian religion Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of Polytheism, polytheistic beliefs and rituals that formed an integral part of ancient Egyptian culture. It centered on the Egyptians' interactions with Ancient Egyptian deities, many deities belie ...
(such as
Ra
Ra
,
Sobek Sobek (also called Sebek) was an ancient Egyptian deity Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (m ...

Sobek
,
Anubis Anubis or Inpu, Anpu in Ancient Egyptian (; grc, Ἄνουβις, Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''inpw'', Coptic language, Coptic: ''Anoup'') is the Ancient Greek language, Greek name of the god of death, mummification, embalming, the afterli ...

Anubis
).


Mythology of human shapeshifting

''Shapeshifting'' in
folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psycholog ...

folklore
, mythology and
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
generally refers to the alteration of physical appearance from that of a human to that of another species.
Lycanthropy In folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * A ...
, the transformation of a human into a
wolf The wolf (''Canis lupus''), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine Canine may refer to: Zoology * dog-like mammals (i.e. members of the canid subfamily Caninae) ** ''Canis'', a genus including dogs, wolves, coyotes, a ...

wolf
(or
werewolf In folklore, a werewolf ( ang, werwulf, "man-wolf"), or occasionally lycanthrope ( grc-gre, λυκάνθρωπος ''lukánthrōpos'', "wolf-human"), is a human with the ability to Shapeshifting, shapeshift into a wolf (or, especially in mode ...

werewolf
), is probably the best known form of therianthropy, followed by
cynanthropy Cynanthropy (sometimes spelled ''kynanthropy''; from Ancient Greek κύων/, "dog" + ἄνθρωπος/, "man; human") is, in psychiatry, the pathological delusion of real persons that they are dogshttps://www.medilexicon.com/dictionary/22309 and i ...
(transformation into a dog) and '' ailuranthropy'' (transformation into a cat).
Werehyena Were-hyena is a neologism A neologism (; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Eu ...
s are present in the stories of several
African African(s) may refer to: * Anything from or pertaining to the continent of Africa: ** People who are native to Africa, descendants of natives of Africa, or individuals who trace their ancestry to indigenous inhabitants of Africa *** Ethnic groups ...

African
and
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Eurasia
n cultures. Ancient
Turkic Turkic may refer to: * anything related to the country of Turkey * Turkic languages, a language family of at least thirty-five documented languages ** Turkic alphabets (disambiguation) ** Turkish language, the most widely spoken Turkic language * T ...
legends from Asia talk of form-changing
shamans Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world through altered states of consciousness An altered state of consciousness (ASC), also called altered state of min ...

shamans
known as ''kurtadams'', which translates to "wolfman". Ancient Greeks wrote of ''kynanthropy'', from κύων ''kyōn'' (or "dog"), which applied to mythological beings able to alternate between dog form and human form, or who possessed combined dog and human anatomical features. The term existed by at least 1901, when it was applied to stories from China about humans turning into dogs, dogs becoming people, and sexual relations between humans and canines. Anthropologist David Gordon White called Central Asia the "vortex of cynanthropy" because races of dog-men were habitually placed there by ancient writers. The weredog or cynanthrope is also known in
Timor Timor is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), sometimes k ...

Timor
. It is described as a human-canine shapeshifter who is capable of transforming other people into animals, even against their will. European folklore features
werecat A werecat (also written in a hyphenated form as were-cat) is an analogy to "werewolf In folklore, a werewolf ( ang, werwulf, "man-wolf"), or occasionally lycanthrope ( grc-gre, λυκάνθρωπος ''lukánthrōpos'', "wolf-human"), is ...
s, who can transform into panthers or domestic cats of an enlarged size. African legends describe people who turn into
lion The lion (''Panthera leo'') is a large cat The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic Domestic may refer to: In the home * Anything relating to the human home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-perma ...

lion
s or
leopard The leopard (''Panthera pardus'') is one of the five extant species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is ...

leopard
s, while Asian werecats are typically depicted as becoming
tiger The tiger (''Panthera tigris'') is the largest extant taxon, living Felidae, cat species and a member of the genus ''Panthera''. It is most recognisable for its dark vertical stripes on orange fur with a white underside. An apex predator, i ...

tiger
s.


Skin-walkers and naguals

Some Native American and First Nation legends talk about skin-walkers—people with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal they desire. To do so, however, they first must be wearing a pelt of the specific animal. In the folk religion of
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the ...
, a ''nagual'' (or ''nahual'') is a human being who has the power to magically turn themselves into animal forms—most commonly donkeys, turkeys, and dogs—but can also transform into more powerful jaguars and pumas.


Animal ancestors

Stories of humans descending from animals are found in the oral traditions for many tribal and clan origins. Sometimes the original animals had assumed human form in order to ensure their descendants retained their human shapes; other times the
origin story In entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or even ...
is of a human marrying a normal animal. North American indigenous traditions mingle the ideas of
bear Bears are carnivora Carnivora is an order of placental Placentalia is one of the three extant subdivisions of the class of animals Mammalia Mammals (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Ita ...

bear
ancestors and ursine shapeshifters, with bears often being able to shed their skins to assume human form, marrying human women in this guise. The offspring may be creatures with combined anatomy, they may be very beautiful children with uncanny strength, or they may be shapeshifters themselves. P'an Hu is represented in various
Chinese legends Chinese mythology () is mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychol ...
as a
supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the Scientific law, laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entity, non-physical entities, such as angels, demons, gods, and ghost, spirits. It ...

supernatural
dog, a dog-headed man, or a canine shapeshifter that married an emperor's daughter and founded at least one race. When he is depicted as a shapeshifter, all of him can become human except for his head. The race(s) descended from P'an Hu were often characterized by Chinese writers as monsters who combined human and dog anatomy. In
Turkic mythology Turkic mythology contains myths and legends told by the Turkic people. It feature's Tengrism, Tengrist and Shamanism in Central Asia, Shamanist strata of belief along with many other social and cultural constructs related to the Nomad, nomadic ...
, the wolf is a revered animal. The Turkic legends say the people were descendants of wolves. The legend of
Asena Asena is the name of a she-wolf The wolf (''Canis lupus''), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine Canine may refer to: Zoology * dog-like mammals (i.e. members of the canid subfamily Caninae) ** ''Canis'', a genu ...
is an old Turkic myth that tells of how the Turkic people were created. In the legend, a small Turkic village in northern China is raided by Chinese soldiers, with one baby left behind. An old she-wolf with a sky-blue mane named Asena finds the baby and nurses him. She later gives birth to half-wolf, half-human cubs who are the ancestors of the Turkic people.


Shamanism

Ethnologist Ivar Lissner theorised that cave paintings of beings with human and non-human animal features were not physical representations of mythical shapeshifters, but were instead attempts to depict
shamans Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world through altered states of consciousness An altered state of consciousness (ASC), also called altered state of min ...

shamans
in the process of acquiring the mental and spiritual attributes of various beasts. Religious historian
Mircea Eliade Mircea Eliade (; – April 22, 1986) was a Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern ...
has observed that beliefs regarding animal identity and transformation into animals are widespread.


Animal spirits

In
Melanesia Melanesia (, ) is a subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabi ...

Melanesia
n cultures there exists the belief in the ''tamaniu'' or ''atai'', which describes the animal counterpart to a person. Specifically among the Solomon Islands in Melanesia, the term ''atai'' means "soul" in the Mota language and is closely related to the term ''ata,'' meaning a "reflected image" in Maori and "shadow" in Samoan. Terms relating to the "spirit" in these islands such as ''figona and vigona'' convey a being that has not been in human form The animal counterpart depicted, may take the form of an eel, shark, lizard, or some other creature. This creature is considered to be corporeal, and can understand human speech. It shares the same soul as its master. This concept is found in similar legends which have many characteristics typical of shapeshifter tales. Among these characteristics is the theory that death or injury would affect both the human and animal form at once.


Psychiatric aspects

Among a sampled set of psychiatric patients, the belief of being part animal, or ''
clinical lycanthropy Clinical lycanthropy is defined as a rare psychiatric syndrome that involves a delusion that the affected person can transform into, has transformed into, or is, an animal. Its name is associated with the mythology, mythical condition of lycanthr ...
'', is generally associated with severe psychosis, but not always with any specific psychiatric diagnosis or neurological findings. Others regard clinical lycanthropy as a delusion in the sense of the
self-disorder A self-disorder, also called ipseity disturbance, is a psychological phenomenon of disruption or diminishing of a person's sense of minimal (or basic) self-awareness. The sense of minimal self refers to the very basic sense of having experienc ...
found in
affective Affect, in psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of imm ...
and
schizophrenic Schizophrenia is a mental disorder A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may b ...

schizophrenic
disorders, or as a symptom of other psychiatric disorders.


Modern therianthropy

Therians are individuals who believe or feel that they are non-human animals in a non-biological sense. While therians mainly attribute their experiences of therianthropy to either spirituality or psychology, the way in which they consider their therian identity is not a defining characteristic of therianthropy; as long as a person identifies their sense of self as being that of a non-human animal, they can be considered a therian. The animal which a therian identifies as is known by the community as a "theriotype", and this can refer to either the animal they identify as or, more specifically, their own non-human animal identity. For example, a therian who believes in reincarnation may use the word "theriotype" to refer specifically to their past life or, more generally, to indicate that they are speaking about the animal species they identify as. Therians often use the term "species dysphoria" to describe their feelings of disconnect from their human bodies and their underlying desire to live as their theriotype.


Shifting

Many therians describe experiences of temporarily feeling more in touch with their theriotype than they do at other times, and this phenomena is known by the community as "shifting", with the experiences being known as "shifts". Shifts can vary indefinitely in the length of time for which they are experienced, and the intensity with which they are felt. They can also be triggered intentionally, or unintentionally, usually by stimuli relating to a person's theriotype. While shifting is often regarded as a positive experience, the disruption caused by unintentional triggers, and heightened feelings of species-dysphoria, can also lead to therians experiencing shifts as negative experiences too. Shifts are normally experienced in a state of consciousness, although dream shifts (in which a therian might actually believe they have the body of their theriotype) are an exception to this. Some therians attribute their knowledge of their own therianthropic identities to their experiences of shifting. For example, a wolf therian might begin to identify as a wolf after experiencing dreams in which their body takes the form of a wolf. The therian community is generally considered to be a subculture of the otherkin community, which consists of individuals who identify as or connect with any fictional or non-fictional being. However, unlike otherkin, therians do not identify as non-fictional beings, and the two movements are culturally and historically distinct.


See also

* Therianthropy in popular culture * Banjhakri and Banjhakrini *
Cynanthropy Cynanthropy (sometimes spelled ''kynanthropy''; from Ancient Greek κύων/, "dog" + ἄνθρωπος/, "man; human") is, in psychiatry, the pathological delusion of real persons that they are dogshttps://www.medilexicon.com/dictionary/22309 and i ...
*
Furry fandom The furry fandom is a subculture interested in anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. The term "furry fandom" is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet ...
*
Kelpie A kelpie, or water kelpie, is a shape-shifting spirit inhabiting lochs in Scottish folkloreScottish folklore encompasses the folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tra ...
*
Nagual In Mesoamerican folk religion Mesoamerican religion is a group of indigenous religions of Mesoamerica that were prevalent in the pre-Columbian era. Two of the most widely known examples of Mesoamerican religion are the Aztec religion and the Maya ...

Nagual
* Otherkin *
Selkie In Celtic The words Celt and Celtic (also Keltic) may refer to: Ethno-linguistics *Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to ...
*
Shapeshifting In mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitud ...
*
Skin-walker In Navajo The Navajo (; British English: Navaho; nv, Diné or ') are a of the . At more than 399,494 enrolled tribal members , the is the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S. (the being the second largest); the Navajo Nation h ...
* Theriocephaly *
Werecat A werecat (also written in a hyphenated form as were-cat) is an analogy to "werewolf In folklore, a werewolf ( ang, werwulf, "man-wolf"), or occasionally lycanthrope ( grc-gre, λυκάνθρωπος ''lukánthrōpos'', "wolf-human"), is ...
*
Werewolf In folklore, a werewolf ( ang, werwulf, "man-wolf"), or occasionally lycanthrope ( grc-gre, λυκάνθρωπος ''lukánthrōpos'', "wolf-human"), is a human with the ability to Shapeshifting, shapeshift into a wolf (or, especially in mode ...

Werewolf
*
Werehyena Were-hyena is a neologism A neologism (; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Eu ...
*
Werejaguar The were-jaguar was both an Olmec motif (visual arts), motif and a supernatural entity, perhaps a deity. The were-jaguar motif is characterized by almond-shaped eyes, a downturned open mouth, and a cleft head. It appears widely in the Olmec archa ...
*
Wererat Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, k ...
*
Zoomorphism The word ''zoomorphism'' derives from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. ...
*
Human–animal hybrid image: Matsya avatar.jpg, The very first animal-human god, Vishnu, as Matsya, a deity of Hinduism Image:Michelangelo, Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden 04.jpg, In Michelangelo's interpretation of The Fall of Man in the Sistine Chapel, the ...


Notes and references

{{Furry fandom, state=collapsed