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The Reincarnation Theory Of Otherkin
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Author: Lupa [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 4th. 2005
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Otherkin are a pretty controversial group of people, even within the relatively tolerant realms of NeoPaganism. While we live within the same world as everyone else, working and/or going to school, building and maintaining a variety of relationships, paying the bills, and otherwise leading completely mundane existences, we have other aspects to our personal realities that aren’t quite so everyday. We know/believe that there’s something not quite human about us and we can spend this entire lifetime figuring out just who we’ve been and who we are now.
Some identify as nonhuman, relatively humanoid species such as elves and faeries; others believe there is something of the dragon, gryphon or sea serpent about them; and still others identify strongly with animals native to this plane, well beyond the totemic bond. Yes, it can be a bit of a brain-breaker to try to resolve the conflict between what’s commonly divided into “fantasy” and “reality.” That’s why most `kin spend time trying to figure out just why it is we feel that we’re different in a such a….er…different manner.
One of the most common explanations for being Otherkin is reincarnation. This necessitates a belief in a soul, of course, and the belief that the soul is not species-specific. While some people say that once a(n) (insert species here), always a(n) (insert species here), others maintain that the soul is itself neutral and can be incarnated into any body possible.
Neutral as the soul may be, it still tends to carry material with it from life to life, depending on how strongly the experiences of each life imprinted on it. Some souls are better at keeping their egos intact through each death-birth process than others; this is perhaps why some people have thorough recollections of their previous existences while others have just a few tidbits here and there. It just so happens that for a few people the memories that imprint strongly don’t come from this particular Earth-reality.
It’s debatable whether these lives occurred on alternate Earths or physically different planets entirely. Some Otherkin seem to have a really good idea of where they come from, even being able to pinpoint galaxies or individual stars that correlate to our Sol. I’ve also heard people claim the idea that our world and numerous others inhabit the same basic place, but are layered according to energy resonance (think physical vs. astral plane).
It’d be easy to accuse Otherkin of simply being entirely too imaginative. After all, aren’t elves and such meant to be in the realms of fantasy fiction or, at best, the spirit plane? This is where belief comes into play. Even the most solid cases of reincarnation can’t be thoroughly proven, and sometimes we do have to go on faith to an extent. Consistency seems to be the key to a more likely story. Repeated past life regressions that continually bring up the same people, places, themes and identities are a lot easier to argue for than a single wishful thought that the bearer is afraid to test for fear of being wrong. Some Otherkin, particularly among elves, report shared memories with others, including incidents where the two (or more) parties had not previously communicated with each other on the subject.
The truly skeptical can argue against this all day long—what if one or more people were just saying “Yeah, I remember that,” to go along with the crowd? What if it’s a group delusion? What if? What if?
It’s important to stringently question ourselves and not blindly accept whatever comes our way that looks pretty. Yet if we chase away belief entirely we shut ourselves off from a lot of potentially positive developments in our lives. After all, belief is the basis of spirituality and magic, and Gods know that enough Pagans, Otherkin and otherwise, desire or even need these things in our lives. So while we’ll acknowledge the words of the skeptics and keep close watch on ourselves to make sure we don’t convince ourselves that pixie ‘kin really can fly, we will allow ourselves some belief to explore our possible pasts.
As to why we ended up here, there are a number of possibilities:
Because we needed to learn something about being human. Many reincarnationists believe that we enter into the lives that we do in order to learn a specific lesson. There are quite possibly lessons that only the unique experience of being human can teach. Perhaps some `kin are here to better understand humanity so that they can therefore adopt certain human behaviors. Maybe Earth today has a balance of creation and destruction, Nature and technology, that is unique in the Multiverse. Perhaps some of us came here from someplace better as punishment/rehabilitation for some wrongdoing; or maybe from somewhere worse so we can get a breather (after all, this place certainly isn’t all bad!) Just as a soul may be born as a cougar to learn to be more aggressive or a way to learn patience, the experience of being human might be how some souls learn what to do—or not do—with modern technology, or our particular blend of sex and love, or whatever else it is that makes us human.
Because this world needs our help. Let’s face it—to a lot of folk in the magical and Otherkin subcultures, this place is in trouble. The environment is constantly under siege, millions of humans live in poverty-stricken, war-torn areas, disease is rampant and some days it just seems like the whole biosystem is about to collapse under the pressure. There are Otherkin who feel they came here with the purpose of alleviating some of the pain. There’s the theory that other sentient places in the Multiverse are well aware of us and want to try to help us, if for no other reason than to keep us from destroying everything around us. So souls come from these places in order to help out what is seen as a state of emergency. Take the concept of thinking globally, and expand it across the Multiverse. Predictably many of the Otherkin under this heading dedicate themselves to social, political, spiritual and related causes meant to make a positive impact.
Because we walked in. Walk-ins are a unique group among Otherkin; they’re not really so much a category as another explanation. A walk-in is a soul that enters a body well after birth. In some cases this happens at a point when the original soul abandons it (often at a time of great physical/emotional/etc. trauma, though this is not always the case). Other times the walk-in soul shares the body with the original soul. The souls involved may all have had nothing but human lives, but they show up in the `kin community commonly because it’s a safe haven for them to be open about who and what they are. Walk-ins may come in with a purpose, or simply with a curious desire to have a body again but not wanting or being able to enter a newborn body.
Oops. Species dysphoria does occasionally occur among Otherkin. This means that there are those who fully believe they were born into the completely wrong body. I’ve seen this most commonly among therianthropes—those who identify as nonhuman, Earth-native animals—but it happens in other groups as well. Stories vary as to why the soul ended up in the wrong body, ranging from “Well, I thought I was headed into a fox kit, but I guess I missed” to “I’m here against my will because of something I did in another life” (see the first theory listed above).
I dunno. You tell me. There are plenty of Otherkin who have absolutely no idea how they got here. While some do search for answers, many just shrug, chalk it up to unknown forces and go on with their lives.
Again, it’s entirely possible that we’re all just over-imaginative or even delusional; but then again, the same could arguably be said for anyone who claims to believe in reincarnation, spirits or magic. No doubt there are probably plenty who claim the Otherkin label who probably do need to do a lot more seeking before they come to this conclusion; after all, when you don’t feel you fit into this world, escapism can become an extreme behavior in a tiny fraction of individuals. Needless to say, there are thousands of people in this world who are Otherkin, who identify as such and who live perfectly functional, happy lives with no ill effects from their identities. The theory of reincarnation offers many of us a way to explain this feeling of being Other, so we can find peace with ourselves in our entirety.
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Bio: Lupa is a twenty-something pansexual genderfluid chao-shaman in Pittsburgh (soon to relocate to Seattle with her partner, Taylor Ellwood) . She spends her time making artwork out of various natural found items, and her first book, “Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic” is due out from Immanion Press in Autumn 2006. Her current book project is on the topic of Otherkin. She welcomes all questions and comments at the email link below. She may also be found at http://www.thegreenwolf.com and on Livejournal as lupabitch.
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