Accepted Paper:

Therianthropy; the integration of animal and human identities  


Helen Clegg (The University of Northampton)
Elizabeth Roxburgh (University of Northampton)

Paper short abstract:

Therianthropy is the belief that one is part non-human animal. I will present results from 3 studies considering therian identity, mental health, and altered states of consciousness. Cognitive differences and human interactions with other animals may account for the ontogeny of therianthropy.

Paper long abstract:

Therianthropy is the belief that one is part non-human animal. The theriotypes experienced traverse all species and can be extinct or extant. Opinions vary in the academic literature as to whether it is a mental illness or a spiritual belief. However in the West it is almost always placed within the psychiatric arena. Nevertheless, a growing online community of therians, many of whom appear to be functioning well, suggest that this is a poorly understood phenomenon. I will present results from 3 research studies considering the identity, mental health and well-being, and the experience of phantom limbs and mental shifts within the therian community. A combination of cognitive differences, such as higher levels of schizotypy and autism, along with encounters with non-human animals, and the responses of humans to other animals, and therianthropy itself, may impact on the ontogeny of therian identity. Therians interpret their experience using a variety of explanations; spiritual, biological and psychological, and as such they develop a more holistic interpretation of their experiences than the academic literature currently allows. Since our findings suggest that any differences in mental health between therians and non-therians is small we therefore call for the academic community to also move away from pathologisation and towards a more complete and complex understanding of therianthropy.

Panel P23
Collaboration and partnership in human-animal communities: reconsidering ways of learning and communication