Our History and Mission
Wildpath originally started as a nonhuman discussion channel in Lady CG’s Darkened Mirror (DM) which is a support community Discord server for the GVC (Global Vampire Community). Both Nul and I (Nøkken) are an admin and moderator there, respectively, and we help manage communities in both the GOC (Greater Otherkin Community) and GVC. We’ve been part of these communities since their early days in the 90s-00s. DM also has a complimentary website, Darkened Mirror (Formerly Smoke & Mirrors), a resource hub for the GVC, pagans and therianthropes.
The nonhuman-discussion-channel was created in March, 2019 on DM, and was dedicated to talking about issues, experiences and concepts of nonhumanity, for Otherkin, therianthropes and others. It quickly grew, and we realized the need a standalone community to engage in civil discourse with a degree of privacy. Most of our online discussion communities have been overrun by harassment, trolling, threats, misrepresentation, non-serious role-players, and so on, which has stifled serious, critical discussion of these issues. The Wildpath community was established as its own discourse and support server in July that same year to serve as a place to discuss serious topics in nonhumanity with open discourse, support, privacy and mutual respect.
Now that the community has grown, we are working on building public resources on nonhumanity. Taking inspiration from the work of Lady CG as well as Merticus’ Vampire Community News (VCN), we are building a platform for open discourse about nonhumanity for nonhuman-identifying persons, modelling after similar platforms for the GVC.
Wildpath Library is an internal community resource journal, cultural and news hub, and will be formally publishing literature, research and cultural media. Wildpath Library is visible to the public and centers around individuals who understand themselves as nonhuman/other-than-human. In other words, we understand ourselves as nonhuman beings who are also occupying human lives, and this can be understood through a variety of modes: as spiritual nature, psychological identity and philosophical senses of ontological being, entanglement and composition of the self. This resource is comprised of the writings, artwork, media, research and voices of individuals who self-identify or understand themselves as being other-than-human along with outside academic researchers who work closely with us. Wildpath Library fills a much-needed niche of collecting, sharing and promoting insider perspectives, resources and ideas from this often maligned and marginal community of spiritual and nonspiritual beliefs. The end goal is to promote solidarity, inspire creativity, offer means of mutual support, and create a vehicle of expression so that the communities may build an authoritative, neutral and diverse body of literature, perspectives, and culture to balance out the proliferation of outsider perspectives which frequently seek to define us or “speak for us”. We hope that the Wildpath Library will be useful to those who are just exploring themselves as nonhuman and finding their own voices, to veterans and “greymuzzles” who are looking to expand their critical perspectives of nonhuman being/identity, and to outsiders who are interested in learning more about our being and communities with an open-mind.
To achieve our mission, we will publish voices of the community, those looking for a medium to share their identities and selves as nonhuman, through anecdotes, experiences and personal perspectives, as well as their own research and efforts to understand nonhumanity. We will seek to collaborate with researchers from different fields in order to produce insightful academic literature and to engender a mutually beneficial trust between our communities and academia. We will host galleries of artwork, music, literature and other media created by members of the nonhuman communities, which are expressive of individuals’ experiences and concepts of nonhumanity. We will provide tools, resources and information, compiling research and data. And we will share news that promotes the efforts, work and creations of nonhumans throughout the communities and beyond.
Wildpath Library and all of its publications will always remain a free, open-source hub of information to the nonhuman communities and the general public.
About Nonhuman Discourse
For the sake of this resource, the terms “nonhuman” and “other-than-human” are used interchangeably to avoid the clunkiness of maintaining precise academic jargon, except where articles might address differences of terminology at a more nuanced or rigorous way. However, it should be understood that these terms are technically not the same and the term “other-than-human” is actually more ideal for describing ourselves. This is because, underlying the ontological views (beliefs about being, identity and nature) of other-than-humans, there is not an inherent opposition between “human” and “nonhuman” to begin with. They are not diametric opposities by which one is “only human” and the other is entirely “non-human.” There is inherent overlap of being by which the human and other-than-human co-comprise one another, especially in the underlying beliefs and composition of other-than-human identities. In so-called “Western” perspectives, the “human” and the “nonhuman” are treated as binary oppositions, where either an individual is one or the other. In our case, we do not see this opposition and view ourselves as composed of both. The degree to which individuals view themselves as other-than-human is highly variable. Some see themselves as mostly human while their being/nature only colored by the nonhuman. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some view the human as a mere physical shell housing an inherently nonhuman being which is their true self or true nature. To such individuals, the human life is only a transient or illusory thing, over-shadowed by their true nonhuman nature. The views are as diverse as the individuals themselves.
In short, we are individuals whose identities, beings, self-understandings, natures, essences, spirits/souls, and so on are composed of both human and nonhuman and we currently are existing in a human biological mode. That is, we understand ourselves as being both human and nonhuman in some capacity. This presents itself in indescribably many different possible modes and perspectives on spirituality, philosophy and psychological beliefs, and, as such, is highly specific to an individual’s worldview and therefore is impossible to reduce to a mere summary or singular theory. It is thus that other-than-humanity can be understood as an ontological discourse community in which a variety of perspectives not limited to any one particular philosophical worldview interact. The concept is very unusual and outside the understanding of most so-called “Western” cultural and philosophical worldviews, but is commonplace, almost ordinary, within pagan, animistic, indigenous, “Eastern”/”non-Western” philosophical and spiritual beliefs. And it should be noted that not every individual who self-identifies as nonhuman is spiritual either. Some individuals understand themselves as other-than-human or nonhuman within non-spiritual views, seeing this as explainable from psychological and cognitive theories on identity.
The scope of other-than-human discourse, however, goes well beyond human animals whose identities intermingle and co-compose with other-than-human animals. This site is thus conceived in two ways. It’s contents obviously contain perspectives of human individuals who understand themselves as other-than-human, which is one direction of movement discursively from human-to-nonhuman. But there is also another direction as well. There is a variety of scientific, philosophical and spiritual information about the more-than-human world, about other-than-human life, which works to undermine the category of “the human” and bridges further connections in identity across species, opening up a discursive space for theorizing and exploring from beyond the so-called “human perspective”. For instance, one might write of the culture of birds, of ravens and crows, or of wolf dialects, of elephant rituals and the symbolic thinking of horses, how identity emerges in a wider living world, how animism expresses itself in the behaviors and practices of both human and nonhuman animals, theoretical perspectives on fungal and plant intelligences, but also the existence of co-ecological being within many different cultures, such as indigenous lifeways and spiritualities and their ecological situatedness with nonhuman life. These subject matters create another direction of identity relations: nonhuman-to-human, by which cross-species kinship, identity and conceptuality is formulated and “the human” is de-centered and re-situated within a wider more-than-human world. It is thus that this discursive field is larger than any singular subcultural perspective, such as Otherkin or therianthropes. As such, articles featured on this site are not just the philosophical, scientific and spiritual perspectives of human-bodied individuals who understand themselves as nonhuman in a significant ontological sense. It also is open to all kinds of cross-species perspectives, from the anthrozoological study of human-animal relations, to ecological interfacing, co-habitation and mutual-transformation of identity across species, philosophical studies of nonhuman being, cognitive ethology, the study of animal cognition and social relations, perspectives from ecofeminism on cross-species kin-making, re-wilding, undomestication of the human, indigeneity and animistic worldviews and other potentialities.
In my two decades of experience being in nonhuman communities, I have noticed that individuals come from diverse spiritual and philosophical backgrounds, but there are still common trends. Other-than-humans tend to be ecologically-minded, seeing their identities as interconnected and kin with other-than-human life. Also, they tend to come from extremely diverse religious backgrounds, many with beliefs typically understood as “pagan” or “pre-Christian”, although there are also many who are atheists or belong to mainstream world religions. There are also many common experiences, though these are not required in an individual for them to exhibit this identity. Many individuals experience phenomenal perceptions of themselves as nonhuman in some capacity. Some experience their bodies as nonhuman, either temporarily or persistently, feeling nonhuman body parts, limbs, or even fully body sensations and impressions. As an example, a horse therianthrope might experience any range of sensations from a real physical feeling of a tail that can move proprioceptively to experiencing their entire body as horse in multiple senses. Others might experience what has been described as shapeshifting or shifting in which the phenomenally perceived body transforms from human to nonhuman in various sensory modes. Others with more spiritual views might experience a kind of astral or spiritual body which is inherently nonhuman, their nonphysical spirit manifesting within their physical perceptual field/perceptions of themselves. The variety of experiences and perspectives is unbounded and therefore unlimited in its possibilities.
In contemporary times, this concept of other-than-human identity exists across many communities, such as otherkin, therianthropes (animal-humans), the vampire community (VC), pagan, animist, primal and alternative spiritualities, neuroatypicality, posthumanist and nonhumanist philosophies, ecological views, and other beliefs. There are also many disparate individuals who bear no relations to these communities that never the less exhibit an other-than-human identity or self-understanding. It is a concept and experience that emerges in many different locations and ways simultaneously, and therefor it would be a mistake to reduce it down to a single community, subculture/culture ot theory/explanation. As such, a great number of terms have been used, beast folk, animalkin, nonhuman, therian, otherkin, otherkind, were, werewolf, and so on. It seems that novel language and understanding emerge for these experiences wherever the concept emerges, and the pervasiveness of other-than-human identities across cultures and throughout humanity, embedded in spiritual worldviews and cultural histories, is suggestive of a deeper undercurrent of this concept rooted in the reality of the human animal and its entangled being within a more-than-human world. As such, it is not at all uncommon to encounter individuals who exhibit this identity but have never heard of any Otherkin or therianthrope community.
It should also be noted that this concept is not new at all. It is ancient, perhaps prehistoric. Such concepts were commonplace in the variety of animistic spiritualities that have existed across the world. Most other religions in the world have not viewed an individuals spirit as a singular thing (a concept that only exists in Abrahamic faiths which posit a singular soul that is exclusively human). In other religions, especially ‘pagan’ and ‘Eastern’ beliefs, such an individual might have many souls or soul parts and some or many of these might not be human, or possibly their entire spirit might be a nonhuman being borrowing a human life. For example, Norse, Ancient Egyptian, Greek and other ‘pagan’ beliefs did not understand the “soul” as a singularly human essence, a concept that comes primarily from Abrahamic belief systems such as Christianity as well as secular modern humanistic views which see the human being as only human and inherently distinct from nonhuman/animal. In Norse beliefs, the spirit was composed with a part of it that was often animal, the fylgja. In Egyptian this was called the ba and took the form of a bird, which also carried the deceased to the afterlife. In Mongolian shamanism, there is a spitit called khiimori, or the “wind horse,” the spirit of personal power, one of many co-inhabiting spirits comprising a single life. Shapeshifting (understood as in a spiritual capacity), nonhuman-beings occupying human lives, reincarnation/transmigration between species, and other such conceptualizations were commonplace in the ancient world, in indigenous beliefs and in Asiatic and shamanic spiritualities. The concept is of principle interest too in the anthropology of Sans Rock Art, where therianthropes abound as integral spiritual concepts. The term “therianthrope” itself originates in Ancient Greece as a portmanteau of θηρίον (theríon) and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) meaning “wild animal human” or “beast human”, and here, it was not only a spiritual concept as an individual’s nature as a nonhuman animal but it was even recognized as a medical term by Greek physicians for individuals who manifested another animal in their behaviors and self. Perhaps the most famous historic individual to understand themselves this way was the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope who understood himself as a dog and characterized his entire self-concept along these lines as a wild animal. In fact, the term “Cynic” or “Cynicism”, the school of philosophy Diogenes and his followers practiced, was named after the Greek word for “dog”, κύων (kyôn). The marginality of this viewpoint in modern “Western” society is largely a product of unfamiliarity with the entire spiritual and cultural history of much of the world as well as the extreme distance that has been artificially created in the separation of “humanity” from “nature/animality” within the “Western” post-Christian and modernist mindset. It is thus that understanding oneself as other-than-human is seen as a taboo or as uncanny and unusual within mainstream “Western” culture and society.
The Wildpath Library thus serves as a collection of writings, art, music, culture and perspectives by members of these communities or individuals with these identities and perspectives in order to bridge the gap of understand and to promote the growth and flourishing of other-than-human worldviews where they are frequently derogated by wider society, and, at the same time, an exploration of the expansive discursive field of other-than-human identity. It is open to submissions from any voice who is contributing to the pool of knowledge, ideas and culture of other-than-humanity/nonhumanity.
Submissions will be considered and reviewed by our editors. It is my hopes that we will be able to work with submitters to revise and edit their work and ensure that this journal maintains a high level of presentation, research and quality that is nevertheless accessible to any individual in the community who has a perspective they would like to share regardless of their background. We will not be able to publish each and every submission that comes our way, but we will work to ensure that this resource journal is open to the widest variety of perspectives and viewpoints possible, represents differences of perspective fairly and evenhandedly, while maintaining a critical and positively constructive vehicle by which we can continue to grow and flourish.
-Lead Editor, Fehérló Gortva aka “Nøkken”