Loaded title, amirite? What in all the nine worlds am I writing about here? Lemme asplain you a thing:
I’ve been a pagan for about 7 years, and a member of the therian and otherkin communities for about 8. And in that time, I’ve done a lot of introspection and learned a lot about both topics. I’ve always known myself to be a melanistic grey wolf therian, and have fiddled around with and questioned this idea a lot in the 8 years that I’ve identified as such. There were many times where I felt cameo shifts–especially feline ones–and questioned if I had a second theriotype or if I could be a polymorph of some sort, but until recently, I never explored that much, and always stuck to the idea of being wolf.
Regarding paganism, I’ve evolved and changed paths and moved beyond biases many times in the short time (7 years is really nothing) that I’ve been pagan. And while I changed, I feel like the pagan community as a whole has, as well.
Flash forward to more recent times: Pop culture paganism is not a new concept, but it’s one that has gained a lot more recognition as of late, and a lot of people are asking questions and playing with ideas about why pop culture paganism is a thing and where these entities may come from.
When I first started learning about it, I mostly smiled and nodded, but decided it wasn’t for me because–
In all honestly, it was mostly because I was squicked by the idea of working with beings that “didn’t exist.” We made them up, right? So how could this be a valid path?
Eventually, though, I saw enough rational explanations for it and eased my way into things when Cecil Palmer decided to make an appearance–however brief–into my life. I reasoned that even if there was no ACTUAL Cecil Palmer, then it could be entities taking on the guises of characters we know in an attempt to communicate with us. However I could make it palatable to myself.
Even after this, I was reluctant to work with certain entities. I acknowledged that Marvel!Loki, for example, was an entity, but refused to work with Him because I was stubborn and essentially wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and go “lalalalalala can’t hear you!” in regards to Him. I didn’t want to think about where He came from or what it meant for the rest of my practice.
Eventually He got tired of that and forced me to acknowledge Him and stop being butthurt about it. Because honestly, that’s what was going on. I didn’t want pop culture theories to come in and ruin my nice, neat ideas of deities being deities always and we didn’t invent them and there’s no possible way that we could come up with new ones. It threw a wrench in my comfortable thinking and I didn’t like it.
But of course the gods don’t settle for that and will ALWAYS find ways to upset comfortable thinking. And once I accepted that I had to step out of my comfort zone a bit, I realized that I was choosing to be ignorant by not doing so.
Likewise, I’ve had the same evolution with fictionkin, although I feel I was far more justified in being resistant to them.
My first view of fictionkin came from Tumblr, which we already know is a recipe for disaster as Tumblr is probably the worst example of everything.
Because Tumblr seems to totally ignore the fact that Otherkin has had a set definition of “Identifies as X nonhuman species on a spiritual and/or psychological level” for 24 years and has instead declared that it means “To have a strong connection with X” (which would essentially render the term otherkin useless, because by that definition, EVERYONE is some kind of kin), countless pubescent bloggers have declared themselves all manner of kin and fictionkin without stopping to research OFF of their beloved blogging site, or even question why they feel the need to identify how they do. And I specifically point out the pubescent ones because anyone who has passed puberty and looked back on it cringes at their state of flux and knows that they tried on a lot of labels before they found the ones that fit. And so it’s very easy to dismiss these people as going through a phase (imho I think most of them are), and by extension, to dismiss the whole phenomenon as a phase.
So with all this, I had a good reason to dismiss fictionkin entirely.
Until I found some on the Wulf Howl forums that actually seemed to have questioned themselves and found good answers for why they identified as they did.
When that happened, I no longer had an excuse to ignore them entirely. And in truth, it allowed me to ask myself a question that I had previously felt too afraid to ask–Could I be one of these folks?
Going back to my mention of cameo shifts, I’ve long held the idea that I may be some sort of polymorph in the back of my head. It wasn’t until a few months ago that this came up again and I decided to really really look into it. For these past several months, I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s a kin thing or just a…thing, that I happen to be a polymorph. When I decided finally that I felt it could be called a kin thing, I had to figure out where it came from and what sort of polymorph I was, exactly. It was very important to me to figure out exactly what caused me to be that way, so I looked up all sorts of shapeshifting races and species. I cycled through the possibilities of alien, fae, demon, and many others–all to no avail, really. None of them felt quite right. So when I posted on the Wulf Howl forums recently asking for suggestions, something came up that made me do a double take.
It was the first suggestion, and honestly something I had jokingly considered myself several times.
I’ve had a deep love of and identification with the Alice in Wonderland stories and mythos for a long, long time. I could never pinpoint exactly why I loved them so much, but they always resonated with me and I surrounded myself with imagery from them and prided myself on my knowledge of the original tales. American McGee’s re-imaginings are my favorite besides the original tale and have also been with me for most of my life. I collected a huge playlist of songs related to the mythos and listened to every bit of the soundtracks from both of American McGee’s games.
I never knew what it was, but I felt absolutely at home in Wonderland.
And of course I psychoanalyzed the hell out of it: Lost girl, world in her mind, has to rescue herself, etc etc. But none of it ever really got to the heart of why I loved it so much.
So when it came up again that I might be Cheshire kin, I froze. And groaned loudly, because “Oh gods no. Not this again. I don’t WANT to be fictionkin!”
Those were the words that came from my mouth. Not “Oh no that’s silly, I’m not fictionkin and have never felt that way.” or even anything to that effect.
No, it was that I didn’t WANT to be fictionkin.
But I honestly knew that whatever I was looking for was right in front of my face. And when I thought about it, it fit. It fit like a silk glove tailor-made for my hands. It explained my constant feline cameo shifts, my deep identification with Wonderland, and my shape-shifting and tendency toward chaos. And so I gave up fighting the idea. I had found what I was looking for.
“Okay. So I’m a Cheshire Cat? Where the fuck does that come from?”
That was a very important question, and THAT is where I feel there’s a crossroads between legitimate fictionkin identity and PC paganism: Where does it come from?
It’s something I think should definitely be explored by those who number themselves among both groups. There are a lot of different explanations floating around for both, and I think it would be really nifty to see people discussing them in tandem, because there’s a really obvious connection.
Personally, I feel like my own fictionkin identity is either because I am actually, on some nonphysical level, a Cheshire Cat, and there’s a bunch of different possibilities as to how that is a thing. OR maybe I’m some sort of shapeshifter on a nonphysical level and I’m simply most comfortable identifying as a Cheshire. OR it’s purely psychological and an identity I’ve adopted for comfort.
And all three are totally valid.
And they also apply to PC paganism in that it could be that these entities really exist for some reason and it’s up to us to figure out how and why, OR they could be other beings adopting these guises to reach out to us, OR it could be a way of connecting with an archetype through that character.
Hell, it could be a combo of all three possibilities.
Where I’m going with this is that once everyone can accept that these are legitimate experiences and overcome personal bias about them, we can come together at this nifty crossroads and discuss where both of these things may come from and how they’re interrelated. And I think it’s a discussion that would open a lot of doors and bring us to interesting conclusions.
So I dunno about you all, but I plan on seeing where this goes and thinking about how the two things are interrelated. And I’d love to hear the opinions and musings of others on the same topic. So please feel free to comment and share and think about this. Discuss it in a polite and rational manner. Where do fictionkin and PC paganism come from, and how do they relate to eachother? How can they fit together and how do they fit together already? Is it a “woo” thing with explanations found in alternate reality theories, or is it a psychological identification and manner of reaching out to shared human archetypes?
These are conversations that I think we need to be having.