How I came to find therianthropy, and where I am now..
I have always had a fascination for wolves, and particularly, werewolves. When I was a wee child, we lived by OHSU, where medical experiments were done on monkeys. It was always blocked off and heavily guarded- protection against animal-rights supporters, I suppose. My father, who took great enjoyment in scaring the crap out of me, told me that they didn’t really test monkeys there; no, what the place REALLY was, was the national werewolf testing center. He told me stories about how sometimes, when the moon was full, a werewolf would escape over the fence and go on the prowl. Maybe he was just trying to make sure I didn’t slip out at night: I was the type of child who would decide to sleep outside in the backyard on a whim, who would climb as high as I could in trees and refuse to come down, and who would go for a nighttime walk just because someone told me not to. The permanent dark circles under my eyes attest to my nocturnal leanings. I would always have difficulty getting to sleep, would stay up reading and sleep with a book in my lap. Every time my father told me this story, I had the urge to go to the center in the middle of the night. His stories had the opposite effect on me then he intended: instead of being afraid, I was intrigued. Powerfully intrigued. I decided that I would listen on nights of the full moon, and were I to hear a wolfen howl, I would slip outside and search out the werewolf, maybe get bit and become one myself. Alas, the howl never did come.
My grandparents lived on a farm in Idaho, and we would visit them every year or so. I would run and play, explore and climb all through the farm with the farm dogs. I never had difficulty with dogs growing up- only one dog ever growled and bit me. I talked to the dogs when I was little, and fancied they understood me, and I understood them. At night on the farm, I would hear the howls of the coyotes that came down from the hill, and feel a deep desire to spring to the window and howl back. I was never allowed: the first time I did, my grandmother bustled into my room and told me not to do that, as the coyotes would come to the farm to investigate, and that they might attack some of the animals. So from a young age, I learned to stifle these leanings, these quirks of mine that marked me different.
I loved the story of Little Red Riding Hood, although I always thought the wolf got a bad rap. After all, if Red had just listened to her mother, she never would have caught the wolf’s attention. He didn’t deserve to die for following his nature. Werewolf movies were always few and far between and I quickly learned that they were mostly disappointments. Why did the werewolf always have to be the bad guy? Why were they always men? At that point in my life, I did not have the ability to see that in literature and cinema, the werewolf is a symbol of unrestrained male sexuality, that the “Big Bad Wolf” is someone young maids must be weary of, lest they steal your virtue from you by force. Red Riding hood, I later learned, was a symbolic tale about a young woman’s first menses, and the beginning of her attractiveness as a woman. The eating of Red was meant to show the wolf stealing her virginity, and Red being in the wolf’s belly was meant to convey a pregnancy. The entire story was simply a cautionary tale: don’t sleep with men who are “wolves”, you’ll soon regret it. It took me a long time to understand this concept, because regardless of the fairy tales, regardless of the cultural idioms I grew up with(wolf whistle, wolf in sheep’s clothing, crying wolf, keeping the wolf from the door, wolfing down your food, etc.), regardless of the fact that wolves were seen as craven, beastly, violent creatures who would kill you and eat you as soon as look at you, I never saw them that way. To me, they were beautiful, graceful, things of nature, symbols of the wild. I’ll never know how this image got planted in my head, except that perhaps it was the changing culture, growing up in the post-hippie back-to-nature generation that allowed me to pick up on subconscious cultural cues. However it came about, wolves were a thing of beauty for me. I would dream sometimes, of running through a forest, on all fours, and when I woke, I felt a sharp pain at waking to ordinary old me.
I was fascinated with werewolves, but the only information I could find were stories of vicious animals terrorizing defenseless villagers. Methods of identifying a werewolf: hair on the palms, eyebrows that met in the middle. I looked everywhere for the signs, and excitedly told my fellow 4th grade students that our teacher’s aid was a werewolf because she only had the one eyebrow across her forehead. I was just a bit mortified when someone tattled to her and she looked at me, hurt and confused.
In high school, I discovered a book on werewolves, and my eyes were opened. Finally, I found short stories where werewolves were not villains, but heroes! Hunters, ranchers who carelessly murdered innocent wolves were hunted and killed themselves in retribution! There were females, women werewolves, and my world bloomed. I wanted more, but, like in cinema, good werewolf stories were quite difficult to find. I became disillusioned, disappointed. I was given a small taste of something I’d craved my entire life, and that taste was only enough to show me what I was missing. This was in the early 90’s, before the Internet. I didn’t even have a computer, didn’t learn about BBSing until my junior year. I felt different, other all my life, but as I grew older the apparent differences seemed to grow and become more visible. My friends were all into vampires: this was at the time the goth movement started really growing, and it was all about pale, romantic, tragic vampires. There were plenty of “vampires” in my circle of friends, and though, like them, I liked the taste of blood, I didn’t see myself as a sanguarian, didn’t lust after that elusive spell or connection that would make me a vampire. No, my secret lusts were different: to slip my skin, loose this human shell and frolic in the woods, playfully howling as I stood on all fours. I had no one like me, no one enough like me. Some were fascinated with werewolves, but they were all the wolf-man of the movies, standing 7 feet tall and looking like a gorilla suit with a dog mask attached. This wasn’t what I wanted, and I had no one to share. So, I repressed. I’ve since learned that repression leads to destruction. I was able to live like this for several years, even forgot my deep yearnings. But in my 20’s, something began to change. I began to have violent fantasies. I became obsessed with someone taking me hunting, I had dreams of chasing down deer and burying my face in their bellies, eating warm, quivering meat and being covered in blood. While I was living at home with my parents, I tried to be a vegetarian, and that lasted two weeks. I didn’t even realize how insane I was acting until my mother pointed it out. It was 11:00 at night, and I was pacing from one end of the house to the other, muttering under my breath, “meatmeatmeat..”. As I came into the living room the last time, my mother put down her book and said: “Go get my purse.” Confused, I complied. She pulled out $20.00 and handed it to me, saying, “For God’s sake, go to the store and get yourself a steak!” I did, cooked it rare just like I enjoyed it, and went to bed sated, happy. I learned, through trial and error, that I could go two weeks without red meat- and hamburger didn’t count. If I hadn’t had beef in a while, I would start looking at people, wondering what they would taste like. I timed it out, 2 weeks, I’d start considering cannibalism. I learned to make sure I had red meat often.
One night, while cooking, a piece of meat that had just been seared fell out of the pan. Without thinking, I popped it in my mouth... and fell to the ground in pleasure. The taste of raw meat was overwhelming. I researched, checked out the feasibility of eating my meat raw. I learned that as long as the surface was cooked, browned enough to kill the germs, it was safe as houses. See, when the air hits it, the germs grow. That’s why hamburger has to be cooked through, and probably why hamburger never really did it for me. Suddenly, meat tasted better. I became more insistent about how my steak is cooked: brown on the outside, red and bleeding on the inside, and warm. 2-3 minutes on each side, max. The dreams came back, with force. And something... odd started happening with my reproductive cycles.
Ok, so I’ve always been a bit irregular. But then, I started getting REALLY irregular. I’d vary between 1-6 months between periods. The doctors had no real explanation. They thought maybe I had PCOS, a condition which keeps you from ovulating on a regular basis. But that didn’t explain why, the closer to the middle of winter I got, the farther apart my periods, and why they came closer in the summer. It didn’t explain why I would get my period two weeks after I had sex, no matter how long ago I’d last had it- I seemed to ovulate spontaneously, when my body thought, “ooo, mating season!” That also didn’t explain why, two weeks before my period, I would go into what I can only describe as “heat”. It is a highly mortifying and painful experience I’ve come to dread when the days get longer, and am relieved not to have to deal with for another 6 months when autumn hits. It’s difficult to describe, like my skin is too tight and itching, burning all over. I lay there, whimpering, until it goes away. It’s also highly inconvenient, as I have to sequester myself from males lest I jump the first available hottie that comes along. It’s taken work, but I’ve learned how to handle it, manage it. I started tracking it; that’s how I realized it would be followed two weeks later by my period, how I realized there was a pattern. Now, I can prepare for it, but it is still a highly annoying aspect of myself.
As this began to happen, and I started to realize just how much of a freak I was, I began to examine other aspects of my personality. Things I had thought were normal, things I thought everyone had to feel, at one time or another. My desire to be cuddled and petted, in a non sexual way. My love of skritches. The desire I had to throw away the silverware and bury my face in the steak I was eating, to growl at anyone who’s hand got too close. My attitude towards most other females- at least those who did not submit to my judgment, my dominance. The peaceful, joyful feeling that came across me as I howled, sung to the moon. My intense nocturnal tendencies. My dreams of being a wolf, the thought that there was a part of my spirit that was wolf. My ability to sleep with one figurative eye open- I was in dreams and also aware of everything going on around me. My tendency to lick a wound to heal it. My desire for a strong mate who matched me. (Ok, maybe that’s not such a therianthropic attitude...) The panic that would come to me, if I accidentally forgot to avoid looking into my eyes in a mirror, that I was in the wrong body, trapped, unable to get free, and terror like a wild animal caught in a snare. The fact that I view others in five ways: 1. True pack- those who are like me, friends, and share my wolfen tendencies. I’ve never met one. 2. Pack- those who don’t have wolves inside, but are friends, people I’d die to protect. I’ve got a few of these. 3. Other wolves- not quite close as pack, but like me, creatures I am curious over yet wary of. In recent years, I’ve met a few. 4. Other predators- people I can instinctively tell are similar, but not like me, and are best avoided lest there be a confrontation, a fight over resources. Again, I’ve met a few. Finally, there is 5. Prey. Those individuals I wouldn’t hesitate to eat if the plane went down in the Andes. Those individuals who’s annoying stupidity makes them good for nothing more then to provide food for others. That time at an SCA event, when the feast was late, and I looked across a meadow to see a deer standing there, and I wanted to run after it and chase it down, if for nothing more then the joy of the chase. So many little things, that I had gotten used to and simply considered quirky. I began to research on the web, and my skin tingled as I found a word that accurately described what I was: therianthrope. Oh, unless you’ve experienced that absolute feeling of loneliness, you can never understand how precious validation is. However, for all my searching, I faced disappointments. The “were” community had grown and flourished before my time, mainly on a newsgroup called AHWW(Alt-Horror-Werewolves). Now, it seemed to be tapering off. The true weres had become disillusioned, after being inundated with roleplayers, wannabes, and poseurs. The gray muzzles, old ones who’d been there a while, left, and didn’t leave any instructions for finding them. The few webpages were all the same. The chats are filled with fluff, and I can’t bring myself to read through hundreds of posts by 16 year olds I have nothing in common with. Add to that, that therianthropes are quite rare and don’t have many commonalities (such as Paganism) with me, and I was left highly let down. Finally, here I had found people like me, and they were harder to locate then ever. I had been given the taste, the belief I could find others, no longer would I feel this emptiness of a wolf without a pack. It made it all the more painful. The few howls, gatherings of weres, happen across the country or world. Seems like I am the only therianthrope in Oregon, sometimes. So that’s where I am now. It doesn't rule my life, it is but a small part of me. I am able to keep from immediately judging people into one of the four groups. I can eat my meat with manners. I honor this part of me so it does not take over me due to repression.
Still, I am a bit lonely. Still, I dream of a warm and supportive pack, who won’t judge me, who will listen to me be crazy and chuckle and be crazy right back. A group of pack I can sleep in a warm pile with. At the least, people I can talk to on the internet with, or just a damn howl that’s closer then the Rocky mountains. Good people, people like me, who won’t lie or pose and are my age. Is it an impossible dream? Am I doomed to wander the woods, alone, forever?