A working definition of the term Otherkin, and the beginnings of a framework for further work with the idea. This is not, as some have thought, an attempt to replace the word Otherkin with another term. Rather, it is an attempt to define the word Otherkin in a meaningful way by looking at the root words that form it. Originally posted on September 26, 2005 on http://wanderingpaths.heliwood.org
What does “Kin to the Other” mean? It is a reformulation of the term Otherkin. It is also used in this document as the primary logical basis for understanding the concept behind that term.
The first part of the phrase “Kin to the Other” that should be examined is the word “other”. There are many definitions of “other” presented by a dictionary. In this instance, it is most important to focus on the following three: “Of a different character or quality”, “Different from that or those implied or specified”, and “People aside from oneself.”
Kin, on the other hand, is a word with fewer meanings. “One’s relatives, family, kinfolk” and “related, akin”. Both of these are important here.
Taken together, it basically refers to the sense of being related or of a similar nature to beings who are different than the expected. Kin to beings other than humans, to put the idea very bluntly.
This is not a new concept. Look to the past, and you will find accounts from a wide variety of cultures who believed themselves to be descended from the jaguar, or the dragon, or the selkie. You will also find those cultures who believed that man is kin to all living things, even to the bones of the earth, though our present culture does not share this understanding of rocks as living beings. And modern science tells us that man has the very stuff of stars running through his veins, elements too heavy to have been created in anything other than a supernova. So, too, it can justifiably be said that we are in fact related by blood to those celestial fires; if only from a certain point of view.
For some of us, the point of relation between ourselves and the Other is bodily. We believe, as many indigenous cultures have throughout human history, that we share actual blood kinship with nonhuman beings at some point in our (perhaps distant) ancestry.
For others, the point of relation is spiritual. We believe our souls to share kinship with some being or beings that are nonhuman. Perhaps we have past lives as other creatures, or perhaps we find our astral body and self-image to be nonhuman, but in either case we cannot deny feeling the connection. Nor are the ideas mutually exclusive, some feel that the genetic link allows for the spiritual link. Some have also speculated on the possibility of genetic memory or reincarnation along genetic lines.
One of the most important things to note about the concept of “Kin to the Other” is that it is not a negative definition. Many interpretations of the term otherkin take it to mean little more than a denial of one’s humanity, in part or in full. “Kin to the Other” carries no such implication. One can be kin to something else without being that thing themselves. A human can be adopted into a nonhuman family, or adopt nonhuman beings into their own, and establish kinship that way. The same is true for marriage. They can even inherit a nonhuman bloodline in their ancestry without considering themselves nonhuman; as many tribal cultures believe. And, of course, they can have a similar character or nature to nonhuman beings, as of kindred spirits, without being anything different than human. All of these are valid forms of kinship with the Other.
I think that remembering this and welcoming those who feel kinship to nonhuman beings but consider themselves entirely human is important for our community, and enriches us. Too much has been made of trying to define otherkin in a way that excludes those who are not exactly like the majority of us. Too little has been made of trying to reach out and see the sameness that is there in those with different forms of kinship to the Other than we might possess.
I offer the concept of Kin to the Other in the hope that this sameness can be found and appreciated by all of us someday.