While I expected to read a general exploration into animal magick, I found something much more unusual and specific within Lupa’s A Field Guide to Otherkin. Otherkin is Lupa’s word for a special breed who identify as part human and part animal. Common forms include therianthropes, vampires, elves, fey, and dragons.
Lupa’s book is refreshing because I learned much more about a subject I had not foreseen. What I thought were otherkin did not match Lupa’s definition. Furthermore, Lupa writes with honesty about a subject that has caused her and other therianthropes discomfort. Lupa moves beyond emotional pain and turns her Otherkin nature into a source for magickal development.
The downside to A Field Guide to Otherkin is that the subject matter is difficult to believe. Since many of Lupa’s readers are Pagan, they might be more willing to believe in half-human beings than the average reader. Having already published Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone (2006) and Kink Magic (2007),
Lupa has drawn a substantial following. Some might pick up A Field Guide to Otherkin because they found merit in her previous works. A Field Guide to Otherkin might push boundaries for those set on fixed understandings of scientific realities. Then again, Kink Magic might also!
Towards the conclusion of the book, Lupa writes that most of her readers identify with Otherkin characteristics from the book or believe themselves to be Otherkin (p. 231). I disagree that most readers necessarily doubt their human status and are considering their therianthrope status. If the material within A Field Guide to Otherkin is worth reading, it should not be for therianthropes alone. Throughout the book, Lupa clarifies misconceptions about vampires and therianthropes. Vampires are more common and do not exhibit many characteristics popularized by horror films. Since the book can redeem people identifying with those labels, Lupa should welcome readers who are interested for intellectual reasons and not for personal identification. Interested readers can become sympathizers for Otherkin. A Field Guide to Otherkin contains enough advanced material to satisfy an actual therianthrope, but needs not be for them exclusively.
In the book, multiple individuals feel somehow a-human and are unable to recognize their identity right away. For example, Lupa identifies as part-wolf. Unfamiliar with Otherkin, she has no frame of reference for placing her a-human behavior. Eventually, Lupa makes acquaintances within the Otherkin community and comes to accept that she might fall within that category. Another character whose story Lupa shares resists his dragon identity (p. 33). Eventual submission follows a period of denial in a coming-out process. A Field Guide to Otherkin can help some readers articulate their Otherkin identity.
~review by Michelle Mueller
Megalithica Books, 2007pp. 311, $21.99