For those who are new to the subject, otherkin are people who identify as nonhuman either psychologically, spiritually, mentally or emotionally. A kintype is the species that the otherkin identifies as. Kintypes are not consciously chosen but emerge involuntarily as an integral, innate part of that person’s identity. Some otherkin believe this is rooted in past lives and reincarnation, while others believe it is a quirk of neurology. There are many different theories and explanations for what might cause it. The phenomenon can and does arise spontaneously outside of online communities. In fact I knew I was “probably not human in a past life” long before I got access to the internet.
Deitykin, godkin, and divinekin are a subset of otherkin whose kintypes relate to divine entities.
It is offensive to “kin with” a known deity!
I’m not sure if that’s a direct quote that I’ve seen, but it pretty neatly sums up the objections to deitykin that I’ve come across on Tumblr, and it probably does a decent job of reflecting those objections found elsewhere too. So, I’m going to dig into this one in detail. There are other objections and problems as well, and I’ll try to get to some of those later. Whether you’re curious about what deitykin are, or if you are deitykin looking for a way to navigate this challenging kintype, I hope this series can help clear up a few things.
I know that language changes over time, however, using the phrase “kin with” in that context shows a marked misunderstanding of what it means to be otherkin. The statement above presumes that a deliberate action is being made. It presumes that someone chose to identify as a deity. This is not how being otherkin works. Being otherkin is not a conscious decision. Awakening is a moment of realization, not an act of becoming. To sum up, “kin” is not a verb. Using it as such encourages misunderstandings about the nature of otherkin.
The closest acceptable substitute for “kin” in that sentence would be “identify.” So the sentence would read, “It is offensive to identify with a known deity.” That’s not the same sentence at all now, is it? Identifying with a deity is something that happens all the time. After all, the myths are designed to be relatable. Deities in myths often have the same kinds of dilemmas and relationships that humans have. Mythology brings the divine down to earth where people can understand, interact, and yes, even identify with it.
This brings us to the most important word distinction that the otherkin community has to offer. “Identify with” is not the same as “identify as.” You can have a lot of similarities to a thing without being that thing. For example, I find myself identifying with The Doctor from Dr. Who, but I do not identify as The Doctor. The show brings up a lot of interesting themes, and the actors are phenomenal at their work. But at no point do I believe that I was born on Gallifrey in any incarnation. I’m sure there are Doctor fictionkin out there. They would “identify as” not “identify with” The Doctor. (Fictionkin are a whole different subject, which I won’t go into, both because it is a huge subject to tackle, and because I’m not fictionkin myself.)
The distinction between “with” and “as” seems pretty straight forward on the surface, but it is one of the most hotly debated concepts in the otherkin community. The reason being that people become emotionally invested in their identities. There is a big difference between really liking and admiring dragons, wishing you were a dragon, and mentally, spiritually or emotionally being a dragon. Ultimately only the person involved can determine whether they identify “with” or “as,” because the rest of us can’t read minds. Identifying “with” something does not make you otherkin. That would fall more under the domain of hearttypes and fursonas. Copinglinks are identifications that were chosen for therapeutic reasons, and are also not otherkin, because once again, otherkin do not choose their kintypes.
This identification does not extend into the physical. Otherkin know that they are physically human. The identification is more a matter of personal belief and experience than a literal delusion. Mentally ill otherkin certainly do exist, but being otherkin in itself is not a mental illness any more than holding religious beliefs would be.
Back to the original statement. After changing “with” to “as,” we now have “It is offensive to identify as a known deity.” This is where the fun begins. There are two different arguments to make here. I will go into the shorter one first.
According to that statement, since otherkin do not choose their kintype, they are being offensive by merely existing. (How many other groups can you think of that cause offense merely by existing? I can think of several.) Being otherkin is not a deliberate action, as I explained earlier. Therefore, the deitykin in question hasn’t actually done anything. While it is possible to be offended by the mere existence of something, it is not very charitable. When we’re talking about something as deep as an identity, it is unreasonable to ask someone to change just because it makes certain people uncomfortable.
Offense is not about who you are. It’s about what you do. If the deitykin in question does something unreasonable, then taking offense is fully justified. I will talk about these unreasonable actions in a later post. They certainly do exist and need to be addressed.
Secondly, by not designating who is offended, the statement above implies that the offense caused is universal in nature, as if there are no belief systems anywhere that allow for humans who identify as deities. That is simply not true.
The first example that comes to mind is that giant elephant in the room, Jesus. How many times have I heard people ponder the question of, “If Jesus came back today, would he be welcomed?” I’m guessing the answer is probably no. It’s ok if an incarnation of God walked the earth in the distant past, but in modern times? That kind of thing simply doesn’t happen! Jesus is actually a really bad example of this because deitykin don’t work miracles, or at least none that I’ve seen proven. However it’s important to bring him up because many of the pagans and polytheists in the community, who are also the most likely to take offense at the thought of a deity walking around in human skin, have been influenced by Christianity in one way or another. One of those influences being that of putting the divine up on a pedestal so high that no human can touch it. Not all cultures view divinity from that perspective.
In Nepal there is a tradition of living child goddesses. It’s not exactly the same because the living goddesses are chosen, not self-proclaimed. Also their divinity depends on an indwelling spirit of a goddess which resides with the girl temporarily rather than an innate quality that remains for their entire lives. The tradition also has many rules about what these living goddesses can and cannot do. The concept of divinity in the flesh is handled very carefully. However, it does dispute the idea that identifying as a deity is innately and universally offensive.
In ancient Egypt, every Pharaoh was thought to be a living Heru, or Horus. He, occasionally she, was the living embodiment of Heru on earth. This was accomplished through the kingly ka, which, while something one was born with, becomes activated at coronation. Pharaohs also commonly claimed to be the sons of various kingly deities like Amun and Ra. But this sort of identification was not the sole domain of kings. In Kemetic magical practice, it was not at all unusual for the magician to proclaim him or herself as a deity, sometimes several different ones in the same verse! There are many examples of this in the Coffin Texts where the speaker might be the deceased or sometimes a priest officiating on behalf of the deceased. Borrowing the mantle of a god to achieve a desired goal was not only not offensive, it appeared to be common practice to place yourself in the sandals of a deity!
When it comes to pantheism, everything and everyone is already part of the divine. From that point of view, deitykin would be no more, and also no less, divine than anyone else. From a New Age perspective, everyone has a Higher Self. The deitykin just happens to know one of the names that their higher self has been called.
What a person finds offensive is a very personal thing. I’m not here to tell people that they’re not allowed to take offense at the existence of deitykin because that would not be very effective. I’m just opening up other areas of thought here so that the subject can be examined more objectively than just picking it up as a knee jerk reaction.
(Stay tuned for “Deitykin Part 2: Gods Behaving Badly” to read about the other side of the coin.)