Guest post by Faileas.
A look into the phenomena of phantom wings with respect to the therian and otherkin communities, based off a series of surveys conducted via various forums and through selected sources on livejournal
I’d initially intended for this essay to be part of my essay on angelic natures. However, considering the scope is considerably different, I’m writing about this subject on its own .Wings mean many things to many people. They are a symbol of hope, of freedom. Wings of imagination often let us fly away from the mundane world into fantasy. However, there’s another sort of wings people feel, which are almost real. Phantom wings are a fairly well documented phenomena in the therian and otherkin communities, and i have tried to document this as well as i can.
In this essay i will be be looking at wings, the type of wings people report of feeling, and the possible reasons for feeling wings from two perspective- Firstly from them in a symbolic/psychological viewpoint, and what they could mean to those who feel phantom wings do not feel they are part of them, Secondly i will look at wings as part of a therian or otherkin identity .As always, the accuracy and scope of my work is entirely based off what i know, Either from friends or from online surveys i conducted.
Before i started, I wanted to get some information on both how phantom wings manifested, and to try to ascertain if there was any common ground between them .I did find a reasonable amount of common factors within the therian community and angelics(though all angelics in the sample were therian as well, and as such would be counted as such),in terms of wing placement, and attitudes towards their phantom wings .The otherkin community on the other hand seems a little more varied and as a result, my results will group together similar responses while discussing them.
Data and scope
While every effort has been taken for accuracy, the rather unscientific nature of the data gathering, as well as emphasis on getting a range of views,means that means that my results are only as good as the data. I have chosen not to attempt to arbitrate on accuracy(considering the very personal and subjective nature of the subject material, this seemed a prudent choice, other when especially outrageous or difficult to decipher claims were made). I have linked to the original surveys in appendix A (though, the availability of the links are Dependant on the original sources)
I basically focused on a few issues i felt were of interest(a list of questions that i used is available in appendix B. A slightly modified version was used on other-haven, since the original list was therian centered, and resulted in confusion) .Firstly, the origins of the phantom shift, and how it manifested itself. Secondly, i wished to look into the commonly held view that most people who have wings had them due to symbolic reasons.
Also, due to significant differences in the views i received from people in the therian and otherkin communities, i have chosen to group responses based on common factors. Some of them (such as the location of wings) seem to have more common ground than others.
While my views are based off my interpretation of the data, the direct implications and analysis of data would likely comprise a whole separate essay, and if i feel i need to do it, it will be done, separately on a later date. I feel that while there were other sources, the spread of the sources i selected gave me a fairly wide view of the subject, and didn’t overly focus on any one community, or point of view.
Part 1 Phantom Wing Morphology (wing shapes)
By the very nature of the sample, phantom wings are definitely common to all respondents. Interestingly almost all respondents reported that their wings were attached to their shoulder blades (what i refer to as A, or angelic type attachment, being constant with the classical portrayal with how angels have their wings attached.), with only three respondents reporting alternate wing attachment locations One reported his arms being phantom wings(what i refer to as B or Bird type wings,due to the similar manner of attachment ) another had A type wings which occasionally manifested themselves somewhat lower than the usual upper back, and the last reported multiple wings in various locations.
Considering that an overwhelming part of the sample reported similar wing placement, and this appears independent of the origin (IE the phenotype or theriotype of the individual or the independence from it, the nature of the wings (phantom wings, cameo shift, shape shifting origins of phenotype etc), I’d feel that i cannot draw any correlation between wing location, and any other factor, based off the data at hand.
Out of the respondents, a large number of them reported Bird type wings(in terms of shape and covering, not location). In many cases this is tied in to the individual’s phenotype or theriotype(1), though in some cases (particularly dragons,winged elves and some hybrids(2) ) It is probably difficult to predict the responses. Other responses included bat type wings, dinosaurian wings (in cases both with fur or feathers) and insect type wings, though these were relatively rare.
I’d note also note that in many cases, while the wings are an essential and consistent feature of an individual’s experiences, they might be transient(3)
Part 2 Types of wings
Based off my assessment of the data, i am suggesting that, broadly speaking, it would be possible to classify the phantom wing phenomena into four types.
Firstly, those whose wings are an essential part of their phenotype/theriotype. In this case, the way in which the wing manifests itself is consistent (IE always the same type, roughly same location, and fairly unconscious.).This would be, in general the largest group.
The second classification described would be constructed wings – such as symbolic wings(IE the phantom wings are a result of “willing” them into a sort of existence), or those created on a permanent basis by some external entity (many otherkin refer to their “creator”, the validity of this is out of the scope of this essay)
Last classification would be wings that are the result of a cameo shift and or experiences of a shamanic type. The defining feature of this would be that the manifestation of the wings as a PH shift would be relatively short lived and occur at isolated incidences.
There were two other cases that don’t quite fit into these classifications neatly. One respondent reported wings in a past life, which while relevant i have chosen not to include in the main classification, since it was a past life. The other referred to wings in terms of sensations and while, interesting, i ended up with almost none of the questions i had asked answered, and a sense than the respondent was trying a little too hard to be mysterious.
I’d like to bring to attention another possible factor. Though none of the respondents reported this, according to Lewis-Williams and Dawson(4) apparently there are certain shamanic rituals that involve hallucinogenic substances that lead to something that appears to be indistinguishable from phantom shifts. Presumably mind altering substances might cause effects indistinguishable from a very strong phantom shift, and this might be a means, valid or otherwise from our point of view. However this would still have the potential to induce phantom wings, and is worth mentioning, at least from the point of view of completeness.
Part 3 Symbolic wings vs symbolism
One of the initial reasons i had started on getting input on wings was because i wished to explore the idea of wings being symbolic. While a majority of the sample’s responses, had some degree of wings being related to a phenotype/theriotype or some other cause, i noted that, especially in responses from the otherkin community, that for many the wings themselves had some personal significance, and that there was emotions attributed to the wings.
From this, I’d like to suggest that, while most phantom wings (except possibly constructed ones, as i will discuss later) are not symbolic by their nature (at least on their own), wings might have personal symbolism. They might have emotions and feelings attributed to them by the person who has them, and thus have a certain degree of meaning. Wings themselves might not be symbols, but they have symbolism attributed to them, which is not a core requirement for their existence
Self constructed wings on the other hand exist at some level entirely due to force of will and belief in their existence I would like to suggest that in such a situation, personal symbolism might be a very strong force for the wings to exist at a psychological or spiritual level and thus, many, if not all the wings of this sort are of a symbolic nature
Footnotes and citations
(1) in the essay, due to the fairly diverse types of respondents, I’ve chosen to use phenotype as well as theriotype to refer to the “type” of otherkin/therians in the essay, unless i can find a better common term.
(2)Hybrids refers to any therian or otherkin who claims a mixed theriotype or phenotype (EG, cat and bird). Many Dragons and mythics likely fall under this category as well, but classification of theriotypes and phenotypes is out of the scope of this essay.
(3) Constant means that where there are wings, they are of the same type/location. Transient means the person might not feel the wings much of the time, especially where there are 2 or more phenotypes or theriotypes
(4)Lewis-Williams, J.D. & T.A. Dowson, 1988. The signs of all times: entoptic phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic art. Current Anthropology 29, 201–45
Original data sources
Results from non public data sources
E mail- 2
Others 2 with one invalid response
Copy of questionnaire
1) where are the wings placed with respect to your body?
2)what kind of wings?(eg birdlike, draconic etc)
3)are these wings part of your usual experiences(A) or was it a cameo shift(B)
4)If the answer to part three was A, please answer part 4A, if it was B answer 4B
(a) what theriotype do you associate with these wings?
(b) what brought on the cameo shift and to what animal/bird was it
5) what emotions do you associate with your wings?
6)what do you feel of wings as a purely psychological construct (IE phantom wings being a manifestation of desire for freedom, peace etc)
Copyright “Faileas” 2005.