Monday, November 27, 2006
Therianthropy is a generic term for any transformation of a human into another animal form, or for a being which displays both human and animal characteristics, either as a part of mythology or as a spiritual concept. The word is derived from Greek therion, meaning "wild animal" or "beast", and anthrōpos, meaning "man".
In folklore, mythology and anthropology, therianthropy can be used to describe a character that shares some traits of humans and some of non-human animals. The most commonly known form is lycanthropy (from the Greek words lycos ("wolf") and anthropos ("man")), the technical term for the transformation from man to animal form. Although the precise definition of lycanthropy specifically refers only to the change into wolf form (as with a werewolf), the term is often used to refer to shape changing to any non-human animal form.
Therianthropy can also refer to characters that share man and animal traits at the same time, for example with the animal-headed human forms of gods in Egyptian mythology (such as Ra, Sobek and others) as well as creatures like centaurs and mermaids.
Mental illness: When people believe they change into an animal form (theriomorphosis), or possess supernatural non-human animal traits, the term clinical lycanthropy is often used. This classification is a form of mental illness, though many anthropologists would point out that the belief has extensive religious precedent in shamanic cultures. Likewise, people who call themselves shapechangers as a form of social identification are generally not considered ill by mental health professionals unless their beliefs interfere with the normal functioning of their lives. This can be a controversial issue, as the line between what the mind passes off as a strange or alternative belief and what is considered a mental illness is indistinct.
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