From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
The Minotaur (1885) by George Frederic Watts
The Minotaur (1885) by George Frederic Watts

Related e



Therianthropy (from n. therianthrope and adj. therianthropic, part man and part beast, from the Greek therion, θηρίον, meaning "wild animal" or "beast", and anthrōpos, άνθρωπος, meaning "man") refers to the metamorphosis of humans into other animals. Therianthropes have long existed in mythology, appearing in ancient cave drawings such as the Sorcerer at the Cave of the Trois-Frères.

The term therianthropy was used to refer to animal transformation folklore of Asia and Europe as early as 1901. Therianthropy was also used to describe spiritual belief in animal transformation in 1915 and one source raises the possibility the term may have been used in the 16th century in criminal trials of suspected werewolves.



Ethnologist Ivar Lissner theorized that cave paintings of beings with human and nonhuman animal features were not physical representations of mythical shapeshifters, but were instead attempts to depict shamans in the process of acquiring the mental and spiritual attributes of various beasts. Religious historian Mircea Eliade has observed that beliefs regarding animal identity and transformation into animals are widespread.

Therianthropy can also refer to artistic descriptions of characters that simultaneously share human and nonhuman animal traits, for example the animal-headed humanoid forms of gods depicted in Egyptian mythology (such as Ra, Sobek, Anubis, and others) as well as creatures like centaurs and mermaids.

Some common forms of therianthropy have their own terminologies. Of these, lycanthropy, cynanthropy, and ailuranthropy are the best known. The term "cynanthropy" was applied in 1901 to Chinese myths about humans turning into dogs, dogs becoming people, and sexual relations between humans and canines.


In folklore, mythology and anthropology, the most commonly known form of therianthropy is lycanthropy (from the Greek words lycos ("wolf") and anthropos ("man")). Although the definition specifically describes a metamorphic change from human to canine form (as with a werewolf), the term is often used to refer to any human to nonhuman animal transformation.


Among a sampled set of psychiatric patients, the belief of being part animal, or clinical lycanthropy, was generally associated with severe psychosis, but not always with any specific psychiatric diagnosis or neurological findings. Others regard clinical lycanthropy as a delusion in the sense of the self-identity disorder found in affective and schizophrenic disorders, or as a symptom of other psychiatric disorders..

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Therianthropy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools