'Otherkin' are people who believe themselves to be not entirely human in some way. Most believe they are non-human in a spiritual sense, but there are some who claim to be genetically non-human.
Most otherkin claim to have a non-human soul. Usually, they believe the have lived as something non-human during their past lives, although not all otherkin even believe in reincarnation.
Most otherkin claim to have been creatures most people believe to be mythical, like elves, fae1 or even dragons. However, there are many who believe that they were earth-dwelling animals, like wolves, cats or even birds. Some believe they are spirits who have been born into physical bodies. This is often so they can complete a task that they would not be able to complete in their non-physical form. For example, some claim to be angels who have been sent to earth to help people overcome their problems in life.
Otherkin are born into seemingly human families and later in life - usually during their teen years - go through a process known as the 'awakening'. During this process they realise that they are not human, often because of the emergence of past-life memories.
Most otherkin feel out of place and often don't fit in with the rest of humanity. Sceptics claim it is because of this that they decide they are otherkin, but otherkin themselves claim that they do not fit in because they are different from everyone else, as they are in some way not human.
Those who claim to be genetically not human do not claim to be completely non-human, but believe that, at some time during their family history, non-human life forms bred with humans. Mostly those who claim to be this type of otherkin believe that they are elvish or some other type of creature which is very similar to a human.
Almost all otherkin claim that they have some sort of psychic ability, and many practise magick. They are, in general, more spiritual than most people.
The Otherkin Online Community
The otherkin have a large online community, which began in the mid-1990s, but there are those who claim that otherkin have been always been around, just without the names for what they were before, and without the community that only became possible with the development of the Internet. Otherkin generally don't tell other people that they are otherkin, because they would be ridiculed for their beliefs, so the Internet is useful to them, not only because they can meet others who are like them, but also because they can remain anonymous, and so are protected from those who do not share their beliefs.
Otherkin and Religion
One important thing to remember is that the concept of otherkin is not a religion. Otherkin can be Hindu, Muslim, Neopagan2, Christian3 or even atheist. Many do not have a religion, because their beliefs are far too different from all the human religions, so they create their own belief system.
The Sceptic's View
At a glance, the concept of otherkin may seem to be a strange one, and one could be forgiven for labelling all those who believe they are otherkin to be insane, but on closer inspection the theory is not so strange. Many religions believe that souls can be reincarnated as different life-forms each lifetime and the ancient Celts even believed in reincarnation between worlds. Elves, fae and other creatures now thought of as mythical were once believed to be real. Just as some people today talk about the UFO they once saw, people of the past would tell their friends about the dragon they saw flying in the distance. Some might interpret some passages in the Bible as implying that angels live among humans. Evil spirits are also repeatedly mentioned.
Of course, the common belief is that otherkin are simply humans who have grown bored with modern society and so have escaped into a fantasy world, perhaps from playing too many roleplaying games. Otherkin themselves, however, do not claim to live any differently from normal people. They watch TV, complain about their jobs and live practically no differently to anyone else. Most do not believe themselves to be any better than the common man, as the general otherkin belief is that everything has its place in nature - nothing is better or worse, just different. Although some otherkin do participate in roleplaying and read fantasy novels, many do not. Otherkin despise people in their online communities claiming to be something they are not. Most otherkin are highly sceptical of people who claim to be from a culture which is almost identical to something from a roleplaying game, movie or book. The worst insult you could give to an otherkin would be to describe them as a 'roleplayer'. So generally otherkin are just normal people who have different spiritual beliefs to the rest of us.
There are several otherkin websites on the Internet.
One of the most popular is Otherkin.net: Harmony and Discord.
Elenari.net is a site focusing specifically on those who feel they are elves.