I am a forest spirit otherkin. This means that I identify as a forest spirit; I am a spirit-person. I don’t know why I’m like this, I don’t have a concrete spiritual or psychological explanation; it’s probably a bit of both, or one masquerading as the other. Also, I’m more along the lines of an entity/spirit who lives in a forest, rather than a spirit of a forest. I look like a tiger probably?
Recently I woke up with the nostalgic urge to write about my awakening- an “awakening” being when someone begins to discover their otherkin/therian/etc. identity, though the concept doesn’t get thrown around as much these days. I also wanted to do this in order to document the missteps I took, along with how my flavor of otherkinity influenced my awakening. I don’t experience either of the “big” things people talk about: shifts (mental or otherwise) and past life memories. On top of that, I have a human identity alongside my otherkin one.
(And yes, it’s fairly common to not have shifts or memories- there are many other ways to experience nonhumanity and alterhumanity. Those were just the two most common things people used to justify their identities back in the day.)
It’s been a long time, and I’m disappointed that so much of my early awakening has been lost in old Tumblr posts and Skype conversations. I will try to make this as accurate as possible, but also want to state that some of my memories have gotten fogged up over time.
Things started happening around 2011, maybe earlier. I would have been 13/14 in 2011.
It started with running. We were visiting family up north and I was sitting in the backseat of the car, looking out at the beautiful grasslands and montane forest and I just wanted to run. Run and run and run over hills and valleys and through woodlands. But I didn’t want to run on two legs, it had to be four. The desire for quadrupedal movement is something that has stuck with me to this day- I can only imagine how perfect and graceful it must feel.
“I want to run” soon turned into… more. Things got confusing. My childhood home borders a patch of deciduous woods, and I was lucky to spend many hours wandering around in them. They sparked something within me. I felt drawn to them, to temperate, broadleaf forests in general; my bedroom window overlooked a portion of the woods and in quiet hours I would sometimes sit and stare out at them. It feels weird to say that I felt “called,” but I felt called out into that wilderness. Like there was some magic lurking within and it was up to me to discover it.
I sleep in that room less and less as I get older. When I visit I still find myself looking through the window.
These years were full of inspiration, too. I was beginning to explore otherkin and therian spaces more, because I found the concepts fascinating. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with my lack of belief in anything spiritual or religious. I was also becoming increasingly amazed by the depictions of nature, yokai, and shinto themes in anime (which I was beginning to watch more.)
With all of that, it didn’t take too long for me to consider that I could be other-than-human. But there were two issues.
1. Living a human life didn’t feel uncomfortable or wrong
2. I had a lot of difficulty believeing spiritual or religious concepts
These two things made my questioning slower and more tedious than it should’ve been. I could not explain what I was feeling, and the information available to me didn’t resonate. The majority of otherkin and therian narratives were focused on people feeling starkly out of place in human society, experiencing strong shifts into nonhuman behaviors/mindsets, having phantom limbs, past life memories, etc… There was also a lot of grilling and gatekeeping. You were required to prove that you were “the real deal” and not just “wishing you were otherkin because you read about it once and you thought it sounded cool.” I never got grilled myself but seeing it happen to others kept me from participating in otherkin spaces. Because yeah, I didn’t feel like I was the real deal. I didn’t feel out of place as a human, I didn’t have shifts or memories. Was I just a faker who wanted to be kin because I was bored?
I cherished exploring the woods so much, but those outings weren’t often profound. I certainly never had the sudden, powerful realization of my One True Real Nonhuman Self that I’d been craving. But the moment I returned home, I’d get the feeling that I’d overlooked something. That I’d left too soon.
My lack of faith came into play when I was trying to decipher what my species–if anything other than human–actually was. “Forest spirit” popped up on my radar numerous times from the very beginning. During this period I was also experimenting with my beliefs, delving into subjects like totemism, animism, spiritual meditation, and nature-based religion. Nothing really stuck the way I wanted it to. I came away with an appreciation for turkey vultures, but no faith in the existence of spirits. While I knew about psychological nonhumanity, I didn't know how I could possibly be something I didn’t believe in. It didn’t make sense!
I was also dissatisfied with being a forest spirit because it was so vague. A forest spirit could look like anything. People were dragons and bears and I wanted to know my shape, too. I combed through articles and books trying to find some mythical creature that clicked, but my searches were all in vain. The logic behind me spending hours researching these subjects after I just said “how could I possibly be something I didn’t believe in?” eludes me. I think different barriers affected me at varying intensities over the course of my awakening, and there were times when I just wanted to see if anything would smack me over the head with the sense of “Oh shit, that’s me!” regardless of whether or not I thought it could really exist.
A cycle began: I would get “kin feelings” (usually during times of seasonal change) → I began to question my humanity → I would research obsessively for a few weeks → Nothing fit because I didn’t feel “otherkin enough” or because I couldn’t reconcile my skepticism or because I couldn’t find the right species → It would give me a big, big headache → I would give up for the time being, my headache causing me to feel disconnected from everything but my human-ness; a period of dormancy that would last a few months → Rinse and repeat for ~4 years.
Those periods of dormancy were barriers in themselves. How could I be nonhuman if I didn't feel that way 24/7?
Still, longings hit like a truck at times. I would be outside or see a beautiful photograph and feel something, something, missing, from either myself or from that forest. I felt like there might as well have been two of me, living different lives. I felt like there was something I was meant to be doing. Something gnawing at my insides, wanting to be known. I wrote poetry, I called myself "species-neutral,” I made an "otherkin-themed" playlist even though I was human, you guys.
In desperation for an answer I began doing some logical parkour. Continuously I diverged from the things that actually made me feel nonhuman in the first place. I didn’t mind being bipedal (nevermind the desire to move on four legs) so my kintype must be bipedal too, right? Something like a huldra? I came back to huldras quite a few times. Even still, I like them a lot. What about my day-to-day behavior? My posture? At some point I concluded that I was a bird therian. Earthly animals actually existed, so it “made more sense.” Birds were bipedal, too! Except, my experiences didn’t quite match up to how avian-people described their identities on sites like Birds of a Feather. I lacked that overpowering yearning to fly- well, maybe I was just a species that preferred living on the ground, like a pheasant.
That didn’t last very long.
All the while, I continued to think about spirit-things. The idea of traveling through the woods and along the outskirts of human settlements. The idea of being able to move unseen. It was comforting. It wouldn't leave me alone.
At another point, I attempted to solve the “I feel too human” issue with plurality. Maybe I was median, with one human facet and one nonhuman facet? That idea eventually fizzled out as well. I went back to calling myself a "wannabe forest spirit.”
2015 was when things really changed, when I finally started getting answers. I was introduced to the term "otherhearted,” which was an identification with something that went far deeper than typical affinities. After years, something clicked. I had a plausible connection to forest spirits after all! Existence didn't matter. Proof didn’t matter. I could stop worrying about whether or not I was spirit-kin, because I was spirit-hearted.
Then in 2017 I discovered alterhumanity, and fully accepted the notion that I could identify as both human and non-human. Alt-H’s February Question of the Month was: “What is your relationship to humanity? Do you identify with any part of being human? Do you feel like you’re a blend of ‘other’ and human, or fully not human inside? Are you human but alterhuman in some other way?”
To which I wrote:
“Originally, I planned to start this post off by stating that I was human as opposed to anything else. However, this month’s question made me realize something important: I don’t have to identify as either fully human or fully not. Being a “blend” of human and other, or being both simultaneously/adjacently, describes how I experience my otherhearted-ness pretty well.”
Shortly after, I would shuck the otherhearted label altogether, as the “identify with” vs. “identify as” dichotomy began to feel constricting. Still, embracing that I was other in some way, and that I was a forest spirit as opposed to a different creature, while still being human, really put me on the right path back then. After a few more years I eventually felt comfortable identifying as otherkin. I had grown to respect my forest spirit kintype for what it was: an enigma.
The spirit-feelings are quieter nowadays, especially since I live in a more urban area, though there are still times where they jump out at me; this past fall I had periods of yearning that gripped harder than they had in a few years. The magic in the woods, the being-called, the green at dusk. Things like that are treasures, for they make me feel connected to both my kinself and my younger self.
I suppose the takeaway from this essay would be: If you keep questioning whether or not you’re otherkin, fictionkin, otherhearted, or something else, it’s ok to explore that in earnest, and a lot of labels have more wiggle room than you think. If you keep coming back to a certain species or creature, don’t push it away just because it “doesn’t make sense based on [preconceived notion about nonhuman identity]” (or because it’s “weird” or “edgy” or “too obscure” or “not obscure enough” or whatever else.) Go with the flow, there’s nothing wrong with meandering a bit.