Published Dec 27, 2018; last updated Mar 07, 2022.

I haven’t called myself otherhearted in a long time (otherkin fits better now) but, when I came to identify as otherhearted in 2015, I immediately adopted two heart-types: forest spirit and tiger.

My forest spirit ‘type was something that I’d already been exploring for a long time, being the thing that first led me down this path. Tiger was more of an innate “this should be included as well” because it hadn’t been a huge part of my awakening but was definitely still present.

Until earlier this month–December 2018–I had considered them to be separate. After all, a tiger isn’t exactly what you think of when you picture a forest spirit. But each one had missing pieces and this had always left me curious. For my forest spirit kintype I had some general ideas about body shape/size, habitat, and associations, but nothing more. The morphological details in my head could be applied to a variety of different animals (none of which I felt a particular connection to) and I spent countless hours scouring mythology with no results.

Tiger was essentially the opposite. I had a clearer idea of its form, recognizing it as tigrine but not earthly. I feel resonance when I see earthly tigers, and there are aspects of tiger behavior that I can relate to, but it’s not to the point where I’d say I experience felinity like tiger therians do. I draw more inspiration from artistically styled tigers, from those found in old Japanese paintings and from tiger-monsters in literature and comics. But I didn’t know what my tiger ‘type was beyond that. Was it some sort of mythical creature? Something from fiction?

So with forest spirit I had a being without form, and with tiger I had a form without being. Sometimes I would idley think about them being the same entity, but I always dismissed this. I thought that most tiger subspecies were too big and all of them lived in the wrong habitats. I don’t have a good excuse for being wrong here. I thought I’d been doing pretty thorough research, but I guess I was always so quick to dismiss things, or I was always looking in the wrong places. At the beginning of this month I was once again wishing I knew what my spirit kintype looked like, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give a tigrine form more consideration.

First off, my spirit ‘type has always been connected to temperate deciduous forests, and I always associated tigers (save for the Siberian) with tropical habitats. This is true, but I wasn’t aware that tropical deciduous forests exist, and that the tiger’s historic range does overlap with temperate deciduous forests in a few places. The 2-season calendar of tropical deciduous forests isn’t a perfect match, and in all honesty I don’t feel much connection to those ecosystems, but it’s a start. It’s also worth noting that some prehistoric tigers were about the same size as or smaller than the Sumatran subspecies which could help with the “wrong size” issue I was facing. They also occupied slightly different ranges.

Suddenly tigers were a viable forest creature.

More importantly, tigers appear in art, stories, and cultures of regions where they aren’t native, including those which currently have temperate deciduous biomes. Even if the depictions aren’t mythological in nature, they’re still proof that the “soul” of the tiger exists there. And if my tiger ‘type isn’t earthly, doesn’t that matter more? I can’t help but fuss over native ranges and prehistory, but really, a tiger spirit wouldn’t need to look exactly like its earthly counterparts or occupy the same space as them. (And I mean I don’t even… really believe in spirits in the first place?? Anyways.)

Also, I’ve seen a few other forest spirit kin around and I think we’re all just critters who’re vibing and doing our own thing. We don't look similar; there aren't any rules about what we should be.

Three years after my original publication of this essay, the two continue to be complimentary. Even when I feel I may be wrong, I always end up coming back to this because I haven’t found anything else that fits as well. No feral forms that I’ve seen in reality or fantasy, nothing that I’m able to imagine, give me that sense of connection the way tiger does. It also sheds new light on some “confusion” that I’d been having with my tiger ‘type. I see myself in tigers and I see tiger in myself, but at the same time tiger just doesn’t feel as integral as other parts of my identity. Tiger-ness has never had much of an influence on my life; furthermore, I’ve never really had the desire to be a tiger in the same ways that I desire to be a spirit. Now, viewing tiger as an aspect of forest spirit, this makes sense. Tiger is simply the form that spirit wears. I may embody tiger, but tiger is not integral to my functioning as a spirit-person.

As always I can’t be sure if it’ll stick, but so far viewing my tiger ‘type and my spirit ‘type in this way has been working out. I can still focus on tiger without forest spirit, and forest spirit without tiger, but they are the same. Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll find things that fit both of them better in some obscure fiction or myth. Admittedly, I feel like I haven’t scoured fiction well enough, but at the same time there isn’t exactly a 100% comprehensive list of entities that I can browse through. What I currently have is pretty good!