“The Fire Burns Bright” by Jasper; April 2021
Summary: This is a personal essay written by Jasper on his experiences with being an Alolan Marowak fictherian and fictionkind. Personal experience, discussion of awakening, shifts, instincts, animality, culture and spirituality are elaborated on alongside a critical view on community narratives and boundaries.
Be warned, this essay shows an in-depth look on death and discusses personal experiences with death.
Some folks in the community got encouraging me to post this and while I was definitely hesitant, but you never know what’ll happen if you don’t give it a shot, after all.
I find there isn’t enough discussion on the fact that nonhumanity can be approached from multiple different angles and axis, instead treated like a hard binary of animality vs humanity – or if you’re lucky, a two-way spectrum. I’m someone who is nonhuman through and through, but the way in which I can experience being “other” from humanity can shift wildly. A strong sense of animality is brought on when shifted towards my Alolan Marowak fictotype – enough that I tend to strongly identify with the word fictherian. Though that sense of animality is its own thing, and is a wholly separate scale from the nonhumanity I experience when shifted towards my android kintype. But the experiences drawn from being an android could fill an essay of their own. We’re here to discuss the Marowak.
Both very not human, both very “other”, but a wholly different view upon what it means to be human and not human respectively. And I suspect the scale my Marowak self experiences may be different as well from the scale any given earthen animal may experience. Similar enough to where therianthrope discussion rings loud mental bells of familiarity and understanding, but still something else worth acknowledging. After all, how many earthen animal therianthropes feel the raw instinct of fire breath? Were-dragons however may understand that one well. And yet that animality is not something to be ignored or to set aside entirely even if the axis runs at a slightly off angle in comparison.
My name is Jasper, and some of you might know me, I’ve been around the community for a couple of years. Some folks even remember the internal grapple with identity and understanding that I had when I started being unable to deny I am an Alolan Marowak. The moment when the Alolan Marowak design was teased, and I had pointed out the familiarity as well as the typing before it was actually shown. There was a moment then when experiences and vague, blurry memories I’d held onto quietly for years without the priority of digging in deeper – as I was already busy with questioning and understanding my android kintype – became an absolute priority of mine to understand further.
I often half-joke about how my “awakening” as discussed in nonhuman communities was completely rocky, as it was. It was less a solid awakening, and more multiple years of slowly accepting and embracing aspects of my life that had always been present, which I had denied either to ease my own responsibility to myself or to appease others. Folks in the community may recall seeing me step into denial, and to substitute in any possible reptilian, fire-based creature I could in order to try and understand the experiences. Because how could I be a Pokemon? I’d been critical of fictionkin while diving into the community, something which when looking back was likely a compensation for already having been something odd and to be met with criticism – the android. I ran through a number of species when questioning: everything from earthen lizards, to draconic entities, to the elemental spirits of salamanders.
There were multiple aspects absolutely vital to communicating what I was experiencing, those being a) instinct-driven and wild, reptilian, and b) inherently connected to the elements of fire and spirit. My thoughts could be as unflattering as a scavenger’s instinct, growing frustrated at any leftover food or uncleaned-up animal remains (which sure made living in a populated city interesting, with abandoned scraps of food everywhere and the leftovers of unfortunate urban creatures who tried their luck at crossing Yonge Street), or curious to try and make a meal for myself out of the live insects I keep to feed to my own little old leopard gecko, Saleen. Yes, she was named after a car. No, that is not important. Having her around does however provide an up close frame of reference to draw out my own lizard drives. In terms of food instincts, raw eggs are absolutely another tempter of mine, as my carnivorous scavenger self would have been ecstatic to see a nest of unattended eggs to make a meal of. As I’ve learned due to that raw eggs absolutely suck, please cook them. It’s much better that way. But embarrassing nonhumanity stories will always be embarrassing.
Some of us Marowak – especially the males like myself – could become quite territorial. And that territorial feeling is something I’ve had to settle in my mind over life. Nowadays it’s decently well integrated, but it does now and then try my patience especially when it comes to setting out what is for me and what belongs strictly to me. Renting a small apartment in a populated city, once again, does definitely force you to keep the “this land is mine and it belongs to me, so screw off before you chase off my dinner” thoughts in check. A bit of human humbling for an animal’s self thought. I’ve of course needed to remind myself a number of times that the tourists in the train station on my way to work, while annoying, won’t manage to chase off the Tim Hortons I’ll be eating on my break.
But in the wild frontier of the Pokemon world, predator and prey dynamics were absolutely important to know and understand – and those dynamics reach beyond game mechanics such as elemental types and abilities. Even as a carnivore, scavenger and troublesome predator that I was when I reached the age of a full-grown Marowak, I still was in a dangerous spot on the food chain. The worst predators I’ve had to deal with while working to survive in my ecosystems were other Fire types, intriguingly. Even as a small Ground type Cubone. The fact that Cubones wear the skull of their lost mothers was something I am familiar with, my own having been taken down by a Charizard. This natural order of predation is both a major part of my animalistic experiences as a Marowak, but also did tie into my more sophisticated or spiritually-focused aspects that stemmed from my Pokemon identity and lifetime.
All of this lead to an animality-focused time in figuring out what I was, to the point where when I was in denial of the possibility of being a Pokemon, I identified myself as a theriomythic, fire-oriented reptile. And the animality definitely tends to lead the discussion upon how I live and experience being an Alolan Marowak. I sometimes joke that you could strip that side of my life down to the bare essentials and I’d be a lizard hanging out by a campfire. Though it certainly isn’t every aspect of me, as the Marowak.
At times I think on the term theriomythic, and how it could be extremely valuable in describing more than just “animal but from myth”, but to also communicate experiencing the self on a spectrum of animality and mythicality. In my case this spectrum is very much there, and the aspects of experience that make up me as the Marowak are scattered along it. All aspects are important to me and how I live as myself, as well as how I understand my own fictional animality and nonhumanity.
The Marowak, despite being a wild animal in how I recall and experience my species, do have a displayed aspect of culture and even spirituality. Setting aside the fictional wildness of being able to summon up fire at will to defend one’s turf, we’re shown to be able to interact comfortably with each other when it comes time for rituals, such as fire dancing at the sun rise and to mourn the lost. Mourning the lost is a large part of how one can experience being the Marowak as well, as it’s a pretty integral part of the species’ canon lore, starting from when we’re little baby Cubones. For those unfamiliar with Pokemon lore, a Cubone wears the skull of its dead mother Marowak. Adorning bones in a sort of ritual to mourn is something that I can’t say I’ve seen an earthen animal do. If you have then please do let me know, because it interests me a lot. But all I can say about it in my own drives and thoughts is that it’s just what we do, it’s cultural. To cite the Pokedex, “MAROWAK is the evolved form of a CUBONE that has overcome its sadness at the loss of its mother and grown tough. This POKéMON’s tempered and hardened spirit is not easily broken” (Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, 2002).
The donning and weaponizing of bones is both symbolic and an act of mourning, but also an example of tool using similar to some of our world’s apes. The Pokedex talks of this vaguely, stating “It has been seen pounding boulders with the bone it carries in order to tap out messages to others” (Pokemon Gold, 1999). The various Pokedex entries theorize on where the bone clubs come from, some entries mentioning a graveyard specifically for Marowak existing in the world, where Cubone and Marowak get their bones. Some entries state this like fact, such as Pokemon Crystal, meanwhile others bring up this as a rumour, such as Pokemon Silver. In my experience, it’s a rumour. I’ve not seen a Marowak graveyard, my bone club first came from my mother. But the main referenced use of the bone club is as a weapon, and also as a method of overcoming grief and turning to viciousness. “It is small and was originally very weak. Its temperament turned ferocious when it began using bones.” (Pokemon X, 2013). In my case, the symbolic use of them is as a tool of war, transforming grief into a vicious will to fight on and survive. Due to this, I hold bones and particularly skulls as a sacred object and have my small collection of skulls I keep as comfort objects. With time, having a large femur bone similar in shape is a life goal.
Though it does then get taken a step further, when peering in through the eyes of an Alolan variant Marowak. A spirituality that incorporates the dead and lost is brought in and becomes an extra step of important, crediting the Ghost type aspect alongside the Fire. Newer Pokedex entries focused on specifically this variant states “The bones it possesses were once its mother’s. Its mother’s regrets have become like a vengeful spirit protecting this Pokémon” (Pokemon Sun, 2016) and “It has transformed the spirit of its dear departed mother into flames, and tonight it will once again dance in mourning of others of its kind” (Pokemon Let’s Go, 2018). Spiritual awareness is very much accepted to be something that the Alolan Marowak possess and engage with openly, even building monuments to the lost as stated in the Generation 7 Pokedex entry: “Its custom is to mourn its lost companions. Mounds of dirt by the side of the road mark the graves of the Marowak” (Pokemon Moon, 2016).
Culturally there is a lot to the Marowak’s experience, comparing and including both Alolan and Kantonian variants of the species. The species as I remember are mostly solitary but I do recall clan dynamics and groups especially among the Alolan variant. These groups were less for survival and more for the purpose of those ritual gatherings, mentioned above. At times I was very foreign to these clans, being a Kanto-born Cubone evolved in Alola (a fact supported in canon and proven in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon via the ability to evolve a Kanto Marowak in Ultra Space). Behaviorally and culturally there are differences between Kanto and Alolan Marowak, brought on by how each looks at their situation differently. While an Alolan Marowak processes mourning in a more spiritual way, a Kanto Marowak becomes hardened by anger. “A MAROWAK is the evolved form of a CUBONE that has grown tough by overcoming the grief of losing its mother. Its tempered and hardened spirit is not easily broken,” (Pokemon Emerald, 2004). Because of this there was a separation between myself and the local Marowak that reinforced my solitary nature, and also influenced my introverted and almost outright nomadic nature in my current life and self. The fire dance under the sunrise was one known in canon. These rituals and dances are a custom humans in canon have taken notice to, and can even speculate the reasoning for. “This Pokémon sets the bone it holds on fire and dances through the night as a way to mourn its fallen allies” (Pokemon Sword, 2019). The fact that that cultural dynamic prevailed even through the difficulty of communicating is something that may be surprising, but a number of nonhumans know well that body language and tone of animal vocalizations can go a long way in communicating.
Ignoring these experiences would be a step towards cutting down and denying important experiences that affect me as a fictherian and as a Marowak. There’s important parts of how I experience being this Pokemon that are heavily grounded in a context of a mystical world where visibly potent acts of fantasy are possible unlike the world we are living in here. Some of these aspects can be emulated in more subtle ways through exploration of spirituality, religion and the occult. To dive deeper into that, I used to identify as Pagan, however now I practice what is called chaos magic. Chaos magic is a magical practice that developed in England in the 1960’s, working off of Austin Osman Spare’s occult practice and ideas. Chaos magic gave me an approach and freedom to incorporate what I know and remember as an Alolan Marowak into my every-day spirituality. Tailoring my spiritual beliefs and practices to focus on working with the element of fire, with spirits and the energy of death, bones, and to the very fabric of fiction crossing over into reality was extremely important as an avenue for me to explore the way my fictotype affects me in the modern day, and in the human body. This practice also gave me a bit of freedom to accept working with an entity from my source – Giratina – as a patron deity in pagan circles, which ultimately proved to be extremely valuable in exploring my own Pokemon identity. Practices like energy work, meditation, spirit work and visualization hit close to satisfying that need to be delved into the magical world we see in animation. And yet, even in these more sophisticated and fantastical experiences lie links back to the animality and to an inherent disconnect to humanity.
One thing I always enjoy in therianthrope and non-humanoid otherkin discussions is an openness to discuss the instincts that are ugly, disturbing or outside of what one’s human morals would ever agree with in this life and time. And in a lot of cases these instincts and memories can become a lot more “ugly” than a scavenger’s drive to eat carcasses or the awareness and cynical eye needed to survive in a completely wild world. At times, a wild creature can have defence mechanisms or behaviors that to our human minds would seem outright malicious. And Pokemon, even in the whimsical canon, are no exception to that. Once again I’ll drag up a few Pokedex entries – as honestly the Pokedex is a wonderful thing for exploring the deeper aspects of a wild Pokemon – to illustrate my point. “When it beats opponents with its bone, the cursed flames spread to them. No amount of water will stop those flames from burning,” (Pokemon Ultra Moon, 2017) and “The cursed flames that light up the bone carried by this Pokémon are said to cause both mental and physical pain that will never fade” (Pokemon Shield, 2019).
Yes, even the fun and magical world of Pokemon is no stranger to wild animals who inflict effects upon others that seem absolutely awful, and in some cases cruel. But, that’s survival in the animal kingdom, or in this case the Pokemon kingdom. It can be surprising to some that a person who’s fictotype hails from the fun and upbeat franchise that defined a number of childhoods may be hardened to the need to survive in a natural world. The things I know I had done to creatures who my childhood Pokemon fan self would have only wanted to hug, at least at a baseline mental state. In a shift, that’s a different story after all.
But ultimately, this blend of experiences causes an interesting time in exploring myself within the general nonhuman community as it can be quite split up. Certain narratives of individual communities I can’t find myself fitting into, or find myself sitting in between. I settle into spaces focused on everything from therianthropy, to mythical otherkinity, and to fictionkinity, though there’s narratives and cultural aspects in every separated community that either are foreign to me or that I might confront as they expect clear-cut boxes between them which individuals can fit into. In therianthrope communities I’ve been one to criticize the expectation of a solid line between human and animal experiences, or in general animal vs non-animal with regards to forcing a further divide from the otherkin community. I’ve also been involved in discussion criticizing therian community narratives such as a shifting focus and the model of integration. The model of integration is interesting to me, as I experienced it in a way that I was unaware of at the time, particularly with my android kintype. My android kintype is almost fully integrated into me – I barely shift at all at least mentally. However my Marowak fictotype provides less integration, and my mental shifting will be a lot more noticeable against my baseline self. At times it can be as stark as appearing like a different person, or more accurately like a wild animal. But ultimately the differences in the closeness of each kintype draws up issues for me with the integration model, as well as having found it normalized a severe mental health issue I had with my traumagenic plurality at the time of “least integration”.
The therianthrope community is far from the only community with narratives that put a barrier between me and relating, especially as members of each community push for further separation between individual branches of nonhuman experience and identity. I have trouble relating to humanoids when heavily shifted towards my Marowak self, and that puts a bit of a barrier between myself and the otherkin community’s more humanoid side – such as elven, fae, divine, angelic, etc. – as well as the fictionkin community’s focus on humanoid or completely story-driven fictionkind. I have no use for prioritized experiences within the fictionkin community such as finding canon-mates and creating aesthetics. Even in some Pokemon fictionkin specific communities I find I cannot relate often. My experience with my “Pokemanity” is heavily wild and animal-based as I was never caught, socialized with a human, or trained. In no way shape or form is my Pokemanity adjusted to interaction with humans, nor is it something that is settled down or subdued for human consumption unlike what my source was created for.
In both otherkin, therian and even fictionkin communities there is a push towards prioritizing the narrative of a solid awakening. That’s one more focus in the communities that I struggle with, as like I said before, mine was a process of accepting bits of myself which spanned multiple years. Every part of me that is nonhuman has always been present within my life, though for almost two decades muted heavily.
To draw back into my spiritual practice here, consider a practice known as shadow work. Shadow work is a practice that hybridizes spirituality and psychology, and describes the process of becoming aware of one’s shadow (the id, shadow archetype, or shadow aspect drawn from Carl Jung’s psychology) and working to integrate it into oneself by accepting the repressed parts of oneself that are pushed back and merged into the shadow. The shadow can be known as the unknown dark side of the personality, and I theorize that more nonhumans have undesirable aspects of their nonhumanity pushed onto their shadow than they might think they do, like I had done to my own Pokemanity for a number of years. In my case, I was slightly forced to tear into and meet my shadow aspects of my nonhumanity due to the fact that even upon immediately breaking into nonhuman communities, the specifics of what I was were already viewed with hostility and disbelief. In a way, it strengthened me. But with my shadow opened wide and not much held back, I can be a bit of a firestarter in spaces where I speak my mind whether others want to hear it or not. And part of that is directly confronting the forced separation of animal vs non-animal, or the arbitrary ideas of what is a human experience and what is not.
I can only best put forward my experience as a Pokemon through in-depth discussion, which I find tends to come across better in spaces where the experience of being by-and-large a feral animal is allowed without restraint. Ultimately a space I will thrive in most and be most open about my experiences and life as someone who is spiritually and psychologically an Alolan Marowak is one where I can discuss both my animality, my experience with fiction, my spiritual practice and the combination of these things that seem to be pushed into separate boxes. The Marowak serves a lot to my sense of self and to my life, and has psychological affects on me as well. It’s been a part of me that has fought through and survived when my life hit a rocky start early on, witnessing the death of my brother in childhood, and having loss and grief be present all around as I grew. The Marowak is both an inherent part and vital context in my life, as well as a symbol of my own endurance.
Through it all, the fire burns bright.
Marowak POKÉDEX: Stats, MOVES, evolution & locations. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://pokemondb.net/pokedex/marowak
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