Bionicle: adapting a Matoran story for humans

Notes on considerations for turning The Lego Group's Bionicle legendarium into a religion for humans



Previously, on Tumblr

The Bionicle Lore is deep enough that it’d probably make the basis for a good human religion. It’s got some nice moral lessons, some good fights, some nice self-sacrifices. You can tell the flat-Earthers that, well, kinda, yes it’s not a globe but really it’s just placed on the skin of a giant robot made by the truly elder gods. You can get a religious exemption to piously wear carved metal masks in public. What it mostly lacks is rites and day-to-day observations. In this essay, I will

Bionicle as a nereligion, 2019-11-25

An important part of Bionicle lore is that most species of sentient being (not just sapient) wear Kanohi masks. These masks come in several levels of power, from powerless to noble to great to legendary. The heroes of the stories, the Toa, wear the Great Kanohi, which have significant power. The wise elders, the Turaga, wear the Noble Kanohi, which are lesser forms of the Kanohi those Turaga once wore when they were Toa. Most of the standard folk in life, Matoran, wear powerless Kanohi, but if a Matoran becomes a Toa, the new Toa’s Great Kanohi’s power will correspond to the powerless mask they wore.

Masks come in types as well as power levels, and it is these types that determine the powers granted by Great and Noble Kanohi.

And for a while, I thought that in a neoreligion, Kanohi would just be symbolic things, worn by members of the neoreligion like Harry Potter fans wear Hogwarts memorabilia and make deep-delve fanon posts about what their wand construction would be.

But after reviewing the known types of Kanohi masks, and the present state of technology, I’m sure that [several] masks could be made in powered forms[, with modern techonology]

What’s really needed is a standardized head-helmet on which to mount the masks, which would provide power, user-facing displays, eye lights, and fallback vision cameras in case the mask doesn’t provide additional sensory inputs.

On the role of masks in a Bionicle neoreligion, 2020-11-12

What would a neoreligion based upon Bionicle call itself?

Let us quote Turaga Vakama: “This is the Way of the Bionicle.”

I’m using this clip from Bionicle: The Mask of Light to answer a question, 2020-11-14

The Orthodox Suva of Mata Nui believes that the Great Spirit Mata Nui blessed the Matoran with the virtues of Unity, Duty, and Destiny, and that it is through these virtues that Mata Nui’s brother, Makuta, will be defeated and Mata Nui reawakened.

The LessWrongian Suva acknowledge the existence of Makuta, and work with the Orthodox Suva to defeat him. But unlike the Orthodox Suva, the LessWrongian Suva believes that the Great Spirit Mata Nui does not exist yet. The LessWrongian Suva believes that it is through the virtues of Unity, Duty, and Destiny, and only through those virtues, that the Great Spirit can finally be constructed.

LessWrongian Bionicleism, 2021-04-22

Resources for resources

Like this site’s project to analyze Zeonism, to do this work well would require a lot of time reading Bionicle lore. That time is not currently available to this page’s curator.

So, some resources if you want to go about doing this:

How to adapt the Way of the Bionicle as a human religion

These questions are decisions that will need to be made as you determine what shape the Way of the Bionicle takes in your community.

Key questions to answer:

  1. Is Bionicle just Greg Farshety’s fever dream, or is the story that he and the rest of the Lego Group assembled something that is real?
  2. Are you limiting this to the more-limited mythology told by the Turaga to the amnesiac Matoran of the Island of Mata Nui, or are all works of the Bionicle story to be considered part of the Bionicle religion’s lore and canon? Even the Alternate Universe stories that the Toa Mata Nui visited?
  3. How should humans behave?
  4. What are Rahi?

Suggestions for physical trappings of the religion

The Bionicle legendarium has strong themes of light and shadow. Physical gathering places (suva) should have strong contrasts in lighting, and light/shadow should be a strong theme in any liturgy or practice. (See Zoroastrianism or the Secular Solstice canon)

Elemental powers such as water, ice, fire, air, earth, stone, light, iron, sonics, electricity, plasma, magnetism, psionics, The Green: these are somehow essential to the universe, but how can they be present in your religion’s practice?

“Masks” could be trinkets, charms, pins, bracelets, or something else that does not cover the face. Yet this archivist thinks that a human religion of Bionicle would benefit from the markedness that comes from wearing a solid mask covering the entire face, at least in public. In many countries, there are provisions in law to allow for religious headgear. Exploit this. Encourage your adherents to wear masks based on the Kanohi masks at all times, and encourage the development of a common headgear and mounting system so that people can switch masks as appropriate. Masks should not merely be ornaments, but serve as a reminder of something essential to the adherent, akin to the Powerless Kanohi.

If possible, develop masks which are also functional in some way, such as:

Also, figure out how to discourage people from wearing masks of which only one exists, like the Mask of Light, Mask of Life, Mask of Time, Mask of Creation and Mask of Shadows.

On the subject of cultural appropriation

Let’s not discuss this.

Okay, fine.

If humans are to accept as truth the existence of the Great Beings, of Mata Nui and the Matoran, then they must accept that the only knowledge humans have of the Bionicle is the English translations by the creative team at The Lego Group. Whether the names of things in the English are direct transliterations from Matoran is a matter of debate; The Lego Group acknowledged that they had borrowed Maori terms and names for the Bionicle stories. The Lego Group subsequently renamed many things in a retcon, and continued releasing Bionicle.

The earlier names, then, were a mistranslation, and that has been corrected in subsequent works.