A variety of old wolf bones. Vertebrae, jaw section, ulna. Sourced from AK First Nations subsistence hunts.
Bones play a big role in my practice, and take up a significant part of my collection.
Random assortment of topics, perhaps.
Very recently I was the target of a hate crime where I work. Due to the nature of my job I am not at liberty to discuss details (nor would I anyway on an open Internet space), but suffice to say it left me shaken. I am openly trans/queer, and I guess that creates a problem for some people. Where I live, emotions were running really high after the elections and marriage equality passing in several states. Some people didn’t take that news too kindly, and in this instance decided to bring it to work with them and take it out on an easy target (which happened to be me). It’s unfortunate, but this shit happens. It all stems from people judging someone or something before getting all of the facts, and from simply resorting to animosity and hate over things that are feared and can’t immediately be understood. But over all it’s sheer, crippling ignorance and bigotry at play. This person was religiously motivated, and that sucks. I can only imagine what would have happened if it was found out I was a polytheist.
This weekend I plan on recovering a bit, inasmuch as I am able, and I will be going hiking, and hacking/sorting wood outside for the winter firepit to open up. Especially after hurricane Sandy, the backyard has gotten a little trashed, and needs some maintenance so the fire pit can get rolling again. I also need to reposition the boundaries around my chthonic shrine area. That’s the particular area of the yard where I do a lot of fleshing, macerating and boiling of my various animal heads and other related work. The original boundaries I had set up (fallen logs and things) and the semi-grotto area are all scattered about, so it looks as if I’ll be rebuilding from scratch. I also want to track the movements of the deer around here, as they seem to have rerouted their travels a bit, bringing them very close no neighboring developments and such. I’ve also been hearing foxes and owls much closer to the house, I’m going to go searching for owl pellets, and maybe a fox den. Fox dens are great resources for animal bones, especially dens that aren’t presently in use.
When I was a kid, disappearing into the woods was one of the best ways for me to handle stress. Not much has changed. I may get involved in some rescue groups again, something more local. That was always good therapy for me, if nothing else. The events of…well, the past couple months have left me very shaken, so I feel like I’m in need of a restart, of something refreshing. Right now all I feel is angry, burnt out and depressed, and that needs to change.
Just made a new update to my Etsy shop. Antique Micronesian spinner dolphin teeth, fossil dog teeth, Japanese Tokugawa era coins, wolf tooth amulet, and other fun things. More will be coming (hopefully). I also hope to have a Halloween/Fall sale at some point.
I just have so much…stuff. But I suppose that’s why I’m called the “relic hound”.
The latest skull I’ve cleaned myself from its original raw state (essentially, a severed head sans skin). This came from a large male black coyote from New York State. I pride myself on being able to keep the nasals relatively intact. I’ll take a full photo of him once he’s fully articulated and all his teeth and jawbones are glued back in place.
In various animistic traditions, the skull was considered the most powerful part of an animal (human or non), the seat of the spirit and consciousness.
This fellow here is going to a fellow “spirit worker” and psychopomp once I’m done with him.
Most people don’t know who Anupet is. Or if they do, they don’t know anything beyond either her being the consort of Anubis, or some sort of feminine “aspect” of him. I’ve always seen her as something more, of course. Then again, I’m a hard polytheist, so you know where my opinions lie in that department.
Anupet is an independent, living and powerful goddess. She has long remained hidden–no one knows much about her, her myths or her cultus. Everything I know about this goddess is strictly UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis). Or was. That veil is gradually being torn back. But before I thrust my head straight on through and disperse the mystery entirely, I should write down my experiences of her, what I know of her.
She first came to me a few years ago, in the form of a black dog or jackal (or some hybrid of the above–not an uncommon occurrence then or now). She had pendulous breasts, as if she had been nursing. That became my primary association with her. The archetypal nursing bitch. The Sacred Bitch. She had a definite motherly feel to her, but it was the sensation of the Feral Mother, ever watchful, sharp of tooth, cunning and quick to defend her pups. People stereotype mother goddesses often. But mothers come in all stripes, and so too do Mothers. She would nurse you one moment, and have your neck in her jaws the next, with full motherly intentions. Pure, primal, feral mother.
Earlier last year I received a pull from my Gods to take my work with animal remains one step further. I work with tooth, bone and claw and hide. But most of what I had seen were finished products, sanitized and ready for use. I had handled raw, dead animals before in previous jobs. I had aided in surgeries, as well as in euthanizations. I am familiar with death, and blood, and guts. But would I be able to dig right in, prepare a specimen myself? I would be put to the test. Around the same time I was put in contact with someone who had a coyote that had been shot due to predator control in the area. This was a rare, black coyote. Coyotes aren’t normally black. They don’t get black, except by the infusion of dog ancestry. It is from a specific gene mutation that domestic dogs carry, beta-defensin 3, which regulates melanism in dogs. Coyotes and wolves naturally do not have this mutation unless it had been introduced into their ancestral bloodline from dogs. The colors of Anupet and Anubis both–black, the color of the fertile Nile–though perhaps, could their color symbolism, and association with dogs, also have something to do with this? Or perhaps their temporal children mirror them somehow, the beta-defensin 3 a sort of divine genetic marker, painting various canids in the likeness of these Divine Dogs.
Anyway, so I get in contact with the guy, expressing interest in the raw skull for cleaning. I’ve never cleaned a skull before. It’s a female coyote. He mentions that the hide is in undesirable shape for taxidermy due to her having had mange. He shows me a photo, and I agree to take the hide and the skull (the hide would otherwise been thrown out or cut for pieces). I had the hide sent to a taxidermist, and I got the head. And I do mean the head. Meat, muscle, eyes, tongue, everything.
It was a very intimate process. I meditated hard on the photos of her corpse. This is a very similar process to the Buddhist corpse meditations that certain sects perform. When I was ready, I took out my buck knife, razor-sharp and ready to go. And I did it. I couldn’t believe myself, but I did. I sliced the muscle from her head and jaws. I reached inside her mouth and cut her tongue out. I gouged out her clouded, sightless eyes, I swizzled the brain from her foramen magnum. The whole time I prayed to Anupet with every slice. Somehow I thought the actions of the knife would be pleasing to her–the cutting, the intentional wielding. Every slice was an offering to the Sacred Bitch, and an offering to my Patron, and his Brother, her Husband. The smell of her blood was sharp and tangy on my nose. Then I had a pot prepared for boiling the remainder of the meat and gristle from her head. I sat at that pot for hours. When she was finally done, I collected her skull, two jawbones (which had come apart) and all her teeth, and placed them into a small cooler filled with peroxide. Weeks later, I removed her, and carefully glued each tooth back in. With the exception of one tiny premolar, I didn’t lose or break any teeth. Soon, her hide came back from the tannery, and putting them together, it was a sight to behold. My offering to Anupet was complete, and I even ended up naming the black coyote “Anupet” after the goddess.
When working with animal remains, especially from a Pagan and animist or shamanist (most especially this one) angle, it is absolutely imperative that you understand the importance and the reality of where your remains come from, and how they get to you. Like the modern food industry, most of the bones and other items people get are already processed, chemically treated and prepared beforehand. There is very little actual “work” involved. People claim to do a lot of “work” involving animal parts, but the real work is also in understanding and respecting that these parts once had a life, a face, blood and guts. It took me cutting directly into that face to really have that lesson hit home for me. Now I’m graduating to work onto other things, and I have Anupet really to thank for that. I can only hope she finds my offering a worthy one. In time, I hope to have the skin mounted in some way (I did not tackle handling the skin, as I do not know proper tanning techniques and would probably ruin the skin) and have the skull similarly adorned as a votive piece for her.
I hope to write more on this amazing Lady as time goes on, but right now I have a murderous headache, and must retire for now..
I’ve recently re-opened my little shop on the net, The Relic Hound, a place where I can sell some of my animist wares and such (more on that later). I’ve fairly recently started working on a sales project to benefit Breidablik Temple, a Northern Tradition Sacred Space and sanctuary for abused horses and other sacred animals. I made a number of polytheist-friendly devotional jewelry with an equine theme–profits will go to the temple and its animals. They operate on a shoestring budget, and could use all the help they can get as they work towards nonprofit status. Here are the themed pieces:
These horse teeth are sourced from American Paint horses that were humanely put down due to health complications. When making anything to sell made from animal bits, I always try to give back. Profits from the sales of these pieces will go to the temple, so consider making a purchase and helping out.
First off for the morning, The Red Lotus Library is now live, with its first book, The Syncretisms of Antinous. Go click the link and grab it! I’m going to do so as soon as I am able. I must admit I don’t know enough about this deity as I should, so I am greatly looking forward to cracking it open once I have it in my hands.
There are also some great discussions in the comments regarding Lupus’ follow-up post on Spirit Day. Well worth taking a look, as well as some of the links provided by Phil Hine, such as this one, this one, as well as this, which offers an alternative view. Then there is also mention of “ostentatious caring”–something that really does happen quite often within the Pagan “community”, as was pointed out. I think I may have to pick up this book for further reading.
It is also today that I am introducing my “Sacred Scavenging” category. As some of you readers may know–but many may not–I collect and work with a wide variety of animal remains, old relics and other assorted objects. I also plan to be taking up taxidermy, especially now that I’ve acquired my own separate workroom/ritual space for such things. I will also be taking classes for my hunting license this fall, if all goes well. I understand that such things aren’t for everyone–but I expect that people reading this journal will conduct themselves in a mature manner with regards to expressing their opinions and thoughts. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but inflammatory comments about my practice will not be approved, and you will not be offered the satisfaction of a response.
In any case, I look forward to introducing such things to this blog. I plan on stepping up posting here. I am vastly behind on the writing I told myself I was going to do, and this must change.