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.
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..
You know, I’m not big on the Internet. I much prefer doing what I normally do, aside from work: hike through the woods, clean animal heads, go fossil-hunting, hang out with a couple close friends of mine. Above all else–communicate with my spirits and my gods. They take up a huge amount of time. My presence on the Internet takes last place. My Divine Employers keep me very, very busy. This weekend, I have wood to clear in the back, altar-spaces to set up. I have to go on my yearly cleanup-walk along the powerline-trail behind my house. I have a long and very close relationship with the land-spirits in my area. They’ve protected me when I was a child. I’ve grown with them, even suffered with them.
Cultivating an active relationship with land-spirits, be it nymphs, daemons, landvaettir, yokai, or whatever you wish to call them as pertinent to your tradition, are a very important part of my spiritual practice. They should be of anyone’s. Personally, I don’t think you can be a proper spirit-worker without that sort of thing (hoisting the “strong opinion flag” here!). You can even do it in the dead middle of the city. They exist there, too. Anyone who claims they don’t aren’t looking hard enough, or just not paying attention. I’ve cultivated some very strong bonds with land-spirits smack in the middle of cities, both here and abroad in Germany (I’m partial to Hamburg and Frankfurt myself).
However, when I do long online and bother to go onto some of these websites with pagan writings, I see some writings on this and similar topics and scratch my head. It makes me wonder if the pagans writing these things actually get outside and do anything in nature, other than step out their front doors and leave the prerequisite human offerings (food and a libation). Now, leaving offerings is all well and good–I do that as well. But here now we get into the “orthopraxy” versus “orthodoxy” thing. I hear a lot of talk about what people believe, but really, what the fuck do you do? How do you put those beliefs into action?
I notice too a lot of those pagans who talk much about what they believe and not what they do are notorious at anthropomorphizing spirits of nature and the land. Why? Because they don’t take the effort to get up close and dirty with it. Really learn lessons from it. They’ll pray, and they’ll leave offerings, and they’ll donate money, but they won’t do much beyond that. Leaving the comfort of civilization is a bit too much for them, but it’s the only way to really get up close and personal, the only way to really understand the truly wild spirits that are out there in nature.
Pagans always come at the attitude of Nature as the ultimate victim, and we humans as the primary aggressors. They fail to realize that Nature and nature-spirits can be cruel, random, selfish (both towards us as well as within itself–within other nature spirits), and even stupid at times. Just as I complain that so many spirit-workers and pagans will only believe in spirits and the gods until it comes to a point where it is no longer convenient or comfortable for them to do so, so does this also work in the reverse–that Pagans and spirit-workers will resort to religious fun-duh-mentalism when rationalism and/or science becomes too uncomfortable for them (like the idea that Nature/nature-spirits aren’t omipotent, omniscient, or equally destructive to and within itself. I mean think about it, humans are a part of nature, too).
It’s also best to actually…get out. And get to know the land-spirits, before making lofty claims about what they want, need, or even think. The sheer number of pagans who will harp on this, but hardly leave their computers and comfortable homes to actually experience this for themselves, astounds me.
Thankfully, there are a small number of folk out there who do get out. They pour their sweat and blood into the land. They live with the spirits in the land every day in mutual cooperation. Their stories inspire me. There are those who go out into the wilds to learn and love and worship. I encourage this. This needs to happen more often. This is where true fellowship, true cooperation and, above all else, true understanding, can occur.
Richard Fortey really nailed it on this one, and also helps me to bring up a very good point on just exactly why I consider visiting a museum a deep spiritual experience.
If the source of the word “museum” is a house of the muses, then the original museum might have harboured all the arts and sciences, corresponding to the nine muses. The first building to carry the name was probably the university in Alexandria about 300 B.C. Only one of the muses, Urania, Muse of Astronomy–she who is portrayed in a mural in Herculaneum pointing at the heavens with a staff–would have personified the scientific endeavor remotely in the modern sense. From the early days of the British Museum the display of classical archaeology and art was an important part of the function of this new public space. This was a nod of recognition of the new civilization towards the old, a kind of acknowledgement of mutually shared culture.
~Richard Fortey, Dry Storeroom No.1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum
To muse over something. To contemplate. To be inspired. To go to a place like a natural history museum, or a museum of the arts, is to allow oneself to be touched through the vast reaches of time, by the great machinations and workings of Nature, and the fantastic workings of gods and men rendered in stone and bone, canvas and clay. To go to a museum is to open oneself up to the Muses, to be inspired, to hear the whispering voices spoken in ancient tongues, languages spoken in color, movement and pose. In the attitudes of death are the great expressions of life shining through.
Go to a museum. Quiet your mind. Allow yourself to be still. Listen to them speak. They are eager to tell their stories, and the Muses are ever willing to bless you in the process.
In other news, today is Spirit Day. I’ve written plenty, mostly in private, on this topic. When I’m feeling more able, I’ll relate more at a later time. However, I’d like to recommend Aedicula Antinoi, for thoughtful and inspiring words relating to this day and what’s really behind it.
Lately I’ve been going through some deep struggles of an inner sort. This has mainly come about as a result of a combination of medical ordeals, and the latest news with regards to hate and bullying, which has served to bring up quite a cocktail of repressed memories and thoughts with regards to my own unpleasant and severe experiences with bullying and abuse in childhood and adulthood. Migraines have been running rampant due to this sort of emotional stress, as well as physical stress from work, and financial concern.
It is during these periods that I tend to experience a profound degree of heightened Awareness. Everything tends to take on a surreal sort of air to it. The reality of the physical and the otherworldly bleeds over into itself. Part of it could easily be explained by the time of year, as October approaches into November, and the nonphysical folk of the otherworlds begin making their rounds. This is something else as well. Something that plays upon the chords of my sanity and my sense of reality and, by contagion, that of those closest to me, to an extent.
One morning I sit downstairs to watch television, early in the morning. I have a terrible migraine, and the auras I’m experiencing are already giving the landscape around me a surreal quality. I am deeply aware of presences that aren’t the other dwellers of the household, or the cats. Something else, bigger, breathing down my neck, engulfing me. I turn on the TV to watch a nature program, and see something that pierces into my mind. Lions killing a giraffe–immediately an image floods my mind of me, as a small child of the age of 7, drawing a picture of a pride of lions eating a giraffe, and presenting it to the teacher who is horrified. I remember this clearly due to the horror expressed by the teacher. But there it is, this time in flesh and blood, real life, on the screen. The large male giraffe kicks and fights, but it is inevitable. They take him down, they strangle him, tear him open, feast. Childhood memories flash through my mind. The scrawled lions on plain cardboard paper hover in my memory.
Then the show shifts to another segment. A coalition of male cheetahs (females are solitary, males are social), probably brothers. They come to rest under a tree. One standing, the other laying down. From the cover of a bush, a female lion bursts forth. The cheetah brother standing lunges back and screams in terror as his brother, frozen in fear under the tree, is seized, brutalized, strangled to death. I’ve never seen one so brutalized and killed before. My heart breaks at this–cheetahs hold a very sentimental as well as sacred position in my heart. I see myself as the cheetah sometimes (or, the leopard–although I realize they aren’t related, their symbolism overlaps in many ancient mythologies), but I also see the lioness as Sekhmet. The lioness killing the cheetah opens up floodgates in my mind. The little male dying at the hands of the large female. My gender struggles. My body warring against me. More childhood memories come pouring in.
The scene shifts again. A lioness is then eaten, overwhelmed by a pack of hyenas and devoured alive. It is a very brutal scene, you can see the agony plain on her face. Hyenas are in-between creatures, sacred to many who are transgendered, as hyenas are creatures of in-between gender. More symbolism floats into my head. The defined lioness taken down by the undefined hyena. Visions and dreams of solar eclipses and suns burning and plunging into the earth fill my mind.
I am still awaiting the dawn.
This was first brought to my attention by Sannion’s post.
The Nile being polluted was not something new to me. Its shores are coated in garbage, large kitchen appliances jut out from its waters like broken teeth. This latest event shouldn’t come as a surprise–in fact, some may call it an inevitability. However, as P. Sufenas Virius Lupus noted, to become numb to and ignorant of this and related disasters, we only end up perpetuating the problem further.
I wonder if there is some sort of significance to all these oil spills happening so close to one another–or rather, if the events such as the Gulf oil disaster serve to make us more aware of such environmental threats that occur more often than one may realize. Either thought should make us stop and think next time we gas up at the pump. Effectively coping with any environmental disaster involves getting the right information in order for one to effect the right change.
Those of us, as polytheists, who are grieved by this event, must also realize that we are like a diaspora. The Nile is not only the heart and soul of Egypt, but it is also carried within our hearts. Hapi will live on and prosper, and as polytheists we can continue to honor him by being proper, intelligent stewards and caretakers of our nurturing waterways. At least, until I hear more from this disaster out of Egypt, I will continue to support Hapi as sie lives in my land, as well as lend my prayers to the healing of the Nile. I am deeply saddened by this event, but I hope to transmute this emotion into right action.