Be aware that this Tumblr frequently includes pictures of art made with animal remains, as well as rampant feminist opinions, corgis and bats, and lush landscapes.
Artist, author, (neo)shaman, and wannabe polymath living in the Pacific Northwe(s)t.
I discovered neopaganism in the mid-1990s, and shortly thereafter began my work with animal totems and neoshamanism. Over the years I've wandered through various paths, ranging from Wicca-flavored neopaganism to Chaos magic, but for the past few years I've been creating Therioshamanism, a post-industrial neo-shamanic path. I've also been creating various neopagan ritual tools and other sacred art from hides, bones, beads and other such things since about the same time. And I've written several nonfiction books on totemism, animal magic, and related topics. Currently working on "New Paths to Plant and Fungus Totems".
A few places to find me, as I'm all over the internet:
Ask me anything
As many folks who have worked with animal and other totems know, not all totems are cuddly and friendly. Sometimes they’re what are popularly known as “shadow” totems, who challenge us through embo…
As many folks who have worked with animal and other totems know, not all totems are cuddly and friendly. Sometimes they’re what are popularly known as “shadow” totems, who challenge us through embodying some of our less pleasant aspects. Others represent animals or other living beings that we don’t care for, or maybe even have adverse relationships with.
This latter description fits my relationship with the totem of black mold pretty well. This is a common name for Stachybotrys chartarum, a fungus that commonly resides in drywall in houses and whose spores can cause illness (sometimes fatal) to a home’s inhabitants. Black mold has also been implicated in sick building syndrome, causing the same sort of havoc at work as well as at home.
How can this be anyone’s totem? Find out here.
Note: This is my contribution for the May edition of the Animist Blog Carnival. This month’s theme is Place Magic. I’ve talked before about some of the places that raised me, and how badly their lo…
Note: This is my contribution for the May edition of the Animist Blog Carnival. This month’s theme is Place Magic.
I’ve talked before about some of the places that raised me, and how badly their loss affected me. Other people in response told me about their own small, sacred places that they clung to when they were young, some of which had also been destroyed as they got older.
When we talk about “nature”, the first thing a lot of people picture is a wilderness setting with little to no overt human influence. These are certainly a significant part of nature, but they are not the sum total of nature itself. Most of us didn’t grow up right next to vast forests, fields and deserts, and even if we had we wouldn’t have been allowed to ramble across them unfettered. Instead, what many of us had were small open lots, parks, yards (our own or neighbors’) and the like. Because these may have been all we had, they became the definition of “nature” for us, and that imprint can last a lifetime.
For myself, when I was in my own small places, my fields and little patches of woods, for that time I was free and autonomous. I could explore those scant half-acres with impunity, and as a young child they seemed so vast and inviting that I didn’t want for more space. Instead of hiking for miles, I was exploring every inch of the land, every stone and stump and tree and pathway. I can even still remember the smells of sun on stone and cedar branches. That attention to detail is something I’m still learning to recapture as an adult recovering from the trauma of losing those places to destruction.
But it is coming back, and so is the sense of adventure and exploration that I had growing up.
Happy Beltane! Need even more reasons to celebrate? Here’s a fantastic collection of seasonal occurrences and festivities over the next six weeks!
emerald-isle-serpent asked: 1. When did you first start practicing paganism/ what first introduced you to paganism? 2. What does paganism offer you that you can't find in the more mainstream religions? 3. How do you practice or show your beliefs?
Good questions, thank you for asking!
1. I first was introduced to paganism in 1996 when I was 17, though it wasn’t until 1998 that Artemis came to me and taught me to dance, thus becoming my patron goddess. I was initially introduced by some pagan/gamer/geeky friends, and soon thereafter they also introduced me to The Internet, at which point I discovered online pagans (shout out to anyone who, by some well-nigh-impossible chance, remembers the Occult chat forum at the now-defunct Chathouse). Since I lived in a small midwestern town there wasn’t much in the way of a book supply; there were a few texts at the local health food store (where I got my copy of Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak). But that was about it.
2. Hmm. I don’t like defining my paganism in terms of “not-other-religions”. I’m sure a lot of what I find in paganism—people who find nature to be a sacred thing, personal ritual practices, a connection to something greater than myself, etc.—I could find in other religions (Buddhism as one strong example). However, for all that some people like to gripe and moan about ZOMG FLAKY PAGANS, I admit I like the culture surrounding general neopaganism. Sure, there are people who need better history lessons, and whose UPG I look rather askance at. But I love the joy and the imagination and creativity I see, as well as people really exploring the limits and boundaries of their beliefs. And while I may not agree with everyone on everything (why would I?) there are enough people that see eye to eye with me on some things that I have plenty of folks to trade notes with. I’d rather focus on this than the hiccups of a growing, developing, evolving community.
As to the beliefs themselves? Neopaganism, particularly of a nature-based bent, offered me a bridge. When I was 13, the woods that I took refuge in to balance out the stress of being badly bullied were bulldozed to the ground. It was a horribly traumatic experience, and no one seems to understand why I was so upset. I felt so alone and isolated at that time. So a few years later, finding people who did think nature was sacred was a lifesaver for me. Over the years I’ve gone from fairly standard generic neopagan, to trying to create a very formal neoshamanic path, and other explorations. But paganism eventually brought me to a more naturalistic path that’s fairly well integrated with the rest of my life, and central to that was rediscovering the connection to nature, not as abstract concepts and symbols, but the direct contact itself and the wonder and awe I thought I’d lost.
3. Continuing in that vein, these days I don’t really do much in the way of formal ritual work. It feels artificial to me personally, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the connection I get to Something Greater Than I when I go out hiking or camping. Even the practices I do are less about “cast a circle, burn a candle, etc.” and more experiential and organic. I don’t really need to show my beliefs; I wear one pendant that’s a wolf’s head ring which my partner gave to me early in our relationship, and it’s gained some spiritual significance since then, and I have a copper-coated redwood cone pendant that’s also symbolic. But because my path is so interwoven with my everyday life, it’s not something I really show as a separate thing. When I go out and clean my adopted beach, that’s me putting my beliefs into practice. Same for when I make art out of hides and bones, or go for a hike, or make use of my counseling degree. The closest I get any more to “showing” my beliefs is when I write about them in books or blog posts, and that’s in the hope that my writings will help someone else along their path.
Let me know if I can clarify anything on this :)
Those who take from the land must also remember to maintain the balance of the land; remove all the predators and the prey will take over. The bound, almost toothless jaws of the coyote allow the mouse to go free. Both animals are needed in this world. This wall hanging is a small reminder of our responsibility as the species that has most changed the face of this earth; we can only push the balance so far. Source.
This is just one example of traditional European Wild Man costumes. More photos here.
[Lupa’s additional note: I lichen totems <3 )
Lichens are a unique set of beings. Rather than being a kingdom of their own, lichens are a combination of plant (either algae or plant-like cyanobacteria) and fungus. While it is possible to separate the plant and fungal parts of a lichen in a laboratory, and some of these plant and fungus species also live independently, for all intents and purposes lichens are singular beings rather than colonies.
I’ve long paid attention to lichens when I’m outdoors. Part of this is because they’re really good indicators of how polluted the air in a given location is. Lichens are very sensitive to airborne pollutants as they gain some of their nutrients from the air, and the more lichens you see and the bigger they are, the healthier the air is. I also try to take care to not step on them, as they take a long time to grow back.
Oak Moss Lichen. Photo by Lupa, 2013.
But from a spiritual standpoint they’re also fascinating! When I’ve worked with the totems of lichen species, I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon. Sometimes the lichen totem itself shows up; other times, I work with the totems of the individual plant and fungus species that make up the lichen. I’ve even had meditations where the lichen switched back and forth between the forms. I haven’t noticed a pattern, such as older species of lichens preferring to stay singular. Each lichen totem has its own preference, and for the purposes of my writing I’m going to refer to each one in the singular from here on out.
One of the lichen totems that seems to like shapeshifting is Oak Moss Lichen (Evernia prunastri).
Read the rest here.
I’m a little bit late to the Animist Blog Carnival, but better late than never, yes?
This month’s theme is Time. I have a strange relationship with time. One of the things that brings me such wonder is the sheer vastness of the Universe we live in, to include its fourth dimension. I suppose it’s in part because, as I’ve grown older, it’s taken larger amounts of time to impress me. When I was young, the idea that I was seven whole years old was a Big Deal! I couldn’t even conceive of my parents being in their thirties; it was just a bigger number with no context. In my late teens and twenties, as I started contemplating my mortality, the average lifespan of seventy-two years was a bit of an obsession. “Wow, I’m a quarter of the way to there!” was a sobering thought at eighteen. But I made peace with that, and the possibility that I might end up not even seeing seventy-two, and so I had to move on to other numbers to be bewildered by.
Which that brings me to now, in my mid-thirties. I am a huge fan of history documentaries. Ancient petroglyphs here in the United States, stone circles in England that are thousands of years old, the march of humanity out of (and back into, and sometimes out again) Africa and across the globe–these things entangle my mind and make me wish for a time machine so that I could observe more closely these people who were just as alive and real then as I am now. And extending beyond that, the evolution of species of animals, fungi, plants, and more over millions upon millions of years. And then the planet itself, how I wish I had a piece of the oldest rocks known on the Earth, thinking of how Earth’s sister planet Theia might crashed into it so long ago and two became one, how once all of this was star-stuff and cosmic dust and before that one very big bang. To these, seventy-two years doesn’t even register.
They say that one of the purposes of spirituality is to inspire awe and wonder and reverence, connection to something greater than yourself. This bigger-picture approach to time is one of the things that’s helped me to move toward a more naturalistic spirituality, one very embedded in the physical world and the wonders thereof.
Read the rest here.
I shouldn’t have had to write this one more fucking time. I really shouldn’t. But this is what I’m going to point any gung-ho animal rights activist at whenever they give me hell for my artwork, because I am so fucking sick and tired of saying it over and over and over again:
I’m vending at an event this weekend and not getting a lot of sleep. Yesterday morning, I woke up to this email, which I assume is from someone who saw me setting up at the event and decided they needed to Take Action:
“How are your fox pelts obtained? I cannot think of an ethical method. Plz respond, I intend to protest / flyer your booths.”
I’m not proud of my initial brief, terse, and frankly snarly reply to this email, which was born of little rest and a short temper because of that fatigue. I get a lot of these sorts of messages, and they’re usually from people who don’t seem to do any research about who I am and what I do before they decide to take offense at my chosen medium. Still, “Turbowag” did ask a question, and I’m glad he(?)’s at least that curious.
The short answer is that my materials come from a network of suppliers and channels that I’ve cultivated over most of twenty years.
Read the rest here: http://therioshamanism.com/2013/02/24/a-psa-about-dead-critters/
Pacific Northwest pagans, listen up! I am facilitating the rituals at this year’s Sunfest (in Oregon, between Portland and the coast) in June; the theme is “Journey to the Sun”, and the main ritual this year will be a neoshamanic walking pathworking (think of the Alice in Wonderland ritual a few years back if you were there). I am looking for folks who want to be a part of this ritual through invocation and embodiment of the sacred nature beings attendees will be meeting along the way. This is the most elaborate group ritual I’ve ever facilitated, and I’d love to make it one of the best Sunfest has ever seen! Want to know more? Details at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/sunfest.html