Be aware that this Tumblr frequently includes pictures of art made with animal remains, as well as occasional liberal political ideologies. Mostly it's nature photography and art (and not just of charismatic megafauna).
Artist, author, (neo)shaman, and wannabe polymath living in the Pacific Northwe(s)t.
Creator of Curious Gallery, a two-day arts festival celebrating the wunderkammer revival in Portland, OR on February 1-2, 2014. Details at http://www.curiousgallerypdx.com.
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. My next book is "Plant and Fungus Totems: Connect With Spirits of Field, Forest and Garden", due out from Llewellyn in May 2014.
A few places to find me, as I'm all over the internet:
Ask me anything
I was meditating a bit a few evenings ago on the fights of butterflies.
See, I’d seen an image on Tumblr of two male Monarch butterflies scrapping over territory, and the caption said that they could get quite aggressive with each other. In fact, there’s a good chance many of you out there have seen butterflies engaged in battle, fluttering at each other in midair and even clutching and pushing at times. We’re inclined to see their struggle as “pretty”, and we may even mistake it as two butterflies happily dancing together.
Now think of two male elk battling it out over a patch of territory. We usually focus on the immense power in their bodies as they tussle, the sharp tines of branching antlers and the muscles in straining haunches. In fact, it is their physical strength that is one of the elk’s best-known traits.
Yet who is to say the elk is more fierce than the butterfly just because the insect is smaller and more delicate?
Read the rest here.
A quick excerpt from the (very) rough draft of Bioregional Totemism I’ve been poking at all summer and hope to make more progress on over the winter:
"In a way, this book and some of my others are intentionally subversive. Some people come to paganism because they want magic in their lives. They want to work spells and rituals and work with spiritual beings, but they want to do so as an escape from the “mundane” physical reality. What I love seeing is when someone who starts with the trappings and mystique eventually works their way into the roots and fertile dirt beneath the shiny surface. Animal totems lead to animals, which lead to care for the animals’ habitat, which then brings together the allure of the mystical and the communion with the physical."
Note: This is my August offering for the Animist Blog Carnival, with “Birds” as the theme.
I moved to Portland, OR in the summer of 2007. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this move would be the trigger that set off an entire series of major shifts in my life.
At the time, I’d only been in the Pacific Northwest for a year, and I was already disillusioned. I’d wanted to move up here because I loved the culture I’d seen in Seattle, and I loved the wilderness areas I’d visited, and I had the opportunity to get help from family to move anywhere I wanted. Unfortunately, it had been a decade since I’d last been to Seattle, and the shiny sparklies surrounding the city when I’d been there as a teenager had worn off, leaving the stark reality of being an adult trying to find work in a city with a high cost of living and an inadequate bus system. Furthermore, what I had intended to be a solo move, an adventure for one, ended up turning into a hasty engagement preceding a stressful cross-country trek with someone I’d committed to too quickly.
So after a year and change in Seattle, I was persuaded by friends to move down to Portland. So I dragged an unhappy and unhealthy marriage, an overweight cat, and a truckload of stuff and baggage down I-5 to Oregon. I have a tendency in general to romanticize any place I move to, and demonize the place I’m escaping, but I did have to admit that the old Craftsman house we moved into was a far sight better than the tiny little house we’d scraped by in up north. The neighborhood was a lot more walkable, the transit system far improved, and we had three great friends living right downstairs from us.
It must have been a day or two after we moved in that I met my first scrub jay.
Read the rest here.
I’d like to talk to you a moment about one of my books that I feel is really overlooked and perhaps underappreciated. DIY Totemism: Your Personal Guide to Animal Totems came out in 2008, a couple of years after my first book Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone. FFBB was a response to the glut of totem animal dictionaries out there, showing readers that there was more to animal magic than just “this animal means this, that animal means that, yay special sparkly nature guide!”
What DIY was then, as a follow-up, was a way to write your own dictionary—not just to have rote meanings, but to forge your own relationships with animal totems in a decidedly non-indigenous manner (since, as with all my books, I made it clear that what I was doing was informed by my own non-indigenous cultural context). I assumed a readership that already had the basics down (though I briefly covered my personal approach for context), and wanted to offer tools for expanding beyond those basics of “Eagle, Wolf, Bear” and so forth.
And so I brought together my experiences working with the totems of domestic and extinct animals, shapeshifting (both for therians and magical practitioners), and even what I think was a pretty creative solution to the problem of “Wait, I can only fit so many animals into one divination deck!” In short, DIY was the result of a lot of practice and experimentation, in a much more elaborate and far-reaching manner than FFBB.
FFBB gets more sales because it was my first book, and possibly because it covers a broader set of topics (though not in as much depth). But I think DIY in a lot of ways is the better book, especially for its subject material. It’s more in-depth, and it’s more polished, both for the writing and what I was writing about. And so I’d like to show it some appreciation as it approaches its fifth birthday, and I invite you, if you haven’t read it already, to give it a try.
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.
Finally got the chance to upload these new full hide wolf headdresses! Three of them are completely unadorned, other than my signature fangs I added to the muzzles; the big Arctic wolf, though, I made into a much more elaborate costume inspired by the green wolf myth from Normandy (France). You can find more pictures of them, and more information about them, on the Green Wolf Etsy shop!
Had a bit of an experience with Scrub Jay yesterday during a break from writing, and of course I wrote about it ;) http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/03/22/screaming-scrub-jays-2/
[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.
In every spiritual system there are specialists and there are generalists. I’ve been turning more into a generalist over the years, as I’ve gone from just working with the animal totems to expanding my work throughout the totemic ecosystem. It doesn’t make my work less important to me, but as a fan of systems theory I’m finding that understanding the complex relationships among the various components of a system is just as important as knowing those parts in and of themselves.
And so it is with animal totems. There are plenty of practitioners who prefer to specialize in animal-based spirituality, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, one of the most important ways to learn about an animal totem is to observe its physical counterparts’ relationships with the plants and fungi in their environment as well. For omnivores and herbivores the reasons are pretty obvious; plants and fungi are food, and if the food no longer grows, the animals must move on, adapt, or starve. But the plants and fungi affect all animals in other ways, too. The presence or lack of trees, for example, can affect the weather patterns and overall climate of a place. Sometimes the relationship between an animal and a plant is so intricate that the species cannot live without each other. Some populations of sycamore fig rely completely on one species of parasitic wasp for pollination, and numerous other animal species need the fig tree to survive as well. Plants and fungi can present physical obstacles (as in a rabbit ducking into a thicket to escape a fox). If algae overgrow a pond, they can choke out animal life (sometimes literally, as in algae blocking the gills of fish); some algae are also sources of toxins that can harm or kill aquatic life.
These are all important things to note, because they shape the natural history and behavior of animal species and thereby their totems. How an animal develops physically, mentally, and otherwise is due in part to its environment and the plants, fungi, and other animals in that environment. So it is important that if you’re going to get more than a cursory understanding of a particular animal totem, it’s a good idea to get to know the plant and/or fungus totems also associated with them, even just a bit.
Read the rest here.
We humans like to think of ourselves as individual entities, moving autonomously through a world populated with other individual entities. We think of our skins as the boundaries between ourselves and everything that isn’t us. Symbiotic living is left to the like of the Portuguese man-of-war and lichens, colonies of group minds are for bees and ants. We might recognize consciously that we rely on other living beings for our food, oxygen, and the like, but we view ourselves as rugged individualists.
Or so we think.
Truth be told, our bodies aren’t entirely our own. Take bacteria, for example. We have plenty of human cells and the like, but for every cell in our bodies there are at least ten bacteria. As Anne Maczulak said, “Microbiologists are fond of pointing out that if all of a person’s DNA were mixed with the body’s entire bacterial DNA, that person would be genetically more bacterial than human” (1). Thousands of species of bacteria live in and on our bodies, creating films that coat pretty much every surface inside and out. Most of these live more or less in harmony with us, as we have co-evolved over time. For the most part, scary-sounding bacteria like Eschericia coli and Staphyllococcus aureus occur naturally in our bodies, and they are not the evil enemies that they’re often made out to be in the media. Problems predominantly arise when one sort of bacteria ends up in a place where it shouldn’t be (such as gut bacteria entering the abdominal cavity at large through an intestinal perforation) or overpopulating and causing infections (such as tooth decay caused by an overabundance of certain mouth flora).
Along with bacteria, we have various tiny fungi and protozoa throughout our systems. Many women know the hell that is a yeast infection, when Candida albicans and other fungi that normally inhabit the vagina along with a host of other living beings suddenly overpopulate and create a rather unpleasant result. We usually only think of amoebas as the little single-celled beings that often represent asexual reproduction in basic biology textbooks, or as the cause of amoebic dysentary (which in truth is solely due to an invasion ofEntamoeba histolytica). Yet several non-pathogenic species of amoeba make up part of our internal communities; E. histolytica‘s cousins Entamoeba coli andEntamoeba dispar are rather benign. While eyelash mites (Demodex folliculorumand Demodex brevis) usually don’t cause a problem, their overpopulation can cause itching, swelling, redness, and other symptoms of the eye.
And these are just the welcome (or at least neutral) neighbors. We also host outright parasites.
Read the rest here.