Being a wild-crafter and forager, I come across more in my travels than just amazing local plants that heal and uplift and smolder gorgeously on charcoal. While walking beside rivers or through woods, I find the occasional animal offering. Feathers, foot tracks, nests, and sometimes shed hair or antler are discovered. Some items are collected and brought home while others remain where I found them, gifted with whispered acknowledgments to the fauna that deposited the evidence.
I have found my share of blood and bone too, but I am not experienced with bone collecting or flesh removal techniques, so I leave that to the ones who work in those mediums. You can expose yourself to some nasty bugs if you are not vigilant while working with animal remains. I’ll note a few links down below - there are some very talented hide and bone workers out there. To these practitioners, working with the dead is a sacred act - one that they take very seriously.
I have a small collection of feathers, antlers and assorted oddities like some wasp paper salvaged from a huge nest that was knocked free from a tree last winter. Last week I brought home some wood chips carved out from one of several trees that were downed by the beaver population. The teeth marks in the wood are fantastic, although I’d have preferred to not see half a dozen large trees come down in the space of a month.
Will you display your finds? Do you have an animal altar to house items and offerings for a multitude of animals or for one specific one that you work with? Will you use the animal materials in ritual or spell work? I change my altar seasonally. Sometimes antlers appear, sometimes feathers. The wasp paper is being saved for now - I have few ideas on what I might want to do with it. The beaver chips…who knows? To me, beavers are hard-working, familial, nesting animals that are charming but fierce if cornered. Perhaps I'll use the wood as an addition to a special incense, or as an ingredient in a working where I’m wanting a little tenacity or persistence.
Research animal symbolism, but also take time to ask yourself what the animal that left your find means to you. Bringing home a treasure like this can simply offer you something lovely to display, or move you more deeply into connecting with nature and the spirits and animals that reside there.
Do you collect animal objects? Are there any particular animals you work with?
For more information:
Lupa has a new book out on animal totems. She also works with animal hide and fur (re-purposed fur from coats and hides that were already out in circulation. She doesn’t support trapping.) She sells these items in her Etsy shop. Her blog site Therioshamanism is a wealth of information about working with animal spirits/totems, ecoshamanism, and a host of other topics.
Sarah Lawless works with animal materials to create fetishes, flying ointments and more, and continues to build her own personal collection. She blogs at Witch of Forest Grove and sells her products at The Poisoner’s Apothecary. Her article in the latest Witches & Pagans Magazine, The Girl Who Found a Feather is a fantastic read.
Ms. Graveyard Dirt is a bone collector (with a fabulously foul mouth) who works with found dead. She can be found on Tumblr where she has links to her other haunts, as well as a search bar on the right that will take you to posts on her bone and blood work.