Feb 6, 2013

Found Animal Objects

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.

When I bring home animal materials, I make sure they are not wet or bloody.  Covering your find in salt for a time is a good remedy for any lingering dampness.  I have a friend who microwaves feathers for 10-20 second intervals (keeping watch) and says it works great for her. I don't have/use a microwave, so that's not even something I would consider.  I prefer to leave mine in the freezer for a few days to make sure there are no bugs hopping a ride into my house.  Use common sense.  Anything that looks like it is decomposing or has a questionable substance on it, should be left behind.

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.


Bogaman said...

This post is very interesting. I think our interest in the clippings of nature is primal. I find myself doing it. I have collected a number of the paper wasp nests. One must be careful in doing this. Also have a fetish for skulls, of all kinds. I think this was embedded in my genes thousands of years ago. I visited the people you have posted about. My darkside likes Ms. Graveyard Dirt. My Marine Corps background appreciates her vocabulary, after all we invented almost every profanity ever uttered by man or woman. It was a very daunting task trying to temper my language after leaving the Corps. X.

Rue said...

A friend's daughter is a natural at finding skulls. I think they must call to her. She is forever finding bird or mouse skulls, all perfect and bleached clean by sun & time.

I like Ms. Dirt too. I can appreciate a girl who says "fuck" - it's my favourite curse word too. I imagine you know words that could make a girl blush though!

Bogaman said...

Rue, you are probably aware of this, but a lot of people are not. The wasp/hornets that build the large grey paper nests, will go down into a burrow in the ground for winter. This is when to harvest the nest. However it is a good idea to place it in a trash bag and put in a warm room for a while to see if any have remained in the hive. If so they can be dispensed with a wasp killer. I have seen these nests as low as a few feet off the ground to 30ft. up. X.

Rue said...

Yes - good to know! No one wants an angry wasp or three waking up in your warm & cozy house. The nest that I have a piece of, fell from a large poplar tree & shattered. I was sorry to see it crushed, but gladly brought some paper home (after checking for stow-aways.)

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Oh, those busy beavers!

Jeanne said...

Great post! I miss my walks in the woods. And the surprises & gifts that could be found on those jaunts. :0)
I once had such an accumulation of found feathers it was nuts! So one windy day I released them back into Nature where they whirled and twirled their way into the great beyond. It was a fun, exhilarating experience.

Pixie said...

..I love this post...wish i had known about the feathers in the microwave thing, i too like to collect animal remains (that sounds weird doesnt it), as i had picked up some amazing owl feathers from puzzle wood in Wales, i bought them home and put them in my curiosity cupboard but after a couple of months i noticed that they were starting to get nibbled by something, probably small mites that were on the feathers when i picked them up (yuk), i threw them out quickly as i didnt want to start something in my house, but oh what a shame, those feathers were beautiful.
Do you think there are any good books out there that has this sort of information in...for us folk that have a closeness to nature.

Great post.

pixie x

Rue said...

I can just imagine you standing there in a whirlwind of feathers!

Rue said...

This book by Lupa (you can buy her books from her website linked above too,) is on my wish list: http://www.fishpond.com/Books/Skin-Spirits-Lupa/9781905713349. It looks like it's full of great info. Her other books look great too. I'm going to have to start picking them up.

Rue said...

I'm replying via phone & I don't think that came through as a link.... You can either copy & paste it to your address bar, or simply go to Lupa's site linked above & click on "books."

Sarah's blog is full of gorgeous stories or ritual & animal & herb work. Dig around there - she has some good info.