Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Lupa, author of New Paths to Animal Totems.
This is a quick guide for working with “found” animal parts—naturally shed fur and feathers from pets, farm animals, or wild critters; bones discovered in the woods; and so forth. It’ll work with other animal parts, too, but found ones are relatively low-impact, don’t cost anything, and are relatively easy to find.
First, make sure what you have is legal; for example, in the U.S. it’s illegal to possess the feathers of almost every wild bird. You can check laws at my Animal Parts Laws page; contact your local game authority if you have questions on how to interpret the laws.
Next, wrap up your findings in a zipped-up plastic bag and put them in the freezer for two weeks. Take them out for a week, then put them in for another two weeks. This allows any insect eggs that survived the first freeze to hatch, and the second freeze kills any larvae. If your findings need to be cleaned use warm water and a gentle soap (I’m a fan of Dr. Bronner’s).
You may find that you are greeted by the spirits of the remains as you’re handling them. While the soul of the animal continues whole, every bit shed or left behind after death has its own spirit. You may find it easy to converse with these “skin spirits,” as I call them, but if not you can use guided meditation to get in touch. Hold the bit of fur/etc. in your hand while you relax. Then visualize walking through the place you found it and gently ask the spirit to come out. Some may be shy, so it may take a few tries.
While there are many things that you can do with these sacred remains, I find it’s best to check in with their spirits first. Sometimes they have specific things they want you to do with them, such as putting them on your altar or incorporating them into a ritual tool. Others are more flexible about their fates. Here are three potential options:
- Create a spell bottle that represents the best of the animal’s traits and put the fur/etc. into it. For example, if your three cats get along well, put a bit of shed fur from each into a spell bottle to promote harmony, along with other relevant spell components.
- Keep track of what time of year you find each bit. As you rotate your altar for each season, include those pieces found during that time period.
- If you find a lot of fur/etc. in the same place, create a mixed media art piece that represents that location and incorporate the found pieces into it.
Always be mindful that it costs an animal energy to grow fur, feathers and the like. Don’t feed wildlife, as it can make them used to humans, and thank them by keeping their homes free of litter.
Finally, here’s a list of other (mostly free) writing I’ve done on this topic: http://lupagreenwolf.deviantart.com/journal/The-Spirits-in-the-Skins-Lotsa-Links-For-You-271772454.
Our thanks to Lupa for her guest post! For more from Lupa, read her article “Three Ways to Find an Animal Totem.”