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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bone Magic Series: How to Ethically Acquire Animal Remains

Bone Magic Series: How to Ethically Acquire Animal Remains

So now that we have covered many of the historical and modern uses of animal remains, how do you go about acquiring them? The good news is, you have several options to legally and ethically acquire bones, furs, feathers, teeth, and claws, you just have to know where to look! I understand not everyone has access to large expanses of woods to find animal remains or trekking through a forest looking for bone may not be your thing. I get it! And because of the internet, it's now easier than ever to acquire animal remains, even for those that are against killing animals, like myself.

Nature Walk

This is how I have acquired most of my animal remains, most of which came from my dad who is an avid hunter (well he used to be) and therefore out in the woods a lot! He stumbles on animal remains all the time and brings them all home. I'm fortunate enough to be given many of the things he finds, and I use them as decor and in my magical practice. You simply need to venture out into the woods and keep an eye out. If you are hiking common trails, especially in a park, you're likely not going to find anything because others have been there before you. Besides, you're not supposed to take anything from parks, but I know people do anyway. Find a wild place, where few people travel and walk the local wildlife trails. Deer wear some pretty clear paths through the woods; these are great places to start. Don't be surprised if you don't find anything on your first walk. You'll likely take a lot of walks before finding anything, but that's part of the fun!

Roadkill

This is an easy way to get animal remains, but not a very pleasant one! Furthermore, there are several downsides to using roadkill remains. First, you run the risk of coming into contact with an infectious disease, including rabies and even leprosy! A word to the wise, if you live anywhere near armadillos, like I do here in Georgia, leave their remains right where you find them! They are notorious for carrying leprosy and no one wants to be a lepper, although you'd certainly have that old world witchy vibe going on. Second, many of the bones may be broken or otherwise harmed. Its the side effect of being hit by a car! Third, the animal remains will need to be cleaned of any remaining flesh, and the process doesn't always smell very nice. I'll cover that move in the next post. Please make sure you follow all local laws regarding roadkill. It is illegal in some areas to touch roadkill, but I won't tell.

Hunting/Hunters

If you are a hunter, you can save the remains of the animals you have killed. If you aren't a hunter but don't mind that someone else did the killing, the check out the local animal processing business. Hunting season is year round, meaning something is in season all the time, so hunters are constantly bringing in animals that need to be processed. In Georgia, you can pick up white-tail deer, turkey, wild boar/pig, rabbit, waterfowl, and even bobcat and coyote remains if you get lucky. After they have processed the animal, there are bones and pelts left over. Some of the processing businesses will sell these; some may even give you parts for free! Some smaller businesses are just happy someone is taking it off their hands because a lot of times the unused remains end up in the trash.

Butcher Shop/Grocery Store

There is a couple of option here. One you can buy meat with the bones still in the meat and remove them yourself, or you can ask the local butcher if they have any leftover bones you could buy. Yes, they usually sell the bones here because people like to use them in cooking stock. Keep in mind that cooked bones are more brittle than uncooked bones, but you are more than welcome to use cooked bones. I've seen several witches do it with good results.

Online Stores

Not interested in getting your hands dirty? Not to fear! There are tons of great shops online that ethically acquire animal bones, usually from animals that died of natural causes. Do some research on the companies though. While they may advertise that they ethically and legally sourced the animal remains, you can't be too careful. Be wary of exotic animals and always make sure to check whether or not the animal is listed as endangered. It is illegal to own any remains of an endangered animal unless there is proper paperwork detailing it came from healthy populations or it is from before 1973.

So what shops do I recommend? Curious Nature sources all of their remains from roadkill, zoos, or a byproduct of another industry, such as farming. They purposely try to learn as much as they can about where the remains come from, to ensure they are ethically sourcing their product. You can read more on their stance here. One of the best stores and a personal favorite of mine is The Skull Store. Like Curious Nature, they actively search for ethically and sustainably sources animal remains, not to mention they work with conservation programs, wildlife rehabilitation, and education programs. They never commission an animal to be killed; instead, they purchase animal remains from sustainable sources such as zoos, farms, indigenous peoples, and old collections. Furthermore, they work with law enforcement and wildlife enforcement agencies to help catch poachers and smugglers. You can read their full policy here. This is one of my favorite online sources as they take action in the wildlife community. Another shop I love is Of Moth and Moon. I've ordered from their shop and received some amazing little curiosities. It's a small family business and all of their animal remains come from nature, owl pellets, roadkill, natural deaths, or are the by-product of an industry or pest control. You can request items to come strictly from nature, roadkill, or natural death if you don't want to support an industry that profits from killing animals.

Your Pets

Yes, you can get animal remains from your pets, while they are still alive and well I might add. My cats shed fur, whiskers, and nails all the time. Any of these could easily be used in magical practice. Sometimes a pet may lose a tooth or need to have one extracted. You can ask the vet for that tooth! My chickens constantly shed feathers. I am completely covered up in feathers right now! When your pet passes, you can also opt to have them preserved or use their bones in your practice, if that doesn't bother you too much.

***

No matter how you decide to acquire your animal remains, please never kill an animal simply to harvest something from it. That's highly unethical and the spirit of the animal will not be pleased. Please follow all local laws and regulations regarding animal remains. I think by now most American witches know they aren't supposed to be picking up feathers, but use your best judgment. If you do come across animal remains in nature, approach it with respect and caution. Disease is a big factor, but the spirit may still be hanging out around. If you sense that it is, ask if you may approach and touch the bones. If its a no, simply thank the animal for its time, leave an offering and move along. If it does allow you to touch it, make your intentions clear and known and ask if you may take a bone or several with you for your magical workings. As of yet, I haven't been told no! You may find the bones are empty, especially if they have been there a while. I would still approach respectfully.

How do you find animal remains to use in your practice?

Interest in the rest of the series? Here's what's to come!

Bone Magic Series

Introduction
A Brief History of Animal Remains in Magic
Bones and Skulls: How to Use Them in Magic
Furs and Pelts: How to Use Them In Magic
Feathers, Fangs, and Claws: How to Use Them in Magic
How to Ethically Acquire Animal Remains
Cleaning and Preserving Animal Remains
Working With the Spirits of Animal Remains: Crossing Over & Contracting
Feeding Your Bones
Throwing the Bones + Build Your Own Bone Tarot

Monday, June 10, 2019

June Full Moon Worksheet

June Full Moon Worksheet

This month's full moon is on the 17th and is Saggitarius. This Full Moon is a time to be optimistic and trust that the Universe will bring you exactly what you need. While there are dangers lurking in the shadows, patience and hard work will result in your realizing your long-term goals and aspirations. Keep your head up; good things are coming! This month's worksheet includes areas for you to jot down what you wish to release and charge, notes for any signs you receive this night, and a 4 card spread about how to better trust the Universe.

June Full Moon Worksheet

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE COPY

Looking for more free worksheets? Why not get your free copy of my spell/ritual worksheet to write your best spells and rituals yet?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

5 Crystals for Gardening

5 Crystals for Gardening

I love crystals and I love plants, so what better combination than using crystals to enhance the abundance and growth of my plants? Gardening, especially in the South where we are prone to drought, is not always easy. By using energies from the Earth in the form of crystals, you can enhance the energies in your garden, giving your plants some additional help. Here are 5 easy to find crystals you can use in your garden, whether you are growing in pots in a windowsill or tilling up an acre of land for fruits and vegetables.

5 Crystals for Gardening- Moss Agate

1. Moss Agate: This is the go-to crystal for gardens, often referred to as "the gardener's talisman." It's on every crystal gardening list out there and for a good reason. First, it appears to be covered in moss, with mossy green intrusions in a white, creamy base, if you can even see the white base. This lends to its association with plants, gardening, and nature spirits. It attracts abundance and prosperity thus aiding in plant growth and guaranteeing a healthy, bountiful harvest. Moss Agate can be carried in your pockets or worn while gardening and watering, placed at the base of your plants, or hung in trees. However you choose to use it, this little crystal will be sure to help your garden grow.

5 Crystals for Gardening- Tree Agate

2. Tree Agate: Ah, another agate! They are pretty universal, coming in a variety of colors and forms. Like Moss Agate, Tree Agate has dark green intrusions that form a tree-like pattern with roots sinking deep into a white base. It is associated with growth and perseverance as the roots of a tree are able to seek out water, even in the dryest of places. As such, it aids in the growth of plants in difficult conditions such as the drought we face here in Georgia. Tree Agate is often placed or buried next to plants needing assistance, especially those that may be sick or infected with a parasite.

5 Crystals for Gardening- Green Fluorite

3. Green Fluorite: This is a less often used crystal for gardening, but I've found it to be extremely helpful. Green Fluorite is associated with growth and nature energies due to its green color. Furthermore, it is a cleansing crystal, removing negative energies from any environment. I find it particularly useful around plants that are infested with insects or a fungus. It also increased intuition and can be carried on your person to help you figure out which areas in your garden need your attention.

5 Crystals for Gardening- Malachite

4. Malachite: Another beautiful green crystal associated with abundance and growth. The Ancient Egyptians saw Malachite as a fertility symbol, associating it with vegetation, agriculture, and healthy crops. When placed in the garden, it increases plant growth and abundance.

5 Crystals for Gardening- Moonstone

5. Moonstone: Moonstone is my favorite crystal, second only to Black Tourmaline, and its a great crystal for gardening. As the name suggests, it is associated with the Moon, and therefore a symbol of fertility. Moonstone was a favorite of Native American healers who used it as a way to increase plant growth while promoting peace within the garden. It can be placed in the garden or carried on your person while watering to promote plant growth.

5 Crystals for Gardening

These crystals not resonating with you or you're unable to find them? There are several other crystals you can use in your garden to enhance plant growth and health, including, but not limited to, green aventurine, clear quartz, rhyolite, green calcite, citrine, Tiger's eye, emerald, and blue lace agate. Whatever crystals you choose to work with, you and your plants will benefit from their energies. Happy gardening!


Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Review: The Book Of Hedge Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven

Book Review: The Book Of Hedge Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Let me start off by thanking Llewellyn Publications and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to review this book, and wow, what a book! I read a lot, and I do mean a lot, and not every book I read makes it to my blog for a review. In fact, I have read 14 books so far this year, well over my original goal of 12. The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker by Joanna van der Hoeven is one of the best books I have read all year, especially if you are a hedgewitch. While this book focuses on Druidry, I highly recommend it to my fellow hedgewitches, whether you are just starting out or have been practicing for a while.

Book Review: The Book Of Hedge Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven

As the title suggests, this book is a druid approach to hedgecraft, but don't let that deter you if you are not interested in Druidry. van der Hoeven makes it very clear that this path is an individual one, and to use her book as a guide, not a Bible. The book has four parts: Theory, Practice, Study, and Skills and Technique. In the "Theory" section of the book, van der Hoeven covers the basics of Druidry, including Awen, the Three Realms, the Otherworld, the Wheel of the Year, and much more. I am not very familiar with Druidry, but van der Hoeven uses historical texts to back up her claims, citing them at the bottom of each page that has a reference. I would have liked to have seen more references, but I applaud her citing as much as she did, as this is a rarity in the pagan community. Furthermore, much of her tradition and belief is based on folklore, and she even mentions in the "Study" section on spell writing that you too should turn to folklore to write your own spells and rituals. I wholeheartedly agree with her and already turn to folklore in my own practice. Her descriptions of the sabbats are rooted in historical texts as well, and she accurately states that not all 8 sabbats were originally celebrated by our ancestors, that many of these holidays arose with Wicca in the last century. One of my favorite aspects of the "Theory" section is that she covers animism, which is rarely mentioned in other books I have read. In fact, it is a topic I have yet to cover here on the blog, but certainly, plan to remedy in the near future. Furthermore, she spends a lot of time encouraging her readers to get to know the spirits of place and the land around you. She notes how important this is to one's practice, as the magics in Great Britain and Ireland are very different from the magics found in other parts of the world.

The "Practice" section includes beautiful seasonal rituals, moon rituals, and even rituals for rites of passage, such as a handfasting. I can't begin to express how much I loved all the rituals I read. They were a breath of fresh air in a world full of Wiccan inspired rituals. I was truely inspired by the handfasting ritual, and should I marry again, I will definitely be using her ritual as a guide. In each ritual, she notes that you do not have to form a circle or set of sacred space, and offers alternatives for those of us, like myself, who do not include a deity in our practice. The inclusivity of the rituals shows that van der Hoeven took the time to recognize that hedgecraft is very individual and unique, which I greatly appreciated. "Study" includes information on herblore, Ogham, and spellcraft. They are by no means complete, but a nice little introduction to those interested in such things. Her Ogham chapter is particularly good, as she mentions that there are tons of different Oghams, and suggests other books for the reader to use to delve deeper into the study. I love that she mentioned Robert Graves in reference to the Tree Ogham, but did not claim he is the best source. I appreciate this because much of Graves work has been thus proven incorrect.

She ends the book discussing ethics, peace, and being a leader in the community. In the current political climate, this section is a great reminder that our actions must speak louder than our words. She encourages her readers to do what is best for everyone, without being judgie or hiding behind the Three-Fold Law seen in other texts. She also includes no mention of Karma, simply asking that you consider the consequences of your actions.

There are a couple of things I did not like about the book, however. First, her interpretation of hedge riding is a form of pathwalking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and if that is your shared belief, then ignore me here. Personally, I believe hedge riding and pathwalking are very different. Pathwalking is guided, while hedge riding is not. However, pathwalking is still a great way to meet with spirits and beings of the Otherworld should that be your chosen form of travel, but I believe it is different from hedge riding. Furthermore, I would have loved to have seen more written about the Otherworld and hedge riding than what was included in the book. It was mentioned on and off as an underlying theme of hedge Druidry, but there was not a whole lot of explanation or practice involving hedge riding and spirit work in the book. This was rather disappointing to me because I really love reading about how other people experience the Otherworld. Much of what she does talk about regarding the Otherworld is centered around working with the Fair Folk, and there is so much more to hedge riding and the Otherworld than the Fae. Despite this, I strongly recommend the book to all my readers, giving it a 5 out of 5! If you are looking for something new, whether you are into Druidry or not, The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker by Joanna van der Hoeven is a great place to start! The book is currently available for pre-order and is set to release on July 8, 2019.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bone Magic Series: Feathers, Fangs, and Claws: How to Use Them in Magic

Bone Magic Series: Feathers, Fangs, and Claws: How to Use Them in Magic

Previously in the series, I covered bones and skulls and furs and pelts. This is only a fraction of the animal remains witches commonly use, and while this is a bone magic series, I strongly felt the need to cover a variety of animal remains because their uses make more sense with the proper context. This post will discuss all those miscellaneous remains, including feathers, teeth, and claws.

Feathers

Feathers are keratin filaments that cover the outside of birds and even some dinosaurs. They make up the plumage and not only provide warmth and water resistance, but also allow for flight. Like animal pelts and skins, feathers do not preserve well over time, so much of what we know of their historical magical uses stem from indigenous cultures, mostly Native American, and ancient mythology. Feathers have long been used as ornamentation on ceremonial garb, particularly headdresses among many groups worldwide, or as robes and cloaks. Birds are believed to possess a spiritual essence, their feathers being used to aid in flight and communication with the spirit world (source).

The type of bird largely impacted the type of magic associated with the feather. Macaw feathers, desired for their color and highly valued, were used by the Tewa for ceremonial purposes as a way to bring rain, which was believed to come from the South, the cardinal direction associated with the macaw (source). These feathers were so valuable, in fact, that they were often traded for goods, including turquoise and skins (source). Among the Zuni, turkey feathers were believed to represent mortality and therefore not worn by a dancer should death follow. Today, turkey feathers are often buried on All Souls' Day so the dead may wear them to dance (source). Eagles were and are symbolic of the sun or sky and were often used in combination with turkey feathers. It was believed the eagle was a spirit messenger and could take prayers to the heavens. Wearing the feather of an eagle is said to bring strength, wisdom, and protection (source). In the Hopi Snake Dance, a dancer follows the snake carrier while continuously brushing the rattlesnake with an eagle feather to stop the snake from striking (source). In Celtic mythology, the eagle was believed to be one of the oldest of all creatures.  In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, Culhwch is tasked with finding the magical child Mabon. He asks a number of animals to help him in his quest, the eagle being the animal who tips him off as to where Mabon is (source). The eagle also appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in an account of the Battle of Brunanburh which says, "...the grey-coated eagle, white-tailed, to have his will of the corpses." This suggests the eagle took advantage of the deaths during the battle, thus again showing wisdom and ingenuity. Furthermore, Highland clan chiefs often wore three eagle feathers in their bonnets as a symbol of rank (source).

Crow feathers, like the eagle, were also used for wisdom and knowledge, as well as death and witchcraft (source, source). The tail feathers of a peacock, in spite of the beautiful plumage, is believed to bring ill luck and attract the evil eye, due to the tip resembling a human eye. Peacocks are scared to Juno, the patron goddess of women, and to rob a peacock of its tail feathers is thought to offend her (source). This, of course, is not a complete list of all feather correspondences but it does drive the point home that feathers have numerous magical associations.

In Egyptian myth, the feather of Ma'at was the judge of one's soul. According to the story, the heart of the deceased was handed over to Osiris, the God of Death, who placed it on a giant golden scale and balanced it against the white feather of Ma'at, the feather of truth. If the heart was lighter than the feather, thus showing it was free from impurities and sin, then the gods would consult the Forty-Two Judges to decide whether or not the soul was worthy. If so, the soul would pass to the Field of Reeds, the Summerland/Heaven equivalent in Egyptian mythology (source). The feather is also the symbol of Shu, the Egyptian god of Air and father of the Earth. Shu is often depicted wearing a feather in his hair. As such, the feather is often associated with the element Air (source).

Ancient Shamans in Siberia and the Druids of Europe often wore birdlike cloaks and costumes to represent transformation. The Colloquy of the Two Sages describes the possession of a three-colored feather robe by a High Bard. "...A covering of bright bird's feathers in the middle, a showery specking of fin-druine (white silver) on the lower half, and a golden color on the upper half." Another similar description is found in Cormac's Glossary, referred to as a tugen which was a Feathered Cloak commonly worn by Irish poets to represent mysticism and knowledge (source).

Feathers are also commonly placed in Witched Ladders. In the late 1800s, several strange items were found in the eaves of a house in England including a string of feathers. The house was then declared to belong to a witch and the string of feathers was referred to as a 'witches ladder.' In this case, it was a string of cockerel feathers and it was suggested to be used to cross over the roof of houses, cause death, and hex neighboring cattle. It was believed each feather was a hex, curse, or bad wish upon another. Throwing the witches ladder into the water was said to break the curse as the water would purify and loosen the feathers from the string. Their removal from the ladder meant the curse was also removed. Modern witches create witches ladders to curse, invoke clarity, or bring positive intent such as luck, prosperity, love, healing, or success with each feather representing a wish (source).

Today, feathers are used in much the same way as they have been historically used. Witches use feathers from an assortment of birds for an assortment of magical purposes. For example, placing blackbird feathers under someone's pillow is said to compel them to tell you their innermost secrets, while the feathers of a Wren are believed to prevent drowning (source). Furthermore, feathers are often placed on altars to represent air or placed in hedge riding sachets to aid in soul flight. Different colored feathers also have a variety of meanings. For example, finding a black feather means an angel is protecting you, green for abundance, and white for purity (source). Finally, many witches use a feather to waft smoke from incense or a herb stick. Their uses are endless and have been used for centuries by magical practitioners around the world.

Teeth and Claws

Other animal remains include teeth and claws (I will cover shells and blood in the future, but not as part of this series). Teeth could be classified under bones, but I felt the need to discuss some of their specific uses separately. Teeth are hard external bones covered in enamel used for mechanical digestion. Some of the earliest uses of teeth, whether animal or human, dates back to burial practices in the 7th and 8th centuries. Amulets containing teeth have been found in numerous graves, particularly those of women and children across Europe. It is believed these amulets were placed in the grave for protection for both the living and the dead (source, source).  From the 7th to 9th century, animal teeth were used to identify cunning women and these bones were commonly buried with the practitioner (source). In the 13th and 15th century, cattle teeth were found in graves, an indicator of healing magic (source).

In Ancient Rome, teeth were highly valued as a form of protection against the evil eye. Giovanni de'Medici was particularly fond of using animal teeth as a form of protection, particularly for the protection of children. Paintings by Detti and contemporary inventories suggest that animal teeth, more specifically wolf teeth, were mounted around homes, including the estate of Piero Ubaldini and Giulio de'Medici. Like many items during the Renaissance, teeth were believed to be a form of sympathetic magic. They were placed around the neck of a nursing infant to protect the child from danger and promote the development and growth of the child's own teeth (source, source).

Later teeth that had fallen out were commonly thrown into the fire instead of kept for protection as it was believed the teeth could be picked up by a witch and used to cause misfortune (source). Still, later the folktale of the Tooth Fairy arose in the United States around 1900. It is important to note that the Tooth Fairy did not exist in British folklore, making this a largely American tradition, although the Italian Marantega and several other folktales around the world are remarkably similar. It was believed that by placing the tooth under the pillow that the fairy would reward the offering with a monetary gift. The tale of Marantega, an old witch who trades coins for teeth, is very similar to the myth of the Tooth Fairy. However, it is believed she seeks teeth to fill her own toothless mouth (source). In several Asia countries, including China, Japan, and Korea, children who lose teeth from their lower jaw would throw their teeth on the roof, while those lost from the upper jaw are tossed on the floor or placed under the pillow. It was believed that the new tooth would be pulled toward the old tooth, lessening the time it would take to replace the tooth. In Mongolia, the teeth were fed to dogs, so that the new tooth would be as strong as the dog's teeth, or buried under a tree so that the new tooth had strong roots (source).

In Conjure, teeth have been historically and still are used in a variety of magical workings. For example, badger and alligator teeth were and are used in mojo bags (source). In fact, in 1760 Jamaica passed an act that forbid the slaves from engaging in magical activities, using dog and alligator teeth as evidence of such magical workings (source). Today teeth are used for protection, to bring luck, in binding spells, as part of a bone tarot set, in mojo bags, or in spells that increase communication.

Like teeth, claws can be used in much the same way, pulling on the attributes of whatever animal it came from. Historically, claws have very little written about them. In fact, much of what I could find is about cutting human fingernails. It was believed that cutting your nails on a Friday or Sunday was unlucky while cutting on Monday was thought to bring good health and Tuesday wealth (source). Romans often wore images of bears or bear claws to ease childbirth and protect the unborn child (source). Today, witches use claws as altar decorations, for protection, and mojo bags. For example, cockerel claws are used in protection charms in Voodoo and Santeria practices.

Overall, animal remains have and are an integral part of magical practices the world over. Whether they are used in rituals or spells, they bring us closer to the world around us. How do you use feathers, fangs, or claws in your magical practice?

Interest in the rest of the series? Here's what's to come!

Bone Magic Series

Cleaning and Preserving Animal Remains
Working With the Spirits of Animal Remains: Crossing Over & Contracting
Feeding Your Bones
Throwing the Bones + Build Your Own Bone Tarot