This post is part of a sporadic series focused on helping one to Be a Local Witch. With so much emphasis placed upon having all the “right tools” and the “right herbs” in modern witchcraft, it’s easy to forget to actually do the witchcraft. This series aims to show how terribly simple and amazingly rewarding it can be to center your witchcraft practice on the unique location in which you live. By working with what is readily available to you -be it trees, herbs, or spirits- you enable yourself to better connect to the natural energy currents where you live, to better establish yourself as a natural part of that environment, to better employ the aid of the genius loci, to broaden your knowledge of the area where you live as well as the plants and animals that also make it their home, and to align yourself with the spirit of the historical witch who would have used nothing that they did not find or make themselves.
It is with that goal in mind, to strengthen your practice by narrowing focus to the use of local herbs, that this next post is offered.
Later posts in this series will explore the idea of working with plants as magickal allies, a variety of native and naturalized herbs that are likely growing in your own backyard (such as the previous post on the hex breaker Witchgrass,) drying and storing herbs for the highest quality of dried herb matter, as well the subjects of offerings and things to keep in mind to help you to more respectfully interact with the Land and plant spirits when wildcrafting or just enjoying time in wild spaces.
The practice of harvesting herbs from the wild is known as wildcrafting. When one gathers wild herbs with the intent of causing as little environmental impact as possible the process is called ethical wildcrafting. There are basic and straightforward guidelines to ethical wildcrafting that ensure that not only is the natural population of the plants you harvest left healthy and strong, but so, too, are the individual plants that you harvest from (the exception here being when roots are harvested.)
These guidelines are very easy to employ, and the included infographic can be printed off and taken with you on your next wildcrafting trip until these guidelines become second nature.
(that no one ever talks about, shhh....)
It’s pretty obvious that most people on the outside of the magickal and witchcraft communities don’t realize the extent of transformation and the true development of abilities and skills that a witch undergoes throughout their practice. And while this is really something to be expected, it seems that too often there are those within our midst who don’t fully realize that yeah, this stuff is really real and yeah, not everything is metaphor.
It may be tempting to blame some of this, at least in part, on the lack of breadth contained in much of the easily accessible information on witchcraft, but considering that most of this information is specifically aimed at those with little to no knowledge, the inclusion of such could be overwhelming and likely discourage more than a few people from continuing in their practice* -not to mention, it really isn’t relevant within that context.
So, with that in mind, that basic info can only cover basic points (in order to retain relevancy, efficacy, and value) this is a quasi-tongue in cheek post on some of the surprising developments that you can expect thanks to the time, effort, and dedication you put into your witchcraft practice.
a Witch's Guide to Tanning Hides
This is the third and final part of a ridiculously long post covering at home methods for tanning hides and leather. These methods are of particular interest to the witch due to their simplicity, great results, and fun use of questionable substances. Part 1 covered important terms and how to prepare a hide for tanning, part 2 explained how to tan hides with battery acid, and this post will cover how to tan hides using brains and smoke.
Together, these mark the fifth installment on a 6 post series: Working with Zoological Remains -that is, the use of bones, feathers, wings, paws, and skulls in witchcraft. Previous posts include An Introduction to Working with Zoological Remains; Bone Collecting: How-to acquire Bones and Other Zoological Remains Regardless of Where you Live; Of Skull & Bone: Cleaning and Whitening; and The Joy of a Salt Box: Preparing Wing & Paw. The final installment of this series will focus on the actual use of zoological remains in witchcraft. Of course, while there is no one and true way to employ these sacred items within witchcraft, we will look at general techniques and methods, building off of the basic ideology that has been discussed throughout each of these posts.
Tanning Hides with Brains
Another option that you have is to use the brain of the animal as part of the tanning process. This is a really great option if you happen to go hunting yourself or have a friend who hunts and would be willing to give you the hide and head. Conveniently, the size of any animal’s brain provides the right amount needed in order to tan its hide. This makes it a very economical choice and is definitely one to consider for the magickal worker as it puts another part of that animal to good use. Taking those extra steps to ensure that as little as possible goes to waste is the least we can do when taking the life of another creature in exchange for the continuation of our own lives. This also pays the most respect to the spirit of that animal who -possibly, though not guaranteed- may decide to stick around, maintaining the connection to its remains and, thus, being able to aid you in your Work.
a Witch's Guide to Tanning Hides
This is part 2 of a 3 part post on at home tanning methods. These are relatively simple methods that will produce tanned hides and soft leather, but do vary considerably in amount of effort and time. Part 1 introduced some important terms, as well as discussing skinning, fleshing, and long-term preservation for hides. In this, part 2, we'll jump into a relatively quick way to tan a hide, leaving the fur on.
This complete post makes up the fifth part of a series on Working with Zoological Remains. Zoological remains are carefully preserved animal parts that are used with reverence within witchcraft. They may house the spirits of animals or other entities or be used exclusively for their symbolic or archetypal value. Previous posts in this series include An Introduction to Working with Zoological Remains, Bone Collecting: How-to Acquire Bones and Other Zoological Remains Regardless of Where you Live, Of Skull & Bone: Cleaning & Whitening, and The Joy of a Salt Box: Preparing Wing & Paw. The final post of this series will focus on methods and techniques for working with bones in witchcraft, as well as other zoological remains, such as wings, feathers, feet, horns, hooves, and antlers.
Tanning Hides with Battery Acid
The following method is relatively simple, though it will require a number of materials. It also is much faster than the brain and smoke tanning method, which will follow it. This method allows you to tan a hide -keeping the hair on- to produce a soft and pliable hide that can be used for just about anything, dependent upon the size of the hide and your sewing skills.
The children and I stood gathered about the shrine, watching as the last of the torches atop the amphiphontes glowed from within the cake. The other torches had all extinguished themselves by now, but this one held on stubbornly, a tiny spark and subtle glow holding tight to the candle wick.
My five-year-old daughter’s eyes were wide and round above the small hand she held across her mouth, not trusting her ability to hold her breath. Each of the children held a wish in their minds, eyes focused on the shrine.
A Witch's Guide to Tanning Hides
This is the fifth post in a series on Working with Zoological Remains. This series is focused upon the use of zoological remains -the preserved remains of animals- in witchcraft and has explored the ideology as well as the practical aspects. Previous posts include An Introduction to Working with Zoological Remains, Bone Collecting: How-to Acquire Bones and Other Zoological Remains Regardless of Where you Live, Of Skull & Bone: Cleaning & Whitening, and The Joy of a Salt Box: Preparing Wing & Paw. The final post of this series shall focus on actual usage. For now, we will be looking at various ways to tan hides and make leather at home. Due to length, this will be a 3-part post.
Tanned animal hides and leather are versatile items in witchcraft with a range of uses that vary from extremely practical (e.g. using to make bags, jewelry, clothing, or altar clothes) to very spiritual (e.g. being used to connect with the spirit of the animal whose hide it is, to connect with the archetypal energy of that species of animal, and/or to connect with another spirit or deity Who is connected to that type of animal, amongst others.) Of all preservation methods, with the exception of taxidermy and creating full body mounts, this is the most complicated. However, this is only because the number of steps is considerably greater and deviating too far from the prescribed steps can lead to disaster -in this case, rotting hides, hides that hair falls out in large patches, and hides and leather that smell bad. To help ensure the greatest amount of success, alternative steps and techniques will be given where appropriate.
Regardless of what method you favor and whether you prefer to read for yourself or to have someone else read for you, divination can be a powerful tool to help you navigate coming obstacles, to more fully take advantage of opportunities, and to realize things that you may be missing. It can help you to make decisions, to reveal choices you didn’t know you had, and to warn you of some pretty nasty shit headed your way. But, there is a lot that divination cannot do for you.
The concept of power animals has become pretty common throughout the magickal community now, though my stubborn mind insists it was barely present just a decade ago. It’s a concept that doesn’t play a part in my own practice, despite my being a witch (which, by definition, includes a heavy dose of animism both in practice and in fundamental worldview. I go into this further here, if you’re interested in a greater explanation) and for far too many reasons to rant, I mean, ramble about here*. Suffice to say, while the concept of power animals is prevalent throughout the world, the misappropriated use of the name “totem” to describe the same practice paired with an undeniably appropriated American Indian flare is something that I can’t stomach and want no part of. But I promised not to rant so…
I thought I would share how I do work with animal spirits, as a North American based witch with ancestral heritage stemming from Poland, Mongolia, and Germany. Too rarely do I speak of my own practice on this blog (though I’ve been trying harder to do so the last two years,) so I thought it would be a nice change to shake things up a bit and post something more personal.
This post is the fourth installment in the Working with Zoological Remains series. The term “zoological remains” refers to the physical remains of an animal once it has died. This series covers the ideological and practical aspects of animal remains in witchcraft. Previous posts include An Introduction to Working with Zoological Remains, Bone Collecting: How to Acquire Bones and Other Zoological Remains Regardless of Where you Live, and Of Skull & Bone: Cleaning & Whitening. There are two more posts remaining in this series, covering the process of tanning hides and how to begin using zoological remains in your witchcraft practice.
Aside from skulls, the most dramatic and beautiful zoological remains used in witchcraft are found in the preserved wings, talons, and paws of animals. The lifelike appearance has its own charm, calling to mind the movements of the creature and aiding our minds to slip loose and enter the necessary state to accomplish our Work. These remains may become treasured tools allowing us to connect with the archetypal energy of that animal or be rendered spirit houses for cherished allies. As with all zoological remains, their use is one infused with an air of sanctity and respect for the animal from whom they came, acknowledging its life, passing, and gift.
Remains such as wings and paws that still contain tissue require specific means of preservation as they are too delicate to safely nor effectively remove the tissue. Most importantly, it is not necessary to remove the tissue for preservation. It is important to note that although tissue does remain, this preservation method does not result in smells, rather, it produces a fully dry specimen.
As usual, because I am utterly pragmatic and will always encourage you to use what you have for your Craft practice (just say “NO!” to commercialized magick!) you won’t need anything that you don’t already have at home or can’t find at your local grocery store or pharmacy.
Throwing the Bones
Whether you're struggling with something spiritually or in everyday life, bone divination can highlight areas where focus is needed and identify alternative ways forward.