Category Archives: Books

Book Review: The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals, and Other Forgotten Skills
Tristan Gooley
The Experiment, LLC 2014
402 pages

I promise I actually still read books! I just read them more slowly these days, which is why it took me over a month to work my way through Tristan Gooley’s excellent The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs. And I enjoyed it so much I wanted to be sure I shared it with you.

Have you ever had a book that you were really, really excited to read? This is one of those books for me. As soon as I saw it in a little bookstore in Ilwaco, WA, I knew I needed to not only buy it and read it but absorb it. As the title suggests, it’s a detailed look at how to use signs in the landscape to determine everything from where you’re headed to what the weather will do and what various living beings you may meet along the way. Most of the chapters are dedicated to specific areas of study, such as animal tracks or what you can tell from local flora, fungi and lichens. But they’re interspersed with a few chapters of the author’s anecdotes, which not only illustrate the concepts therein, but also demonstrate that even a master outdoorsperson can get lost!

Because the book is neatly divided into chapters, it makes a good workbook for improving your skills at noticing and interpreting these clues. Even better, the last chapter includes specific tips and exercises to hone your abilities in each chapter’s bailiwick. My intent, now that I’ve read the book through once, is to make use of it on my own travels, first working through it chapter by chapter, and then integrating everything together.

Even if you aren’t very active outdoors, it’s still an incredibly fascinating read with numerous “Wow, I had NO idea!” moments in store for you. Gooley very obviously loves nature and has spent countless hours reading its fine print with gusto. At a time when many people simply see “nature” as the unending scenery outside, he invites us to pay attention to the minute details and the stories they tell, and then wrap them all back up into great ecosystemic symphonies. This is a must-have for anyone whose path intersects with the natural world, whether practically, artistically, spiritually or otherwise.

You can buy the book directly from the publisher here. You can also get a taste of the sorts of skills in this book on the author’s website, well worth perusing.

A Thank You To Everyone

It’s been an incredibly busy few months here at the Green Wolf! Since April, I’ve moved my studio to the Washington coast, been to two Midwest festivals that required me to be away from the studio for a week or more, and tried to adjust to bouncing between two separate homes (Portland, OR and Long Beach, WA) while maintaining a foothold in each. Along the way I’ve made new friends and business contacts, fallen in love with new lands and spoken with their spirits, and discovered strength I didn’t know I had that can balance out my all-too-human challenges.

Thank you to those who have supported my work along the way, whether that was boosting the second Tarot of Bones IndieGoGo campaign, coming to Still Death sessions in Portland, buying art and books online or at venues, coming to my workshops at events and elsewhere, supporting me on Patreon, and otherwise making sure I could keep the lights on in my homes. I know I’ve sometimes been a bit tough to get in contact with because of the busy-ness (and occasional internet blackouts thanks to poor cell signal.) Know that I will always try my best to get caught up once I’m back to a more settled location, and I intend to keep working hard to create awesome things and get them out to y’all.

So what’s on tap next? Well, after a long weekend of vending and doing a serious overhaul to the Portland apartment, I am back in the studio getting caught up on sending out orders and finishing Patreon goodies for the month. I’ll be announcing the next few months of Still Death sessions soon, and getting the ball rolling on Curious Gallery 2017. I should have the layout for the Tarot of Bones companion book done soon and can send the file in to create a test copy (no, the book won’t be released til the deck is later this summer.) And, of course, artwork. Lots and lots of artwork!

With great appreciation,

Lupa

Make Me Write a Book For You!

Hey, folks! So I want to do some long-form writing, AND I’d love to see my Patreon hit that $1000 goal! At $1000 in fully funded pledges I’ll write and self-publish a booklet on some topic of nature spirituality. Patrons giving $25 or more that month get a free hardcopy of the booklet, and all other Patrons get a free ebook. You don’t have to stay my Patron til the booklet is finished (since it may take me up to half a year to complete); as long as you’re an active Patron whose contribution goes through on the month when we hit the goal, you’re on the list for when it’s ready to go. (And yes, it’ll be for general purchase once it’s published, too.)

To that end, I’m adding a sweetener for the deal: Patrons get to vote on the topic I write on, and those topics are:

Writing Pagan Books: My first book came out in 2006, and I’ve been writing steadily ever since! I’ll share my experiences going from a newbie writer to an author contracted with multiple publishers and an agency. And I’ll provide advice for launching–and growing–your own efforts in writing nonfiction for a pagan audience.

Urban Nature Paganism: After fifteen years of living in cities, I’ve gotten pretty good at connecting with non-human nature in human-dominated spaces. And I want to help others make those connections, not just as the remnants of wilderness, but as vibrant ecosystems that have adapted and thrived in spite of us. More than just a collection of spells and charms, this will be a more complete look at weaving your spiritual path into an urban ecosystem, whether you live near a park, feed birds on your balcony, or have a window to watch the weather from.

Evolutionary Ancestor Spirits: There’s a lot of information on working with the totems and other spirits of modern species, but what about extinct species of animal, plant, fungus and more? I’ll discuss what makes these totems and spirits unique compared to their modern counterparts, how to invite them into your path (or hear their call!), and why it’s more important than ever to reach into the past as we work toward a better future.

If you’ve been thinking about becoming my Patron, now’s a great time to do so! And if you know anyone who may be interested, please pass this post and my Patreon, http://www.patreon.com/lupagreenwolf, on to them. Thank you 🙂

“Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up” is Here!

GUESS WHAT! Amid all the craziness of running Curious Gallery, I completely missed that my first box of copies of Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up arrived! But it’s here, and while a bunch of the copies will be going to people who preordered them, there are a few still up for grabs. I’ll be packing up orders to ship a little later this week, after I get a few more administrative errands taken care of from this weekend.

Want to know more about what’s inside these page? Here you go:

Deepen your spiritual connection to the earth and rejoin the community of nature. Nature Spirituality from the Ground Up invites you to explore not just symbols of nature, but to bury your hands in the earth and work with the real thing.

This isn’t just another list of totem “meanings” arranged in dictionary style. Instead, it empowers you to discover your totems and make them a part of your everyday life. And where most books just cover the animals, Nature Spirituality from the Ground Up introduces you to the totems of plants, fungi, minerals, waterways, landforms, and more. The table of contents tells you more of what to look forward to:

Chapter 1: The Importance of Reconnecting With Nature

Chapter 2: The Basics of Bioregionalism
Chapter 3: Introducing the Totems Themselves
Chapter 4: The Totemic Ecosystem
Chapter 5: Practices For the Totems and Yourself
Chapter 6: Totemism Every Day
Conclusion: Wonder and Awe at the World

Appendix A: Recommended Reading
Appendix B: Beneficial Nonprofit Organizations
Appendix C: Helpful Hints For Totemic Research
Appendix D: A Quick Guide to Guided Meditation

And here’s where you can order your copy from me, complete with autograph!

Wednesday Only–Get My Booklet “Skull Scrying” For Free!

Hey, everyone! Want to get a free copy of my newest booklet, Skull Scrying:Animal Skulls in Divinatory Trance Work?

I just got done replacing the clunky old Paypal buy it now buttons on my website with a shiny new WordPress-based shopping cart! To celebrate escaping 2008, every paperback book order, even if it’s for just one book, placed on the Green Wolf website from 12:00 AM December 23, 2015 to 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time December 24, 2015–that’s midnight to midnight Wednesday only–will get a copy of Skull Scrying added for absolutely free! You get a freebie, and I get to make sure the shopping cart is working for people besides me.

Sound like a good deal to you? Head over here to my website to get started shopping!

(Note: this applies to orders placed at the Green Wolf website only, not Etsy, Amazon or any other third-party website. Offer good for one free copy per person.)

Book Review Roundup

I wish I had more time to read; sadly, at least until the Tarot of Bones is done my time is going to be pretty chewed up with work. I have managed to finish a few books, though, and I wanted to offer up a selection of mini-reviews for your enjoyment!

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 1
Hope Nicholson, editor
Alternate History Comics, 2015
176 pages

I was a backer of the Kickstarter that funded the publication of this incredible comics collection. Over two dozen indigenous writers and artists came together to share stories from their cultures; some are intensely personal, while others are community tales little told outside of their own people. Despite a wide variety of writing and artistic styles, the collection has a strong cohesion, and flows from mixed media poetry to science fiction to traditional storytelling like a well-worn riverbed. I highly recommend this collection to anyone seeking an excellent read, whether you’re normally a comics reader or not.

Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants
Robert Sullivan
Bloomsbury, 2004
252 pages

I borrowed this one from my sweetie, who recommended it highly. I’m a sucker for detailed looks at individual species, but tailored for the layperson so there’s more of a narrative to it. This exploration of New York City’s brown rats successfully blends natural and human history with anecdotes and humor, and is at least as much about the city itself as the critters hiding in its corners. It’s not always a nice book; there are descriptions of plague and death, extermination and suffering. Yet if you’ve felt that the intelligent, resourceful rat simply hasn’t gotten its proper due, this may be the book to wave at people who want nothing more than to see them all poisoned and trapped to extinction. I certainly came away with a greater appreciation for my quiet neighbors that I occasionally see when out on late-night walks.

The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
Richard Dawkins
Houghton Mifflin, 2004
688 pages

I’m not going to get into Dawkins’ views on religion here, so let’s just leave that aside. What I do admire is any attempt to make science accessible to laypeople without excessively dumbing it down, and despite being almost 700 pages long, The Ancestor’s Tale does just that. I have a serious love for evolutionary theory, and what this book does is present the long line of evolution that led specifically to us, starting with the very first spark of life on this planet. Better yet, Dawkins draws inspiration from the format of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and as each chapter introduces a new ancestor or very near relative in our past, we are given the image of an ever-growing pilgrimage to the dawn of life. I was absolutely fascinated by every page in this book, as I learned about everything from the first tetrapods to how sexual dimorphism developed, from evolutionary explosions and extinctions to the very first multicellular animals. And because we get to start with ourselves, everything is made more relevant to us, keeping our interest even more firmly invested in who we’ll meet next. A must for any of my fellow nature nerds out there.

Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life Through the Wheel of the Year
Jane Meredith
Llewellyn Publications, 2013
336 pages

Some of us know exactly what we’re going to do when each Sabbat arises. Others…not so much. If you’ve been stuck trying to figure out how to make the next solstice more interesting, or you need some variety as you bring your children into family spiritual traditions, this is a book full of inspirations! Meredith takes the time to explain each Sabbat in more depth than many books do, and offers up anecdotes of her own sacred experiences. Rituals and activities flesh out the book in a more practical manner, offering readers concrete ways to incorporate the spirit of each Sabbat into their own celebrations. A fabulous book both for beginners, and those wanting to shake up their established practice in a good way.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
Terry Tempest Williams
Vintage Books, 1991
336 pages

You would think that as much as I love nature writing I would have read one of Williams’ books before, but somehow she eluded me until recently. I should have caught up to her sooner. In Refuge, she weaves together the tumultuous existence of a wetland on the brink of extinction, her mother’s battle with cancer, and the intricate threads these events entangle into the lives of Williams and her family. Three is spirit, there is nature, there is history, and yet all these seem as though they cannot be separated from each other. Just as in an ecosystem, the part is little without the whole. If ever there was a doubt that we were still a part of the natural world, Williams puts that doubt to rest. Prepare to cry, and to reflect, but please–do read this book.

…I Think I Just Leveled Up.

So for months I’ve been alluding to a Big Secret that I’ve been keeping. Now, I hate keeping secrets, at least the sort that I know I can eventually reveal. I’m impatient and it takes me oodles of willpower to not just blab the news everywhere until the time is right. But right now? I get to tell one of those secrets.

I would like to officially announce that Jaida Temperly of New Leaf Literary has formally offered to be my agent, and I have not only accepted but signed the contract to boot! Yes, the agency website still has her listed as “literary assistant”, but she recently became a full-fledged literary agent for New Leaf after three years of building up a ton of experience there. I think we’re going to be a great team. We’ve had some really productive conversations via email and phone, even when I was asking eleventy billion questions, and I feel confident that she’s going to be bringing both expertise and enthusiasm to her representation of my work.

Of course, that brings us to another Big Secret: I can’t yet tell you what we’re working on together, other than it is not the Tarot of Bones, which is still my baby to self-publish. I know, I know–you want to know what’s going on behind the scenes, I want to tell you! But it’s another one of those things that needs to wait til the timing is right.

Still, I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity. I’ve worked pretty hard over the years to get my writing out there, first at Immanion Press, and then at Llewellyn, and with some self-publishing side quests along the way. Now in addition to my current publishing partnerships there’s the potential for even more great possible avenues for my work, and let me tell you–I have ideas. And now I have someone who can help me get even more of those ideas out into the world.

…did I mention I’m kind of psyched about this whole thing?

Where’s Lupa?

Hey, folks! I’ve updated my events and appearances page at https://thegreenwolf.com/events-and-appearances/ with a calendar of all my confirmed events for the next several months! A few highlights:

–I’m returning to Heartland Pagan Festival in Kansas as a presenter after nearly a decade away, and I’m going to be a featured guest at Gathering of Pagan Souls in Missouri

–I’ll be back at PantheaCon in San Jose in February, and the following month at Paganicon in Minneapolis, presenting workshops and participating on panels

–I’ve been arranging a number of standalone workshops at pagan shops in and around Portland in the next few months. Look for me at East West Bookshop in Mountain View, CA, By Candlelight and Conjure in Salem, OR, New Renaissance in Portland, and Celestial Awakenings in Portland. More information on workshops elsewhere is forthcoming.

And there’s more beyond even that–I have a very busy schedule ahead of me in 2016! If you or a shop or event you know of are interested in booking me, now’s the time to get your request in since my time’s filling up very quickly. Email me at lupa.greenwolf(at)gmail.com 🙂

Surprise! I Have a New Book on Scrying With Skulls!

Okay, so I was a sneaky, sneaky author. I know my official next book is Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems In Your Ecosystem, which is due out from Llewellyn in January 2016. However, I’m also still working hard on The Tarot of Bones deck and book, and since I intend to self-publish the book using CreateSpace as a platform, I wanted to give it a test run with a smaller project.

So I wrote a 32-page booklet on a topic I haven’t really talked much about but which has been near and dear to me for a few years now, and you can now order both paperback and ebook copies of Skull Scrying: Animal Skulls in Divinatory Trance directly from me at this link. Animal skulls are much more than passive decorations on an altar; they are potential allies in the ancient divinatory art of scrying. Through skull scrying you can draw forth answers to your questions and gain more insight into situations in your life with the help of the spirit within the bone. This booklet is by no means an exhaustive text on the art of scrying, but is an introduction to a particularly nature-centered version thereof. Suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The table of contents gives you an idea of what you can look forward to:

A Brief Introduction
Chapter 1: What is Skull Scrying?
Chapter 2: Choosing a Skull for Scrying
Chapter 3: Skull Scrying and Interpreting Results
Afterword: Recommended Suppliers

Please note that I will be receiving my first paperback copies of Skull Scrying on or around November 24; all paperback orders made before then will be fulfilled from that order.

Some Thoughts on Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up

Last night I finished looking over the proofs for my next book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, which will be coming out in January 2016. One of the things that struck me was how much of the book is spent simply showing readers how to connect with the land they live with. Most books on totemism and nature spirits give a bit of context, and then leap into the “how to find your guide” exercises. It’s not until the very last bit of the second chapter that we even start trying to contact totems. Even after that point, many of the exercises are intimately linked to the physical land, getting people outside and in direct contact where possible (though the material is still accessible to those who may be housebound).

Here in the U.S., most people are critically detached from the rest of nature, at least in their perception. This book is meant to help them reconnect, not just for self-help, but because we live in such an acutely anthropocentric world that we rarely consider the effects of our actions on the other beings in the world (to include other human beings). The problem seems immense: few of us give any thought to our environmental impact, either in part or in whole. When we are unwillingly confronted with it, it’s often in the most catastrophic manners–global climate change, mass deforestation, entire species disappearing overnight. We’ve learned to simply shut off the part that cares about nature any further than maybe sorting the recycling every week.

We’re afraid to care, because caring hurts. It’s hard to find hope in a world where the environmental news is largely bad. As far as I’m concerned, though, where there’s life, there’s hope. And I want to help people find that hope as a motivator to making the world–not just themselves–healthier and better. But because we’re used to seeing “THE ENVIRONMENT” as one big global problem, I reintroduce people to their local land–their bioregion–first in small steps, and then greater ones.

Some of that may be old hat to my nature pagan compatriots. After all, we’ve been hiking and wildcrafting and paying attention to the rest of nature for years. But this book isn’t only meant for the proverbial choir. There are plenty of people interested in non-indigenous totemism who wouldn’t describe themselves as “pagan”. Some of them are looking for self-improvement; others have some inkling that a being is trying to contact them, but they aren’t sure how to proceed. Still others want to feel connected to the greater world around them, but are too used to heavily structured spiritual paths that allow little room for personal experience.

That personal experience is absolutely crucial to my writing and the exercises I offer readers. If we’re going to reconnect with the rest of nature, we have to make it relevant to our own lives. Most of us in this country are used to being preached at, something the dominant religion is good at. But we quickly learn to tune it out, the same way we often tune out the messages about how horrible we are in our environmental practices.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about human psychology, it’s that most of us don’t do well when we’re being yelled at. There really is something to that whole “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” adage. Environmental scare headlines try to terrify people into reconnecting enough to take responsibility, but that approach can be counterproductive. By making reconnection a positive, constructive and appealing concept, I hope to get people interested not just in their own personal spirituality, but how that spirituality is set in a greater world context.

From the beginning, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up talks about the importance of totemism in relation to entire ecosystems, not just “me, me, me, what can I get out of having a totem?” Most of the books I’ve read on the topic are mostly about how the reader can connect with individual totems; there’s very little about the context all that happens in. And that goes right back into the anthropocentrism I’m trying to counteract,.

I’ve had the occasional reviewer complain that the material in my books isn’t “hardcore” enough because I rely primarily on guided meditations and accessible excursions into open areas, that I’m not telling people how to take hallucinogenic plants and soar off into the spirit world, or spend twenty days fasting in the wilderness. Well, of course not! That’s not the kind of thing that I think can be appropriately–or safely–conveyed through a book. Most people simply aren’t cut out for that much hardship and risk, and I don’t think they should be denied this sort of spirituality simply because their bodies or minds may not be able to handle ordeals, or because they lack the money to travel to remote locations in South America for entheogenic training.

As an author (and by extension a teacher) it’s my job to meet people where they’re at and help them explore someplace new. I am a product of my culture, and so is my writing. I am not part of a culture that lives close to the land and its harsh realities; mine is conveniently cushioned through technology and the idea that we are superior animals to the rest of the world. We don’t have a culture-wide system for intense rites of passage or life-changing altered states of consciousness. And I don’t have the qualifications to single-handedly create such a system, beyond what help with personal rites I can give as a Masters-level mental health counselor.

So are my practices gentler than traditional indigenous practices worldwide? Absolutely. That’s what most people in my culture can reasonably handle at this point. Trying to force them into something more intense would go over about as well as Captain Howdy’s rantings about “being awakened” in Strangeland. Sure, sudden and seemingly catastrophic experiences can cause a person to reach higher levels of inner strength and ability–but they can also cause severe physical and psychological trauma, or even kill. And, again, since we don’t have a culture in which everyone goes through an intense rite of passage at a certain age (such as adulthood), we can’t expect everyone to accept such a thing immediately.

Maybe that’s not what we need, anyway. Plenty of people engage in outdoor, nature-loving activities like backpacking, kayaking and rock climbing without the foremost notion being that they’re going into some intensely scary and dangerous place that could kill them in a moment. Most experienced outdoors people are fully aware of the risks and take necessary precautions, but their primary intent is connecting in a positive way with the rest of nature.

I think it’s okay for our nature spirituality to be the same way. I don’t think we always have to work things up as “BEWARE NATURE WILL KILL YOU AND YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS THAT COULD POSSIBLY KILL YOU IN ORDER TO FIND GUIDANCE”. I’ve spent almost twenty years gradually rediscovering my childhood love of the outdoors and its denizens, as well as developing a deeper appreciation for it. I’ve had plenty of transformative experiences without fasts or hallucinogens, and they’ve served to both improve myself as a person AND make me feel even more connected to and responsible for the rest of nature.

Does that mean there’s no place for ordeals? No; they have their place for the people who respond well to them. But they shouldn’t be held up as the one and only way to do nature spirit work. Again: meet people where they’re at, whether that’s on the couch or on the trail. You’ll reach more people, and create change on a broader scale as more people participate in the ways they’re able. And isn’t that change ultimately what we’re after, those of us who want to save the world?

Like this post? Please consider pre-ordering a copy of Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems In Your Ecosystem!