Category Archives: Nature Spirituality

A Prayer of Gratitude

I don’t do a lot of praying; I tend to do more acting, being and observing. But occasionally I want to take a moment to appreciate something that I have, so I send out a prayer of gratitude. There’s one that I wrote years ago that I say every night before I go to sleep:

Thank you to all of those who have given me this day,
All those who have given of themselves
To feed me
Clothe me
Shelter me
Protect me
Teach me
And heal me.
May I learn to be as generous as you.

When I wrote it as a newbie pagan, I felt that I’d mostly covered the bases on what others (human and otherwise) gave to me so I could go on living each day. Now that I’m older I could think of other actions in addition to feeding or teaching, but I love the flow of this prayer as it is. It’s like an old story–Italian, I think?–in which a man comes across a group of little fey ladies coming out of a hill, singing “Saturday, Sunday and Monday”. The man then sings out “and Tuesday!” and the ladies curse him because he ruined the cadence of their song. Sure, I could add another line or two, but it’s currently perfect in its rhythm and timing for getting me back into touch with all those who have contributed to me getting another day on this Earth.

I’m less naive than when I first wrote it, though. Take the line “To feed me”, for example. Back then I was thinking of the people who helped bring food to my table, from farmers to grocers to my own family. As I got older, I not only thought more about the plants, animals, fungi and other living beings involved in the complex food creation and distribution systems, but also the people who were more behind the scenes and often neglected: migrant farm workers, slaughterhouse employees, late-night cardboard box factory employees. And I thought of those ecosystems that were polluted by industrial fertilizers or torn down to make room for one more monocropped wheat field (even if it was organically grown).

So the whole prayer is a reminder to me that I am part of an incredibly complex web of connections, most of which I will never personally observe, but which I have an effect on in my everyday life. And it’s why the last line is bittersweet. I can never be as generous as a pig killed in a slaughterhouse for pork chops, and I will never know the experience of working fourteen hour days in a strawberry field under the hot summer sun, underpaid and worried about deportation. But I can at least give back in awareness, education, and trying to make better choices–like growing my own food when I’m able to, supporting fair trade practices and organic farming where I can afford it, and reminding others–even through this simple prayer–that nothing is as simple as “thank you”.

Did you enjoy this post? Consider picking up a copy of my newest book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, which encourages the reader to be more aware of their bioregion and all the beings they share it with.

Of Course My Priority is a Garden

This past weekend I headed up to the coast house with my partner and our roommate for an overnight. The plan was to take measurements in my studio-to-be so I could figure out what I was taking in the way of furniture. I also wanted to get the old garden behind the garage covered over with tarps to kill off the weeds and other plants that had taken residence over several years of neglect. My goal is to be able to start planting in there by the start of June, but if that’s going to happen I’d need to get started on overhauling the space now.

beforeWhat I seem to have forgotten in the week between the two visits to the house is that the garden had been unattended long enough that several small trees were growing there. So it wouldn’t be a matter of just throwing down tarps and calling it good. No, we’d have to go in and remove the trees, as well as tamp down other plants so they could be covered, along with uprooting a bit of English ivy that had somehow managed to take root in one corner (it’s nasty, pernicious stuff that will take over if you aren’t careful).

I see the killing of plants as a weighty matter in the same way I view the killing of animals. In either case I am taking away a being’s place in this world. And because we’ve been conditioned to see trees as extra-special (compared to, say, dandelions) it somehow feels more difficult to fell a tree than pull out invasive ivy. So before my partners in gardening came down from the house to help, I said my apologies to every one of the plants in that space. I think I said an extra apology to the trees, though.

duringHowever, the land isn’t hurting for trees, not in the least. In fact, they need thinning, particularly where they’ve intruded onto the dunes, and where a lack of fire and old growth has made the forest grow thicker than is healthy. And in the long run what I’m doing will be more beneficial to the world in other ways. By growing even more of my own food (I’m also keeping the community garden plot in Portland and my roommate has signed on as a co-gardener) I can cut down on reliance on monocropped produce from the stores, particularly since I can’t always afford the organic option. It’s a good reminder of why I need to be close to the land. And it’s great exercise.

We were all reminded of that last bit as we started in on the preparation of the plot behind the garage. I chopped down seven young fir trees and an alder that was threatening to take down the fence using a pair of clippers and a hand axe. S., my partner (and ever the historical swordsman) helped with the alder using a reproduction Civil War-era Bowie knife (more of a small sword than a pocket knife). J., our roommate, went after the overflow of grass with much gusto, and by the time all was said and done we were tired and sweaty, but the tarps were down and weighted with whatever heavy items we could find (to include, perhaps macabrely, the fir trees I had cut down).

afterI figure I’ll leave the tarps for a month or so, then rake up whatever’s underneath into a compost pile, turn the soil and remove whatever roots I find. The tree stumps will be a bit more of a challenge but I can work around them if need be. I want to send in a soil sample, too, to see what condition it’s in–obviously it’s been supporting a variety of life, so it’s not sterile. But I’m curious, particularly since the garden is a raised bed and the soil was likely brought in by truck.

I’ll be moving my studio out to the house next week, but I already feel a little more at home knowing I have a garden in the works.

Want to help my garden grow–and help me survive a crazy month full of moving, taxes and other expenditures? Consider buying one of my books, or purchasing artwork from my Etsy shop, or even request a totem card reading!

It’s Easy to be Pagan in the Wild

It’s easy to be pagan in the wild. It’s easy to find the heart of a nature-based pagan path when you’re immersed in a quiet forest or secluded desert highway. Connecting with the divine is a simpler act when your breath catches at the sight of a graceful doe or soaring raptor. Inspiration flows when viewing a wild river or the pounding waves.

It takes more effort to see the sacred in human-dominated places, where we have so changed the landscape that it’s hard to see what was there before our arrival. Cow pastures and corn fields at least give us some green, growing things to look at and wonder upon. But what about deep within cities, with graffiti-tinged cement and stinking hot asphalt under the burning summer sun? Where is the sacred in a clearcut, or a landfill, or a mountaintop mine?

To me, everything is sacred and deserving of reverence–every bit of it. If anything, it is the missing peaks and filth-choked rivers that need reverence even more, for we have forgotten they are holy. We turn away from them in their time of distress, and seek out places that are more pure and easier to be with. Even I, after fifteen years of brick and concrete and steel, have finally found an avenue to escape for more than a few days at a time–and I’m taking it, by gods.

Like any human animal, by sheer weight of evolution alone I need the respite of relatively untrammeled places, where I can remember that I am a part of a vibrant, multi-species community. All those who work toward a better world need space to care for themselves, places where the fire is not burning so hot, away from the storm-stripped tornado’s path. It is a privilege to be able to step away from war and squalor, to only see refugee camps on television and not in person–or at home. And we share the effects of that privilege by diving back into the fray once we’ve had some time to recover.

It’s hard to look upon the damaged and destroyed. But if we are going to be truly naturalist pagans–nature-based in word and deed–we can’t look away forever. Nature is all things, us included, and to deny ourselves a place in that community, and the responsibilities that come with it, only enables further destruction. We have to celebrate the places that are no more than haunts, those that have been uprooted, those that have evaporated entirely. We need to find the sacred in traumatized eyes and bleeding wounds, in toxins suffusing soil and oil spreading through the Gulf, in the poacher’s rifle and the developer’s plans.

This does not mean we have to accept that things must stay their current course. We can work to move the momentum of an entire world in a healthier, more sustainable direction. We can extend our hands to those in need, human and not, and pull them out of dire circumstances.

But in order to do so, we must be willing to engage with all of it. We must not look away all the time. We must be as pagan in the city as we are in the wild.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider buying my newest book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, which is meant for people in any setting to connect with nature, whether urban, rural or somewhere in between.

Meeting the Land Where it Lies

Apologies for the silence the past couple of months. I have had a LOT of travel over February and March, to the point where I spent almost half of each month out of town. This shouldn’t happen again for a good long while, and I’m looking forward to being home a lot more in the months to come.

As I’ve gotten older, travelling has gotten tougher, especially cross-country flights. I still enjoy it, but the getting up early to catch planes, and jostling through TSA, and sitting in cramped coach seats, and often being in a different time zone all contribute to exhaustion. Add in that I’m away from my usual bioregion and neighbors of all species, and I don’t have the spiritual backup I’m used to. So I’ve begun making it imperative that, as often as I’m able to, I take time out of my busy schedule to connect with the lands I’m visiting.

My path is not an anthropocentric one; humans are not some supreme species, and we are just as subject to the laws of nature as every other being. So while I may spend much of my travel time mingling with other Homo sapiens sapiens, I need to also be in touch with others. And I’m not just talking about the animal, plant, fungus and other land spirits and totems, either. It’s important to me to get to know the physical beings that populate the land. At this point, after twenty years, the connection to land and its inhabitants seems almost effortless: I set foot in a place, and immediately we open up to each other. So it makes greeting my new, temporary neighbors a much simpler affair than it might have early on.

creekSome of them are easy–pigeons and crows are well nigh ubiquitous in urban areas, and gulls can be found wherever there are decent-sized bodies of water. Plant life of all sorts abounds in gardens, parking strips and parks, and the soil teems with fungus in all but the most polluted of places. But as an introvert, I crave quiet, and so I also try to make my way into more wild areas, even if they are tucked away in the hearts of cities.

So it is that over the past two months I’ve renewed my love affair with the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and Muir Woods, and paid a visit to a popular walking trail in the Bay Area. I met for the first time the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. And when I went home to visit family, I made sure to spend a bit of my brief time there with the creek that I grew up with. There were old friends, like the snow geese at Sacramento, and new surprises like my very first tufted titmouse on my parents’ back porch. I ate wild chives for the first time in years, and counted shelf fungi on a rotting redwood log.

I don’t think I would have gotten through all the busy human-centered activity nearly so well if I hadn’t had these moments of respite with more extended family. And that’s really the heart of my paganism: being a part of the greater community of nature. While others were going to well-crafted rites in the hotels where the conventions I attended were held, my most sacred times were surrounded by grasses and soil mycelium, attended by northern cardinals and jackrabbits. I can dive deeply into the anthropocentric, but I must needs always return to my more diverse compatriots of feather and leaf and stone.

And now that I am home I greet the scrub jays and flickers at the feeder, and say hello to my houseplants. Later this week I’ll visit my garden and see how it’s growing, and I have hikes planned throughout the month for more wilderness time. It’s good to be home, where I know everyone, and where respite is easy.

Did you enjoy this post? Consider picking up a copy of my newest book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, right here on my website!

minnesota

I Was on the Donna Seebo Radio Show!

Hey, all! So I just had a lovely interview this morning on the Donna Seebo radio show; we had a great conversation about my newest book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems In Your Ecosystem. We talked about why it’s important to reconnect with the rest of nature, why accessibility matters, what happens when you don’t like your totems, and more.

To listen to the interview, take these steps:

1. Go to http://www.delphiinternational.com/vision-broadcasting/previous_shows.html and let the page load completely

2. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page

3. Click the box to the right of show #491, then click “Play Selected Files” just below the bottom of the list of shows

4. The show will download to your hard drive–click it to play in your media player!

Mine is a Paganism of the Body, Part III: Movement

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Over the years I’ve learned that most of the time when someone in the pagan/New Age/etc. world says something about “honoring the sacred body” or something similar it’s a euphemism for sex. I consider myself to be a sex-positive person, but I also believe it’s important to be able to recognize the sacredness of one’s physical form even at times when you aren’t getting it on with someone else (or someones, or yourself…) In fact, the hyper-focus on sex and sexuality as the only connection between body and spirituality often leads to abuses and toxicity.

Let me focus on one particular exploiter of this narrow view of sacred physical: the Sensitive New-Age Guy, or SNAG. Some variations of this creature are relatively benign and passive–nothing wrong with a pacifist! However, I’m sure many of you have run into the more toxic sort, the one who’s using the nice and gentle image of pagan/New Age/etc. communities to get laid. Some of them do end up in true abuser territory, but a lot more that I’ve run into are more just fairly clueless misogynists with no ill intentions (some of them even buy into their own hype!)

This is the guy who wants you to know that he’s better than all those other guys, but instead of peacocking around like some pickup bro, he uses the language of “I’m focused on a woman’s pleasure”. He may have books upon books about everything from erotic massage to the female orgasm. SNAGS particularly like exploiting neo-Tantric perspectives (in the mouth of a SNAG, “Tantra” is a HUGE catch-phrase for “I want to get laid using spirituality as a veneer”). But when you get him into bed, he’s more focused on looking good and getting praise from you than actually paying attention to whether you enjoyed yourself or not. And once you get past the bedroom, you may find that as a person he is controlling and unpleasant, especially if you don’t respond to his pleas for ego-strokes quickly enough. (You can read more about this flavor of gent here.)

The toxic breed of SNAG is just one example of where body and spirit end up melding in unhealthy ways that only provide a surface look at both, though he’s a pernicious one. But he’s just symptomatic of the broken relationships so many of us have with our bodies. The SNAG is able to find victims because there are so many people (not just women) who are so starved for positive attention to their bodies that they swallow his bait without a second thought.

And this is why I feel strongly that our approach to our bodies as spiritual things needs to include but also move outward from sex and sexuality. I choose that word deliberately: movement is one of the most important manifestations of the sacred physical as far as I’m concerned. A body is made for movement–in strict evolutionary terms, the body is the vehicle for DNA to replicate, both within itself (mitosis) and for purposes of combining with another (meiosis). More broadly, a body is always in motion of some sort; even when you are concentrating on keeping yourself completely still during meditation, your heart still beats, blood flows, cells divide, chemicals move throughout the entire system. Upon death, your body continues to move; the molecules fall away more quickly as decay sets in, and everything that was once your physical form dissipates into the world to be recreated as other living beings.

But that’s getting a bit ahead of things, isn’t it? I want to look more at sacred movement outside of the bedroom. Take a moment to look back at the vignettes from my first post in this series. Specifically, read the first one where I’m carefully making my way over a precarious landslide on a narrow mountain trail. It is a pared-down conversation between me and my body, where every muscle fiber and inner sense of balance counts. It is literally breathtaking, and life-saving. That moment woke me up to the sacred processes of my body in ways no sexual act ever did. And it was because I was keenly aware of my movement.

More recently as I’ve returned to the gym for treadmills and weightlifting, my body’s movement has become even more paramount. While I do pay attention to things like weight and shape–and, yes, potential sexiness–I’m more interested in the ways my body moves. How good is my form when I pick up a barbell for arm curls or squats? What does my body look like when I pull against a stationary object to stretch my back and curve myself to increase the effects? What happens if I increase my protein intake for a couple of weeks? How am I affected if I indulge in sweets a bit more? Where are these nutrients moving to, and when I burn them where are they leaving from? These are everyday occurrences, and yet I approach them with a great reverence and awareness.

I see movement as a sacrament now. It is how I act upon the world, and upon myself. Whether it’s the rush of neurotransmitters in my brain and body, or the stretch and contraction of muscles, or the flutter of oxygen molecules into pockets in my lungs, movement is what states “I am here, and I am a force to be reckoned with”. And when I am dead, the molecules of my body will continue to move throughout the universe, tying me to the future as well as the past. What better immortality is there than that?

And once I recognized the power of my body’s movement, it gave me a sense of agency in more immediate ways. I am more aware of my ability to make decisions, even when the possible outcomes are limited. I have become more conscious and deliberate in my choices, drawing on that urgency on the side of the mountain and infusing my entire life with it. I am a more complete being, body, mind and spirit.

See what we miss when we only explore the surface? See what occurs when we limit our sense of sacred physical to sex and sexuality alone? There’s so much context missing from that experience. And movement is just one piece of the puzzle, along with sensation and communication, stress (both positive and negative) and feedback loops, the place of a person’s body in the greater ecosystem and the ecosystem of bodily flora and bacteria that outnumber our very cells.

We are made of starstuff, yes, and natural processes that when we consider them seem almost miraculous. The sacred physical is what invites us to stop taking them for granted and appreciate them in all their simplicity and grandeur. It is the antidote to the SNAG and the puritan, two sides of the same limited coin. And it is a way to appreciate our bodies not as prisons for beings fallen to earth from higher realms, but as the sacred vehicles through which we experience completely unique lifetimes, never to be repeated.

Let us move, then, into the sacred physical more fully. In doing so we ease yearning for something unattainable, and instead make the most of what we know we have for sure–this holy moment, right here, right now.

Mine is a Paganism of the Body, Part I

Mine is a Paganism of the Body, Part II: Body Image

Mine is a Paganism of the Body, Part II: Body Image

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In my previous post, I shared a few vignettes from my life, focusing in particular on the bodily sensations and experiences I remember from each one. Now I’d like to explore the concept of paganism as being a body-focused spirituality in more detail. I want to add in the caveat that I am generally pretty able-bodied and in good condition (other than asthma and creaky knees that like to remind me I’m nearing 40), and that I have a pretty positive body image and generally fit the mainstream idea of “attractive” (read: thin). So these things are going to make it easier for me to feel good about melding my body and my spirit. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

Religion in general, at least in more recent centuries, has sought goals above and beyond the physical world. That’s an understandable response to the many challenges of being a mammal in this place, where pain, suffering and hardship are a fact of life for many. Religion is often forged in these difficult times, with beliefs serving as a way to keep people motivated and hopeful even when things are worst. It can be easier to weather difficulties in this life if you believe that there’s a better, perfect life waiting for you after death. Unfortunately, this has sometimes led to people trying so hard to distance themselves from anything earthly that they create a good-evil dichotomy between the spiritual and physical (I’m looking at you, more stringent flavors of Christianity!)

One of the things I’ve appreciated about paganism is that there is an interweaving of physical and spirit, regardless of your thoughts on the afterlife (a topic I’m just going to leave alone for now). One of my favorite generic pagan chants is the unattributed “Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath and Fire my spirit”. It symbolizes a one-ness with the rest of the world that’s lacking in many other faiths. However, as with many other elements of belief, taking the concept of the sacred physical and putting it into everyday use can be challenging. After all, we’re trying to counteract thousands of advertisements screaming “Feel bad about your body! Buy this product to make it better!”; many of us have also received negative body messages from people more close and personal with us. And many of us are our own worst critics, buying into everything we hear despite our best efforts otherwise. All this means that the sanctity of the flesh often only gets lip service, and once ritual is done we go back to our usual pit of “I don’t like my body”.

A big part of the problem is that we’re focusing heavily on appearance, which is literally just the surface of the matter. Because we’re conditioned to value ourselves and others for our looks so much, we tend to forget that looks really aren’t everything. So we miss out on all the other potentially amazing things our body can show us. We take our bodies for granted; we forget that they are our personal vessels for navigating this great big world we live on. And, discussions of reincarnation aside, there’s a good chance it’s a one-shot deal. Why would we want to miss a single moment in sulking over whether someone else thinks we’re pretty or not?

Well, okay, there are several reasons. Some would argue it’s harder to exist in one’s own body, never mind explore its movement, when that body is plagued by constant pain, fatigue, illness or significant disability. And there are deeply ingrained biological and social reasons for wanting someone else to find us attractive, so sure, most of us end up spending at least a little time sulking about not being pretty enough. But let’s assume for the purposes of the rest of this post that you do want to be more in touch with your body in a more positive way, even with its limitations.

Start looking at your body as a series of processes; some of them may work better than others, but all of them ideally have a purpose. Some nourish; some remove toxins; some rebuild and heal. These processes are carried out by bodily systems. Certain pieces can be removed if they malfunction; others are irreplaceable. But as a whole, they create the body that you have in this lifetime.

Other than the reproductive system and, to an extent, the nervous system, none of these systems especially depends on whether the outer layer is deemed attractive or not. Think about that a moment: your digestive system really doesn’t care whether some jackass in a pickup truck catcalled you or not, but it definitely cares if you stop eating as a way to quickly lose weight. Your body’s ideal systems are designed to keep you alive at all costs, and it is only in the case of malfunctions in DNA or other accidents where they become a danger to you. So your digestive system is trying to make sure you have enough nourishment, your circulatory system is running around like a bevy of border collies herding oxygen and other important packets from place to place, and your nervous system is busily processing all the sensory information inside and outside of the body proper to make sure all’s running well.

It’s really quite remarkable if you think about it long enough. I’ve found that by taking that figurative step back from my own body and getting a more objective look at what it’s doing I can appreciate it a lot more than if I were just looking glumly in the mirror wishing my nose was smaller or that my hair would grow longer or that I could get rid of the last few pounds on my waistline. My focus instead shifts to making those processes work even better–fueling them with better food when possible, exercising to keep them more carefully honed and in practice, getting enough rest so my beloved body can recuperate from all I put it through in a day.

And then when I step back into my body fully, I am in love with it and all it does for me. I’m more able to overlook the limitations my asthma puts on me, and the fact that my knees slow me down, and that I’m still many months away from doing an unassisted pull-up. More importantly I recognize the sacred in it. This is no flawed pile of refuse to be traded in for heavenly grace upon death. It is the product of billions of years of evolution, and if I’m still alive it’s doing at least some things correctly. The molecules in my body have been in numerous places–perhaps Irish elk and dinosaurs and tiny green Cooksonia, all the way back to the first colonies of single-cells organisms in the primordial sea. I am composed of what was once stone and lava, ocean and cloud. Further back, Sagan is vindicated: I am made of starstuff. I carry the history of universe in my flesh and bones.

That is the sort of sacredness I want to move toward–and what I want to look at next is movement.

Mine is a Paganism of the Body, Part I

“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!

How to Reconcile Tarot and Non-Human Nature

I’m taking a bit of a break from working on the last few assemblages for the Tarot of Bones, and I had some thoughts regarding working non-human animals into the very anthropocentric symbolism of the tarot. See, my deck has no humans in it whatsoever; it’s all made from the bones of other species of vertebrate, and draws heavily from natural history in design and meaning. This is very different from the majority of decks out there; most are based in one way or another on the Rider-Waite Smith deck, itself derived from even older decks.

With the exception of the Seven of Wands and the Three of Swords, all of the RWS cards include a human, humanoid figure, the Moon’s human face, or in the case of the Aces a disembodied hand popping out of a cloud. Where there are non-human animals, they are largely symbolic of human interests and biases; the Knights ride horses as is appropriate, the depths of the psyche are symbolized by a crab or lobster in the Moon card, and Strength shows the taming of a lion. Even some animal-themed tarot decks are essentially the RWS in fur, feather and fin. We reign supreme, and the other animals are merely bit players in our archetypal dramas.

This is, of course, to be expected. While tarot readings for pets and other animals certainly exist, for the most part we’re pretty self-centered, wanting to know what’s going to happen with us and our fellow human beings. Unfortunately this anthropocentrism has contributed heavily to our current environmental crisis; whether through necessity, malice or apathy, we have all contributed to one degree or another to the poisoning of the land, water, sky and their inhabitants.

One of my goals as a pagan, author and artist is to help people break out of that self-centered perspective. The Tarot of Bones is one tool I’m using to that end. While I, too, have drawn on the RWS deck for inspiration, I also rely quite a bit on the behaviors and other traits of the animals whose bones I’ve worked into the assemblages for the card art. This is especially true for the Court Cards and Major Arcana, all of which utilize the skulls of species specifically chosen for each card.

But this isn’t just a “this animal means this, that animal means that” deck. I’m trying to show the parallels in our behavior. I want us to internalize the ways of other animals so that we recognize them as kin. We may not want to acknowledge our inner sloth, but my Hanged Man draws on how that animal has used its slower lifestyle to survive and thrive over thousands of years–and how we can learn to do the same. And anyone who thinks we’re the only ones who fall in love have never seen two red foxes playfully courting each other! (Okay, so we’re less likely to run around peeing on our territory in the process, but you get the idea.)

The thing is, a lot of the lessons in the tarot are universal, not just for us alone. Every male ungulate has had to fight to the top of the mountain and hold his place like the Seven of Wands, and eventually even the King of the Mountain must fall, a la the Five of Swords. There is the feasting time of the Three of Cups, and the famine of the Five of Pentacles. Some cards may seem a little too abstract for our non-human kin, like the Magician. Consider that that card’s figure relies on making use of the resources available to him at any time, though, and we quickly see how every other creature survives doing the same.

In the end, there’s really not a whole lot that we humans can claim as our own without exception. Our technological skills are just a result of tool-making instincts coupled with a ridiculously large and complicated brain; our wars are no more than territorial squabbles writ large, and our peace is the baseline sought by every creature (except, perhaps, curmudgeons like the sarcastic fringehead).

So for you tarot enthusiasts out there, the next time you break out a deck for a reading, consider how the outcome might affect a coyote, or a monarch butterfly, or a giant squid. How might you read for the other creatures of the world?

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.)