I’m pleased to announce that the new, updated and annotated edition of Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up is now available as a paperback and ebook at https://thegreenwolf.com/books/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up/! Originally published in 2016 by Llewellyn, it went out of print earlier this year and I received the rights back. So I made a new, self-published edition with some updates and notes in the footnotes. I also removed the word “totem” from the text and swapped in more culturally neutral terms like “nature spirits” and “animism”. Working with nature spirits isn’t just about what we can get from them; it’s a reciprocal relationship that requires us to know the land itself. In this book I show you ways to create new connections with the nature around you, identify nature spirits who may facilitate that growth, and use rituals and other practices to deepen these bonds. Most importantly, you’ll learn ways to give back to the land and the spirits with offerings that make a real difference.Enter into an animistic ecosystem populated not just with the spirits of animals, plants, and fungi, but landforms, celestial bodies, and natural forces. Deepen your spiritual connection to the earth, and rejoin the community of nature! The table of contents offers more about what’s in this book:
Chapter 1: The Importance of Reconnecting With Nature
If you’ve been paying attention to my social media or my shop links at all, you may have noticed that I haven’t really been posting much in the way of new hide and bone art for the past year or so. It’s not that I’ve stopped; I still make some fun things for my Patrons on Patreon every month, and I make some bone, tooth and claw jewelry on Etsy to order. But ever since events dried up, I haven’t been regularly making new batches of costume pieces or other Vulture Culture art. My usual M.O. was to make all sorts of new things for an upcoming event, and then once the weekend was done and I was home, post whatever hadn’t sold on Etsy. And since there haven’t been events…well…I’ve just found myself doing other things.
Some of that is because I’ve had to scramble to make up for the lost income; events were a pretty big chunk of my “pay”, and losing them meant having to tighten the belt. I also lost several other income streams thanks to the pandemic making it unsafe to be around groups of people, which didn’t help. So I had to rely on what was left, along with adopting a few new sources of bits and bobs of cash here and there.
And, honestly, I’ve needed a bit of a break. I’ve been making hide and bone art for over two decades now, and while I love it, any artist eventually wants to explore different media for a while. Sure, I’ve stretched my Vulture wings in new directions, going from costume pieces and ritual tools to assemblages and the Tarot of Bones. But ever since the Tarot came out, I’ve been feeling….not really burned out, but a little creatively wrung out, at least. I’ve really appreciated my Patrons and Etsy customers who have helped me keep a hand in that particular medium, while also allowing me to head off in other directions, too.
Which is to say that if you have been paying attention to the aforementioned social media and shops, you may have also noticed that I’ve been increasing the number of customized Breyer model horses and other animals I’ve made over the past couple of years. This might seem like a heck of a departure from skulls, bones, and other dead things. But in a way it’s really me getting back to long-neglected roots.
See, I was a horse girl when I was a kid. Or, rather, I was a wannabe horse girl. I never got to lease or own a horse, and even now in my early 40s I’m still about the greenest rider you’ll find. (Seriously, I need one of those kid-proof horses that’s seen it all, done it all, and is probably more trail-smart than I am.) But I was obsessed with horses from a young age. It started with my very first My Little Pony that I got Christmas morning, 1983 (Applejack, if you must know), and then exploded further with a book on how to draw horses and my first Breyer model (Black Beauty 1991 on the Morganglanz mold) in my preteens. Horse actually took over for Gray Wolf for a few years as my primary animal spirit during my teens, so we have a very long history indeed.
And since I couldn’t have a real horse, I ended up collecting model horses, mostly Breyers with a few old Hartlands for variety. I had over 100 at the peak of my collecting, but I had to sell them all in my early twenties when I was between jobs. In hindsight it was probably for the best because having less stuff made it easier to get through the period of my life where I was moving about once a year, but I do miss that collection.
Back then I did my part to add to the artistic end of the model horse hobby, mostly with badly blended acrylic paint jobs and terrifying mohair manes and tails. But it made me happy, and that was the most important thing. Even though I only knew a couple other collectors in my little rural area, and my only real connection to the hobby was through the quarterly Just About Horses magazine Breyer put out, my collecting really made me happy in the same way that my first fur scraps and bones would catch my interest a few years later.
2020….well, it sucked. We all know that. Pandemic, political stress, financial roller coasters and more made it a really tough year for anyone who wasn’t wealthy enough to hide away and weather it all. And many of us found ourselves with more time at home, in need of distractions and solace. It ended up being a time where many people rediscovered their love of childhood hobbies. I’m one of those people. I’ve been slowly edging my way back in for the past few years, starting with repainting a few old Breyer models found at thrift stores, and then gaining momentum as I found that not only was I much better at customizing these models than I used to be, but I was having fun without the pressure to make a living off of it. (Yes, I love my hide and bone art, but when an art form is your bread and butter, it changes your relationship to it. But that’s a post for another time…)
So 2020 saw me really ramp up my customization efforts. I had to stop for a few months in summer and fall when I moved to a spifftacular new living space on the farm I’ve been working on the past few years (with, by the way, THE best studio space EVER!) but as the days shortened I found myself making more dedicated time to repainting and otherwise customizing models. I even started keeping a few of the models I’d bought to customize that were in better condition to create a small, but slowly growing original finish collection, and that really helped me feel like I was back in the (not actually a) saddle.*
That’s why a well-established artist of organic, pagan-influenced arts made from fur and leather and bone and feather suddenly started painting all these secondhand plastic ponies. It’s giving me that deep injection of childhood nostalgia balanced with adult skill and perspective, and it’s offered me a much-needed break from the exhausting schedule I’ve been living the past decade or so. Because suddenly, even with the time spent rearranging my income opportunities to make sure I could stay afloat, I found myself with a little time that hadn’t been scheduled to death, and when I thought about what I wanted to do with that time, I gravitated toward one of the few creative outlets in my life that was purely for fun.**
In a way having all my events canceled was one of the best things that happened to me, because it made me slow the fuck down. I no longer had several weekends a year where I had to spend weeks beforehand making art and otherwise preparing to be away from all my farm responsibilities for 4-7 days at a time, with all the packing and moving and setup and vending and teaching and teardown and going home and unpacking and exhaustion that goes with each event. I realized just how much each one was taking out of me, especially as I’ve gotten older. And I also recognized how much pressure I had been putting on myself to ALWAYS MAKE MORE STUFF FOR ETSY EVERY WEEK OR ELSE.
So the model horses are really sort of a symbol of the childhood joy I’ve managed to recapture, wresting time and energy back from my workaholic tendencies. I’ve even been thinking about what my professional life is going to look like once the pandemic eases up enough to allow events again, and whether I’ll put the same amount of time toward vending and and teaching at conventions and festivals as I used to. (There are a few favorites that I’m not going to miss for anything, so don’t worry about me dropping out entirely.) But for the first time in a very long time, I’m relearning to prioritize myself, and figuring out that maybe I don’t have to go hell-bent for leather every week, every year, in order to keep the bills paid and the critters fed.
And maybe, just maybe, it’s okay for this dead-critter-artist, pagan-nonfic-author, teacher-vendor-farmer, to indulge herself with something fun, and bet on the ponies to help her get through the tough times.
(P.S. Amid everything going on, I am back to working steadily on my next book, which I mentioned in this blog post almost a year ago. As a recap, its working title is Coyote’s Journey: Deeper Work With the Major Arcana, and it’s a deep dive into that section of the tarot using pathworkings with the animals I assigned to the major arcana of the Tarot of Bones. It’s not just a Tarot of Bones book, though; it’s a good way to get a new, nature-based angle on the majors in general, as well as hopefully gain a better understanding of yourself. My goal is to have it out later this year, self-pub of course, and at the rate I’m going it may end up being my longest book! Stay tuned, and if you want to get excerpts of the work-in-progress, become my Patron for as little as $1/month!)
*At the height of my “horse girl” phase, I had a really beat-up pony saddle I’d bought for ten bucks at a yard sale, and got a cheap saddle stand for it and put it in my room. And yes, I occasionally sat on it and pretended I was riding an actual horse. Hey, it made me happy at the time, and it was the closest I was ever going to get apart from a trail ride every few years.
**Yes, I do sell my customs. But I don’t make them on a schedule, I take commissions VERY sparingly, and I’m getting to stretch some new creative muscles, especially in the realms of sculpting and painting, so this is primarily for my enjoyment. The sales are just a side benefit.
Hey, everyone! My book Plant and Fungus Totems, originally published via Llewellyn, went out of print earlier this year. I’ve since updated and annotated it and released a new edition as Plant and Fungus Spirits. In addition to adding bits of new information or making other small changes, I’ve also removed the term “totem” other than where it refers to certain indigenous beliefs and practices. This is keeping in line with my other older books that I’ve re-released as self-published editions.
Sometimes the best teachers are those we often overlook! Explore the world of plant spirits, green beings who thrive on sunlight. Delve into the depths of fungus spirits, permeating the very soil beneath our feet. This book offers three unique approaches to working with these spirits:
*The Bioregional Model invites you to deepen your relationship to the physical land around you through the spirits that live there.
*The Correspondences Model combines the symbols of your path into your work with nature spirits.
*The Archetypal Model allows your spirit guides to help you through the intricacies of your inner self so you can know yourself better.
Whether you choose one of these models, or a combination, Plant and Fungus Spirits offers you meditations, examples and other tools to invite these spirits into your life. An excellent book for the beginner and the experienced practitioner alike!
I recently got an email from someone who was interested in Vulture Culture, but felt like they couldn’t actually be a participating member of this “fandom” unless they were tanning their own hides and cleaning their own bones and otherwise processing their own specimens. It’s not the first time I’ve run into this, either. It’s great that so many Vultures are learning these skills, and DIYing their way through their hobby! But it’s not absolutely necessary.
I mean, look at me. I’ve been working with hides and bones and other specimens in my art for over twenty years, and if you count my childhood collecting I’ve been part of what would become Vulture Culture for well over three decades, longer than some Vultures have been alive. And you know what? I’ve never tanned a hide, and only cleaned a couple of skulls. I can dry-preserve wings, but that’s really about it.*
And that doesn’t make me any less sincere or valid a member of Vulture Culture than all those awesome DIYers out there. There are plenty of reasons someone might not get into the messier aspects of the hobby:
–No place to process a bunch of smelly, fresh specimens (or long-dead smelly ones, either!)
–No money to buy supplies, even the cheapest options
–No time to go through the lengthy processes of bone cleaning or fur and leather tanning
–No interest in doing these things, preferring other ways to participate
And there are so many ways to participate, just like any other fandom! You can collect your favorite sorts of specimens (I’m partial to skulls, myself.) Looking for animal bones out in the wild is also a popular pursuit if you have access, but other found specimens can include (legal) feathers, dead insects, shed snake skins, and so forth. Maybe you’re like me and you enjoy making art from specimens already preserved, or using them as art references for traditional media. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with just liking to see pictures of other people’s collections, even if you don’t have anything yourself.
My point is, not everyone has to DIY their hobby. You can appreciate others’ efforts without feeling like you’re not as genuine a Vulture because you’re not out there saving every bit of roadkill you can find. Ultimately it’s all about your enjoyment, and if you’re too worried about “doing it right”, you’re not going to have fun! So relax, participate with Vulture Culture in whatever ways you see fit and to whatever degree you prefer, and allow yourself the freedom to explore without pressure!
* Because I wanted to shared these skills but hadn’t developed them myself, I hired guest writers for the how-to tutorials for my book Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things. I felt that made it a much more complete book on the subculture, and it gave some other writers a chance to show off their chops. But it also allowed me to stick to the things I really enjoy doing, like writing!
I am pleased to announce that I have released updated and annotated editions of my three earliest books: Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone; DIY Animism (formerly DIY Totemism); and Skin Spirits! These were originally published between 2006 and 2009 by Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press. My parting with them is on good terms, and I highly, highly recommend them for anyone wishing to go the small press route for either sci fi and fantasy fiction, or pagan and occult nonfiction. I’ve just been moving more toward self publishing for the bulk of my works in recent years and was given back the rights to these earlier works. (Both the anthologies I did for IP/MB, Talking About the Elephant and Engaging the Spirit World are now permanently out of print.)
I’ve completely redone the interior layout and covers of the books; the interiors are more compact to cut down on paper usage, and the covers feature my own photos and design. My material is much the same, though I’ve added updates where information has been outdated. I’ve also changed quite a bit as a practitioner, and I’ve annotated the texts to note where I either don’t use a practice any more, or wanted to clarify things that I felt needed a little expansion.
You’ll also notice that I’ve ceased using the terms “totem” and “shamanism”. I’ve chosen to do this as these terms were appropriated from the Ojiwbe and the Evenk, respectively, and while they have been used more generally in both anthropological and spiritual settings, I’ve decided to switch to more culturally neutral terms like animal spirit and animism. I’ve done my best to update the language in these early books to use different terminology while making the text still make sense, and keeping totem and shamanism only where I discuss indigenous practices.
Surprise! I have a new book! Well, booklet, anyway. And there’s a nifty handmade divination set with it, too!
Pocket Osteomancy is a bone divination system that I created based loosely on the Minor Arcana of the Tarot of Bones. It’s a bone casting method using a casting cloth divided into four quadrants. I first released it to some of my Patrons on Patreon last year so that they could try it out, but they only had a single instruction sheet to work with. Now I’ve fleshed that out into a 24-page booklet available as a paperback or ebook, and you can purchase the casting cloth and bones as well!
Divination with bones doesn’t have to be complicated! Pocket Osteomancy: A Simple Bone Divination Set is a simple but effective system for using animal bones to focus your intuition and explore possibilities in your present and future. It’s great for both beginners who may feel intimidated by more complex systems, and also provides a basic structure for more experienced practitioners to build on and explore.
First, I wanted to let you know I’m open for commissions on something that’s not my usual hide and bone art. This month my $15 Patrons at http://www.patreon.com/lupagreenwolf got these awesome 3″ x 3″ mini wildlife paintings in the mail. I am now open for commissions if you’d like one of your own! Your choice of species (animal, plant or fungus) and background colors/pattern for $15 plus shipping anywhere in the world. Comment or email me at lupa.greenwolf(at)gmail(dot)com if interested! Here are a couple more detail shots:
Second, I just wanted to touch base with you about how things are going here. I know I haven’t been blogging a lot lately; most of my writing energy has gone toward putting the finishing touches on Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things. I’ve also still been creating artwork, but I’ve also been doing some volunteer and contracted work for a local conservation organization. So I’ve been super busy, just a lot of it has been behind the scenes.
I’m hoping to have some new posts here soon enough, so keep your eyes peeled 🙂
Hey, everyone! So in case you haven’t heard, I am writing a book about Vulture Culture, the “fandom” that’s sprung up around the appreciation of hides, bones and other dead things in recent years. The working title is Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things, and I will be self-publishing it via CreateSpace; the projected date of publication is Summer 2018. Currently, the first draft of the book is done, and I am working on edits and revisions. There’s also an IndieGoGo campaign through March 23 at http://igg.me/at/vultureculture101 which has already met its initial goal and is working toward stretch goals.
While I have spent over twenty years making hide and bone art, I do not have extensive experience with tanning hides or cleaning bones or otherwise prepared raw specimens. However, no book on Vulture Culture would be complete without tutorials on some basic processes, which is why I’m seeking writers to contribute essays!
Each essayist will be compensated with $100 and 10 paperback copies of Vulture Culture 101 once it has been published. Thank you again to my IndieGoGo contributors for helping to make this happen!
I am seeking one essay each on the following topics:
Skinning a freshly dead or frozen and thawed animal and preparing the hide for tanning
Tanning a hair-on hide, starting with a raw hide (rabbit would be best as it’s a nice small hide that’s easy and inexpensive to acquire); while you may choose one method of tanning, such as alum, please briefly mention other tanning methods like egg tanning
Brain-tanning leather, starting with a hair-on hide (deer is most popular but I’m open to other easy to acquire suggestions like goat)
Cleaning bones through maceration, starting with a whole skinned carcass, though with a brief mention of dermestid beetles and nature cleaning as alternatives, and proceeding through degreasing and whitening
Wet specimens in jars, to include long-term care, how to change out old fluids, etc.
Very basic mouse or rat taxidermy, including how to prepare the hide, positioning, etc.
The basics of skeleton articulation; there’s not space to go through an entire skeletal articulation, but at least give people an idea of the tools and methods involved, and basic steps from skeleton acquisition to final display
Essays should have the following qualities:
Between 1500 and 2000 words (you may be able to go over that a bit if you need the space)
Written in easy to read English and suitable for a general audience
Thoroughly explain the topic in a step-by-step manner; steps should be numbered
Be accompanied by at least 4-6 print-quality photos showing different steps of the process (if you have to show different animals at different stages of the process, such as for longer processes like maceration, that’s fine, so long as all pertinent stages are covered clearly)
Should not be previously published, either in print or online. If you’ve written similar essays that’s fine, just write a unique one for this project
I will have already covered topics like where to get hides and bones, and legalities concerning them, so you don’t need to go over them again. Stick to the how-tos of your topic. I will be doing some basic editing and proofreading, but you should be sending me final drafts by the due date.
Please apply by contacting me at lupa.greenwolf(at)gmail(dot)com; you will be asked to provide the following information:
Your name, general location, email address and phone number
A brief description of your experience in working with hides and/or bones and/or other dead things
Which topic you would like to write about and what makes you qualified to write about it (you can apply for more than one topic; however, only one topic will be assigned to one writer unless there is a serious lack of suitable writers)
At least three samples of your writing, published or not; Vulture Culture topics and how-to articles are extra-awesome, but send the best of whatever you have. Please also send a few sample photos showing your photography skills. You can send them as links and/or attachments.
If you are under the age of 18, proof of permission by a parent or legal guardian
The deadline to apply is March 28, 2018. Selections will be made by April 7, 2018 at which point acceptance letters and contracts will be sent out. Completed final essays have a FIRM due date of June 7, 2018, so please make sure before you apply that you can dedicate the time to finishing your essay on time. You can also send me drafts in progress before that point if you’d like feedback.
What compels me and many other people to fill our homes with the preserved remains of animals, and how can you join in the fun? Vulture Culture 101: A Book For People Who Like Dead Things explores the modern revival in acquiring, preserving and creating art with these natural specimens. Written by author and artist Lupa, this is the first full-length guide to Vulture Culture, a subculture that in recent years has grown up around the appreciation of hides, bones and other animal specimens.
Want to help Vulture Culture 101 become a reality AND get your copy of the book at the lowest price ever? Want to get neat perks like my other books and art made from hides and bones? Want to help a self-employed author and artist create a valuable resource both for members of the V.ulture Culture, and people who are just curious about what it’s all about?
Back the Vulture Culture 101 campaign today at http://igg.me/at/vultureculture101! We’re already well on our way, and early bird specials are going fast. Even if you can’t back the campaign right this moment, please send the campaign to anyone you feel may be interested, and thank you for your support 🙂
So yet another admin of a Facebook group has decided that copyright doesn’t apply to them; a particular group has over 2000 pdfs of pagan books, including a LOT that are still under copyright. I mean, for pity’s sake, some of them even have “no-drm” in the file name, denoting that someone originally knew that book had digital rights management software attached to it, which means DON’T STEAL IT. My publisher for my books that are affects is already dealing with the DMCA takedowns, so I am here being unhappy that in 2017 this sort of thing is still happening.
Let me tell you something: when I write a book, I put literally hundreds of hours of my time into writing, editing and research, and that’s before the manuscript even goes to the publisher. If I’m self-publishing, I put in even more time with re-editing, proofreading, layout and interior design, book cover layout and design, file preparation, marketing and promotion and, of course, direct sales. The Tarot of Bones deck and book? Easily has a four-digit number of hours attached to it, and still counting since I am the sole distributor and marketer for it.
And unless I’m fortunate enough to get an advance from a publisher or have a successful crowdfunding campaign for a self-published project, I’m doing all this up-front work unpaid. Once I do get paid, tallying up the royalties and the income against the expenses? I’m not even making minimum wage. We authors have to play the long game, hoping that our books stay in print long enough to keep selling enough copies to maybe break even. I don’t know of a single pagan author who makes a living solely on book sales. Everyone has either a side hustle or a day job–or both.
Just because you legitimately bought a copy of the book doesn’t entitle you to ignore copyright. People who pirate have this idea that sharing ebooks is exactly the same as loaning a hardcopy version to a friend, or making photocopies of a few pages and giving them to a handful of students. Wake-up call, chum: sharing ebooks is not the same as passing a paperback around your coven. It can take months for that one paperback to work its way around thirteen people (longer if one of them “just needs a little more time, honestly!”) An ebook posted in a Facebook group, on the other hand, is going to hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can access it instantly.
It’s also not the same as getting a book from a library. Your average library book is only going to get checked out a dozen or so times a year, maybe a little more or less. Again, this is nowhere near the same as sending the PDF to thousands of people at once. Nor is that PDF the same as someone buying a secondhand copy at a thrift store; again, it can only go so far, so quickly. Sure, maybe a few of those people who read the pirated PDF might buy a new copy of the book, but the vast majority won’t. I’ve had my books pirated before, and if those people were all buying paperbacks from me I’d have a hell of a lot more money.
If I wanted people to be able to have access to a work that I put hundreds of hours of effort into free of charge, I would have released it into the wild myself, not chosen to enter it into an arrangement where I get an agreed-upon amount of compensation for it. So when some entitled individual decides that they have the right to ignore copyright and post entire PDFs online without my and/or the publisher’s permission, you know what that person is saying?
They’re saying that copyright doesn’t apply to them. They’re saying they are above the law. Sorry, but there is no way to legally justify sharing the ENTIRE book without permission. Fair use applies to a few hundred words, that’s it. “Educational use” is only within certain educational establishments, and again is piece and part, not the whole damned thing. Sharing a bunch of PDFs to random strangers on Facebook? Sorry, your educational defense doesn’t work.
They’re saying that I don’t deserve to decide how I will disseminate the book that I put hundreds of hours of work into. They’re saying “Fuck you, I don’t care what you want, and I don’t care how much work you put into this, because what I want is more important.” They ignore my choice to go through a publisher or to self-publish or to otherwise decide how to share what I’ve created.
They’re saying they don’t think my work is worth what I say it’s worth. When you give away an ebook of my work for free to thousands of people without permission, you are ignoring the price that I or my publisher put on that work. Again, few people who read the free version will actually buy the book after because they’re already got what they want, and all of that is lost potential customers. Which also means…
They’re saying that they don’t care whether I can afford to keep writing or not. As I said, I don’t make that much money off my books, certainly not enough to pay all my bills. A good month is one in which sales might pay one or two bills, or buy me some groceries. I have to do a lot of other things to make sure I can stay afloat. And at this level, the loss in revenue from lost book sales due to pirating hurts. Any pagan business owner, whether author or artist or shop owner, can tell you that the margin between paying the bills and not is pretty damned slim, so whether it’s piracy or shoplifting, theft makes it harder to get through each month.
They’re saying they’re entitled to my work. If you don’t respect my ability to be compensated for my work, but you think you should have access to it no matter what, you’re being entitled as all fuck. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic or your accountant or yourself to work free of charge. But somehow authors and other creatives are expected to create for free, and when we complain about theft we’re told we’re the ones in the wrong.
The sad thing is, there are people who will still feel that they have every justification for pirating books, whether pagan or otherwise. They’ll come up with excuses as to why they should be the exception. And they’ll keep wallowing in their ignorance and entitlement.
So as a way to counter that just a little, here’s my little bread and butter speech: