Skin Spirits by Lupa
This book is not for everyone, but it covers the spiritual uses of animal parts with DIY projects along with discussion of morals and ethics.
Skin Spirits: The Spiritual and Magical Uses of Animal Parts by author and neo-shamanic practitioner, Lupa, is not a book for everyone, but if this book is for you, it will occupy a well-loved place on your book shelf.
Unlike traditional ritual books catering to the neo-pagan market, Skin Spirits isn’t a lecture or a guidebook. Part overview of the history of animal parts in ritual, part examination of the ethics and morals of using animal parts, and part DIY tutorials on making ritual tools from the simple to the complex, Skin Spirits packs a wealth of information in the 172 pages between its slim covers.
This is not a book about animal sacrifice or the wanton killing of wildlife. Given the subject matter, it may seem a little obvious, but I found it noteworthy that Lupa doesn’t shy away from discussing the moral (and sometimes ethical) implications of using animal parts.
Lupa says: “These ears are eco-friendly–they were reclaimed from being a fur industry discard, and instead of going into an incinerator or landfill, they’ve become part of my art! The leather straps are cut from secondhand jackets and other clothing. And, as has been my practice for over a decade, part of the money will go to a nonprofit group that benefits wildlife and their habitats.”
She doesn’t bombard the reader with euphemisms or sugarcoat the fact animal parts came from animals that have died or, in the case of fur industry discards, been killed for their fur. She also explains the effects of waste, how to reduce waste through reducing and re-using, and ways to obtain animal parts from sources like natural deaths, road kill, and second-hand objects. Lupa doesn’t lecture or make a decision on what is right or wrong, but instead provides sources to let the reader make an informed conclusion.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Skin Spirits is Lupa’s step-by-step guides for various projects that can be created from hides, bones, feathers, and other natural materials. Some of the projects are simple (a wall hanging made from rawhide or deer skin, for example) while others are more complex (a dance costume made from a full animal skin or a ritual athame made from leg bones and scapula), but all are explained clearly while still leaving room for personal creativity.
The final chapter of Skin Spirits is a brief description and stepping stone for skin dancing, an empowering magickal act where the wearer communicates with the latent spirit of the skin through an act of movement and dance to achieve a desired goal, be it shape shifting, searching for lost objects, or adding energy to ritual. Though brief, this was quite possibly my favorite chapter, as it lets the reader work with animal spirits on a deeper and more meaningful level than described in most contemporary magic books.
Fur industry discard fox mask by Lupa
Skin Spirits is certainly not a book for everyone. Lupa assumes a basic knowledge of ritual and magic practices, so if you’re new to witchcraft or magic in general, it might be best to come back to this book with more experience. Artists looking to work with animal bones or skin as their medium might find Lupa’s tutorials and resource list to be a useful starting place. Skin Spirits is certainly targeted towards a niche pagan audience, and practitioners who have felt a strong connection to all parts of nature will likely gain something from this book, but if you’ve been amassing your own collection of bones, feathers, or fur, Lupa’s Skin Spirits:The Spiritual and Magical Uses of Animal Parts is worth a read.
Check out the New Age/Spiritual Section of your local bookstore, or order a copy direct and signed from the author herself (and, as a bonus, the author will donate a portion of the proceeds to wildlife nonprofits): http://www.etsy.com/shop/thegreenwolf.
Buy Skin Spirits by Lupa on Amazon (cheaper Kindle versions available)