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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Totem Tails: Not Just a Fashion Accessory
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Article ID: 14618
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,547
Times Read: 9,562
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Author: Lupa [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 17th. 2011
Times Viewed: 9,562
In the past few years, there has been a growing trend of people wearing animal tails as part of their outfits. At festivals and concerts, raves and Renaissance faires and even out on the street, you can find people wearing real fox, coyote and other tails on their belts. For a lot of people these are simply an accessory, something fun like polymer clay horns or gauze wings. Yet there’s a lot more potential there, and I feel a need for a greater appreciation of the fact that these are the remains of once-living animals, not something created in a factory out of plastics.
Generally speaking, these tails are the byproducts of the fur industry. Fur coat manufacturers generally only use the part of the pelt that wraps around the main part of the body; tails, faces and legs are largely discarded. Rather than ending up in a landfill or incinerator, where the harsh chemicals used in tanning could be released into land, water and air, these remains instead are rescued by the craft industry for use in creative pursuits.
I am one of these crafters. For about a decade now I’ve been putting tails on belts and selling them, using a unique braided design that I developed for strength and aesthetic appeal. However, I don’t just make them for looks. As with all my art made with animal parts, my primary focus is on giving these remains a better existence than being a trophy or status symbol. The tails are sort of a smaller version of the full hide dancing skins that I started out wearing in my own practice, and then making for other people as well. They allow the wearer to connect with the spirit of the animal that once wore the skin, to feel a little of what it might have been to be a fox or raccoon or coyote; and it allows the skin spirit to have a body to wear again, even for a little while.
Sometimes the spirits are angry at their deaths, and often the injustice of their lives if they were farm-raised. In such cases, there’s a good bit of work to be done with the spirit before it may feel ready to be incorporated into art, whether as a dancing tail or otherwise. But many of them welcome the chance to be appreciated for what they are, and while I can’t make the dead alive again, I (and whoever takes the tail or other art home) can help provide a better afterlife.
What I would like to share are a few practices that may be used to create a more respectful relationship with the spirit in the tail, and to be more mindful of its origin. Some people buy a tail specifically for spiritual purposes. But what if you happen to already have a tail, maybe one given to you, or purchased on a whim before you knew there were spirits to be worked with? The practices I will discuss are designed to be used regardless of the origin of the tail.
When you first get the tail:
--Don’t treat it like purchasing an inanimate object. Treat it as though it is a living being, and honor the spirit inside it. Even if you don’t literally believe in spirits, remember that these are the remains of a once-living being.
--Don’t just automatically put the tail on like a piece of clothing. Feel the energy of the tail, and maybe even silently ask the tail if you can put it on. If you get a strong sense of “no”, then respect that.
When you get home:
--Find a good place to make a home for the tail. Keep it away from dampness and heat sources, and away from where pets can get hold of it (since many cats and dogs like to chew on fur) . Let the tail know that that is its special place. If the spirit indicates wanting a different place, though, listen to its wishes.
--Take time when you can, even a few minutes a few times a week, to sit and talk with the spirit in the tail. You can hold it during meditation, or talk with it while carefully removing any dust that may have settled on it.
When wearing the tail:
--Ask the spirit’s permission first, every time. Even if the answer is always “yes”, it’s a nice polite formality, a small ritual of honor.
--Be aware of your setting and intent. Are you wearing it just to show off at a loud party? Or are you going to wear it into a ritual as part of sacred garb?
--If you and the spirit feel comfortable enough, try doing some shapeshifting work. In a safe and secure ritual environment (whatever that is to you, whether solitary or in a group) , invite the spirit to connect with you and “ride” your body for certain duration of time; meanwhile, wear the tail as though it were a part of your own flesh. You can enhance this experience by moving like the animal to the best of your ability (don’t worry about looking silly; you’ll do just fine) .
--If the spirit asks to be a part of other sorts of ritual, this may be another good way to strengthen that connection. Or if you have ideas for incorporating the tail, ask the spirit what it thinks and feels about what you propose.
This is just a starting point to help you and the spirit of the tail get to know each other better*. You may develop your own practices that work well for you. The point of all this is to allow you and the spirit more opportunities for connection, so that the relationship goes beyond simply “accessory” and “wearer/purchaser”. Trends may come and go, but the depth of a good spiritual partnership can last for many years.
* For further reading on this topic, please see the "Skin Spirits" category over at my blog located at http://therioshamanism.com
Location: Portland, Oregon
Author's Profile: To learn more about Lupa - Click HERE
Bio: Lupa is an artist, author, and shamanic practitioner in Portland, OR. She is the author of a number of books on animal magic and related topics, to include “Skin Spirits: The Spiritual and Magical Use of Animal Parts”, a text of both spiritual and practical material on working with the spirits in animal remains. Her books and artwork (yes, including many tails!) may be found at http://www.thegreenwolf.com and her shamanic blog is located at http://therioshamanism.com
Other Articles: Lupa has posted 25 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Lupa... (Yes! I have opted to receive invites to Pagan events, groups, and commercial sales)
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