Fur, Feather, and Bone: More Ethics

A few days ago, I posted about some of the ethical issues endemic to working with elements of an animal’s physical body (e.g. fur, feathers, and bones). Shortly after that post I found a related article on Sarah Lawless’ blog. For those who don’t know, Sarah Lawless is “The Witch of Forest Grove”. It is from her botanica that I have procured a couple of truly amazing incense blends (Ancestor Incense and Hecate Incense) that sadly appear to have been discontinued. Anyway, I digress. Back to my point: Lawless is a spirit worker and also does a lot of work with animals, incorporating many animal body parts into her spiritual practice.

In the article linked above, Lawless talks about how she obtains the bones, which she uses to create spirit vessels. She offers brief but interesting comments about obtaining some of her materials from hunters and trappers. Lawless acknowledged the violence of how the animals were initially killed and so noted that she conducts a series of purifications, blessings, and consecrations for the spirits of the animals who own the bones she works (via a combination of carving and painting). I think its fantastic (and really important) that she honors the spirits of the animals and encourages them to remain in their bones if they wish. She explains in the article that if the spirit wishes to leave it can, which then frees up those bones to become a vessel for another animal spirit resident. I am really intrigued by the spirit worker aspects of what Lawless does (i.e. making contact with the animal spirit, giving him/her death rites, working the bones, and blessing them for serious animal spirit work) and would like to learn much more about it. Let me be clear. I do not know how she procures her animal parts, therefore I cannot and will not comment on that.

Lawless’ work gets me thinking (very generally!). What I have are questions about how spiritworkers obtain these items. For example, some animals are hunted for sport. I have a problem with “using” those animals because it could be seen as encouraging further sport hunting. Trapping is a similar situation for me.

On the flip side of my ethical concerns, one could argue that folks are going to continue to engage in sport hunting and trapping regardless, so spirit workers may be called to perform death rites for those animals so that they can continue their journey with a lighter burden. I think it also matters if spirit workers obtain the bones. etc. free of charge or if they pay for the remains. If they are purchased from the hunters and trappers, I think that transaction could potentially fuel a problem or two as well. However, if spirit workers obtain them free of charge, I am more inclined to think of it as a spiritual service to the animals themselves where human spiritual practice is an almost accidental beneficiary of the service provided to those animals. I suppose it might be safe to assume that the animal spirits who own the bones are probably not complaining when spirit workers offer them some form of blessing and release.

I don’t have as much information on the matter as I would like, but spiritworkers’ practices provide a lot to ponder. This of this post as me thinking out loud.

Got answers? Share :-D.

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2 thoughts on “Fur, Feather, and Bone: More Ethics

  1. I think it depends to some degree on the actual part of the animal you’re talking about. An animal may have been killed expressly for its nice pelt. But hunters aren’t killing deer for their toe-bones, for instance. Even skulls are really a “by-product” for most animals. So if you’re using bones that are leftovers from hunting/trapping, I think that’s doing something to honor the animal, and doesn’t result in a further demand for more animals. I don’t feel it impacts that process if you happen to have paid for the bones – paying for the privilege of giving these already-dead animals respect seems like a good thing, to me.

    On the other hand, from a personal spiritual perspective, you may feel a much stronger connection to an animal you found yourself, especially if it necessitated going through the process of cleaning its bones yourself.

    • Thanks, Dver. You make an excellent point. If individuals working with animal elements are utilizing the parts that have limited commercial value or simply low demand, the likelihood of our spiritual practices driving demand for more dead animals is significantly lessened. I also appreciate your take on the potential goodness of “paying for the privilege” to honor an animal that would be no less dead if the spirit worker had not come along. In any case, I do believe that the spirit worker is in a position to offer the animal an important spiritual service!

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