Care and Feeding of Your Totem Animal Dance Tail

A while back I posted The Care and Feeding of Your Totem Animal Dance Costume. It’s a handout that I include with every full hide headdress and totem dance costume I make, to give provide physical and spiritual care instructions. I recently wrote one up to send out with tails, too, and thought I’d share it with my readers! (If you want to see the tails in question, check out the Tails, Ears and Horns section of my Etsy shop.)

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Thank you for your tail purchase! Please read through this care sheet for information on how to care for your tail physically and spiritually.

The Anatomy of a Tail

Even in life, many mammal tails are often fragile things—thin skin wrapped around a bit of muscle and connective tissues on a scaffolding made of the thinnest, smallest vertebrae in the body. Tails are meant to be flexible; they may be used in visual communication with other animals, as well as fly swatters and other pest removal. However, yanking on a mammal’s tail is never a good idea.

In the same way, you don’t want to yank on your tail. While the tail may look thick and full, much of that is hair or fur. The skin itself is actually a very thin strip of a very thin hide. If you look at the back of the tail, you’ll see a bare patch. Using your finger, you can trace it further down the tail’s length, and notice how it gets thinner the further down you go. Additionally, if the tan is older, such as on a vintage tail, the end may dry out a bit, making the tail more fragile. But with sensible care, your tail can last for many years!

Physical Tail Care

Keep your tail clean, cool, and dry. Repeatedly exposing your tail to moisture, such as rain, will cause the hide to deteriorate, as will too much heat. If your tail gets a bit dirty, just on the surface of the fur, wipe it off with a damp cloth; Pledge Wipes are very good at cleaning fur, especially old stains or dust and grime. If it gets really filthy and if the tail is not vintage, you can carefully hand-wash it in warm water and a gentle soap, and hang it out to dry immediately (do NOT apply heat). Make this your last resort, however.

The very worst thing you can do to your tail is pull on it. Touching, petting, and other gentle handling is fine, as is everyday wear and display—it won’t fall apart if you don’t treat it like glass. Just be careful to not sit on the tail or accidentally rest weight on it while getting up. Don’t let people yank on it—children may be especially enthusiastic about treating tails like toys, or their classmates may playfully tug on the tails if they wear them to school.

Sometimes accidents like the above happen, and that thin little strip of hide that Mother Nature made will break. This is hardly the end of your tail! I offer free repairs on everything I make, including tails, no matter the reason. If your tail breaks, don’t feel bad! Just send it back, and I’ll stitch it back together for you.

Spiritual Tail Care

While I’ve discussed this in more depth in this article here, here are some ways that, if you’re so inclined, you can connect with the spirit of the tail itself.

–When you first get the tail, spend some time sitting with it, smoothing or fluffing the fur as needed, and getting to know the physical attributes—color, etc.–that make your tail unique. As you’re doing so, see if you get any impressions of the personality of the tail. You may be used to speaking with spirits; if you haven’t, see what thoughts, emotions, or images cross your mind as you handle the tail. If you feel like you should keep it in a particular place, let that be the tail’s “home”.

–Before you put the tail on to wear it, ask the spirit of the tail for permission. If the tail seems to say “no”, then put it back in its place for a few days, and try again. Or ask why it doesn’t want to come out just yet. If you can wear the tail, thank the spirit; some people may also wish to create small rituals for putting on and/or removing the tail each time.

–Some people prefer to just wear tails as accessories. If you wish to have a deeper spiritual connection, spend time sitting with the tail as well as wearing it each week, or even every day if you wish, to get to know it better. You may also wish to research the animal it came from-where that species lives, what it does and eats, what its relationship to humans it, etc. In this way you can have a better idea of whose tail you’re wearing.

–You might even try dancing with the spirit of the tail, or otherwise actively interacting with it when you wear the tail itself. Try going to a park and pretending to be that animal species. Or if you’re ritually-minded, call the tail’s spirit to join you in a celebratory dance!

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