This has been my primary focus in my path ever since I got started studying and practicing magic back in 1997. Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak was my first book on anything even remotely pagan, though I have over the years read most of the books on the topic. Again, my path has been largely based on UPG, though I do use certain techniques that are common among totemists and pagans in general, such as the guided totem journey.
While totemism is a significant part of my practice, I’ve been known to experiment quite a bit with animal magic in general. For example, my first book, Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone, featured chapters on such topics as creating new species on the astral plane for magical purposes, work with a physical familiar in the modern day and age, a controversial but well-balanced (or so I’ve been told) chapter on animal sacrifice, and a chapter on working with animal parts in magical practice. (I avoided the dreaded totem animal dictionary as well.)
The animal parts are a particularly important aspect to my practice. About as long as I’ve been pagan I’ve been creating artwork utilizing leather, fur, feathers, bones and other animal remains. In my animistic worldview, although the soul of the animal has fled, there is a spirit that stays in each remain, and it is that which I work with. Rather than leaving them to be made into coats and taxidermy mounts, I “rescue” them and make them into more honorable things—ritual tools, sacred jewelry, and magical artwork. I talk quite a bit with the “skin spirits” as I call them (even though they reside in all the parts of the animal) to find out what they want to be. I also say a prayer over each completed project, and perform a triparte purification ritual with an offering.
I’ve also been working with more diverse totems. To me, a totem (in a neopagan totem sense) is an archetypal being that represents all the qualities associated with a particular species, both the natural history and the human lore. I’ve been working, for instance, with “food totems”, the totems of species that humans usually think of as food and nothing more, such as Chicken, Pig and Crab. I do this not only for my own enlightenment, but to create a stronger relationship with these totems, and to learn what I can do to help both them and their physical children. I have written a couple of offsite articles about this if you’re interested.
My current writing project (or one of them, anyway) is a sequel to Fang and Fur, called DIY Totemism. I focus specifically on neopagan totemism, address some of the problems with the current state of totemism in the neopagan community *coughdictionariescough*and approach the topic from some original angles. While it won’t be the sum total of my totemic work in the development of therioshamanism, the fact that a lot of the research I’ve done for it (practically speaking—I won’t write about things I haven’t actually tested in my own ritual space) parallels my personal path development creates a mutual influence.