Aha! I think I figured out how to keep you folks with RSS feeds from getting slammed with all the pictures! Let me know if it works.
Anyway, today I did the ritual I had planned to retire my old wolf skin and dedicate the new one. Only a few folks showed up, but it was a good group, and it was a really successful ritual overall. I’ve got a full writeup and some pictures to share here–enjoy!
I’ve been dancing with this old guy since 2002:
He was my very first wolf skin, purchased in the late 1990s, and he told me before I went to my first pagan gathering that he wanted to dance with me. So I split him open, rigged him up with some leather straps to tie him to me, and we went out and danced at the fire circle, with great success! Since then, we’ve danced together around numerous circles. Sadly, I didn’t know much about taking care of hides til much later, and between rainy, damp nights in tents, and heat from the fires, he decomposed over time even though his was a pretty good quality tan.
So I recently made the final payment on my new wolf skin, and wanting to have him dedicated before going to a Beltane festival next weekend, today was prime time for making the ritual happen. Here’s a picture of him right after he arrived in the mail:
At some point I want to post a tutorial on how I got him from that to his present state, but now’s not the time.
So I got things set up for the ritual. Here are a couple of pictures of the altar:
There are some items from the permanent Grey Wolf altar in my art/ritual room, along with my Black Bear rattle which I use to call and send home spirits, a fern frond and a turtle shell of water that I use to purify the ritual area prior to ritual, my ritual knife, and a platter with pouches for part of the ritual later on. You can also see the two hides curled up together, and a collection of spare musical instruments, as well as my own drum.
I started the ritual with purification by sprinkling water with the fern, since I dislike smoke and therefore smudging. (Sprinkling water on people is especially fun depending on their reactions. I’m definitely keeping this!) I then called the various spirits and places of the directions to join us, along with a couple of other beings I wanted to invite, Grey Wolf included.
Then I picked up my old wolf skin and carried him around the altar, talking about our history together, how he taught me to wolf dance, and some of the things we had been through. I talked about how it was going to be our last dance together, and that this was a very special event. Then I put him on for the last time, and while the other participants drummed and rattled, we danced around the altar. I could feel how tired and worn-out he is, but he made a good go of it, and we ended it with three good, long howls.
Then I took him off, and I was crying as I did so. I thanked him one more time for the good years dancing together. I laid him out on the floor, and stretched out the new skin as well. I took the leather straps from the old skin and transferred them to the new skin, whom I had previously prepared.
And then I danced the new skin. And I could most definitely feel the difference! This guy was ready and raring to go! We didn’t so much dance as run, leap, pounce, and gambol. (Yes, I said gambol.) It was tough at times to get him to stay focused on the dancing, which was fine–I’m just glad he was so happy to be moving around again. There’ll be time enough to work out etiquette between us. It was good, though, and I’m looking forward to the fire dancing next weekend.
We then took a break to chow down on the potluck goodies people had brought, and enjoy some social time. After that, I had people bring the small leather pouches I had given them, and I cut off small bits of fur from both wolves and put them in the pouches. Mind you, I never give away fur from my personal wolf skins, so this was a really unusual thing–those who got them received very special gifts. And then I closed down the ritual, said farewell to the assembled (both corporeal and otherwise) and went to ground.
I put the old wolf skin on the permanent altar; here’s a pic:
You can see the Brown Bear altar beneath it, and also some assorted ritual and art effects on the floor at the base. No surprise, I’m already running out of room on the Wolf altar.
And while I didn’t have pics taken during the ritual, here are a few pictures of me in the new wolf skin. (No, that’s not my ritual wear–it’s the outfit I wore during the pics I took for the potential tutorial I may do.)
It takes a very large wolf skin to be able to fit over my 5’4″ frame like that. It’ll take some time for us to adjust to each other; I need to fit the straps properly, and add a couple of others. Also, my arms do fit through the holes that his forelegs went through on the front leg skins, but it’s a tight fit. It’ll loosen over time, though. Still, he fits nicely like my old skin did, and we were very comfortable dancing together.
Also, small bit of timing–my period started in earnest while I was dancing the new skin. Given that the moon is waxing, and Artemis has recently come into my life again, and I am a Luperca in the Ekklesia Antinoou it’s an interesting series of convergences to note.
I would have showed up, but I woke up this morning with a bad sore throat, and I didn’t want anyone to get sick
But the new skin is fantastic, and he fits very well on you! It looks like you two are going to have some great times together, and like your other skin is going to have a nice good rest after all of those fire-circle romps 🙂
big goodwishing for many fine times dancing in the new skin. i’m sure the old wolf will enjoy resting and remembering the good times you danced together.
Ah! I really wish I could have been there, as it sounds like it was a wonderful experience, for a variety of reasons!
The new luchthonn (which may not be the most literally appropriate word, but it shall do for now) looks like a real character, and the final photo of you in particular is right out of…something from my book! 😉
That is an awesome permanent altar!
(I know that’s not the point of this post but I couldn’t resist complimenting it.)
Have you ever considered taping one of your wolf dancing rituals? I won’t ever be able to attend, and I’m fascinated as to what it would be like to witness one of these.
Never considered it, but who knows? It’s an idea.
Just curious: Do you know how these wolves died?
Like most commercially available hides, most likely they were hunted or trapped. Part of what I do is a spiritual reclamation in response to this traumatic death. (It’s also why I make donations to teh Defenders of Wildlife and other such groups.)
Yeah, one would be lucky to find a decent pelt that came from a wolf who died of natural causes. Anyway, I should apologize, since I was feeling itchy in the fangs because of something I’d read involving sport hunters and misplaced a bit of anger. You obviously care deeply about nature and I think that’s bloody awesome.
The pictures of you in the wolf skins are amazing! I’d be really interested in reading a tutorial from you on how you prepare the skins for wearing and dancing… that’s definitely something that is speaking loudly to me. 🙂
Hey, some crazy looking pics. It’s no game putting on animal skins sister. It’s not something that you can learn through trial and error, it’s something that is taught by the Holy People. And it is only taught once, long ago. If you wanna wear them skins, get involved with the Natives around you. Become one of them. Learn them ways. Then, maybe you can become one of them. Naysayers are unbelievers. It’s real. For every nation it’s different. My people used that skin for war reasons, to get from point A to point B asap to ask for help. It was also used for the hunt(mountain lion skin). When wars were over we had no use for it. Then as time went on we used it against our own people for reasons of jealousy, greed, etc. Now it’s considered Evil Way. Nowadays to become one of them skin wearers, there has to be sacrifices that you make. Whether it be loved ones life or becoming sexually involved with family who are currrently “wearing skins”. Side effects-mental illness, physical illnesses, you name it. Yes, I’m Native American (100%), and I do have in-laws who are white and black. We are people with hands, feet, etc. therefore we are all one. Thats all the advice I got to give. Laterz…..
Thanks, I seem to have been doing just fine on my own for most of the past decade. Take your unsolicited advice elsewhere.
Just my two cents but did you ever consider that maybe us washicu (who according to some tribes are the People of the Wolf, because of the crimes our ancestors committed so long ago, namely theft and slaughter) should use these ways to atone for those crimes? Trust me if Power sends a vision to a White person, one who may or may not have any tie the the First People will You dispute their vision?
I apologize, I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking me. Would you please clarify? Thank you!
That was more or less my somewhat-civil response to the “unsolicted advice” that was offered in the previous comment. As far as I’m concerned what this individual fails to understand is that Power isn’t something that belongs solely to those who are (or claim to be of) Native American heritage. I, like you, have a deep respect both for the spirits and for the heritage of the tribes. (That’s why I refuse to use many of the words that have become common currency among the New Age/Pagan community.)
Excellent, thank you for taking the time to clarify! 🙂
I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing.
I would like some technical details about what (if anything) you do to the head of the wolfskin in order to keep it on. I have a wolfskin too that I plan to use in ritual but I want to make sure the head does not slide over my eyes. Could you send me a photo of the underside of yours?
I would love to know where you get your wolf items, skins, furs, alter items. I’ve been searching without luck and was hoping you could point me in the right direction?
http://www.hideandfur.com is a good starting point; also the forums on taxidermy.net. eBay’s a little sketchier but you can still find things; just be careful of legalities.
Your new wolf looks like he might have been my Siku’Andia*’s twin. He’s an import from Canada and we’ve spent most of the time I’ve had him so far just talking (he makes a great sleeping buddy, and I think I dreamed some of the events prior to his death the other night.) As soon as I’ve got the time to work on him the dancing is sure to follow. But let me tell you he has one heck of an attitude when it comes to social interaction and doesn’t quite understand why I don’t take him out more!
*Siku’Andia, roughly translates to “Spirit-Skin”
He sounds lovely! Do you have pictures anywhere?
How do you make it into a outfit (for lack of better words) like that? I am into Heathenism especially the Ulfheðinn and have been considering purchasing a wolf pelt.
It’s a fairly long process, but the short version is: split the hide down the belly side so it lays flat, reshape the head, and then add straps.