So. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that working with dead critters is a HUGE part of my practice. (Look! Relevant archives!) However, the vast, vast majority of the animal parts in my home are destined to move on to other people, primarily as ritual tools and other sacred art. My own personal collection is really quite small; less than two dozen skulls of various species, a few hides, a couple of rawhide drums, and a bit of small miscellany. Over the years, I have primarily functioned as a guide to the skin spirits, helping them on to new homes, my own home a temporary shelter and place of healing. However, on rare occasion I come across a skin spirit who really, deeply resonates with me. This actually hasn’t happened in a while, but a few days ago I had one of those moments where the connection was so strong it nearly knocked me to my knees.
See, I was fortunate to acquire an Icelandic horse hide. It’s actually not that easy to find whole horse hides of any breed; tails are about the most common parts you’ll find. However, someone I know had one up for sale from their personal collection, and I had some extra cash set aside for purchasing
dead things art supplies, so I took that opportunity. I had grand artistic plans for it, and was even drawing up patterns in my mind while waiting for the package to arrive. You know how these things go, right?
There was this big, long epic saga, appropriately enough, involved in getting the hide here. See, the package accidentally got sent to my old address–which happens from time to time. The tracking number showed it was “still in transit”, but due for delivery by the end of the day–and it was already 4pm. I called the post office, and since I had put in a forwarding address when I moved earlier in the year, if the package got returned by my old abode’s resident, it’d make it back to me.
I felt that was a BIG if, though. I mean, what IF they decided to keep it? Somehow, the idea of this particular package not making it to me was unconscionable. So I set off to go rescue the package myself, come hell or high water.
Thankfully, I had to go all of a block and a half.
Because that’s as far as I moved from my old place.
(Sadly, it still was one of my more difficult moves, logistically speaking, but that’s a story for another time.)
(Back to the pony saga.)
With a friendly note with my contact info in hand, I marched over to my old apartment and knocked on the door. Almost immediately I was greeted by a rather pleasant young man who informed me that there were actually two packages waiting for me (one of which did not have a horse hide, the other one which should have, but might not, thank you Schrodinger). He was relieved to not have to try and trace the proper home of the packages (I told you he was nice!) and I was relieved to have my packages! And so having left my contact information with him in case of future mis-deliveries, I headed home with my prize.
And of course, the first thing I did when I got home was to open the bigger box. Out of it I drew this magnificent, long-furred, heavy white hide, much larger than I expected–it seemed as though I was pulling impossible amounts of horsehide out of this box of holding! And I laid it out on the futon in my art area, and just sat, my mouth agape, amazed. It was as though the spirit of this horse had leaped out of the box, and now stood before me, over the remains of its–or, rather, his–skin. The spirit shook his mane as if to shake off the indignity of his uncomfortable trip here, and it seemed as though even the few wrinkles in the hide smoothed out and relaxed. Most spirits, even those of my personal retinue, take a little while to settle into their new surroundings. This horse, on the other hand, made himself right at home on the couch and declared he was staying.
Well, who was I to argue with that? Sure, I’d have to find some other way to make up the money I spent on him (subliminalmessagebuymyart/subliminalmessage); I very, very rarely spend large amounts of money on myself these days other than for necessities. But just as I know other pagan folk who have temporarily tightened their belts to be able to buy some artistic altar piece or ritual tool that a deity or spirit they worked with wanted, I knew that this was one of those occasions where spirit needed to win out over practicality. And since this wasn’t going to put me at risk of not being able to pay essential bills, and I have ways to make up the funds, and he’ll earn his keep through his help with shamanism, I happily acquiesced.
It doesn’t end there, of course. I had declared that day to be an artwork day, and since I am on a late-night schedule I found myself still awake at 2am. I was a little tired, but wanted to keep working, so I decided to lie down on the futon a bit to rest my eyes before continuing. Of course, this NEVER EVER works out that way, and I fell asleep. And yes, I did sleep on the horse hide, as he invited me to do so. As I found myself drifting into lucid dreams, the spirit took the opportunity to introduce himself more formally, and we spoke a bit about his place here.
He told me that he wants to be part of my shamanic work, that he wants to help carry me to where I journey, and that when I do drum journeys where I sit or lay down, he wants to be my support. He still hasn’t told me his name; I think he’s waiting for the right time. I have yet to introduce him to my primary journeying drum (who is also horse hide), to see what she thinks of all this, though he certainly seems confident. I get the feeling that he’s an old spirit, or at least a stronger connection to the totem of that breed of Horse than most. Such is often the way of things with the skin spirits who stay with me permanently (though also with many who end up going to others through my work). We’ve yet to work together, as I’m still adjusting to his energy and he to mine, but soon enough.
In doing more research, I read about how horse hides, especially white ones, are connected to a variety of shamanic and other spiritual traditions. It hadn’t been something really in the forefront of my mind, just one of those things noted while researching at some point in the past and stuck in the back recesses of my brain. Maybe that’s part of why we connected so strongly–partly due to that recognition, and also just to who he is as a spirit. Either way, he’s staying.
And here’s a picture of the hide itself, right where he decided to settle himself right down at home (click the picture for a larger view):