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1 Working the Bones: Honoring the Animals of the Living Earth By Daniel Cureton January 18, 2014

I am a meat eater, plain and simple. Ive thought often about the shift that is frequent among members of the Pagan community towards vegetarian and veganism. Fellow druids and friends that I have talked with about the shift have explained their move away from the consumption of meat as part of their honoring the Earth Mother, The Goddess and All-That-Is. For me, since one of the many deities I work with is the Lord of the Hunt, Cernunnos, it made perfect sense that I would continue to be carnivorous as in my meditations, he is as well. It wasnt until about five years into being a druid that I started to be concerned about the bones of the animals that gave their lives for dinner came into my mind on a serious level. I became concerned that I could be doing more for the creatures of the Living Earth. I knew that the bones had a purpose to serve beyond being tossed away for the local landfills. I already had an association for bones in my head from my ancestral workings as part of my druid practice, and the first idea that came to mind was about a month prior to Midsummer 2013. I thought of getting a bone grinder, to turn the bones into bits to spread in the garden, but the idea of grinding them did not sit well with me as it felt a little too gruesome and disrespectful. I sat for a while with the idea. The seasons rolled on and my grove was having what we call a meat fest, which is where after an equinox or solstice, we make lots of various meat items to go along with the grains and vegetables as part of the celebrations. I was thinking particularly of the bones after Mabon 2013 as there were a number of pork bone ribs that were just going to be tossed after the meat feast. I knew that I needed to do something to honor the sacrifice of the animal. The second idea was burying them in the woods or garden, as a way to pay respects for the energy and life given. This sat a lot better, but the difficulty came in with not wanting the dog to dig them up and the accessibility of the canyons around where I live in the winter when chains are needed to drive up into them. I discussed the bones with a close Pagan associate and she mentioned the infrequency of the non-game bones such as chicken, turkey, pork and lamb that are upcycled into positive forms of arts, crafts, and in divination. I was particularly interested in the divination aspect as I am a diviner and at the time I hadnt picked up beading and jewelry making (of which I now incorporate bones into my pieces as beads). I did some checking around and found that forms of divining with bones exist, with a few texts published such as the book Throwing the Bones: How to Foretell the Future with Bones, Shells and Nuts by Catherine Yronwode. Still, depending on culture and area, I found the bones to be used less frequently in divination than I would have suspected.

2 After researching, I took action. I decided to put together a bone bag from chicken bones I had cleaned and saved. I tried to save all the parts that didnt disintegrate in the process of the cleaning. I came away with leg, wing, rib, chest, and vertebrae bones. I tossed them asking questions in a divining session and the bones hit to the center of the questions I asked. The way the bones spoke to me was through images and intuition in my head and spirit. I realized that they worked just as well as the other organic forms I read (coral and tea leaves). The energy of the chicken came through as strongly as it would have in a ritual, spell, or as if it was still alive in a coop. I felt that this was headed in the right direction for the bones, that divination was the first step of many that would come to me as I sought ways to honor the bones. As the journey continued, I had been thinking of a divination challenge I wanted to enter at the Grey School with the approaching Samhain season of 2013. As I was walking into the kitchen at my home, the pork rib bones showed me that they needed to be runes. I wasnt sure how to do this, so I explored several methods. After a failed attempt at burning I turned to carving. This turned out to be a success and a method better suited to my experience. I sat down for a week and carved out the 24 runes of Elder Futhark, blooding them in the process with the slip of the micro chisel, giving of my blood in return to the animal for its blood it gave for me. After I finished, I felt a deep satisfaction that I had followed the intent of the spirit of the pig, learning in the process about sacrifice and really connecting to the deep Earth and shamanic magic that is woven into druidry. Since making the bone runes Ive become a beader. With this new craft of making beaded jewelry, the world of possibilities in which I can incorporate animal bones has been opened to me. The mainstream jewelry community would label such pieces with animal bones, teeth, and vertebrae as tribal or shamanic. Indeed one piece I created with chicken bone legs was deemed as looking cannibalistic in nature. When I asked about why the association to cannibal was the first place the people who saw the piece went to, the response I was given was along the lines of the piece appearing like tribal or primitive jewelry seen around the necks of cannibals in Hollywood and on Western television. I laughed at first to the response, but also started to think about the image I wanted to put off by wearing such pieces. I wanted to wear jewelry with bones, but also not scare off people from talking with me or feeling like they couldnt approach me! I went back to the brain board and mediated. I came to the realization that changing the ideas of what a Western person thinks about bone jewelry from a seemingly negative association to a more positive idea would not be as difficult as it seemed. The way I felt that was best for me to do this was through my personal druid spiritual practice; the day to day things such as meditation and the more infrequent acts of ancestral rites, moon circles, seasonal celebrations, and academic study. These seemingly routine practices are what have pushed me to continually evaluate and shift myself to a more green, Earth conscious life. When those conversations pop up about a piece of jewelry, my green living, or my ritual practice, I can then explain to a person that I am seeking to waste none, honor the animals and live in closer harmony to the Living Earth. Since doing this, I have found a greater satisfaction in that respect to my druid practice.

3 This satisfaction has opened me to the deeper realms of what it is to have a spiritual practice around the Living Earth. Often, I find myself thinking of Gaia and the planet, activism around the environment, and green things. Less often do I remember that the Living Earth encompasses the creatures within it on all levels and that for my personal druid practice, I need to be conscious of what I take, how I use the materials Ive been given, and what I return to the Living Earth, making sure that I am furthering the healing and honor I seek to give her. Below is a picture of the pork rib bone rune I made on one of my Earth altars. The carving has been colored black.

100 Word Biography Daniel is a druid living and practicing in Salt Lake City, UT. He runs the Salt Lake Pagan Society, a group which seeks to give hands on experience in Paganism. Currently a library science masters student, he holds a BA in Gender Studies from the University of Utah and follows a spiritual path of Druidry, Wicca, and Santeria, all centered around the Living Earth. He is one of few if not the only person living whose

4 patron Goddess is the Gorgon Medusa. In his spare time he enjoys reading, astrology, bee keeping, tarot, and performing on his violin.

Contact Daniel Cureton (also preferred name) danielcureton@gmail.com Ph. 8017094632 Address: 7455 Parkridge Cir. Salt Lake City, UT

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