[TAE] Skin Spirits in the Public Eye (Part 1)

Monday, February 4, 2013

WARNING: These entries will be discussing death, taxidermy, and the use of animal parts both in spiritual practice and for research and display. If these subjects bother you, please don’t continue reading. Thanks!

As everyone who knows me is very aware, I have a bit of a bad relationship with death – if it’s possible to have a good relationship with it. However, I have little to no problem with that which death leaves behind.

In my personal spiritual practice, I incorporate a lot of animal remains and skin spirits. In that way, I’m comfortable with the aftermath of death. And admittedly, there’s also a large part of me that works on a more scientific level.

And that’s the part of me that was drawn in when a random comment on, of all things, a ICanHazCheezeburger meme, brought to my attention an odd anatomical fact. The fact? Kangaroos have three vaginas.

As mentioned in the linked article, the image that helps explain exactly why it (and other marsupials, actually) have such an odd adaptation comes from a series known as Inside Nature’s Giants.

Inside Nature’s Giants is a controversial, British documentary series that uses animal dissections filmed live and performed by the same team (some at the Royal Veterinary College, others on site as required – for instance, you can’t transport a beached whale onto the campus), as well as live footage and exploration of the creature to help give a full understanding about some of the largest animals alive today.

After I read the linked article, I about drove myself crazy looking for the show so I could watch it, only to find that (in most cases) it isn’t being shown in the USA. The only site that had full episodes to watch was the official site – and being a UK site, their videos aren’t available in my area.INE-Elephantintact

Frustrated, I turned to YouTube, figuring someone somewhere would have made it available. I was right, but it wasn’t easy. Over the course of the next few days in many pieces, I watched quite a few of the episodes. Unfortunately two of them that I wanted to see (Lion Vs. Tiger and Sperm Whale) didn’t seem to be available. However, from what I did see, I learned quite a lot.

Back when I was seriously considering veterinarian as one of my possible lifetime career choices, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle two aspects of being a vet. One of them were the very kind of dissections that I was now watching – and the other was putting people’s pets to sleep. As I said before – I don’t have a good relationship with Death. I also, as I discovered later in life, have a bit of a weak stomach for scents. So it’s best that I didn’t decide to go the veterinary route.

However, thanks to the magic of video, I was getting to watch things that I didn’t HAVE to smell, and therefore could focus on exactly what I was seeing. And I will be honest – I was fascinated.

Admittedly, there is some levity in the program – there would have to be. I’ve also heard that people who work in funeral homes and at cemeteries will have some of the driest, most amusing humor of any person you’ll ever meet. This is because when you deal with death, there is really only one way to come out of it sane – and that’s to keep yourself laughing. However, this levity is one of the reasons the program was essentially banned in quite a few countries.

I understood the jokes for what they were – a human reaction to getting through something that, while you want to do it, is also uncomfortable in many ways. I wasn’t offended by it. And I got the sense that the animals wouldn’t have been, either. I have no idea if their spirits were sticking around to see what happened to their bodies, but given that I know “skin spirits”, as Lupa calls them (and I’ve adopted the term) tend to enjoy knowing that their sacred remains (another Lupa term that I am unashamedly yoinking) are being treated with respect and used for something that will ultimately help other people, I think they would have been fine with the shows.

Watching it did make me think quite a lot, however, about what happens to skin spirits that DO remain tied to their sacred remains, and what they think about what is done with them. That will be the focus of this four part series on my personal experiences with skin spirits.

I won’t actually be discussing all of the experiences I’ve had – both because some are too private and not meant to be shared, and because…well…if I were to try and detail ALL the experiences I’ve had with Skin Spirits, we’d end up with a very long series.

So yes, here’s my next series – and you’ll be glad to know that all of it is already written as of this post going live. For the next four weeks, a new segment will post every Monday, through the end of the series. I hope you enjoy it and find something interesting to take away from it – even if it’s just an interest in the specimens you see in museums.

Back to speaking of Lupa – I’ve linked to a YouTube video in the references section of each one of these posts. It’s of her Skin Spirits workshop from early 2013. Definitely worthwhile viewing if you’re new to the idea of skin spirits and what exactly it’s like to work with them. Check her out!

 (Part 2: The Bison)


Channel 4 (Inside Nature’s Giants Season 1, Episode 1: Elephant)

Inside Natures Giants @ Wikipedia
Lupa – Skin Spirits (Animal Parts in Neopagan Spirituality and Magic) 1/18/2013 Video Workshop