Category: Sacred Scavenging

The Role Played by Spiritual Practitioners With Regards to Endangered Species

You know, I’ve tried real hard to sit on my hands on this, because I have literally zero tolerance for (online) drama, histrionics and related bullshit. But already the flames from this small trash fire have wafted into my yard. People are asking questions, and I’ve been asked to weigh in. Alright, I’ll give. But you’ve been warned.

I don’t mean to come off sounding trite, but this little saying does hold true, particularly in this case: Things aren’t always as they seem. A relic of an endangered animal that happens to be a family heirloom is not illegal. It’s illegal if you try to sell it across state or federal borders. YMMV, of course. There are various local laws, which is why it’s very important to educate yourself if you collect natural objects or use them in your spiritual practice. No one will do this for you.

If you happen upon a tiger head or a leopard skin coat or what have you in a local junk shop (and yes, this happens far more often than you may think), and it predates the founding of the Endangered Species Act, and you decide to take it home, guess what? Legal.

We start to navigate the very murky and treacherous legal and ethical waters when we ask the question: What do you DO with what you get, or what you have, that happens to be a relic of an endangered animal? Therein lies the rub.

Honestly, occultists and spiritual workers can be a right shitty bunch at times. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve been approached by folk requesting the relics of rare and endangered animals for their workings. Most especially the endangered big cats. It all seems to me like some giant dick-measuring contest. The drive for the biggest, the baddest, the hottest. The need to impress. Most, by far, are attributed to small men needing to look big and bad. But that’s a similar theme all across the world. The very desire for a bigger penis has literally wiped some animals almost entirely off the map. The human ape is like that. Humanity is by far the worst and most destructive invasive species. Therefore, our burden is that much harder.

And yet, occultists and spiritual workers can be some of the absolute best kinds of people as well. I’ve known folk who have done wondrous works with these truly sacred relics. They serve as speakers for the dead, engaging in environmental activism, dedicating precious time, resource and money not only to their spiritual community(ies), but the greater human community as a whole. People need to see these relics, hear the stories they have to tell, see the grim numbers and statistics. It is no small irony that taxidermy may be one of the major ways in which these lost species are preserved, enshrined not only in our museums and educational institutions, but also in the hands of those spiritual practitioners and educators who work hard to preserve their life remnants and stories. Marginalizing people, and consigning these precious remnants to the storage facilities and incinerators (where most byproducts and relics of endangered animals end up) is not only wasteful but may only add to the problem long term. Bear with me here.

The ultimate takeaway is this: We as a human species not only have a duty to honor those relics left, but by laying eyes upon those pieces and recognizing their profound sacredness, with the ultimate understanding that these animals are more valuable to us ALIVE than dead (rendered into consumable pieces and commodities). It is such a huge and important responsibility that their stories be told. No ego. No drama.

Attacking people for owning precious family heirlooms is not the answer.

Attacking, insulting and deriding practitioners of ancient spiritual systems, let alone the systems themselves, is not the answer, and is a symptom of a greater disconnect both spiritually as well as socially.

Though in death the stories of these endangered and extinct animals may be preserved, the only way new stories may form and grow is through the preservation of the even more sacred flame of life within each of these precious, sacred animals. The only way that can happen is through education and bridge-building, which will never happen if we allow ourselves to be controlled wholly by our emotions and the dissemination of misinformation.

This article was written by Joseph Atreides, who has years of experience in wildlife and habitat education, conservation, and volunteerism. He is a certified wildlife educator and for years has held presentations and educational programs on endangered species and wildlife, and has donated much time, resource and finances towards the preservation of the world’s big cats.

Where Have All The Lions Gone?

Due to recent changes in federal law, we have removed all of our lion products from Bones to Pick. The African Lion has been added to the Endangered Species List, making interstate sale of lion parts illegal in the United States, so we will no longer be dealing in them. The new law goes into effect January 22nd, but we are taking this measure preemptively so that there is no chance we will still have lion pieces in transit at that time.

For more information on the changes in federal law, please see the following links:

A Small Reminder

There are a vast array of laws in the United States and worldwide governing the sale, trade,  possession, import and export of animal parts.  A somewhat comprehensive list may be found here.

Due to the complexity of the laws involving international trade, we at Bones to Pick will presently not sell any of our pieces which involve animal parts internationally.  We will only ship them to valid US addresses.

Within the US, each state has their own laws regarding such items.  We abide by federal law and by the laws of the states we live in.  It is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure that the items they are purchasing from us are legal to own in their home state.

Finally, and this should really go without saying, please do not ask us to procure animal parts which are illegal under federal law.  We will bend over backwards for our customers, but we are not willing to commit a felony for you.  We are, however, willing to work with you to try to find a legal alternative that will suit your spiritual needs.

In my spiritual tradition, decay and rot are seen as inherently…

In my spiritual tradition, decay and rot are seen as inherently sacred processes. Decay is unpleasant to some, but to others it’s a source of much-needed nourishment, from the smallest carrion beetle to the vulture on the wing.  It is both a transitory and transformative process, of life giving way to other life through death.

In this bucket is one of two large adult grey wolf skulls I have macerating.  This process harnesses the transformative power of rot by stripping flesh from bone using bacteria.  Once this process is complete and the skull is completely clean of flesh, it will go through a degreasing and whitening process.  Then it’ll be ready to become a powerful spiritual tool and interface.

Originally posted on:

So spring is finally here…

So spring is finally here, which means it’s time to get to work in the yard.  What here looks like a pile of bricks, railroad spikes and buckets is actually sacred space.  The buckets are where I’ll be macerating animal skulls, and behind those buckets is a cairn, lovingly named The Pit, a portal and workspace for interfacing with the land’s basimbi (land-spirits, put simply).  This here is a work in progress, and will actually be expanding outward as time goes on, and more animal skulls and bone get processed and transformed into important tools for ritual and ceremonial use.

As an animist and Palero, I see all life as being sacred.  Which is why, for me, absolutely nothing goes to waste.  Everything has value, from the blood that’s shed, to the meat that’s eaten, to the skulls and bones that’re left behind.  The processes of death, decay and rot are just as sacred, and just as infused with life and potential.  Witnessing and working with these processes is deeply influential to understanding the workings of life itself, and is far from what most people would see as “morbid” or “depressing”.

Originally posted on:

On Working With the Relics of the Dead

Working with the parts and relics of the deceased in a spiritual fashion is a form of ecstatic union, connecting on a deeper level with the underlying spiritual current permeating what most conceive as “reality” (Kalunga is what would come to mind to the Palo practitioner).  At its most superficial I’d describe it as a form of psychometry, but what it really is is taking on the role of the psychopomp.  That itself takes on different manifestations, however.  A dog and a crow are both psychopomps, but both are shaped differently from one another and behave and function in their own unique fashions.  This also largely depends on who you are and what you are working with.  Not everyone is capable of being a psychopomp.  Taking on such a task without the mental or spiritual fortitude can manifest itself in mental imbalance, among other unpleasant things.  I’ve seen this numerous times over the course of years in my work with the dead, but I’m not here to tell stories of specifics, but to offer a general idea of what this kind of work entails, and the job I perform personally.

What do I mean when I say “relics of the dead”?  This could count as anything that is left behind at the moment of death, or relating in some way to the passing of an animal (be it human or nonhuman).  Similar to the Catholic understanding of relics, these take primary and secondary forms.  A primary relic would be the skin, hair, bone, nail or any other physical remnant of the direct body.  A secondary relic would be various items such as pieces of clothing, reliquaries, graveyard dirt and so on.  I’ve worked with relics of all kinds: animal bone, skin, blood, soft tissue, crematory ash, graveyard dirt, and numerous other items.  Each of these things have different attributes, spiritual imprinting, and function.  To keep things simple, I’ll start with the differences in spiritual function between animal bone and animal skin.

In my long experience, the deepest and longest-lasting spiritual connection one can find is within bone, particularly the skull.  While fur and leather and soft tissue decays and dissolves, bone will endure for much longer and serves as a lasting foundation and record of the animal (whether human or nonhuman) that once lived.  Numerous animistic cultures and spiritual traditions throughout the world make use of the skull as the primary focal point for spirit and for the personalities, thoughts and perceptions of the once-living animal.  It is the sum total of all wisdom, knowledge, experience and sensation, which is why skulls were so revered and held highest of all the remains of the dead in numerous animist cultures and societies. In Regla de Palo, skulls make up a very important part of various ritual workings and spiritual tech.  This has been the basic premise for a great many headhunter societies whose primary goal was to capture the head of the enemy and gain control over the fallen enemy’s soul.  The bones and particularly the skulls of the ancestors received similar preparation and treatment.  An example of this is the story of Odin and Mimir, when Odin preserves the head of the fallen sage through the use of various herbs and incantations, seating the soul within the decapitated head and accessing the wisdom and memory within.  The severed head proffers wisdom and knowledge to Odin.

Animal skins and hides also make up a significant part of animistic practice and tech that involves psychopomp work.  The skin is a very intimate part of the body, and is the external expression of ourselves, the organ by which we sense the world around us.  Skin-to-skin contact is a very powerful form of connection and energy transferral.  Much has been written about skinwalkers, berserkergangr (bear-shirt), and the shaman and his or her ritual cloak of shapeshifting.  The skin or hide of an animal, especially when ritually prepared, is a powerful tool by which the animist or spirit-technician can interface with the spirit and energies of that particular animal.  To give you an example of how powerful an animal skin can be, sometimes the simple act of draping one over a person can cause them to “go under” or become posessed by the animal’s spirit or energy.  Animal skins can also be used as containers or coverings for the storage and transport of ritual and holy objects or items, or mediums on which spells, sigils and so on can be written upon.  The spiritual charge within the skin or hide amplifies the work being done.

There are numerous examples of the above given, and I’ll write more on specifics later on.  Part of what I do is fulfill the role of ‘sacred scavenger’, which means finding and preparing nature’s relics and artifacts to be used in a spiritual or ritually meaningful way.  My methods range anywhere from scavenging roadkill to procuring tannery and furrier rejects to seeking out lost and overlooked treasures in antique stores, junk shops and estate sales, and the search itself is just as sacred.  Part of my search involves meditation, prayer and offerings to the animal I wish to work with (either personally or for a contact or client seeking my assistance), and usually it will present itself in some form.  An old skin in a junk shop, a skull at an estate sale, or a pile of bones in the forest.  Serendipity and ‘coincidence’ make up a large part of this–what many occult practitioners call synchronicity.

I’ll write more on this later, when my migraine isn’t kicking my ass.  Hopefully with pictures.  Folks do love pictures.  Keep up the great Work all!

Relics, Artifacts, Dead Things, and the ATRs

(Note: Part of this is a bit of personal history, so I can get across a general idea of the progression of events that led me to where I am now, and why.)

As soon as I was old enough to walk, my parents would take me to the museums in Washington, DC.  I was lucky that I had parents who valued knowledge above other things.  There were no visits to Chuck-E-Cheese, and amusement park trips were rare.  By the time I was in middle school I was reading and comprehending college level books, and taking out my own interlibrary loans.  But I had begun to comprehend something else, and at a much younger age.  It was within these museum halls that I first became aware of a seemingly subtle current that flowed around and through what most people perceived as “reality”.  Animals long dead came alive before my very eyes.  Spirits in old coffins and canopic jars rose to tell me stories of ancient times beyond the reaches of memory or comprehension.  These experiences firmly crossed the line between ecstasy and terror, and my young mind grappled desperately with the changing flows of reality all around me.  I remember when I would go into the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  All around me I would see the sea creatures come to life, telling me their stories through sound and movement, color and pulse and vibration.  I was immersed in their world, a kaleidoscope of wonder.

It was these experiences that would form the skeletal frame of what would become my spirituality.  I spent a very large part of my time as a child rambling in the woods, or lost in a book.  I had much preferred the company of animals and spirits to those of other children.  I knew, even if I did not fully comprehend at the time, what these spiritual entities were, but I didn’t discuss them with the adults around me.  I bore enough of a stigma from struggling with a severe learning disability and behavioral challenges.  I didn’t want to compound this with stories of spirits, “imaginary friends”, talking trees and so on and so forth.  Not that people never suspected anything.  A mummified turkey foot in the toy chest.  A weathered fox skull found on the railroad tracks and hidden under the bed, directly beneath my pillow, “So he can talk to me better in my sleep”.  By the mid-90s I started actively exploring the occult.  Like most people I cut my teeth on Wicca first, and ended up firmly rooted in Hermetics (alchemy) and closely bonding with the deities of the Greco-Egyptian pantheons (particularly Dionysos, Hermes and Wepwawet).  Fast forward to the present, I’m initiated into the ATRs.  I’m still very new, having only been initiated for a about nine months or so.  In truth I never expected this to be the end result.  How exactly I stumbled into the ATRs is an interesting adventure.

For years I’d maintained an online presence under the moniker “Shin Cynikos”, though most people simply called me “Solo”.  I was an active presence in various occult and metaphysical circles, as well as the “scavenging” and “vulture culture” communities (primarily on LiveJournal, a format I no longer use).  I also kept an active blog,, which I may or may not go back to using.  Tumblr seems to allow for more on-the-go posting, since I rarely sit down long enough to write detailed posts like this one.  But I digress.  Gradually I began to withdraw my online presence, mainly because I seemed more preoccupied with actually living my spirituality instead of typing about it like so many others do (and there is much in that department I simply keep a secret–Harpocrates and yadda yadda), and I tend to care very little about attention-seeking and what others think about me and what I do.  I’d also by that point amassed quite an impressive collection, and had a penchant for finding the oddest things, which garnered me a reputation amongst the local and semi-local occultist friends and acquaintances who’d come around looking for stuff for their rituals and projects and so on.

Eventually I’d attracted the attention of a Palo house a few years back, though contacts with some mutual friends, and started working with them on finding various things, as well as talking shop about everything from spirit-work, necromancy and the ritual use of animal parts to animal husbandry.  It was funny at first, because–although I had an awareness and understanding of the ATR/DTRs, they never registered much on my radar at first, and I honestly could not understand why someone would want to, say, take a museum-grade, fully articulated wolf skull and stick it in a pot of dirt.  “A skull is not a root bulb!” I remember saying at one point.  But I ended up fostering some truly valuable friendships as a result, and ultimately ended up “going native” and getting initiated myself.  It’s been a crazy ride, but ultimately I’ve no regrets.

© 2021 Bones to Pick

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑