Requiescat In Pace, Ursus americanus altifrontalis

Dies Saturnus

Luna wn in Libra, 67%v

Horae Venus-Mercury


Went out to a coworker’s house today to pick up a bag of bones. He is a hunter, and in November he brought down a black bear on the east side of the Cascades and generously offered me bones for carving. He is a bit of a bear himself and has the proper respect and hunting ethic for me to consider accepting such a gift. I agreed after much deliberation, and I will make him and/or his fiancee rings or pendants from a small part of the bone in gratitude if nothing else.

I am not a “bear person”, neither have I been specially tapped by the (symbolic or real) figure of the bear in any of my spiritual dealings outside of a passing acquaintance within the realm of the coins project. I’m not the owner of the bones in the same way as I am for other animal-sourced materials I’ve collected for magical tool-making. Perhaps this will change as the exploration of the figures of bull and bear as economic totems proceeds. Perhaps not. Maybe owner is not the right word. “permission to use” is more like what I mean. I haven’t had the experience yet that lets me feel like I have a right to use them.

We first talked about it in late November of 2011, soon after he and his hunting partner had shot and butchered the bear.  He had no use for the bones, and he knows I sometimes use bone for carving and so he offered a few to me. After a meditative back-and-forth question session of OK/not-OK with what was my best attempt at asking the spirit of the bear itself, I determined that it would be OK for me to take some of the bones and put them in the ground near my house. But as to whether I ought to clean them, slice them up, and start making things now or later on…that was not clear at all. In this situation, not-clear means NO for now. For whatever reason, NO for now. Allright. They can rest for a while here, possibly permanently if that’s how it shakes down.

So time passes- he got sick, projects came up, and all of a sudden it’s nearly 2 months later. We arrange for me to pick them up this morning because they’re getting pretty stinky in his shed. I thought he’d kept them in refrigeration all this time. Apparently not! They have been stored in a plastic bag inside a large Coleman cooler in his shed. He told me an amusing story about trying to rig up a peppermint-oil soaked bandanna across his face so that the smell wouldn’t overpower him. Of course the vapors from the oil stung his eyes and made them water so much he couldn’t see. And it still smelled- like peppermint and rot. Reminded me of the story of Lon DuQuette’s adventure with the Mass of the Phoenix and Abramelin oil.

Honestly, the odor wasn’t that bad- standard decomposing mammal smell.  I’ve certainly smelled worse.

I’m also mightily impressed with the opportunism and tenacity of the common carrion fly. The bones were wrapped up pretty quickly after the bear was butchered, and kept in a closed cooler for several weeks. I didn’t get the impression that they were left out unwrapped for a significant length of time since the hunt or anything like that. Yet I found some very big maggots in there- probably a couple of weeks old estimating by their length (avg. 12-15mm). And they were still alive! I put most of them in the ground with the bones and hosed away the rest.

I got them home and set to digging three deep pits in what will be the Artemisia bed in the spring. That was another “OK”- lay them under the wormwood. The pits were dug to 2 shovel-depths to discourage unearthing by the various neighborhood critters. Very happy to see so many healthy earthworms down there.  I spoke some improvised psalms as the pits were dug and the bones laid, smoothed the earth over them and poured a small libation.

Now it only remains to wait, and listen.