Get to the Bones of Your Animal Magic

First, a Bit of Seasonal Art

This year my daughter Amri and I are enrolled in a part-time Illustration program offered through the Georgetown Atelier. Once a week we drive out to the Georgetown neighborhood, and spend an evening drawing in a brick building that was once a brewery, and where trains click by at regular intervals, and airplanes descend really low above us. It’s so much fun!

Deer Skeleton - art by Jane Valencia
Deer Skeleton – pen & ink illustration by Jane Valencia

The program is mentorship-style, with the instructor, Brian Snoddy, working on his illustrations in between guiding us with ours. Brian is experienced in the comic book industry, has illustrated for Magic: The Gathering cards, and much, much more. As someone who long ago dreamed of writing and drawing comics (oh, yeah – I kinda do that now! 🙂 ) it’s very fun when he talks about his experiences, and when he brings in his actual art from those projects.

For the first term we’re only working in black-and-white — difficult for me who loves to work in very colorful watercolor! Oh, and we have to take responsibility for every line we draw. So, no getting bored tending to the details. It actually shows!

Above is  a pen-and-ink drawing I did for the Days of the Dead, in honor of my “dear” medicine animal. Isn’t he sweet?

Magical Naturalist Skills: Getting to the Bones of Your Animal Magic

First, go get a notebook and pen (or open a doc on your electronic device), and maybe a cup of tea, spiced cider, or hot chocolate. Settle yourself in!

Call up an image of a human skeleton via your favorite search engine to remind yourself what you look like as the bones of who you are.

I invite you now to explore the following questions.

  • What’s your favorite animal?
  • What does it look like as just bones — a skeleton? Take a moment right now to Google images for your animal’s skeleton
  • Take a close look at the shape of the skull, and the size of the eye sockets of your animal. What about the shape of the jaws?
  • Ponder: What do the size and shape of these features suggest to you about your animal’s vision, what it likes to eat, how it might think?
  • Now scan the body shape and limbs. What does the structure of the animal’s body suggest about how it moves, responds, acts in its world?

Okay – time to take a leap of imagination!

Owl of Athena - art by Jane Valencia
Owl of Athena – pen & ink by Jane Valencia. Okay, so this owl still has its feathers on … Can you imagine what its bone structure is like?

(That’s the special skill of a Magical Naturalist)

First, just let go of everything you considered in studying the skeleton of your favorite animal, and everything you think you know about that animal.

  • Imagine yourself into your special animal’s skeleton.

You can start by sensing the bones within your body. Feel into the shape of your skull and eye sockets, into the openings for your nose and ears. Your vertebrae, ribs, upper limbs, pelvis, and lower limbs, hands and feet. Can you “see” or feel some or all those bones within you? Move them.

  • Now, gradually, imagine that your skull  with all its openings is shifting around to become that of your magical animal. Imagine that your perceptions change accordingly. How do the change for you?

Go on and imagine your neck and backbone changing … your upper limbs and hands … your ribs and pelvis … your lower limbs and feet .. do you have a tail bone? Take time to imagine and feel into all the changes. Notice what is different for you, what you emotions, thoughts, memories, sensations arise for you. As a Magical Naturalist, observe all these things, and even make notes of them, as if you were a detective.

  • Still feeling those animal bones within you, move around as your animal. Imagine a movie soundtrack to your animal movement — what kind of music or sound effects accompany you in your animal bones? Allow your imagination, curiosity, and sense of mischief to inspire you to new actions, new thoughts, new adventures.

After some time, return to where you began.

  • Now, Imagine your animal’s bones returning to the shape of your bones. Your animal magic awareness changing to your own awareness. Feel yourself as being fully you.
  • Make some notes about your experience as your favorite animal.

Again, be like a detective, noting what you noticed, what you imagined, what you felt, what you remembered, what you sensed with smell, hearing, touch, sight, even taste. (all essential Magical Naturalist observations!). What quality did you experience about your animal — for instance, did you feel Fierceness, Peace, Strength, Majesty, Compassion, Grace, Aliveness, Agility … something else?

How does your experience reveal something about your own animal magic? Respond to the three prompts below.

Your Animal Magic

African Harp
Jane’s newest harp – an African harp
  1. My special physical abilities as my animal are:
  2. My special gifts of awareness as my animal are:
  3. I embody this special quality or qualities of my animal:

Even if you don’t think you actually have these abilities and qualities, be willing to entertain the idea that you do!

Please share something about your favorite animal and your animal magic in the comments box!

Forest CD - Knodel & Valencia
Forest – harp & song by Debra Knodel and Jane Valencia

Musical Magic: Autumn into Winter

If you’re looking for a little musical magic to accompany you into the dark time of the year, may I suggest my Forest CD.

Forest is a journey into an enchanted landscape of autumn into winter through harp and song. This album is truly a favorite of our listeners, loved by young and old. Take a listen for free here.

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