The crisp cool air ushers in the Scorpio season today, setting the stage for mid-Fall. Summer annuals complete their life cycle and die, scattering the seeds they created with hopes of rebirth in the spring. Trees and other perennials shed their colorful leaves and expose skeletal structures across the landscape. While these life forms appear to be dying, they are actually entering into a dormancy phase to conserve energy for the winter ahead, knowing the sunny warmth will return and they will flourish once again.
Scorpio is the astrological sign associated with death, but there’s a deeper meaning. Death is not considered a finality, but a transition in an endless cycle of rebirth. Many religions focus on this continuation of the cycle of life, in which nothing truly “dies”, the energy just changes form. From resurrection to reincarnation, these beliefs mirror modern science’s first law of thermodynamics that states energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another. The earth is a living, integrated system that continually regenerates itself. We breathe the oxygen released by trees and other photosynthesizing organisms and use it to produce energy in our cells. So do the other animals and fish that we consume to live. The plants and trees use our exhaled carbon dioxide to produce energy in their living cells. It’s a beautiful symbiotic exchange of energy between forms keeping everything alive.
Many people ask how I got into carving skulls and this Scorpio blog seemed like a good opportunity to share that story. Amy and I made our home on a high mesa in Northern New Mexico for over 20 years. The nights were often filled with the melodic sounds of howling coyotes. Most often they were singing a celebratory blessing before the next feast they would share as a clan. One life form would become many. On our walks in nature, we would come across various skulls and bones of creatures past. In the Southwest, it was common for people to adorn their homes with these nature finds.
Our indigenous friends from Taos Pueblo shared their beliefs with us about spirituality and the Earth, as well as their artwork which was primarily nature based. To them, the skulls, bones, and tree limbs still carried the energy of the life that created them. It was thus important that artwork made from these honor and respect this origin and ideally exalt the material in some way. As I began working with these natural mediums, a shift occurred in my psyche as I realized the wood and bone before me wasn’t actually dead. It was living energy that had shifted form.
I was considering giving skull carving a try when a friend presented me with a collection of found deer skull plates. I noticed that while they all had similar forms, each skull had unique attributes of how the horns spiraled, the forehead was shaped, the suture patterns fused, etc… These individual characteristics and natural flows of the skull inspired my designs and made every skull one of a kind. The timeless geometric motifs that evolved out of and followed these the natural patterns gave the skulls both a modern and ancient vibe.
Coyote skulls followed, as they were abundant in the southwest. Sadly, ranchers frequently target them to protect their livestock and some people hunt them for sport. I wanted to preserve the beautiful and intriguing forms that were left behind. By adorning them, the skulls took on a new life as an art object that celebrated the coyote’s existence. As I explored designs, I was continually fascinated with how every skull was unique in some way, and different geometric patterns emerged that individualized each skull.
I went on to carve raccoons, goats, bobcats, elk, and even had a request for a cherished pet! In all of these, I found the same individuation process held true. During this past year, I acquired a high speed dental drill which allows me to do more intricate carvings and it opened up the possibility to carve eggs. You can see some of my emu egg carvings in our past spring equinox blog post, as well as in the hand carved nature art section in our Etsy shop. I’ll leave you with a sneak peek of my latest goose egg carving.
I hope you enjoyed exploring my nature carvings and stay tuned for more to come! If you like one of my past designs or are looking for something special, feel free to contact me via Etsy with your special requests! Thanks for reading and enjoy the magic and mysteries of the Scorpio season!