Bone Spirits


Basho, the 15th century Japanese Haiku artist’s first journal begins:

bleached bones

on my mind, the wind pierces

my body to the heart


Our bones not only give structure to our bodies and permit movement, they contain our very life blood. Bone marrow produces more than a trillion red blood cells every day.

Throughout history bones have been sacred in many cultures. They are venerated, used in rituals and divination. There was a belief in 16th century Europe that bones revealed the relative nature of things, and the hidden affinities between all living creatures. The Chinese congi for bones also means deep truth.

Bones tell the stories of the lives they once supported.

And for many cultures, they contain the spirit of the dead and can therefore be reanimated. This belief was especially common among people in northern Eurasia, as well as parts of Asia and can also be found in the myths of Germany, Africa, South America, Oceania and Australia as well as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

I often come upon bones on my rambles through the woods and it always inspires a deep sense of curiosity of wonder. Who was this? How did they die? How did they live? Piecing these scattering of bones together, they come alive again in my imagination. Examined closely and isolated, it’s as if the individual bones, with their vast array of shapes and textures come to life under the eye of my camera as well.

My Bone Spirits are part of my show currently on display at The Montana Natural History Center through the end of March.


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