Cutting through Skin

My most profound moments of self-therapy and inner breakthroughs have occurred at the fleshing beam. Spontaneous eruptions of healing, truth, and insights about life…all from the voice and vision of the animal’s spirit. I learn SO much about being human by learning from their own perspective what is was to be an animal who experienced birth, life, death, and rebirth. Not to mention the real-life body wisdom that comes from knowing what it takes to remove flesh without destroying the hide. Or the tending of the inflammation required to dehair. Preparing hides for sacred sound making is both a spiritual and physical cauldron of primal magic that cannot be understood until it is felt.

I hold space to witness tremoring breakthroughs when others feel what it’s really like to cut through skin for the first time. I have seen the shadows of WTF flash across their face when they step into the magic of knowing an unknown through the body. I get to hear the victory exhale from a women crossing thresholds of resistance into connection while birthing their sacred sound. A deep magic is reclaimed when you make your own medicine. In this case…medicine given life because of death. I never stop being drop-to-my-knees humbled, reverent, and grieving when I work a hide. Each and every hide comes from an animal who once lived…who has gone through the transition of death…and gets to share it’s wisdom with me and those who make with me. And right now…I have many visions of wisdom to share in my upcoming Online Rattle Making Circle. (check out page to see what we will be working with) I’d like to share them with you.

There is something about cutting through skin that awakens an ancient felt-vision. My thought is that as modern humans with our reduced primal movement and purpose we are becoming more and more domesticated even when we say we are wild at heart. The actions and experiences we give our animal bodies determine the patterns we carve out in our neural pathways. So...if one never faces the uncomfortable and finds themselves HAVING to figure out how to flow past something out of their zone, they become more rigid and safe in small spaces of mind and body. There is something about cutting through skin that shakes the rigid right out of you. There is something about cutting through skin that awakens a remembering in the bones that shatters these modern energy cages. There is something about cutting through skin that ReWild’s your inner voice. There is something about cutting through skin that tells the original tale of reverence. There is something about cutting through skin that calls for you to rebirth as you birth your drum or rattle...and if one allows the transition, magic is made...and sometimes, initiation.

The flesh of my hides for sacred sound making reflect our flesh. The death of these animals remind us of death. “How you treat facing death shows you how you show up in Life.” I use this Nis-ism often in my Self-knowing as a check-in…and often times bullshit meter. Am I fully present to this death? Am I feeling this death? Etc. Showing up to their scraped and naked skin show us what is possible. And from one body...many are born. In transforming their flesh...we transform something in us too. The wombed canvas of their skin acts as a threshold offered to you. Making sacred tools connects you to the magic in your medicine and to the resources from which it came. ‘Tis very elemental.

How you treat death is how you show up in life.~ Nissa Howard

Cutting through skin is a calling to go through a barrier to see what is on the other side…to do what it takes to get through something you never thought you could get through. Making with the skin you cut is a calling to be a keeper of your own powerful SELF. The idea of cutting through skin can ripple all sorts of resistance and crunchy feels…after all…it was once a living being. And this is why I ask my makers to do it...It’s important to me that we don’t gloss over the gritty stuff of life, death and’s important to me that we don’t anesthetize our pain about where our medicine comes this case, a living creature. Cutting through skin provides this level of clarity. It is my belief and my way of life to honor these beings by not backing down to what feels uncomfortable….by not seeing their leftover body as something to avoid or disconnect from. It is my belief and my way of life to honor their death by creating resourced magic and medicine from their leftover use as much of them as I can. It is my belief and my way of life to honor their life by giving the medicine of their animal experience a voice. Treating death this way is a path I had to teach myself and there are always shadows to walk through and poison to turn into medicine. It is a choice to face the ugly and shift the shit to love it anyway. We all have this same choice. From where I stand, there is no right or wrong choice...just own what your choice says about you...just be honest with this choice making you proud of yourself? Is what you make of death useful and life-affirming medicine?

There is something about cutting through skin that is other-world-ly and completely embodied at the same time. It’s great training for being a medicine keeper and modern ancestor. It’s great training for walking with one foot in both worlds. It’s great training for wholeness because wholeness is the wisdom of holding both as true.

“Opposites are the pillars of wholeness”. ~Nissa Howard

This work never gets old to me. It never stops feeling like the first time #beginnersmind. I never want to stop feeling the awe, surprise, and magic of it. Every time I show up to the fleshing beam to transform a hide, it’s a new and amazing experience. The DOing is the same…scrape, squat, squat while scrape, rip, toss, scrape some more…stir, stir, stir, stir…and squat-scrape some more. It’s the BEing in this same-ol’ that is different because every hide is access to that animals spirit. It’s the BEing IN the moment of my actions that allow me to journey, commune, merge, and gather the medicine or power they offer. This is probably why I have so many drums and rattles…each and every animal hide matters. To be all-the-way honest, I’d have a shit-ton more rattles and drums if I didn’t listen so well. Not all medicine is my medicine. ) Ohhh…yeah…that needs to be a Nis-ism)

“Not all medicine is my medicine.” ~Nissa

Every time I open a making circle, something different and new is born. I am constantly in awe, surprise, and gob-smacked with community at what we ALL learn. One of my greatest work-joys is guiding you through sacred sound making. And having you make your own does keep me from having them all! (heheehee) It wasn’t too long ago that I was figuring this all out. I learned to transform the hide by DOing…just showing up, knowing what I needed it to be, and giving it a go. One thing I know for sure in my life is I will never know how to do something unless I do it. The power is in showing up.

Is your bones, blood and body calling to you as you read my words? Sometimes there’s a voice deep within us that craves and aches and speaks softly with big energy…it’s the voice of stepping up into evolution…it’s a voice of YAAASSSSS. Listen, listen. Is it time for you to make Rattle medicine and cut through skin? Rattles are epic shit-shifters and trusted hand-held power allies. Join me…awaken you…do your own cutting…make your own medicine.

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Online Rattle Making Circle

Begins February 1st, 2019

Enrollment for Online Rattle Making Circle is now open. If you have a local coven or circle of 5 or more that you would like to make this medicine with, I’m offering a super-special deal...inquire via email at

Bone Reading Membership is always open. Once enrolled, you have access to the library of readings. Passwords change every new moon when a new reading goes out. This is an affordable avenue for support, guidance, healing, and magic.