People collect all kinds of strange things: postage stamps, baby teeth, mason jars (I know so many of these people!), etc. Weird, but true, I have a creepy doll collection (they're all stored away somewhere in an old trunk), and I also used to collect clowns (what a phase.)
Now, I don't really consider myself a "collector". I suppose my houseplants can all be deemed a collection, my tea cups and plant pressings, too. But, I don't necessarily seek items to collect. My "collection" of natural curiosities (animal bones, rocks, crystals, and other magical items) are usually found objects or gifts. My friends have way more impressive natural collections.
My collection is not very large, but they're special things that fascinate and inspire me. Most of these things share homes with my potted plants. But some of the creepier stuff gets tucked away in a vintage hat box...
Eventually, the cycle will continue, the natural pieces passed down to someone else. That's usually how it goes.
Once upon a time, I was really itching to learn how to mount butterflies. I ordered a batch of dried insects and made my own "hydration chamber" (this is a container that rehydrates the insects and helps them "relax" enough to be manipulated). One lesson I learned is to always keep an eye on the hydration chamber. I forgot my second batch of butterflies in there for over a week, and when I finally pulled them out they had gone through early stages of decay all covered in fuzzy blue mold (my "fix" was to dry them out again and start over -- can you tell?)
The most challenging part was spreading the wings. The wings and abdomen are so fragile! I invited a friend over to help me, and it was really fun to figure it out over a couple of ciders.
In case this somehow inspires you, and you're wondering where to get dried insects, I got mine here.
* to my friends, I have so many of these dried winged-creatures, allow me pass them onto you! *
Bones & Taxidermy.
Have you ever cleaned bones that you've found in the woods? I almost did, once. On a birthday hike, I found a strange curved set of vertebrae bones.. with a teensy bit of flesh that wasn't quite finished decomposing. I scooped it into a tin box and took it home with me with all intentions of cleaning. But, I got a bit anxious about the contents of my tin box and put the task off. About two years later, I found the tin box but I couldn't bring myself to open it!
A Magic Wand.
Gems & Minerals.
Gems and minerals hold so much power and energy from the places they were formed. It's really special to exchange little pieces of the earth with my friends.
The next time you visit a rocky sea shore, see if you can find a hag stone! They're also known as druid stones, serpent eggs, and adder stones.
Hag stones have natural holes that, according to folklore, are windows to the otherworld. A look through a hagstone can reveal truths that are otherwise hidden beneath illusion.
I think they're good luck, so I like to place them all around the home (especially in the garden pots and near the entrance!)
The folk belief is that hag stones also offer protection against evil spirits, curses, and nightmares - so they're often worn like amulets and placed at bedsides.