Throwin’ the Bones
Of the divinatory techniques with which I am familiar, bones
are my personal favorite. Yes, they have that very witchy vibe – but it’s more
than that; the bones are honest. They don’t sugar coat, and while they have to
be interpreted, once you know how to read them – there’s little room for interpretation.
They are very direct and are much better suited to answering yes or no questions than tarot. With a
little imaginative methodology, there few questions the bones can’t answer. And
even fewer they won’t answer (as tarot cards can be known to do). A few
examples of things I think the bones are better at answering than tarot:
questions involving time, questions regarding health, sickness and maledictions;
they present a broader grasp to any given situation – incorporating things
outside of the question presented and how these things relate to the question
or the reading, showing the interconnectedness of life – and how these things
all relate back.
Our countless cultures have countless methods for collecting and reading the Bones – and I can only rightly attest to my own methodology: one in which the Bones need not necessarily consist solely of bones, but a collection of gathered trinkets and curios, all with their own meaning, their own story and their own energy. My collection consists of: bones (bare and painted), coins, stones, shells, jewelry, twigs, buttons, animal teeth and other squabbles. The only rule I implement is that the item can be easily gathered and (safely) tossed without breakage or injury (save your razor-blades and glass shards for witches’ bottles!).
Collecting the Bones and Bobbles
Most any small bones will do, though its recommended that you use bones that haven’t been cooked, as cooked bones have a tendency to get very brittle – especially in the case of chicken, which is quite common. In my collection I have a number of different animal bones: most are chicken, but I also have some raccoon and possum bones, as well as teeth and claws. I built a “base” of bones, but am continuously adding or replacing as I see fit.
A short list of “Bones” I like to include – most of which serve as my “base” bones:
- Self Bone – used for the reader
- Other Bone – used to represent another person or the person
you are reading
- Magic Bone – represents the need for or use of magic
- “Evil” Bone – malicious or hateful acts, disadvantageous
- Love Bone – represents romantic love
- Male Bone – represents male fertility, masculinity,
sexuality or a man
- Female Bone – represents female fertility, femininity,
sexuality or a woman
- Health Bone – represents physical or mental health
- Wealth Bone – represents financial standing or monetary
- Family Bone – represents familial connections or a family
- Fate Bone – represents destiny and your lifepath (I use a
shell for this: open side up means an event can be altered, destiny is not set
in stone; open side down, this path must be walked – prepare in lieu of fighting)
- “Key” Bone – (I actually use a small key) which represents
the key to any given situation, the remedy or problem at hand and its cause
This list is by no means comprehensive and I have many more bones in my collection with more menial meanings. This is simply a small list of options to be added to and adapted by whosoever casts the bones.
Reading the Bones
There is no right or wrong way to read the bones, there is simply your way and their way. Below I will dictate how it is that I do a general reading – again, this is just an example of one way, take and adapt to fit your own unique style or tradition!
- Begin by collecting your bones into your hand. I keep mine
in a leather pouch, but don’t like to toss them directly from the bag as it
doesn’t allow for much control – i.e. the bones fall out either in a massive,
unreadable pile or they fly out in such a scattered way nothing is close enough
to read. Throwing them from the hand allows for a rather contained casting, and
one that can be read easily. I do not include the Self or Other bone, instead,
the Self Bone is placed before the caster and the Other Bones is placed either
in front of the person you’re reading for or simply in the middle of the
casting area. When reading for yourself,
place the Self Bone in the center and discard the Other Bone.
- Throw the Bones. This can be done on a square of cloth on
which a circle (or any number of complex shapes) has been drawn or simply upon
a flat table. If throwing in a circle, discard all bones that fall outside of
it. These bones are null for the reading, though they can also be read as “far
from the person’s mind/current situation.”
- Interpret the Bones. This is done by noting the location and
connection of the bones present. For instance, note the Love Bones proximity to
the Other Bones and the Male Bone. This could be interpreted as being the male
love of the querent – but if the “Evil” bones is introduced, this could symbol
ulterior motives or a hostile or explosive relationship. Read based on both
their proximity to the Other Bone – the closer, the higher priority the matter
is – and their relation to one another. It’s very much like investigating a big
puzzle, putting it together piece by piece to form a comprehensive
understanding of their life or situation. Also not their relation based on the
third dimension: x bone seems to be overlapping y bone – is the x issue
eclipsing an underlying problem or truth represented by y? It depends. Only
through practice will you find clarity.
- Convey the message. I always like to spend a few moments
making a variety of “hmm” noises when reading for others – it builds up their
anticipation. Or you can throw in the occasional gasp or snarky smirk. Their
responses are usually hilarious – even more so when yours are genuine! If you
are reading on your own, it may be a good idea to sketch out a general map of
the readings as opposed to taking a picture as often bones overlie others, which
makes for a rather misleading photo representation. You might also find jotting
down notes rewarding, especially in synthesizing a cohesive read.
- Once you’ve garnered all the information you can from that
particular toss, feel free to specify: take the bone/situation you wish to
examine and toss the rest again over it/them, reading the others through that
particular lens. I.E. Who is this person
mentioned? What are their qualities? What is the nature of this love? What
magic is being referenced here? Follow that rabbit hole as far as you wish,
building your understanding.
Do not be afraid to adjust your style! Want to narrow down a time frame? Make a sort of timeline with the bones. Wish to determine the source of an ailment? Shape the bones into the form of a body. I find the bones allow for far more creativity and ingenuity than cards. And above all – TRUST YOUR GUT.
Photos: These are photos of my “base” bones when I first started reading; since then they have probably doubled (if not tripled) in number and do not incorporate my other animal bones, claws or teeth.