Throwing the bones is a very old form of divination that can be found in numerous cultures throughout the world. There are many different approaches, techniques, and even pieces used in bone divination. It is not a divination method that belongs to any one particular culture nor religion.
Some bone readers have bone kits made up of nearly a hundred pieces, while others may rely upon only four. Some readers work heavily with their ancestors, connecting with them in order to provide you a nuanced reading filled with the wisdom of your own ancestors. Other bone readers work more analytically, interpreting the pieces based upon their specific meanings, placement on the cloth, and proximity to other pieces, providing you with a reading that peers into your psyche and aids your inner growth. Yet still, other readers, like myself, work with the spirits that live within each piece of their bone kits, listening to them as they whisper back details of your life, past lives, and even your relationships with your Gods, spirits, and family.
This diversity found within throwing the bones makes it unlikely that you could ever find two bone readers who read the same way or even have similar bone kits. This makes it a very personal form of divination yet it is most effective in reading for others, rather than reading solely for yourself.
What is Used to Throw the Bones?
Remembering that there is no one traditional way to read bones, just traditional techniques tied to specific cultures, the materials used in a bone reading can and do vary. Some traditions have the bones kept in a small basket that is also used to toss them, while other readers may keep their bones in a pouch or drawstring bag and cast the bones from their hands. Some methods and readers will toss the bones onto the ground, while many readers use a specific animal hide, cloth, or even a large basket. Symbols and/or lines may or may not be scratched onto the ground or marked onto the cloth in order to divide the casting space into quadrants.
Bits, Bones, & Curios
While some readers and traditional methods will use only bones for the readings, many readers have kits that are comprised of bones, roots, stones, and curios -small objects. My own kit is such, containing bones, other zoological remains, teeth, roots, stones, and curios. All of the animal remains in my kit have been ethically gathered, some hunted by me or my family, most found in the wild or gifted to me by spirits.
How Does Throwing the Bones Work?
Bone readings can be done in person or over a distance. The reading begins with the bone reader talking with you about your concern or situation and identifying what sort of answer will be of the most use to you. From there, the reader may contact their Gods, spirits, or ancestors to assist with the reading. The pieces are then shuffled and cast. Then the reader will analyze the way in which the pieces have landed, looking at the overall layout, the groupings, and the individual pieces and their relationship to each other. Spirits are listened to and the message is conveyed to the querent. With my own readings, the messages imparted to me by the spirits within the pieces are written down and later typed up and paired with photographs of the reading.
How is Bone Divination Useful in Modern Times?
Although it is an ancient divination method, throwing the bones is useful in modern times due to its versatility and ability to provide great amounts of detail. While the amount of insight that can be expressed within a reading depends on a combination of how many pieces are used and the skill of the bone reader, bone readings are able to provide a clear and objective perspective to current situations in your life, noting your own thoughts and feelings, as well as likely consequences to your current actions and decisions.
While bone divination excels at looking and seeing, it can also provide you with a clearer view of the many options available to you -even detailing which path would be the most advantageous and which would not be conducive to your goals. This snap shot of your possibilities, paired with often surprising details, helps you to better meet your challenges and plan your magick appropriately.
In many ways, bone readings are much like looking at a picture of a landscape on your smartphone. In the photo, you can see the entire scene, every tree, rock, and cloud. But if you zoom in, you’re able to view a part of that scene in extreme detail, seeing the dust cloud of a running rabbit, the moss on a boulder, and the individual petals of a single blossom on a flowering bush. In this same way, a bone reading can provide you with an overview in response to your question or situation, then zooming in and providing you with valuable details that help you to act and move forward.
What Questions are Best for Bone Readings?
Thanks to the way throwing the bones can provide you with a broad and narrow perspective, it isn’t necessary to have a question perfectly worded. In fact, those situations that leave your mind heavy and so full of thoughts that you can’t quite put what you need to know into words, yet you know you need guidance and insight, is often perfect. This allows the bones to look and explore your situation more freely, tracing the energy currents from their source and to the resulting and likely to result consequences in order to better see the connections, to bring to light those pesky things you may be trying to overlook, and to identify opportunities and obstacles.
However, precise questions do allow for focused readings. They allow the bone reader to dig more deeply, asking the pieces for more details within the reading. This negates the need for a follow up reading to explore the situation more fully as the bone reader is able to continuously talk with the pieces, guiding them further toward details -details that you can use to make informed choices so you can move forward more confidently and with greater awareness toward your goals.
How I Became a Bone Reader
Like most aspects of my work as a witch, I came to bone reading through the guidance of spirits. There was no teacher or mentor, no how-to book with helpful charts and correspondences, not even a quick google search to find out how to begin. There was just me, quiet moments of solitude in which to think and feel, and the persistent whispers of my familiar spirits to do this and that it would all make sense at a later date.
The first pieces of my kit were gifted to me by a large Oak Tree with whom I was close friends. Her only words were “use these.” Slowly, the other pieces of my kit presented themselves to me, often showing up at times or in situations that were all too suspicious. Yet each time, the piece would call out, demanding inclusion in my bone kit and stating clearly what it would speak upon if included.
A long had stone crying out to be included; a flash of white while wandering through the forest as a small bone calls out from beneath the ferns; the compulsion to tear through boxes in storage, ripping open old charm bags to free the curio that demanded a new job. One by one, they collected themselves, each lending its voice and enabling my kit to speak more strongly and to speak of more things.
However, despite their excited whispers, my eagerness to learn, and the urgency to do so by my familiars and the Deity to Whom I am dedicated, the first few readings were… unintelligible. And it continued that way. But I am, if nothing else, terribly stubborn. I pushed forward. Three months of daily readings, throwing the bones for every situation I found myself in, finally culminated in the moment I had been working so hard to achieve. Sitting hunched over on the floor, staring at the pieces and straining to make sense of the mess before me, it all finally clicked. I heard the pieces, some individually, some blending and merging their voices to provide greater details. My fingers traced their paths and groupings across the cloth, my eyes wide as I listened intently to their whispers.
Since then, a small few more pieces have been added and my kit and I have only grown closer. The pieces call out to me during the day asking to be cast and they whisper guidance and encouragement to me while I sleep. My bone kit is much more than a tool or a collection of items, it is a potent friend and ally.
In working with my bone kit to provide guidance and insight for others, I take the sum total of my experience as a witch, the decades spent honing skills and developing relationships with spirits and Gods, and the wisdom resulting from the various challenges those Gods and spirits have put me through to provide you with a detailed and nuanced reading that recognizes your own agency in your life and encourages you to make the necessary changes so you can live your life on your terms. While I will not coddle nor fluff your ego, I will help you to develop an effective plan to help you continue to move forward toward your goals.
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Throwing the Bones