Bones aren’t placed on altars for just aesthetics. Magicians use these bones for spirit work, magic, and divination. One of the most popular uses for bones is osteomancy.
Osteomancy, also called bone throwing, is a form of divination that is interpreted from a tossed bone set. It can provide detailed answers to complex questions, from careers to hobbies to relationships. This attention to detail makes bone throwing my preferred form of divination.
If this interests you, here’s how you can gather a bone set and start divining.
What Is Bone Throwing?
Bone divination has existed for thousands of years. In ancient China, diviners examined shoulder blades, a practice called scapulimancy. During the Shang Dynasty, people burned an ox shoulder blade and divined the cracks in it. Today, people call this pyro-osteomancy.
Evidence of bone divination also stems from Japan, Korea, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Serbia, and Greece. The form of osteomancy that people know today--which involves tossing sets of bones, shells, rocks, and other materials--likely came from American Hoodoo. In Africa and Asia, diviners would put those materials in a basket, shake them, and then toss them onto a mat or circle.
Gathering Your Bone Set
Gathering bones can be a daunting task. Some people find them in nature, and others buy them from ethically-sourced shops. If you want to gather bones, know that certain countries and U.S. states have laws and regulations against collecting bones. Even some bird feathers are illegal to take. Research your local laws before exploring.
You can also purchase bones from Etsy sellers, antique shops, or taxidermy stores. Most taxidermy stores get their bones from research or university donations as well as personal collections. Some butcher shops sell meat with bones inside. I got my set from a cattle spine that I cut and cleaned.
Along with bones, osteomancy sets also feature other materials. Shells (bones of the sea) and bark (bones of the earth) are common.
Here are some other examples of objects that many diviners include in their sets:
Diviners often include objects that they feel drawn to or have some symbolic meaning in their faith or culture. For simplicity, I’m going to call all the items in an osteomancy set “bones” from now on.
Because osteomancy sets are so varied and personal, it takes a while to curate one. Although there is no limit to the amount of items you can have, I recommend having between four and seven to start. These will give you enough variation to begin practicing.
Assigning Your Bones
Once you have a set of bones and other objects, you will need to assign each a meaning. These meanings vary by set and practitioner. Some diviners draw runes on their bones; some give label each object as a person (woman, man, nonbinary, child); and others give more broad meanings.
As an example, I’ll tell you my bones’ meanings: malice, creativity, career, passion, love, money. I also have seashells that stand for people (male, female, adult, child, etc.). The longer bones in my collection are separators that show which part of your life has a “block.” And finally, the key points to the answer.
Here is a brief list of example meanings, including ones I did not use:
These are just ideas; get creative!
You’re probably wondering, “How do I assign my bones?” This will require a bit of intuition and spirit work. Connect with the bones’s spirits to determine which one means what. The more time you spend “bonding” with the bones, the easier this will be. As a funny example, one of my bones cut me when I was cleaning it. I labeled it as the malice bone.
If you would like help speaking to your bones, check out this post: How to Conduct Spirit Communication with Bones.
How to Cast
Once you’ve assigned your bone set, it’s time to cast. Here are the basics:
How you interpret it depends on your set, the question, and how you cast.
The Many Ways to Interpret Bone
Generally speaking, people interpret the bones by how close they are to each other. For example, if they luck bone and money bone land close to each other, they might be related. Some diviners look at the shape that the bones make and determine an answer from that.
Some people set rules. For instance, I focus on the bones that land within my cloth; the ones outside are not as important to the answer. Others divide their cloth into quadrants and read it that way. I know one diviner whose cloth had butterflies, and the bones near the butterflies have significance to the meaning.
How do you set up these rules? By practicing, of course.
To the average person, a bone throwing reading will look like a pile of junk. The diviner must rely on their intuition and spiritual connection with the set to determine an answer.
Practice and More Practice
As with any form of divination, osteomancy becomes more straightforward the more you practice. The more you cast, the more you’ll have to rely on intuition.
For example, I said earlier that the key in my set points to the answer. But what happens if the key lands outside of the cloth or points at nothing? In that case, I found that the answer might not lie with the question. In other words, the asker might be asking the wrong question or need to think outside of the box.
Performing readings on yourself can be great practice. You can also perform readings for friends or loved ones.
If you have trouble connecting with your bones, spend time with them. Meditate with the bones or keep them nearby while you’re working or studying. Sometimes, spirits attached to bones take a while to open up to a practitioner. Be patient with your set, and you’ll receive helpful answers in return.
Here’s the short version of what you need to do to practice osteomancy:
Do you practice osteomancy, or another form of bone divination? What is your experience? Let me know in the comments below!
7/22/2021 11:14:24 am
Great article, could you expand on how your practice with your bone set? Like how do readings for yourself, and how would you use this on a daily basis to connect more with your set?
8/4/2021 11:28:09 am
Hi Charlotte! These are great questions.
7/30/2021 10:19:17 am
I have always been intrigued with osteomancy, and this is so helpful.
8/4/2021 11:28:41 am
Thanks so much, Cat! I hope you have a fun time practicing.
Brilliant explanation of Osteomancy! I began throwing bones about 5 years ago. My set grew as time passed, and as I became more comfortable with relying on my intuition (not second-guessing if my gut feeling was accurate). If I may, I would like to mention that teeth are sometimes overlooked as eligible items for Osteomancy Sets, but I have found that they are some of my favorite bones to throw! 😆
11/11/2021 11:40:04 am
Hey Graphia!!! I’m wanting to know how you included teeth into your set and what you assigned them to? I’ve been wanting to include teeth in my set but I’m having a hard time figuring out how I’d go about that :)
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