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!
In the Middle Ages, many grimoires and religious texts were written by monks. Their apprentices would make the inks, and it was a tedious process. Magicians have been creating inks for centuries.
I’ve always been interested in making my own inks, whether it be for my Book of Shadows or protection symbols or prayers. Recently, I finally tried making my own inks, with varying results. I made two: one for spirit work and another for necromancy.
This post is less instructional and more about my own journey. My recipe is not perfect, but it worked well enough in the end. If you are interested in making magical inks, read on.
My Universal Ink Recipe
When I researched ink recipes online, I found a variety of different recipes with different ingredients and methods. But after trying a few and tinkering with them, I came up with this:
Before you start, here are some other tools that you’ll need:
What Is Gum Arabic, and Do I Need It?
I made my inks for dip pens. These are pens that I dip into ink and draw with. Because of this, I needed thicker ink, hence the four teaspoons of gum arabic. If you are making ink for fountain pens, you should use less gum arabic, around ½ to one teaspoon. Use too much, and your pen could clog.
Also--If you can find liquid gum arabic, get it! I bought it powdered, and it’s hard to stir in. The powder immediately starts thickening the second it touches liquid, and it takes a while to dissolve it. I have not tried the resin, but I imagine that it is not much easier.
It took a few tries for me to find a suitable gum arabic ratio for my ink. The same might happen for you. If you find a different recipe, let me know in the comments below!
Which Ingredients Color the Ink?
Finding the right ingredients to color your ink could be a challenge. As a general rule, if a food, flower, herb, or liquid stains your fingers when you pick it up, it’s good for ink. Here are some examples that I did not include in the recipes below:
If you steep a certain herb or flower, and it creates a specific color, it will also work for ink. Examples include chamomile, peonies, hibiscus, rose, lavender, lily of the valley, and daffodils.
But what about magical associations? After all, the entire point of making magical inks is to make them magical. Here is how I made my own ink recipes:
If you cannot decide which color to choose, check out this post about color magic and correspondence lists.
If you want your ink to have more magic, consider adding incense, graveyard dirt, moon water, tea bags, or herbs. I’ll provide some examples of how I made my own magical inks below.
Red Ink for Spirit Work
My first ink was designed to enhance spirit work. I want to use it to draw protection symbols and summoning circles, and I made it red.
First, I wrote down a list of ingredients that could make ink red: raspberries, turmeric, marigolds, red onion skins, and rooibos tea were some contenders. In the end, I settled on these ingredients:
Specifically, I added one cup of chopped beets, two tablespoons of dried rose petals, and two cones of dragon’s blood incense.
To say that this mixture smelled weird while simmering was an understatement. But it made a deep, purplish red color close to blood, which is what I wanted. After following the recipe I detailed above, here is how it turned out.
It is a light, purplish red color. I have to shake it before using, similar to other inks. If you want to make it more red, perhaps you can add more rose petals than I did.
Black Ink for Necromancy
My next ink was black, and I wanted to gear it toward death witchcraft, specifically. I’m going to use it for necromancy symbols, decorating bones, and writing prayers to my ancestors.
Although there are many ingredients that can create black ink, I settled on charcoal. It is essentially ash and appears dark enough (or so I thought).
After examining many different ingredients, I came up with this list:
As soon as the charcoal blocks hit the water, they disintegrated. Charcoal does not dissolve, but it does “melt” into the water. I only had myrrh incense sticks, so I scraped off the incense into the water. I added two tablespoons of coffee and a tiny bit of graveyard dirt.
The mixture smelled like myrrh, moreso than coffee. To remove most of the charcoal powder, I had to strain the ink a few times. The coffee seemed to dissolve right into the water.
Unfortunately, this ink turned out more brown than black. If I were to do this again, I would use more charcoal. I only used two blocks for this recipe, so in the future, I’ll use four or five. Like the previous ink, I also need to shake it before using.
Would You Create Magical Ink?
What do you think about these magical ink recipes? Do you want to make your own, and if so, for what purpose? Do you have a better recipe than me? This was my first time making inks, and I have a long way to go. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
On the first week of every month, I ask my subscribers if they have any questions for me. These questions can be about witchcraft, Paganism, or anything else. This week, my subscribers sent me some brilliant questions about haunted objects, deity work, and graveyard dirt. If you're interested to learn, read on!
Have any advice on working with Haunted Objects? Some spirits attach themselves to dolls, furniture, family heirlooms, etc. Not all of them negative entities either.
Haunted objects are a complex topic because attitudes towards them vary basic on culture, location, and folklore.
To start, it is possible to bind certain spirits to objects. Binding is when you force a spirit into a certain location where they cannot escape. Traditional witchcraft features many spells binding spirits to crystals, rings, boxes, and more.
However, haunted objects are not necessarily the result of binding. A spirit might simply be attached to that object; it might hold special memory for them, or they might like to tag along with it. Ignore stories from movies like The Conjuring that say spirits haunt objects to possess humans. If a spirit really wanted to possess you, they wouldn’t need an object to do it.
If a haunted object is bothering you, place some soothing or protective items near it. When I set out jars of graveyard dirt, I’ll keep rose petals, lavender, or selenite near them, which calms the spirits enough to not talk to me every time I walk by. Protective symbols like the evil eye or sator square can be placed next to a haunted object to prevent it from moving.
If this doesn’t work, then the spirit might not be attached to that object. It’s just hanging around. On the bright side, the object is still a direct link to that spirit. Connect to the object’s energies, provide an offering, and perform divination. You’ll likely receive some information from that spirit.
Hope this helps!
What are some tips you would give to a person who just started working with a deity?
Also, the more you practice, the less nervous you’ll feel. Even after 13 years in this community, I still get anxious when I add a new deity to my worship. As you work with Them, you’ll learn how They communicate, what They like, and what They don’t like. Gods are forgiving; I have never heard of a deity throwing someone to the curb for getting an offering wrong.
Since the Gods are patient and forgiving with you, you should also act that way toward yourself. Give yourself time to learn. If a deity doesn’t respond right away, don’t fret. Relationships take time. The more you work, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
I've always felt drawn to bones, death and Hades and I've been starting to feel drawn to spring and rebirth since a few months. Here's the problem: as much as I am a spiritual person, I'm not religious. I don't believe in any kind of Gods or Goddesses, but I am drawn to their symbolism that is very important to me. Can you be an atheist wiccan or an atheist pagan? Thank you in advance.
Perhaps you can work with archetypes. I know people who work with Death as a figure to guide their death witchcraft. I also know people who use Pagan symbols--including runes, the pentagram, and the eye of Ra--without being religious. Certain belief systems, such as animism, focus on spirits instead of Gods.
Whether these terms fit you or not, remember that you do not need a label for your Craft. You can work with what you want, believe in what you want, and not have a term for it. Perhaps the term you’re looking for will come with time.
I know that, when you take dirt from a graveyard, you're supposed to ask the dead. How would I go about asking them? Should I leave an offering too? If so, what are good offerings? And finally, should I ask the living (the workers) before I take it?
These are very good questions.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with a cemetery first. Do you feel drawn to any particular spot? If so, start there.
Give offerings when and where you can. Sometimes, a spirit will attempt to speak with you when you provide an offering. Other times, you will need to sit by a grave for a while. I wrote more about this here: How to Commune with Spirits While in a Graveyard.
I was going to link an “offerings to the dead” post, but then I realized: I don’t have one! I will need to add that to my blog post schedule. For now, here is a brief list of offerings:
When you want to ask for graveyard dirt, simply ask, “May I use some dirt from your grave for ___?” It can be spirit work, healing the dead, protection, etc. If they say yes, you’ll know--you’ll feel the approval. If you sense something wrong, don’t collect it. And if you cannot tell what you feel, wait. You might need to come back or talk to the spirit more.
You do not need to ask the cemetery workers beforehand. Usually, people only take about a handful or two of dirt, which does not upset the graveyard. Do not bring a shovel, and do not take any grave items with you. Only grab what you need, and put it in a plastic bag. When you get home, find a sealed container like a glass jar or mason jar.
For more information, you might want to check out what I keep in my death witch travel altar.
Do You Have Questions?
Do you have any more questions? Did I not explain something well, or would you like more information? If so, comment below. And if you would like to participate in the next Answering Asks, subscribe!