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Bone Reading: A Basic Guide​

Updated: Apr 23, 2023


What is Bone Reading? Bone Reading is a form of divination that uses animal bones, nuts, shells, and curios such as dice or beads...collectively known as "bones" ...to divine information. Each individual bone, or piece, has a specific meaning assigned to it, usually by virtue of the characteristics of the animal the bone comes from or the part of the body represented by the bone. For example, because Water Buffalos were known to be migratory animals, the water buffalo tooth is often associated with travel. In addition, a raccoon penis bone is associated with sex and sexuality for obvious reasons. Other items such as keys, horseshoe charms, coins, roots, pyrite, etc... may also be added for their symbolic value. In times past, the bones were often tossed into a circle drawn on the ground; however, modern bone readers are more inclined to toss them onto a specially marked cloth. Sometimes this cloth may even be the hide of an animal, and this aspect of bone reading will be discussed in further detail below.

The Role of The Ancestors Many Bone-Readers maintain that reading the bones requires a relationship with the Ancestors and many readers maintain, at least, an Ancestor Altar where their bone-sets are stored in a basket, large abalone shell, or leather bag (aka Bone Bag) when not in use. A good relationship with one's Ancestors is of paramount importance because it is not the diviner who is doing the readings so much as his or her Ancestors, Spirits, and Guides who are speaking through the bones. Therefore, each reading should begin with a prayer to the Ancestors for guidance and wisdom. Acquiring Your Bones The fastest and easiest way to acquire bones for the purpose of divination is by purchasing a set online from a reputable company. Such bone sets are generally believed to be ready to go as they are, however, they are also largely regarded as a "starter set" and many folks will often add new items to their set as well as take them away. In this way, no two bone-reading sets are alike. Some folks prefer to gather their own pieces and assemble their bone sets over time. These people often find bones while on nature walks, harvest them respectfully from road kill, or save the bones of animals that they have consumed. Such folks feel that the process of finding, drying, and ritually preparing their bones imbues the bones with their energies and makes them a much more personal tool. Suffice it to say that animals are NEVER killed for the express purpose of taking their bones to be used in a bone reading set. ​ Items such as dice, beads, charms, etc... can be obtained easily from dime stores but sometimes certain curios can be added to your bone set from old jewelry, unused keys, and other things you already have around the house. The Fire Bone The Fire Bone is red. It is associated with heat, stimulation, and activation. In terms of timing it is associated with the season of Summer. The "fire" signs, Aries, Leo, Sagittarius. Creativity, willpower, success in business. The Earth Bone The Earth Bone is green. It is associated with gestation, and growth. In terms of timing it is associated with the season of Winter. The "earth" signs, Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn. Nurturing, birth, renewal, healing. A Journey by land. The Air Bone The Air Bone is yellow. It is associated with thoughts and ideas. In terms of timing it is associated with the season of Autumn. The "air" signs, Gemini, Libra, Aquarius. Freedom, rapid change, strength, power, authority. The power of words, both spoken and written. Communication, and expression. A Journey by air. The Water Bone The Water Bone is Blue. It is associated with feelings and emotions. In terms of timing it is associated with the season of Spring. The "water" signs, Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces. It encompasses all emotions: love, hate, pride, fear, sadness, depression, apathy, empathy, etc... The subconscious, and that which arises out of it. A Journey over water. The Spirit Bone The Spirit Bone is purple. It is associated with the Ancestors (either your own or those of the querant), spirit guides, etc... Spirituality, religion, completion, accomplishment, wholeness, fulfillment, protection, family, a sense of belonging. Adam: The Man Bone The Adam Bone is white, it can represent a man or men in general as well as those qualities and characteristics associated with men. If the querant is male, then this bone represents him. If the querant is female, it can represent either a known or unknown male in her life. Aggression, stability, logic, reason, leadership, athleticism, etc... Eve: The Woman Bone The Eve Bone is black, it can represent a woman or women in general as well as those qualities and characteristics associated with women. If the querant is female then this bone represents her. If the querant is male, it can represent either a known or unknown female in his life. Passivity, psychic ability, intuition, secrets, things hidden, the unknown, creativity. Heart: The Love Bone The Heart Bone is red and pink. It represents love, friendship, affection, romance, marriage, art, beauty, anything about which the querant is passionate. It can represent a love-interest or a querant's lover. The Horseshoe: The Luck Bone The Luck Bone is red and green. It represents the force of luck, both good and bad. Cycles of life, a turning point, sudden change. Swiftness, the unexpected, a surprise. Picture The Pyramid: The Bone of Abundance The Pyramid is yellow and green. It represents growth, abundance, prosperity, steady work, wealth, riches, and plenty. It can also represent the source of the querant's income. The Key: The Bone of Opportunity The Key is orange and yellow. It represents wisdom, the removal of obstacles, opening of the way, and is the bringer of opportunity. The key can lock doors as well as open them; it also represents those people who are in a position to assist the seeker in obtaining their goals. The Evil Eye: The Bone of Loss The Evil Eye bone is black and blue. It represents loss, separation, anxiety, ill health, sickness, disease, ruin, set-backs, delays, obstacles. If the querant has an enemy, it will be represented by this bone. The Crossroads: The Bone of Choices The Crossroads bone is white and black. It represents choices, balance, justice, mediumship, spirit-communication, petitioning of spirits, transition, change, agreements, compromise, and sacrifice. It is associated with the dead as well as their final resting places. Hoodoo, magic and the practice thereof. Upright VS. Reversed Bones Some bone readers may choose to read their bones as upright or reversed, in a manner similar to Tarot Cards. Those bones which fall upright are thought to be positively aspected, and mean that an energy or condition is present and growing; and those that are reversed represent that the energy of the bone is weakened or shrinking away. To determine if a bone is upright or reversed you may wish to choose a bone that has two distinct sides when making your conjure bones. The second bone pictured comes from the thigh of a chicken and both ends are fairly even. In this case you may wish to designate one color as heads and the other as tails. Alternately, you may mark the bones in some way to indicate which side is heads and which is tails. I would suggest a plus sign (+) to represent heads and a minus sign (-) to represent tails, or simple painting or drawing a dot on one end to the bone to represents heads. ​When the bone falls heads up, it represents good luck; and when it falls tails up, it represents bad luck. As a reader, you will have to decide for yourself if you wish to consider reversals in your readings as well as how you will determine if a bone is upright or reversed. ​Blessing of the Bones Before use, your bones should be blessed and consecrated. Each bone should be cleansed in cool running water, laid out to dry, dabbed with a little Florida Water and smoked in incense. ​Finally, each bone should be presented to your Ancestors and told what the bone means. This is done to establish a common "language" between you and your Ancestors / Spirit Guides. When not in use, your bones should be stored at your Ancestor Altar in your bone-bag or bone-basket. ​Throwing the Bones As stated earlier, it used to be that the bones were tossed onto a circle drawn on the ground. However, modern bone readers are more inclined to toss them onto a specially marked cloth. A common motif is a circle divided into four equal quadrants. Sometimes this cloth may be the hide of an animal. If you desire, you can still toss your bones onto a circle drawn in the dirt. ​Just like other forms of divination, many bone readers develop their own style and methods of reading while staying within certain generally accepted parameters regarding the system of divination used. For this reason, no two bone readers will read the bones in the same way---especially considering that there is no standard bone reading set. Suffice it to say there is no right way to read the bones, there are no rules, and even the bone reader may alter the way in which they read the bones each time they are cast. When you are first learning to throw your bones onto your casting cloth, you will have to experiment with them somewhat to determine the best distant to hold your bones over the cloth before releasing them. If you are too close to the cloth, they may not spread out enough; if too far away they may spread out too far and the fall could damage the bones in some instances. ​With practice you will find a healthy balance. There are several ways in which the bones can be read when they are cast. The choices include, but are not limited to the following: Left to Right Orientation The bones may be considered as a timeline read from left to right. Those bones which fall on the left representing the past; those in the middle, the present; and those on the right representing the future or outcome. ​It should be noted that any bones that fall outside the circle or off of the reading surface are considered "out of play" are are not usually read. Distance from the Reader In this instance, the bones are thrown and the ones closest to the reader represent the past and those that fall a little further away represent the present; and finally, those farthest away represent future possibilities. Non-Linear Orientation When interpreted from a non-linear perspective, the bones are thrown as before; however they are read without regard to any notion of a time-line (i.e. bones on the left are the past, bones on the right are the future, etc...). The bones are simply read as a whole as well as individually and the reader allows spirit to guide him or her with respect to the their message, timing, etc...

Marking the Reading Surface Some readers may designate each sector of the circle as representing a different area of life. For example, the circled cross divided into four quadrants may represent love, money, health, or the unknown. Such reading surfaces may vary widely. In some cases they may be painted on mats, or embroidered cloths. In addition, the manner in which the surface is marked may also vary widely as well. A popular and common method makes uses of a large Astrological Wheel (a circle divided into 12 sections representing the signs/houses of the zodiac which, in turn, represent various areas of life). As you can see from the photo at left, the reading cloth is not limited to a circle. Neither are you limited to using an astrological wheel, you can designate each section of your reading cloth however you like so long as it is it decided upon before casting your bones. ​Hide & Seek: Reading the Bones on an Animal Hide Some bone readers choose to read their bones on the tanned and preserved hide of an animal. Sometimes the hide may be from the same animal, or species of animal, as the bones that the reader uses for his or her bone reading sessions, but this is not necessary. In fact, many bone reading sets today incorporate bones from several species of animals. ​In some cases it may be that the animal in question is one with which the bone reader has a connection or affinity such as representing personal or family totemic energies, but this is not always the case either. The decision to use or not to use an animal hide to cast one's bones on, as well as what type of animal to utilize, is a personal choice which the bone reader must make. The Position of the Bones on the Hide When bones are cast on an animal hide, one may consider the area of the body over which the bones settle as they can determine the area of life to which the message of the bones are referring. For example: The Head- Bones that fall over this area will give an idea or indication of the seeker's current state of mind, or their thoughts surrounding the question that they put to the bones.

The Neck- The head is the crown of the body, but the neck can turn the head in any direction it desires, therefore the bones that fall here represent external factors that influence the individual or situation.

The Chest - The chest area covers the heart and so those bones which fall here represent the person's feelings about their situation, which may or may not be different from their thoughts. This sector also covers their hearts desire and often their true motivations.

The Front Left Paw- The word "left" comes from the Latin word meaning "sinister", and bones which fall here represent the force of opposition, if any, working against the seeker.

The Rear Left Paw- This area covers the past and those factors and influences which are passing into history.

The Front Right Paw- Bones that fall here indicate what is needed or called for to address their situation or issue to stay on the "right path". This area will also indicate their allies and helpers.

The Rear Right Paw- This area represents the future or outcome of the situation.

The Groin Area- This area covers sex and sexuality. It also represents those patterns of thought and behavior which they continue....these patterns can be either positive or negative in nature.

The Tail- The tail covers the anus which is that point where waste leaves the body, and so the bones which fall here give an indication of the lesson(s) you can take away from this situation.

Bone Scrying Bone Scrying is an aspect of bone-reading that not all bone readers practice. It involves the interpretation of the patterns in which the bones fall despite the individual meaning of the bone itself. In those instances that a bone reader observes such patterns, it is one of the first things the reader will look at before interpreting the individual bones and their relationships to one another. Bone Scrying is highly intuitive and one is said to be led in this by the spirit of the bones themselves. Some common patterns are as follows: Upright Triangle- When the bones form an upright triangle it is indicative of growth and manifestation of something. The bones that form the triangle will give an indication of what is growing or manifesting.

Reversed Triangle- A reversed, or upside down triangle means some influence or condition is shrinking away.

T- Shape- This pattern indicates blockages. The energy of one bone is blocking another.

Parallel Lines- Bones that form parallel lines (like an equal sign) indicate a balance between the energies represented by the bones

X - Shape- Bones that form an X indicate a strong wish; the bones the form this pattern can either work with one another or against one another depending on what they are.

Vertical Lines- Vertical Lines are masculine and dynamic. They represent a yes answer.

Horizontal Lines- These lines are feminine and receptive. They represent a no answer.

Diagonal Lines- Diagonal lines represent separation. Look to the bones on either side to see what is being separated.

Horseshoe- When the bones form a U-Shape, or horseshoe, it represent good luck; but when the U is upside down it represents the loss of luck. In some instances, with a little imagination, the bones may suggest specific symbols such as a desk, car, or tree. In these instances such symbols are read in accordance with your own understanding of them. For example a car may suggest movement (which direction is the car going); or a tree may represent slow growth, etc… How Many Bones? Perhaps a majority of the time you will cast all the bones in your bone-reading set. However, there will also be those times in which you will only grab a few at random and toss them to read. For example, you may have a quick question or need to clarify something that was divined in a previous reading. In these instances you simply reach into your bone bag or bone basket, grab only a few bones, and toss them on the reading surface to be interpreted. In other instances you may grab a few bones as described above and drop them in one or more groups which are read individually. The meaning of each bone-group must be determined before hand. For example, you may decide upon three groups representing the past, present, and future. Alternately, you may wish for guidance when trying to make a decision between two choices and so you pull two groups representing the probable outcome of your two choices. The Importance of Ritual The practice of divination in and of itself encompasses a ritual and/or contains ritual elements. The basic procedure includes: Posing a question. Randomizing the oracle, such as shaking the bone bag or bone basket. Casting the Oracle (throwing the bones or drawing bones out of the bone bag). Interpreting the results. Beyond this a reader may personalize their ritual as little or as much as they like. Rituals are important because they have meaning and power for those who perform them. When performed correctly, over time they act as triggers to open the intuition and places the mind of the reader in a receptive state conducive to successful and accurate divination.

A Bone Reading Ritual

The bones are stored in a leather bag, bone bag, and kept on an Ancestor Altar when not in use. Between questions they may be deposited into a large abalone shell used for this purpose. As part of bone-reading ritual, light a candle at the Ancestor Altar and place a clear glass of water on it, as well as light some incense. Pray to your ancestors for wisdom and guidance. Then remove the bone bag and casting cloth from the altar and take them to a table where they are read. However, in some instances you may place the casting cloth on the floor in front of the altar and cast them there. When reading the bones for another individual have them sit across from you with the casting cloth between you and them. Give them the bone which corresponds to their gender to hold and to act as their signifier . That is, if they are a man, have them hold the Adam Bone; if they identify as female, have them hold the Eve Bone. Explain that they are to close their eyes and focus on their question or issue about which they would like to know more. Explain that when they are ready that they should lay the bone down on the center of the cloth. As they are thinking of their question or issue, gather the remaining twelve bones in your hands and silently ask for your Ancestors to commune with the seekers Ancestors and bring us the answers that are needed to address their issue or question. When the client lays their bone down on the cloth signaling that they are ready, Hold the remaining 12 bones up to them and instruct them to breath onto the bones (essentially breathing their question into the bones). Then cast the bones on to the cloth. ​When you are done, the bones are gathered into the bone bag and placed on the Ancestor Altar again. The candle, along with the water, remains on the altar as an offering of thanks to the Ancestors for their assistance.

Bone Relationships When thrown, the bones are not only read in relation to where they fall within the circle, but also in relation to one another. In this way, the meaning of a bone in a reading may expand, diminish, or other wise be altered according to its relationship to other bones. For example, the Man Bone next to the Abundance Bone on the right side of the cloth may augur a meeting with a man who will offer you a job. The Love Bone next to the Evil Eye Bone in the lower left side of the cloth may be an indication of a past hurt over a lost relationship which has an affect on the client's present situation. Other expamples include: Spirit Bone + Eve Bone = A spiritual woman

possessed of great wisdom and insight.

Evil Eye Bone + Adam Bone = A jealous man.

Earth Bone + Eve Bone = Pregnancy

Fire Bone + Eve Bone = A fiery tempered woman, a red-head

Heart Bone + Adam Bone = a loving man.

Evil Eye Bone + Pyramid Bone= Financial loss, losing a job, unemployment.

Evil Eye Bone + Earth Bone = physical sickness, disease, ill health

Evil Eye Bone + Horseshoe Bone = Bad luck, hardship

Air Bone + Eve Bone = An air headed woman. A Blonde woman

Pyramid Bone + Evil Eye Bone = A business deal is delayed.

Heart Bone + Water Bone = A relationship "cools"

Spirit Bone + Crossroads Bone = The spirits are with you. You will get your wish. Again, if we consider time as a linear force moving forward, from left to right, then we must consider the order in which bones fall when they are next to another another. For example, let's say that the Adam Bone falls to the left of the Spirit bone, then the man is seeking out the spirits, petitioning them for assistance. He is seeking his own spirituality and things of the spirit. Now if we switch that and the Spirit Bone falls to the left of the Adam bone then it is the spirits who are following the man, communicating with him, sending him signs, etc... Some folks may find interpreting the bones to be somewhat intimidating at first and so they may want to start out with a few easy methods and graduate to more difficult means of throwing the bones as they progress. Beginner Bone Reading Techniques Bone Reading is an art that takes practice to master. It is a process that takes a lot of time depending on how much time and effort you invest in the art as well as your own "giftedness" in divination. When first starting out, it would be best to begin with some basic techniques to develop divining skills that you can build upon. Daily Draw A good way to incorporate Bone Reading into your daily routine is to draw a bone from your bone bag or bone bowl at random and read it as a theme for your day. As you go through your day, look for signs of the bone's message or energy in the people that you meet and the events that transpire. Record your daily draws in a bone journal for review later. As you become more proficient in this practice, you may wish to blindly reach into your bone bag / bowl, grab a few bones at random and toss them on your reading surface. Study the configuration of bones before you, look for a pattern that speaks to you and record your prediction(s) in your bone journal to determine your accuracy or inaccuracy. When you get comfortable with this technique, you can expand your bone reading practice by throwing all the bones at one. Even then it may be helpful for you to break up the configuration into separate groupings and read them separately. Divining a Yes / No Answer Remove all the bones from the bone bag in which they are stored, except for the Adam and the Eve bones. Thinking of your question, reach into the bag without looking and remove one bone. If you choose the Adam Bone (White), the answer is yes; if you choose the Eve Bone (Black), the answer is no. Another method calls for choosing a bone that represents the subject of your question. This bone is held in your non-dominant hand (left hand for right-handed people, and right hand for the left handed) while you think of your question. When you are ready the bone is tossed onto your casting cloth at random. If the bone falls more vertically, the answer is yes; if the bone falls horizontally, the answer is no. Addressing a Specific Question Begin by choosing a bone to represent the subject of your reading. For example, if you are asking about your love life, choose the Heart or Love Bone; if you are looking for your financial outlook, choose the Pyramid or Bone of Abundance. Shake the bones in the bone bag and then reach into it and pull out a bone one at a time. As you pull out each bone, lay them in a straight line before you, moving left to right. When you get to your pre-chosen bone, this is a signal from the Guides that the next bone you pull will represent your answer. You can count the number of bones it takes you to reach your pre-chosen bone and this will give an indication of the number of days, weeks, months, etc... it will take before you see resolution or manifestation on the question. You can use your intuition to guide you or determine the length of time each bone will represent beforehand. If you desire, you may wish to incorporate it into your question. Three Bone Draw to Address an Issue or Problem Think of your question and, one at a time, draw three bones out of the bone bag laying them in front of you in a straight line. The first bone represents your problem or issue. The second bone represents what is needed or called for to address the issue or problem. The third bone gives an indication of the most likely outcome of following the advice of the bones. Intermediate to Advanced Techniques ​Combining Divination Methods The Conjure Bones represent a complete oracular system of divination. However, some readers choose to combine the bones with other forms of divination to add a new dimension to their readings. We have already seen above how some readers cast their bones on an astrology wheel, in this section we will explore how the bones may be combined with other forms of divination. The Tarot The Tarot is another system of divination. It is a card based system comprised of 78 cards divided into 22 Major Arcana and 56 minor Arcana. The Major Arcana typically relates to matters of a high significance or a deep purpose whereas the Minor Arcana concerns itself with matters of mundane, every-day living. Simply stated the cards are operated by shuffling and laying them out in a card spread. Each position in a spread has its own designation (i.e. the past, the future your hopes, your fears, etc...) and the card which falls in each position is read in relation to that designation. When combining reading the bones along with reading the tarot, you have two choices. They are: Reach into your bone bag or bone basket and pull one bone at random and place this over the tarot card in a tarot spread. The meanings of both the tarot card as well as the bone are considered and an interpretation is given. Again, reach into your bone basket and grab a few random bones tossing them over the spread. The bones are read, along with the tarot cards, in relation to where they fall on or about the tarot cards. The same method(s) may also be used with other card-based divination systems such as the Lenormand and Playing Cards. The Bible Bibliomancy is the practice of using the Holy Bible to divine information. Practitioners often have their own systems of operation but generally speaking a question is posed while holding the book, it is then opened to a random page with eyes closed and one's finger is also randomly placed onto a page. The passage on which one's finger falls is then read and interpreted. To use the Bible to divine information, think of your question and then pull a random bone unseen from your bone basket. Next, open the Bible at random and toss the bone onto the page. Your bone will cover several verses, you can choose to read all the verses covered or you can choose to read only the topmost verse to which the bone points. This will represent your answer. If there is any doubt about the top-most verse, you can also read those verses that follow and are also covered by the bone. They are: Oh Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee. Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full or troubles; and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit; I am a man that hath no strength. Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more; and they are cut off from the land. Reading over these verses we must imagine these words being spoken by the seeker's future self. Take a moment to re-read them again paying close attention to those passages which I have underlined. Here he is describing a situation in which he is deeply troubled, he may be considering suicide. Not only he, but his co-workers, have all lost their jobs and are vulnerable to the harsh cruelties of the world. Lastly, he is cut off from his family and friends on the other side of the country with no source of income. Again, I would advise the seeker not to accept this position.


Please go read the blog: Traditional bone reading with chickens https://www.tswickedwonders.com/post/traditional-bone-reading-with-chicken-bones


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