The spiritual practice of using bones can be found in different cultures dating back thousands of years.
The use of bones for magickal or spiritual purposes can be most commonly found in some practices of hoodoo, shamanism and folk spiritual traditions.
As morbid as this may seem to some to use bones for spiritual practices, there are often “ground rules” on how to obtain and collect bones (which can vary from practice to practice) and above all, a deep respect is a must for the bones that are used.
The viewpoint of this post on bone magick and divination is from a modern witchcraft perspective.
Bone divination and magick in the past has been used and to this day is still used by some cultures; if you’re interested in this type of magick, take time to explore if or how your cultural ancestors practiced or worked with bones.
Here, we’ll cover an introduction to bone magick and bone divination.
We’ll also include where to find more information and even how to properly and ethically collect your own bones for ritual, magick, divination or simply as a collector’s item.
What is Bone Magick and Bone Divination?
Talking about bones can be a touchy subject and has been controversial for centuries.
It’s explicitly stated here that nothing should be killed for the sole purpose of magick, spells, or collecting.
(Like seriously. Common sense, right? Right.)
Bone collecting for any kind is the result of death by other means often natural or through animal hunting (often for food, etc.) or even roadkill.
Bone magick or divination is certainly NOT a requirement for any witchcraft practice and is merely a personal preference by some witches.
That being said, bone collecting should only be done ethically and through sustainable sources.
Bones which belonged to an animal or even a human (i.e. their body part and bones) can continue to hold part of their energy/spirit even after death.
Everything has an energetic “imprint” and depending on how strong someone’s or something’s energy is or was, an energetic imprint can remain a long time or indefinitely.
When using bones for magick or divination the practitioner can “tap into” the energy of the bones and/or ask the animal (or even human – but that’s a much trickier topic only for very experienced and trained magickal practitioners and is not recommended) to assist with the magickal working.
Ethics and Respect for Bones
Firstly, animal magick and working with animal bones is generally considered more natural and less complicated than using any human parts.
Animal bones are more accepted socially and culturally.
Let’s talk briefly about the dilemma and ethics around human bones and osteology.
I won’t sugar coat here and say that it has not been done historically in the past nor is not still done in any part of the world, but there’s a requirement for a deeper understanding and respect when using human parts that’s best left alone or to those who culturally understand it.
To be clear, magickal workings with human bones is NOT encouraged here nor will it be taught or suggested.
Generally, in the Western world and in most places, working with human bones for magick isn’t done or encouraged.
For historical purposes and reference, it was centuries ago that corpse magick was done in Iceland and in Germanic countries which was outlawed as a form of witchcraft.
If curious about these historical practices in Iceland and the Nordic/Germanic countries centuries ago, check out the book The Language of the Corpse: The Power of the Cadaver in Germanic and Icelandic Sorcery by Cody Dickinson.
It can’t be stressed enough that working with bones requires care, respect and dignity.
Bones require respect and a special place of their own in your home where the bones won’t be disturbed, cluttered or played with.
Culturally, human bones require a lot more respect and care and only serious and respectable collectors should consider this.
Magick with human bones is much more complicated and generally not recommended at all for good reason. (For the sake of common sense, just don’t use it for magick.)
In any case of collecting bones of any kind, be sure that they are sourced ethically and sustainably.
Bones should never be sourced for the explicit purpose of collection or magickal purposes.
Instead the bones are often the result of some other means and therefore the remains are not left to be thrown away.
Most bones are salvaged, cleaned and sold by oddity shops which many take great care and respect for their items sold.
If you’re interested in collecting your own, be sure to do your research well into shops.
At the end of this post are a few shop recommendations based in Canada, US and the UK regions.
Also, be sure to know your country’s and state/province’s laws about osteology and bone collection.
Some countries prohibit the sale or buying of bones or remains of certain animals, some bones are restricted from being removed from a state, province or country, and some countries prohibit the sale, buying or collection of human or animal bones.
Working with Animal Bones in Bone Magick
There are two general or broad options when working with animal bones:
1. Working with the animal from which the bones come from.
This can mean asking for the animal’s assistance, for them to do your bidding, lending their energy, etc.
This process requires the animal to want to assist you and also requires a rapport and relationship with the animal first.
This process takes time and can be done through offerings, ritual, meditations to meet and connect with the animal spirit of the bone(s).
2. Working with the collective energy of the animal.
Different cultures also have definitions of what certain animals represent collectively and often in regards to animals that are native to a specific region or continent.
The bone(s) can be used to connect with the collective spirit of the type of animal that the bones are from.
This idea or belief shouldn’t be confused with “spirit animal” which is unique to Native American spirituality and has its own special meaning.
The spiritual essence of what the animal represents can be different depending on what culture you’re referencing such as Celtic, Eastern European, Asian, Eurasian, African, etc.
To best understand what the spiritual essence or representation of an animal is spiritually, have a look at your cultural background and heritage and see how your ancestors viewed the animal in spiritual terms.
To work with the animal as a collective spiritual energy, this can be done through meditation, ritual and offerings.
If you have an animal spirit guide, you can also use the animal bone to connect to the collective animal energy that is your animal spirit guide (as long as the bone is from the same kind of animal that your animal spirit guide is.)
To know more about what a collective meaning of an animal is, try a search online for “(name of animal) spiritual meaning”.
To know more about animal spirit guides, check out Connect and Work with Animal Spirit Guides.
How to do Bone Magick in Witchcraft
There are different ways that bones can be used in magick.
The best kind of magick is performed intuitively, however here are suggestions on how to add bones to a magickal working:
Bones can either be added to a spell or be the focal point of a spell or magickal working.
Just like other correspondences used in magick and spells such as herbs, crystals, planetary and astrological aspects, the elements / elementals, colour magick, animal spirit energy can be added to a spell with the help of bones.
Adding a bone to a spell with the energy of the animal or collective energy of the animal spirit can be done to add or draw a quality of the animal to your working or you can ask the animal to assist with your working.
For example, if you need something quick and cunning, you can use a fox skull or bone.
For wisdom and teachings, you could use a wolf skull or bone.
Depending on the size of the bone (or even skull), the bone(s) can be added to an altar where the spell is done or can be added to a charm / mojo bag with herbs, crystals and/or oil and carried on you (or the person) to do the working or draw something towards / away from you.
Bones and skulls can also be used for meditation and astral work to help you connect with the energy of the animal that the bones belonged to or to the collective spirit energy of the animal.
To work with the animal energy in astral work or meditation, simply hold the animal bone or skull or have it placed near you and focus on the bone or skull.
Speak with the bone or skull and the animal and allow yourself to feel its energy.
Allow the conversation to flow.
If you wish, you can record any messages or feelings that you receive from the astral working or meditation.
This method can be done also prior to any magickal or spell working that you wish to do with the animal bone to ensure that the spirit of the animal and bone accepts and wants to help you with the magickal working.
Be sure to always get permission or the “go ahead” from the animal first before using any bone or skull in a magickal working.
Important note about Bone Magick:
Before using any bone(s) for the purpose of magick or spell work, be sure to ask the spirit of the bone if it will be acceptable to work with the bone for the magickal purpose.
This can be done psychically and intuitively sensing or hearing an answer or you can use any form of divination to get your reply.
If you feel that it will be OK and that the energy/spirit of the bone agrees to your working, then you may proceed.
If get the feeling or message that the spirit of the bone doesn’t want to participate, then don’t use that bone in your magickal working.
Keep the bone or skull in a safe place on display or placed neatly in it’s own protective box or case.
If you feel that the energy of the bone doesn’t mix well with your energy and you no longer wish to have it in your possession, then it may be best to find the bone a new home for someone who will take care of it.
Bone divination is a unique form of divination that varies from culture to culture, regionally and globally.
Different cultures have had different methods of divination using different types of bones, sometimes by throwing the bones or by means of fire.
In most cases of bone divination, there aren’t any “set rules” and is rather a quite personalized form of divination.
Bone divination will vary between diviners and practitioners, that each practitioner will have their own method and means of prediction or finding answers through this means of divination.
For many practitioners of bone divination, ancestral spirits and/or spirit guides are consulted during the reading.
The practitioner, like many diviners, will also have a special bond and connection with their bones and will take great care of their bones.
“Throwing the bones” is a term for a type of bone divination that not only uses some bones, but also other “trinkets” that are added to the mix.
The small items and bones are thrown on a rug or specially designed mat, then depending on where the items land on the rug or mat, the practitioner gives an answer to the proposed question.
This form of divination and the items in the mix are often collected by the practitioner, but some kits can be found online.
To know more about bone divination / reading, check out this explanation post by Carolina Conjure for how to do bone divination.
To learn how to make your own bone divination set and how to use it, The Traveling Witch also has a tutorial guide.
Where to get Bones and Skulls
Below are three places to check out in Canada, US and UK.
Depending on the item, some items are shipped internationally from each of these places.
To search for more online and in your region, search online “oddity bone collections (your country and/or state/province).
Always be sure that the oddity shop advertises as ethically source, sustainable and cruelty-free.
Canada: Skull Store Oddity Shop
USA: Curious Nature Shop
UK: Decorus Macabre
Keep on witchin’,
Stacey and the Tarot Pugs
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