For as long as human beings have walked this planet, witchcraft, magick, and the mystical connection between our race and the powerful energy of planet Earth have existed. It’s the primary reason why no religion will ever match the longevity of witchcraft. Despite many attempts, witchcraft has never been eradicated. It has gone underground at times, but each time, comes back stronger and more potent. From the earliest of times, long before any written texts were kept, bone magick has been used for divination, protection, and to summon or invoke spirit animals. Unfortunately, like so many other aspects of witchcraft, bone magick is misunderstood, mischaracterized, and stigmatized. Some cite a connection with death, or darkness, as the reason. Others are fearful of what it can reveal. Strangely, even many practitioners of witchcraft avoid using bone magick for some of the same reasons.
What Exactly is Bone Magick?
Simply put, bone magick is the incorporation of bones and other parts of animals into the practice of witchcraft in any form. The list of other parts can include seashells, tusks, antlers, claws, teeth, feathers, and more, but does not include tissues, blood, or organs. Bones can be incorporated into spellwork, used for divination, cut or carved into magickal items such as wands or talisman. They might also be displayed on altars, used in ritual practices or outfits, or ground into a fine powder to be used in multiple applications, including as a food additive.
Bones and other durable animal parts are significant for many reasons. They give structure to the animal. They survive long after the creature has crossed over to the next world, and they hold the sacred spirit of the creature. It is this connection with the spirit world that makes them powerful tools, especially for protection magick and divination. Our ancestors understood that all animals were given to humans as gifts and that no part of the animal should be wasted. To do so would be a great dishonor to the animal’s spirit, and would bring misfortune on those who defied the sacred laws.
Protection magick comes in many forms, but when a spell of protection is accompanied by a spirit animal, it draws power from the primal wellspring of earth itself. A talisman made from a wolf tooth might be worm on a cord around the neck. An amulet carved from the tusk of an elephant could be carried in one’s pocket. The claws of a bear or part of a turtle shell could be added to a medicine bag to protect the user from harm. By making the connection with whichever animal was represented, the owner could draw upon that animal’s strength in their time of need.
Bone Magick and Divination
Throwing the bones, or casting bones, (osteomancy) are practices which date back to ancient times and span across many cultures and continents. Sheep knucklebones or a mixed lot of small animal bones would be thrown down on a cloth or into a magick circle by a knowing person. Depending on how they landed, the caster would be able to formulate many different things. This interpretation could be prophetic, providing guidance on whether to undertake an event, such as going into battle. Other times it could be a warning, a judgement of another’s character, or to provide advice on events in the future. As with all divinations, the results of the bones were not always clear. Their revelations were only as good as the knowledge and experience of the reader, much the same as we find with modern-day Tarot card readers.
The question often arises when discussing bone magick of whether human bones are used, or even a consideration. The answer is a resounding no. Using human bones is not condoned nor considered as part of the modern day witches practice. Despite the fact that long ago, human bones were used, they serve no purpose today. Grave robbers would seek out the burial sites of powerful witches and dig up their bones for spellwork, believing they could channel their powers from the beyond.
Keeping the bones (or ashes) of the dead for other reasons, outside of witchcraft and magick, is still common. Throughout history, human skulls were kept for various reasons. Sometimes as a trophy of war. Other times by a loved one, who wished to keep the spirit of the deceased person close to them. And it’s no secret that for hundreds of years, that the church would keep the bones of certain noteworthy members in high esteem. These were given a special status of holy relic and often encased in the ceremonial altars of their house of worship.
Bone Magick in the Modern Day
Although most people in the modern world don’t actively practice witchcraft or bone magick, there are signs of its use all over the world. In America, there is a common practice of drying the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey to use for wish making. Some might call it tradition, but it’s a tradition rooted in channeling good energy in hopes of receiving a positive result; now that’s magick. Another popular practice is the use of the antlers, teeth and claws of animals killed in the hunt. Deer, moose, elk, bear and other larger game animals harvested by hunters, are almost always killed to put meat on the family table. True to the ancient practices, nothing is wasted. Making tool or knife handles from bones and antlers infuses the energy of that animal, into it. Necklaces of claws and teeth symbolize the strength and protection of the animal.
Teeth from sharks are worn on cords around the neck, as symbols of strength and protection. Feathers and shells are used for smudging rituals. Horns are still hollowed out to make ritual drinking goblets. Small bones become Norse ladders and feathers are woven into cords to make Witches Ladders. Smaller shells are made into necklaces, earrings, or other jewelry. Hollow bird bones are expertly woven into ceremonial belts and larger ones into throat collars. All of these practices combined, merely scratch the surface of how deep bone magick has been woven into human existence. One person’s fashion accessory, might be another’s symbol of protection and when a hunter displays the antlers of his kill on the wall, he is actually inviting the great spirit of the deer to watch over his home.