Throwing The Bones: How To Make And Use A Bone Set
Witchcraft and divination often go hand in hand. I can vividly remember my first exposure to tarot reading and being entranced as I learned to read and feel the cards. Some witches prefer oracle cards, or tea leaf reading, or pendulum dowsing. These are all amazing divination methods but there’s one type of divination that I don’t see all that frequently in the modern craft: Bone Throwing.
It may seem like an archaic and very dated way of peering into the future but throwing the bones can provide some unique benefits to witches that other methods can lack. This form of divination gets you really in touch with your inner voice, the psychic part of yourself that just knows and simply needs a little nudge to unlock your true potential.
What are throwing bones?
Throwing bones are essentially just a set of tools used to read fortunes. They usually consist of bones (obviously), shells, trinkets, and other such miscellanies. No two bone throwing sets will be the same, each witch crafts and collects their bones based on their personal throwing style and often a set will change significantly over time.
Each piece of the set has a meaning but the meaning of the individual pieces is not as important as how the pieces relate to each other. How they fall, where they touch, the distance or lack thereof of each piece comes together to form a narrative that helps to illuminate the question that the caster has asked.
Many people avoid bone throwing because it seems like a difficult form of divination to learn. It seems very interpretive and not terribly concrete and a lot of people are used to the fairly cut and dry meanings that you can find in beginners tarot books. While bone throwing is certainly more interpretive and intuitive than other forms of divination, it’s not difficult to learn. The creation process is actually the most vital step of learning to use them, it familiarizes you with your personal set and unlocks a deeper connection with your tools than you may have been able to build with commercial divination tools.
Throwing Bones: The Pros and Cons
That said, throwing bones aren’t for everyone. Here’s a quick rundown of why you may, or may not, want to give bone throwing a try.
1. Throwing bones are entirely personal. As you’ll see below, there’s a standard set that I recommend you begin with but from there you can add and remove pieces, make things up, and adjust to your liking in any way you see fit. There’s really no right way for your bone set to be!
2. Bone throwing is also an excellent way to harness psychic power if you just don’t quite know how to tap into it. This method of divination will help you access those deeper psychic messages and improve your intuition massively if you need that.
3. There’s also something to be said for how straight up badass this form of divination feels. There’s something about it that really helps you to connect with the earth, with past generations of witches, and with your own primal nature. This is a tool made from what you have available, natural items, hand-me-down trinkets and such. It’s shaped by your reality and your circumstances and that is something that is often lost in a digital age. If you sometimes find yourself struggling to connect with the physical, human part of your spiritual self, bone throwing can feel like a revelation.
1. Bone throwing can be a fairly volatile form of divination. If you’re not in the right headspace, are having a particularly “blocked up” day psychically, or the bones simply don’t like your question, you may get no answer at all! Thankfully, it’s usually easy to tell when this happens. A reading will feel flat and uninspired at times like this and you’ll know to simply put the bones away for another time.
2. If you’re not someone who has a psychic side, this kind of divination might never work for you. Now, I want to make it clear here that I firmly believe that EVERYONE has psychic capabilities, but only some people know how to access them. Some people have blocked these abilities since childhood. Some people have been told that their intuition is silly and not worth listening to. Others have discounted their imagination so many times that they think that any idea not directly related to physical reality is definitely fake. And many of them don’t realize it! If you don’t have any kind of psychic capabilities right now and would like to learn, I fully believe that it IS possible to learn that skill and bone throwing might be a great tool to help you work through those barriers.
3. Bone throwing sets can be quite delicate. This can make them a little more difficult to travel with and a lot harder to read in public spaces (it’s definitely not fun to have a bone go skittering across a crowded floor to potentially be stepped on and crushed!) If you do a lot of divination in public spaces or you travel a whole lot, it might be hard to keep a set of throwing bones intact. There are ways to mitigate damage while traveling but if you’re in this boat, you may want to consider making your set with sturdiness in mind.
How To Collect And Create Your Own Bone Set
Creating your own set of throwing bones should be a fun, intuitive process. It may be something you do all in one afternoon but more than likely, this process will take you a bit longer. Once you start, the pieces tend to just find their way you to. You may start with 3 pieces, or 5 but as you go about your regular life you’ll start noticing things that just beg to be added to your set. People will drop by with strange gifts for you, you’ll find odd items that call to you, and before you know it your bone throwing set will be complete.
So what kind of items are you looking for? Despite the fact that I am calling this a bone throwing set, the items don’t all have to be bones. In fact, if you feel squeamish about it, you don’t have to include any bones! For me, collecting feathers and bones and pretty rocks was always a favorite pass time but you might lean another way. Perhaps you love seashells or you have a collection of antique trinkets. You can include things like buttons, bits of driftwood, bottle caps, crystals, carved wood figures, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The main criteria should be whether or not it speaks to you.
Does it feel right in your set?
Each item will represent something in your set. You will need to choose one bone to represent yourself (this should be comparatively a bit larger than the rest). What meanings you attach to each bone are up to you, below is a list of what I’ve included in my set in the past but if you do not want some of these, or you feel that you need some that are not represented here then feel free to change things up to suit your preferences. Just make sure you have enough pieces with a wide enough array of meanings so that you can get more detailed readings and not be left grasping at straws.
- The self
- Yes (or as I prefer to call it, the green light bone)
- Evil/Bad intentions
- Female (these gender bones are useful when you don’t know who is involved in a situation and want clarification)
- One/Many (this should be a two-sided item)
- Truth (this shows your hearts true desires)
- Other (for if you want to read for someone else)
- Fated or Decision (another two-sided item indicating whether or not you can change the situation)
My current set does not have all of these pieces and yours doesn’t have to have every single one either. If you want what I would consider the absolute basic set, use numbers 1-6, 9, 10, 11, & 13. That’s 10 pieces and will give nice detailed readings without taking forever to collect each piece.
Please take your time with the finding process. If it falls together quickly that’s great but if it’s going slowly don’t rush it. There’s nothing worse than a bone set that isn’t cohesive and won’t be read. Save yourself the frustration, give the process plenty of time, and trust your intuition when it says, “Ooh! That thing!”
If you like, you can consecrate the bones to their purpose but I have always found that they simply know. Those pieces that find their way into my set are meant to be there and are well aware of their purpose.
When you have all of your pieces and you’re ready to begin learning to use them, you’ll also need a throwing cloth. This is a piece of cloth with markings on it to help the reader identify how important each piece is.
The basic setup is a cloth with two circles on it, one inside the other. The smaller circle is everything that’s directly involved, inside the larger circle are things indirectly involved, and everything that falls outside of that isn’t a factor. My personal throwing cloth is simply a black cloth with a gold halo spray painted on it. Things that fall in the circle are relevant, in the halo are vaguely related, and outside are irrelevant. Feel free to play with this basic setup, try different styles, or make up your own. Remember, this divination set should be completely yours!
It’s also a good idea to have a bag or a box to keep all of the pieces together when you’re not using them. Lost pieces can throw off an entire reading.
When you’re ready to begin using your set, it’s time to start really digging deep and finding your psychic self. Don’t worry though, we’re going to take this step by step.
Begin by setting up your cloth on a soft surface. Very hard surfaces can cause pieces to go bouncing away, I generally read on a carpeted floor or a yoga mat.
Set the self bone in the very center of your cloth. Take the rest of your set in your hands (or a bowl, whatever you prefer) and focus on your question or the situation you would like illuminated. You can toy with the bones, shake them a bit in your hands or let them pour from one hand to the other if it helps.
When you’re ready, cast the bones onto the cloth. This can take some practice, you may find that when you first start everything falls in a clump all in one spot or you may find that you send most of the pieces flying off the cloth. Try it as many times as you need to get comfortable throwing the bones so that they spread out on the cloth but not off the cloth, though one or two pieces flying off the cloth can be indicative of things that are REALLY not involved.
Now comes the part that I cannot teach, this part you must learn. Reading the bones is a little bit different for everybody. Observe how the bones fall, make sure you know which piece represents what meaning and then simply let your mind fall blank. Don’t over think it. Don’t try to figure out what it says. Just be still. Listen and wait. See if anything comes up. Is there a narrative playing out in your head that matches the bones? Can you “feel” what some bones are trying to convey? Do you have a thought persistently nagging at you? Pay attention to these things, they might very well be your intuition telling you the messages that the bones are giving you.
If you don’t feel anything at first, it’s ok. Like any magical skill, this one can take time to get right. Experiment, work at it regularly and pay attention. Half of psychic intuition is simply learning to be aware of the messages you’re receiving. And of course, have fun!