Category Archives: Tools

What is a mirror box?

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Eshu Protection Mirror Box

An Eshu mirror box to house protection talismans.

In modern Vodun and diaspora systems, a mirror box has a variety of uses.  Basically, it is a box that has mirrors on the inside.  The purposes of these depend on why they are there.

Mirrors, aside of being sacred to Oshun, and to some degree Boyuto, capture and reflect a person’s image.  This captures and reflects Ashe in some cases, or aspects of a person’s Ori in others.  It can also shield or amplify, as the mirror itself has its own Ashe and natural characteristics.  Much like crystals, they can be given a purpose depending on their natural options.

Inside a box, it can shield the outside world from the box’s contents by reflecting the energy of the object inside back to itself.  It can capture a person’s image while making a request or prayer in order to “program” objects such as crystals or nkisi.  It can aid in imprinting a talisman housed in a box onto its possessor.  It can also help to amplify the power of an object.

Mirrors in a mirror box are numbered and arranged according to their purpose for being there.  Their shape is also relevant.  Square or diamond shaped mirrors are generally used for protection, containment, and sometimes “hexing” when a curse is for justice or preventing someone from doing harmful things.  Round mirrors are generally used for love and emotional issues, and also for radiating energy.  Triangular mirrors or mirrors arranged in a triangular pattern are often used for fertility, charisma, and worldly power.  Different people may have different ways of doing things, but these are generally the standard.

Vodun FAQ: Elekes, Ilekes, Collares, Pearls, Necklaces

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What is an eleke?

ElekeAn eleke is basically a string of beads.  It can be in the form of a necklace, a bracelet, an anklet, a kneelet, an armlet, waist beads or breast beads.  In the context of Vodun and derivative systems, it is a string of beads that represents Vodun itself or a Spirit or Deity within or syncretized with the system.  They can be dedicated to one or multiple Spirits, including one’s ancestors.

Not all African or diaspora systems have a tradition of wearing elekes.  Because there is a lot of cultural exchange, some may borrow traditions from other groups though.  They may make use of different patterns based on their local or personal beliefs, so not every Eshu eleke for instance, will look the same.  Some may have alternating black and red or black and white, or three black, three red, or a combination.  Sometimes it depends on whether or not the eleke has a dual purpose of both representing a deity and giving a related blessing or trait to the wearer.

Since Vodun is not really a representative faith, when we say “represent” what we mean is “simultaneously symbolizes, embodies, and calls”.  So they don’t merely represent the Spirits.  They are something like tendrils of the Spirits that a person mindfully constructs and consecrates.  The artist is the tool more than the object.

Where do I get a real eleke?

You may buy an eleke from a shop, receive them as a gift from family or a blood level friend, or receive them formally from the person in your community or “house” who has the authority to give them, or receive them from a solitary practitioner or Obeah-person who is at least of a level that they can make talismans that work.  The first eleke you should always buy or receive is that of Eshu, regardless of who is the Spirit of your head.  Its colors and patterns will depend on your house or priest/ess.   It will usually be black and red, black and white, or black white and red, in patterns of threes.

A real eleke will be made by hand, with each bead strung by hand.  It should never be made in a sweatshop or by literal or de facto slaves forced to make elekes.  You can usually tell by the price.

It takes a skilled beader, working in a state of near trance, at least an hour to make an eleke.  While making it, they will be singing to the Spirit(s) they are making it for.  Different people make different wages in different parts of the world, but if it costs less than an hour or two of minimum wage in the part of the world the shop is in, it is very likely made wrong.

Then there is the cost of supplies, and if they are supposedly made by someone at the priestly level, the costs of incense and other things needed to bless them.  Unless they are getting all their supplies for free, which some people do, they should be at least in the arena of $10-25.

Some can afford to charge less, or are happy to take a loss, but the vast majority of real eleke makers at least need to make their costs back.  So buyer beware.  If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.

As has been mentioned in the comments, some believe that the only good way to receive an eleke is from one’s “godparents” or mentors. Though it is by far, not a universal thing, I would have to say that if you are in an area where this is the common practice, you should respect that and be ready to explain. Nowadays, many are suffering from “one true wayism” and have been misled, and this is not their fault. They place way too much importance on certain items because they don’t know that there is an authentic way of making ceremonial necklaces, and since none of us is going to sit and chew glass and gum here in the diaspora, folks should lighten up a bit.

Actual Yoruba, Bini, Akan, Fulani, and other tribal and ritual necklaces are totally different than the lightweight Czech and Japanese beads most people are wearing in the diaspora. If someone’s elekes are different or differently sourced than yours that is not your business. Yes, it is bad that this aspect of our culture is often copied, but they can’t copy the blessing. A string with no beads that has a strong blessing is better to have than a greed gained string of pearls.

How do I wear my eleke?

Elekes can be worn for ceremonial purposes, or in daily life, to keep a Spirit close to you and on your mind.  It can also let other practitioners know that you are their brother in Vodun.  To people who don’t know the codes, they’ll just look like beaded necklaces, but to someone who does, it lets them know about you in a similar way to people knowing your astrological sign.

For ceremonial purposes, you should always put on the eleke for Eshu before putting on others.  In daily life, you can wear that of another Spirit alone, but you should at least touch your Eshu eleke first.  Wherever you hang or store them, the Eshu eleke should be stored first.

If you like to wear them in daily life, it is best to have a set for ceremonial purposes, and a set for daily life purposes.  Your ceremonial elekes should never see the inside of a toilet room, or be worn for any purpose but ceremony and ebo.  If you do corrupt them, you must give an offering to apologize to Eshu and the Spirit(s) you offended.

That said, if you participate in certain activities, your elekes will get dirty.  You may clean them with fresh, clean water.

What activities are permissible for you to do while wearing even a daily wear eleke depend on the Spirit it carries.  Orun may allow you to wear his eleke while tanning or frolicking on the beach, but Osu may prefer his eleke be covered in the day and only worn outside the clothing at night.  Know your Spirit, and you’ll know how to wear their eleke properly.

Can I put a pendant or ornaments on my eleke?

Aje Shaluga and Oshun ElekeAgain, it depends on the Spirit’s preferences, but generally, you can.  The pendant should correspond with the Spirit.  You would be ill advised for instance, to wear an Oya pendant on an Oshun eleke.  Many elekes are made with pendants.

Can I make my own eleke?  If so, what is the standard?

Yes you can make your own eleke, but I strongly recommend that you not do so unless you are advanced or under the supervision or guidance of an advanced practitioner of the priestly level.  By priestly I mean that they are living so deep in the Spirits that even their diet and sex life is guided by the Vodun.

You should be at least of a level that you have made talismans in the past, and have seen that they work.  If you can make working talismans, you can make elekes.  Basically anybody can make them, but if anybody makes them, they should make them correctly.

You should research the Spirit(s) you’ll be making elekes for.  Start with Eshu.  When you have reached the level where you can competently give offerings to Eshu, and make talismans for him, then you can also make elekes for him.

Yes, it is a lot of studying to do to learn to bead a necklace, but elekes are not normal necklaces.  If it makes you feel better, some teenagers who grew up in Vodun can do it.

Okay, I have made talismans in the past.  How exactly do I make an eleke?

Give an offering to Eshu on Monday, and ask his permission to make elekes, and for which Spirits.  Then do readings for confirmation.  After you have gotten permission, you may proceed.  You must also give an offering to the Spirit(s) the eleke will carry.

It is best to make the eleke on the day that corresponds with the Spirit you’re making it for.  Traditions vary, but you should be mindful.  Whatever your daily schedule of observances normally is, you should stick to that.

An eleke should be made in both the colors and numerical pattern of the Spirit you’re making it for.  If you do not know, then this is one of the things you should ask when you are doing the readings after getting permission from Eshu.

Ideally, an eleke should be made from natural stone beads.  Because this can be expensive, it is acceptable to make them of glass, wood, or even plastic beads, depending on what one can afford.  The cord should be white or unbleached natural colored cotton or linen.  It can be waxed or not.

It should be beaded in a continuous, unbroken pattern if there is no pendant.  If there is a pendant, it should be done in a mirroring pattern.

Something I have found in my personal practice is that a daily wear or formal “party” eleke with a clasp is stronger when it starts with three alternating red and black beads.  This makes up for it not being a continuous pattern.  It starts with a visual and tactile request for Eshu to open its power.

That was…vague.

Yes it was.  The exact ceremonies and offerings involved with making elekes are passed down from elder or mentor to student.  Nobody telling the truth will tell you every single detail involved.  This is not an elitist thing though.  It is to protect our methods from people who will hurt themselves and others by co-opting Vodun and diaspora systems without the proper respect.

Remember that Vodun is Nature, and Nature includes the spiritual, physical, and psychological.  These things in the wrong hands can, aside of spiritually, be psychologically and physically damaging to those who have not gone through the things one needs to go through for these things.  Eshu likes to trick the arrogant, the lazy, the silly, and the greedy.

What does it mean if an eleke burns my neck?

You may be allergic to some pigment used to make the eleke.  You should try one made of undyed natural stone or plastic beads.

If it is made of undyed natural stone or plastic or glass that has not been coated with anything, it could mean that the Spirit it carries is trying to tell you something.  It could be that there is danger near, or that you are about to do or have done something to offend them.

It could also just be that it has accumulated sweat and dirt from your body and needs to be cleaned.

What do I do if my eleke breaks?

In my tradition, you may re-string it, but you must start the procedure over again, with offerings of apology for breaking a sacred object.  Some of us have “veteran” elekes that have sacrificed their beauty multiple times to protect us.  Broken beads are given an honored burial, and the remaining beads are strung on a new eleke.  The broken string is burned honorably in a censer.

In some people’s tradition, a broken eleke is to be completely disposed of.  What you should do depends on your traditions or divination guided instructions.

What does it mean if my eleke suddenly breaks on its own while I am wearing it?

If it just all of a sudden breaks or one or more beads explodes a little or cracks while you are wearing it, this means that its Spirit is fighting something that caused him/her to rush to defense, and this was too much for a mere physical object to bear.

Stop, look, and listen.  You have likely entered a situation that is spiritually and/or psychologically dangerous for you, and need to get away.  Thank the Spirit for protecting you.  Give them an offering, or have your priest/ess give an offering on your behalf.  The eleke can be re strung with the remaining beads.  Any that have broken should be buried, just as you would bury a crystal that had shattered for the same reasons.

Can other people touch my elekes?

It is not advisable that you allow others except maybe close relatives, apprentices, or assistants to touch your private ceremonial elekes.  Your outside wear elekes should be consecrated regularly, and if you like, can be touched by others.  However, it is best that you not allow anyone to touch your elekes if you are uncomfortable with them or sense a lot of negativity in them.  This will make them prone to breakage or other damage.

From the other end, don’t touch people’s elekes without their permission.

How do I store my elekes?

Your private ceremonial elekes are best stored in a box or bag away from other mundane jewelry.  Your outside wear elekes can be hung up in a special place on your altar or in your dressing area.  Just try to protect them from dust and damage.


Reading Bones

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Reading Bones an Introduction to Osteomancy by SheloyaTo provide a bit of background for my Hoodoo Bones system, and to show the way to the next step for those who’ve bought or made their own set, I’ve decided to write a bit on reading actual bones.  There are many traditions from many cultures, but they all work well provided the reader is in tune with Eshu and Ifa or whatever the name is that they call them in their own culture.  By the way, the official terms for divination by casting bones are osteomancy and ossomancy.

In Yoruba and close cultures, they have diloggun, which is the reading of the cowrie shells, and other sorts of readings according to the Ifa system.  This is a very old and accurate system, and I encourage all prospective bone readers to at least learn the basic principles of it or amathambo, the southern African method of bone reading.  Then you’ll have a context for other diaspora or Hoodoo methods such as dice and domino divination as well as others.

Because I am of mixed African and Catawba ancestry, and I live in Israel, the Hoodoo way works best for me.  I live in an ethnically diverse area in the mountains of Elijah and near the sea, so I cannot ignore things in order to stay traditionally African.  You may get the most out of methods closer to your ancestry, but mind that you may also get more out of whatever your adopted heritage is.  It is not at all about race as in color, but about the combination of your genetic heritage and literally the earth from the environment that permeates your blood and flesh.  Especially if you eat naturally and usually locally, your body has joined with the ground you are standing on.  When you are working with natural forces, it is best to be natural, not overly traditional.

You may have a religion, but the Earth does not.  One must adapt to their environment in order to thrive and survive.  One must also not refuse connection with the local flavors of spirituality or the people around them who they serve.  If you put a barrier between yourself and the people you are reading for based on your own personal racist or elitist sentiments, you of course will not be able to give them accurate readings.

If you are learning to read bones, and would like to discuss it in a more private area than the site comments, go to Witch University.  It’s free, and you can learn a lot.

Selecting Your Bones

In the general Hoodoo method (traditions vary, mind you), the first time that you dedicate a set of bones, they should be the full or partial skeleton of an animal properly sacrificed to the Orisha of your head, or from your spirit animal who has died of natural causes or legitimate hunting.  By legitimate hunting, I mean someone went out to the woods, hunted it, and killed it, or it came to a human populated area and had to be put down.

You should avoid killing an animal that may belong to someone, including those who have new pups.  Also, be mindful of your local hunting laws.  If your animal is a feline or canine, you do not need to do the killing, and this is not recommended because even if they are stray, someone likely cares for them.  Simply wait until you encounter one who has died on the road.  If it is a chicken, go to a farm where these are raised and select your bird according to the offering/sacrifice rules of your Orisha, and have a priest of Ogun, a Jew trained in kosher methods, or a Muslim trained in halal methods do the deed.  Remember, we are all children of Yemaya regardless of our politics.

Cleaning and Consecrating the Bones

The best way to do the initial cleaning is to let nature do the job.  Bury them or leave them out in a place you know they won’t be carried off.  After six months or so, for sanitary purposes, you may want to bathe them in 35% or higher hydrogen peroxide.

After they are cleaned, they should be consecrated.  This varies by tradition, but as a general rule, Eshu, the ancestors, and Ifa should be called upon.  Then they should be passed through sacred water, sacred fire, sacred earth, and sacred air.  Then do the first reading to learn the animal’s name or what kind of name they would like to be called.

Reading and Rounding Out Your Set

The skeleton is your base set.  Each type of bone has its own meaning, and this varies by tradition.  However, generally, head bones belong to Orunmila, and the head is the container of the Ori.  So depending on the context, skulls or parts of skulls could refer to the Supreme God or to the state of the person’s soul.  Vertebrae belong to Eshu.  Just as the spine carries messages from the nerves to the brain and back, Eshu is the gatekeeper between the physical and spirit realms.  Humeri belong to Yemaya.  Phalanges and claws belong to Ogun.  Teeth represent specifically divine movement through a particular Orisha.   Canine teeth and upper beaks represent war or conflict.  Pelvic bones belong to Oshun and/or Yemaya.  The The baculum belongs of course to Shango.  Horn tips belong to Oya.  You get the point.

If your animal is a snake, you may have to go by where the ribs and vertebrae correspond to placement of various organs on the snake’s body.

In any case, when you throw the bones, you are looking to see how well your base set conforms to the actual skeletal anatomy of your animal.  The closer they are to it, the more okay things are.  It’s a “no news is good news” thing.  If they are more disarranged, this means there is an actual message that may be good or bad.

To help you to read more accurately, or for confirmation of what it is your base set is trying to say, or to boost their energy, you may want to add other objects, shells, or bones from other animals.  A rattlesnake’s rattle, for instance, can tell you whether or not there is a warning of danger.  An Oya’s mirror can tell you whether the reading is about the past and present or the future.  A piece of Obsidian (which belongs to Aganju) may tell of what lies ahead during travel or a journey.  Add whatever objects you and your guardian spirits deem necessary.

Caring For Your Bones

Your bones should be kept in a safe place, and not handled by people you don’t trust.  You should keep one of them with you as often as possible.  If you tend to lose things, keep it in the “you” section of your altar, but touch it often.

Aside of consecrating the bones themselves weekly, you should cleanse and purify your hands before touching them.  Never ever touch them with dirty hands.  Don’t leave them laying around in the bathroom or something unless you have to take them with you to protect them from someone you don’t trust.

Burying Your Bones

At some point, the bit of personal energy of the animal that is left in your base set or other bones you have added may tell you that it is time to let them rest.  At that point, you should give them a nice funeral.  Seriously, if you have made a lot of money from them, or gained some status from them, the expense and grandeur of the funeral should match this.  They should have a stone marker of their burial with their name on it.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Divination Bones

Can I buy a set of bones or do I have to acquire and treat all bones and artifacts myself?

Technically, you can buy a ready made set of bones, but it just won’t be the same.  Some fur traders and scientific supply stores have full skeletons, and if you ask for a specific type, they will get it for you.  The problem is that you wouldn’t know what kind of life the animal had or whether or not it was properly killed.

So if you’re going to buy, it is best to buy the whole animal and then you can say what is and is not to be done with the bones.  If your animal is a cow, then if you buy the cow, you get to say which bones or parts of the bones you want reserved, without an argument or uncertainty.

If your animal is more exotic, like a wolf or a bear, then you may have no choice but to buy from hunters or specimen supply stores.  In such a case, you will need to apologize to the animal spirits for anything wrong that was done to them by a human, and give them offerings.

My animal is very exotic, endangered, or extinct.  Can I use replica bones?

Yes you can, but they should be well crafted.  They should be made of a resin or polymer clay that contains some earth from the animal’s native land, or wood from an old tree or bush from there.  The head “bones” should come from near the roots.  The vertebrae should be from the trunk.  The limbs should be from the branches.  Take care when harvesting wood from a live tree.  You may kill it or make it vulnerable to disease.  I would use wood from a tree that has already fallen or has been freshly cut down for a good reason, such as to make way for younger trees to grow.

Can I use human bones?

Not without explicit permission from the person.  Animals in the wild and on farms are used to being prey or life and death competition.  You may at some point actually encounter the bones of an animal who resents having them used after their death, but those who’ve walked this path a ways have also encountered animals who didn’t want their bones thrown in the garbage.  Some have felt, while eating an animal, that one in particular, especially roosters or “alpha” members of their herd or group wanted some amulet made from their bones.

Humans usually definitely don’t want their bones harvested, but then some do.  Some people donate their organs so that others can survive physically, and some people may well donate a part of themselves to help others survive emotionally and thrive spiritually.

Another thing to take into account is that humans are your own species.  There is such a thing as being way too in touch with your mortality.

Some well regarded priests and nuns of eastern faiths do donate their skulls or other bones to use as spiritual tools.  Usually this is done so that their body becomes a statue to the deity of their head.  They are giving all, including their body, to their deity.  One should consider that when this is done, the area they are housed in becomes a sacred shrine.  You may have heard stories about how some westerner unwittingly bought a Tibetan or Indian priest or priestess’s skull and now will not let anyone touch it, underwent a personality change, etc.

Humans and possibly other intelligent animals can consciously direct their energy, so any human (or dolphin or whale, or…) artifacts should be handled with the utmost care.  It is not something you should do to be cool or out-goth your friends or something.

If your path is that of a warrior who is in actual wars, this is a good reason to accept a human bone that comes to you.  In this case and ONLY in this case are you to accept a part of your actual enemy that has become dislodged during the battle.  Taking trophies on purpose is illegal though.

If you are afraid that some bones may go into the wrong hands and be disrespected, you may acquire or purchase them to bury or enshrine.  Ask the spirit what you should do with them.  Even though some may have asked to have their bones preserved and repurposed before their deaths, they may be ready to rest now.  Respect that.

Misinformation and Mudslinging

Update November 6, 2014: Since I wrote this article, many more bone readers seem to have come out of the woodwork.  Some are coming from older traditions, and some are using my innovation, Sheloya’s Hoodoo Bones, while others have made or discovered their own ways.

Of course, some were quick to start calling everybody frauds, without actually looking into each reader to see if their methods were sound.  Even though I was one of the main writers responsible for reviving this style of divination on the internet, I think this is very bad form.

You see, even though I helped to bring it to the attention of more diviners and rootworkers, I certainly didn’t invent osteomancy, nor do I or have I ever claimed that my way is the only way there is.  African and diaspora spirituality covers a very wide range, and we live in many different climates and environments, and come in many different mixtures.  So there is no one way that is the only way for everyone.

I can’t tell you who is real and who isn’t specifically, because I don’t spend a lot of time looking for others to berate or belittle.  I can tell you though, that it doesn’t matter how they came into the knowledge, as long as they have it.  I don’t care if they got it from reading my articles, someone else’s, a book, a video, or a friend or mentor.  It is truly irrelevant, so long as it’s spiritually and metaphysically sound.

My only real worries when it comes to this is whether or not the diviner knows their method well, is a good spiritual counselor overall, and most importantly, if they respect the Spirits/forces of Nature they are working with.  A lesser, but still important concern, is with the trending aspect.

The bones require someone who is very aligned with Nature, and this is whether we’re talking about literal bones or tiles/runes.  One has to be able to visualize in more than two dimensions, consider multiple possible time streams, and differing perspectives, all at once.  It requires a certain level of maturity, experience, and consciousness that one is helping people to get through real life issues.  One can neither afford modernist over-idealism, nor postmodernist cynicism.

I suppose this may be one reason why some traditional adherents and conjurers may panic when looking around and seeing a proliferation of bone readers.  Moreso than the tarot or other more straightforward methods using the Odu Ifa, Bible verses, etc. one has to be more than a reader.  One must be a seer.

Seeing what has become of the Nordic Runes, I share some of their concerns.  I will stop short of calling someone who is sincere and has the technique a fraud, but I will express concern with any traditional or culture/ethnicity heavy method being taken too far away from its origins.  In order to truly understand the Nordic Runes, it definitely does help to have some Nordic ancestry, as well as Nordic traditions passed to one through heritage.

Crossover and overlapping is fine, but stripping of the culture from the method is not fine at all.  This has happened in far too many cases, where people apply whatever meaning they like to a rune, despite its actual meaning, and don’t understand that they’re also magickal, not just symbols.

So it is my hope that as bone reading becomes more popular, those who stay with it take the time to speak to the elders and traditional practitioners of established, living faiths with unbroken or less broken lines.  One may be good enough at reading to give a reading, but one needs to be good enough at life to give a good reading.

Voodoo Dolls

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Shango Lighting Love Voodoo Doll PinThe use of dolls, figures, and sculptures is pretty universal in the world’s faiths.    However, what is commonly known as the “Voodoo” doll, which someone uses to perform what’s called sympathetic magic, by which what is done to the doll is done to the person the doll is modelled after, is a European invention.  It’s called a poppet.

In Africa, doll like figures were used as charms or “homes” for spirits, or as sort of physical realm bridges for them.  In Haiti, some people make a messenger doll and secure it to a tree in a graveyard to carry a message to the ancestors.  Bochio and nkisi are examples of these types of figures that may have been confused with poppets by Europeans.

Whatever their origin, Voodoo dolls apparently work well enough that Africans in the diaspora adopted them.  Today, a Voodoo doll can be either a portable charm fashioned after an artist’s impression of an Orisha, guardian, messenger, or deity, or a sympathetic magic tool.  As a sympathetic magic tool, it can be used for many things, not just curses.  For some, it is even used by people who are particularly strong in magic, to protect and guard people who are weaker or vulnerable for some reason, or merely loved by them.  Some have dolls for their whole families and friends, and their entire known pantheon.

You can have a doll made by an expert, or make them yourself.  Different sects and individuals have different requirements as far as materials.  Generally, they should be made of natural materials, though some use plastic buttons, or polymer clay to make parts like the head or brain or heart pieces because they are less degradable and symbolic of the person’s soul or Ori enduring after the body dies, aside of being easy to acquire.  Stone is, however, a natural material that survives longer than cloth.

Dolls made for the Orishas should contain items that are sacred and attractive to them.  Dolls made for humans should contain items that appeal to their Ori.  If they are a child of or have an affinity for a particular Orisha, then items sacred to that Orisha should also be a part of their doll.

If you are beginning to make dolls, the first one should be some sort of Eshu figure.  Remember, he opens the gate.

There are other things to keep in mind when making dolls, but I don’t want to give out too much specific information.  What works for me may not work for someone else, and traditions vary.  Basically though, it’s not just a matter of making a doll and using it.  There are also different steps for preparing a doll that is pre made, and one that you are constructing on your own.  The timing also matters.  Just as you would get readings and consider astrological conditions when building any other kind of figure, you would do so when making dolls.

If you intend to use pins to help focus a particular energy, then they should also be made with care, as should any clothing or other ornamentation you’ll be using with your dolls.

Sheloya’s Hoodoo Bones System

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Hoodoo Bones also called Voodoo RunesSo you bought or made a set of Hoodoo bones, and now you want to know how to use them?

They’re about the same level of difficulty as Nordic runes.  It will take you some time to learn the symbolism if you have no experience with Vodun or African mysticism, but once you get it, you’ve got it.

I (Sheloya) invented this system, but it is inspired by old traditions such as Hoodoo shells and bones, Yoruba and Lukumi diloggun, amathambo, and Nordic runes.  In fact, you could consider Sheloya Bones a kind of primer for osteomancy.  This will get you used to this style of divination, but ultimately you may add other artifacts to your collection of bones, or replace them entirely.

Bones or Bones?

For the sake of clarity for those who are new to the internet, this system is an innovation, and not itself ancient, though it is inspired by other ancient systems.  This is something new.  If you were looking for information on the old ways, click here for an article on what I was taught about osteomancy from mixed Hoodoo, Obeah, and African Yoruba/Bini/Fon/Igbo diaspora practices, and click here for an article on Throwing the Bones from the Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers.  Click here for an interesting article on Umuthi and amathambo, which details the signs that someone needs to study divination.  Click here for an article written by someone who is deciding whether or not to undergo an initiation/training process.  Click here for Dr. Corbeaux’s blog entry on black cat bone readings, and to order one if you like.

You can discuss bone reading with others at Witch University‘s Skulls and Bones Society.

Now, if everyone is clear and understands that my bones are tiles that are to be used either alone, or with the addition of other bones or objects, and not osteomancy by themselves (except when they are made with bones or bone fragments inside, which some may be), let us continue.

If you do ever replace the whole set with your own objects, you should clean your blank bone with salt water before gifting the set to another mystic…which brings me to the first instruction.

What to Do With Your New Bones

The first thing you should do before you use your bones is consecrate them.  How you go about this depends on your personal belief system, but the ritual should include:

  1. asking Eshu for access to the spirits
  2. calling upon Ifa to bless the bones and give you the wisdom to make accurate readings
  3. understand that you must tell the truth about what you see, and vow to do this
  4. pass each bone through the smoke of incense
  5. sprinkle each bone with a little saltwater
  6. mark the blank bone with your blood or sweat (preferably from your forehead or navel area)
  7. thank Ifa and Eshu
The Blank Bone

Blank Bone

Thereafter, you should try to keep the blank bone on your person as much as possible.  Don’t worry that the blood or sweat will rub off.  Your energy will remain with it.  If you tend to lose things or are somewhat absentminded or cluttered, you should just keep the blank bone in a safe place like on your altar or wherever you keep the rest of them.  Just remember to hold it from time to time.

Over the course of the next week or month, you will want to open the bones/runes to all your known Orishas or deities.  Have them present when you give offerings or do rituals.  Invite all of the spirits you commune with, including those of your ancestors, to feel free to speak through them.

It is important to remember that Vodun is not a representative faith.  All things are connected, and when through the ritual, you give energy to the bones, they become a kind of being.  They should be respected and treated as if they are a person who speaks to you and to others through you.

They also like to be clean and cared for.  Always handle them with clean hands, and keep them in a bag so they don’t collect dust, or wipe them down with a moist cloth with plain water occasionally.

If you gain a friend or ally because of them, or make some money by giving someone a reading, thank them.

Your Tray

Ideally, when you throw the bones, it should be into a round tray.  This keeps them from rolling away.  You can also throw them on a quilt with a somewhat thin batting.  If you use a cloth, then roll up the edges.

Reading the Bones

The distance from the center of the tray matters.

The Center

  • fire
  • the soul
  • base matters
  • the glands
  • thermogenic mechanisms of the body
  • metabolism

Next Layer

  • Earth
  • land
  • day to day life
  • practical matters
  • the flesh and muscles
  • food digestion

Third Layer

  • water
  • the sea
  • motivation
  • emotion
  • currents and trends
  • the blood
  • hormones
  • liquid digestion

Fourth Layer

  •  air
  • cosmos
  • Orun-realm
  • intellect
  • spiritual matters
  • the brain

The direction matters too, but not necessarily from the top and bottom of the tray or cloth.  For this, one looks to the direction finder bone.

The Bones

Direction Finder BoneThe direction finder tells you how to orient the tray or what is the most important aspect of the matter.  If there is a bone touching it (with the picture side up), especially near the arrow, then this is the thing that is most important or pressing.  If there are no bones touching it or very close to it then this is telling you “this way is north”.  If it is on the edge of the board, the direction meaning is still the same.  If it is on the far edge pointing directly at the querent, then they are saying that it is extremely important that they pay attention.  If it is on the close edge and pointing directly at the reader, that is an extra push that you must tell the truth bluntly and with no “sugar-coating”.

Oya's MirrorOya’s mirror tells you whether  they are telling you about the past and present, or the future.  If the open side is up, it’s the future.  If it is down, then it’s about the past and present.  If the querant has asked about the future, but Oya’s mirror is down, they are saying that things that were done or happened in the past or are going on now, are what will affect the future.  The future is not open to their eyes unless they resolve the issues or at least accept this so they can move forward.

Orisha Bones

These are bones dedicated to specific Orishas/Lwa/spirits.  You’ll need to know something about them in order to get the subtler messages they may have.  Don’t worry though.  They will teach you what you might not learn from books, the internet, or another mystic.

The ones in the photos are not the only ones available.  They are just the ones I chose for this particular set.  The designs can also be simpler or more complex, and in a variety of styles.

Since some Hoodoo practitioners prefer not to call on African/diaspora entities, if your angels or other Spirits can embody objects, you may craft those instead.  Please be sure, just as in the case of having Orishas in your set, you give everyone their due, and treat their bone with the proper reverence.

Special note about the Eshu bone:

Some bones I’ve made with the protection face and ceremonial pitchfork on the same side, and some have one on one side, and one on the other.  Which way I do it depends on the mystic ordering it.

Some prefer Raphael as a Gatekeeper, and others the Cherubim in general.

Symbol Bones

The symbols used for the symbolic bones are standard Adinkra and well-known symbols in Africa and the diaspora.

  • eye = jealousy, possessiveness
  • sankofa heart = learn from your past or return to something or recover something lost in the past
  • Gye Nyame (the power of God) = God/the spirits have the matter in hand or you should stay out of God’s way in the matter
  • Akoben (war horn) = conflict, someone talking behind the back, someone slandering
  • coffin = death, ending, resolution, loss
  • )( overlapping = unity, joining, togetherness, oneness
  • ) ( separated = divorce, breakup, separation
  • fish = fertility, sex, pregnancy, a woman of fertile age, a mother, a whimsical woman, or whimsy
  • cowrie shell = money, prosperity, vested interest
  • spider = wisdom, planning, craftiness, trickery
  • African/Egyptian heart = power of love, marriage, wedding, motherly love, familial love, irrational attachment, love despite bad behavior
  • western heart = romantic love
  • ace of spades = death, extreme danger
  • dagger = backstabbing, double cross, scam, shady deal, hidden danger
  • peacock = pride, self confidence, arrogance, a boaster, a physically beautiful person, physical beauty, aesthetics
  • comb = beauty, self care, caring for someone, femininity
  • lightning bolt = anger, power, a fast change
  • star = hope, charisma, something or someone special
  • grid = family, society, a strong marriage, civilization, politeness
  • spoon = comfort, food, practical nurturing
  • leaf = herbs, plants, farm, growth, prosperity

You can buy a set or individual Hoodoo bones at Sheloya Mystical at: