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So 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:
- asking Eshu for access to the spirits
- calling upon Ifa to bless the bones and give you the wisdom to make accurate readings
- understand that you must tell the truth about what you see, and vow to do this
- pass each bone through the smoke of incense
- sprinkle each bone with a little saltwater
- mark the blank bone with your blood or sweat (preferably from your forehead or navel area)
- thank Ifa and Eshu
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.
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 soul
- base matters
- the glands
- thermogenic mechanisms of the body
- day to day life
- practical matters
- the flesh and muscles
- food digestion
- the sea
- currents and trends
- the blood
- liquid digestion
- 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 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 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.
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.
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: http://soulmindbody.net/store/2011/03/01/hoodoo-bones-voodoo-runes-or-african-runes/