Bone Magick: Working with Bones in Witchcraft

Even inside the witchcraft community, bones are a controversial topic. Outside the community, it's considered completely taboo and only acceptable around Halloween, during Scorpio season when the taboo takes up space in our psyche. We see witches everywhere this time of year, alongside skulls and skeletons and other things the average person deems scary.

Bones symbolize death, as it is the only thing left behind after we leave the material world. When we are stripped down of our flesh, all that remains is a skeleton. There is a connection between magick, darkness, and death. These things are unknown and it is natural to feel fear surrounding these topics. There is a fear that if we strip everything away and look deeper we might not like what we find. 

The Importance of Death In Witchcraft

Witches have been vilainized for centuries and so has darkness and death. Every religion has their own idea of what happens after death, but no one can know for sure. When we are uncomfortable with the unknown, we fabricate answers, such as a place you go after death or the idea that witches are wicked and nothing good happens after dark. 

But those of us who work closely with the cycles of nature see death not as something to fear, but as something that is natural. Every month, the moon goes dark and is reborn at the New Moon. Every year, nature goes to sleep in the autumn and renews itself in the spring. Every winter, darkness overtakes the daylight. Therefore, the things that remain after death are believed to be powerful items for magickal workings.

Sourcing Bones Ethically

Our ancestors used every part of an animal out of respect for the life of that creature. In our modern lives, we are disconnected with where our food comes from and we don’t think past what we see at the grocery store. Using bones in your witchcraft practice can help connect you to the natural world. Even if you’re someone who chooses not to consume animal products, this may connect with you in the way of wild animals dying naturally. 

If you come across an animal skeleton on your nature walk, you may ask permission from the earth to take those bones. One of the most important parts to remember when collecting bones is how these bones got to you. Do you know how this animal was treated while it was alive? In the same way we don’t think about our food before it is on our plate, you should dig deeper and ensure the bones were sourced ethically, whatever that may mean to you.

How to Use Bones

No matter where you sourced your bones, they should always be cleansed. The bones belonged to a living thing at one point so there will be some type of energy attached. If you found them in the wild, clean them with peroxide first before cleansing. You can use whatever is your preferred method of energetic cleansing, such as smoke, salt, sound, moon water or Florida Water, just to name a few.

  • The first way you can use bones in your magick and witchcraft practice is to display them. You can set them on your altar as a sacred object and honor the death of that animal.
  • You can also use them in spells. This one is more controversial among witches. Some utilize their magical properties for spell work and others don’t believe in energetically using animals in the same way they wouldn’t energetically use people. But if you believe that everything has consciousness and a spirit and that plants are equal to humans and animals, you might find that you like to use them in the same way you would use an herb for its magical properties.
  • Another way is to work with the spirit of that animal and channel its energy. Understanding the symbolism of each type of animal will help you with this if you are able to identify which animal it is. Necromancy is one of the many parts of witchcraft that Hollywood has co-opted, but put simply, it is communicating with spirits. By continuously working with the spirit of the animal through its bones, you may form a relationship and receive messages and guidance.
  • If you work with deities in your practice, there are several dark goddesses that are connected to skulls, such as Hecate, The Morrighan, Kali, Hel, and more. Especially if you have bones from animals connected to the specific goddess you work with, you can display them beside or in place of a statue as a representation of your deity.
  • Lastly, you can use bones along with other charms for divination, often called bone casting or throwing bones. This is a highly intuitive practice since the items thrown are individual to you. Take time to build a casting set with objects that mean something to you and assign them with meaning, whether that be related to the time you came upon them or something that item brings to mind. 
For the casting area, there are endless possibilities but a few common examples are to section it off for past/present/future like a basic tarot layout, or use a wheel shape and assign each pie slice with a different area of your life. As with any divination method, you’ll want to have a question in mind before you begin. Toss them across the area like dice and interpret accordingly.

Do you work with bones? How do you use bones in your witchcraft practice?

Written By: Sarah Esmae Wolfe @sarahesmaewolfe

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