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, especially if you are observant already.
If you are not observant to a particular pantheon or deity, don’t use their symbols for your bones. One would think this would be obvious, but it isn’t apparently. The bones are like little fetishes or embodiments of the deities who speak to you by how they land on your tray or surface. To understand what they are saying, you have to know something of, and be in the process of aligning with that deity. This is also important in how and where you store them.
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.
I called them the Hoodoo bones because it is a new thing and I am African American from the south. I didn’t want to limit it to only one regional pantheon, so Hoodoo was the most inclusive term I could think of. You can call your set whatever you like.
Here are some video lessons on how to use the Hoodoo bones system. If you prefer text and audio, read on.
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.
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 or Orunmila (Different streams have different protocols about which specific aspect, the head divination systems spirit attached to Orunmila, or Orunmila proper. Some also call Oshun for this because of Odus related to her being given divination in general and then Ifa given to Orunmila after.) 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 sweat (preferably from your forehead or navel area. You can use blood, but let it dry completely before putting it back in your set if you have an Ogun in it.)
- thank Ifa and Eshu
Thereafter, you should try to keep the blank, personalized, or Ori 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.