Con Huesos, 3: The Ossuary

Now that you have the bones, what do you do with them?  There are several different things that you can do with the items in your magical ossuary.  For starters, you can make the actual ossuary, which is a decorative box used to hold bones.  Think of it like a tool box or a craft box.  Historically, ossuaries have been made out of wood or clay, but your ossuary could be made out of a Tupperware container.

Now that you have the bones out of the floor, bone magic is the way to go.  In many traditions, certain bones have been thought to be lucky.  In the Hoodoo tradition, black cat bones can be lucky.  According to Madame Dark, the way that the lucky bone is found is by boiling all the bones once they have been cleaned by the weather (http://barbedpentacle.com/2013/05/con-huesos-part-2-the-charnel-house/).  The first bone to float is your lucky bone.

My black kitten bone project after following Lee’s instructions. Everything, almost, has melted into this nasty mess. I guess this is what happens when you do a bone project during the rainy season. I wonder which bone will float or if they’ll all just melt.

Due to the funky smell, you should probably boil your bones outside.

Did your doctor tell you that you have low T?  Do you take Viagra?  Have low sperm count?  Need some luck?  Have a frigid bitch that won’t open up?  If you said yes to any of these, then you need a pecker bone!  Baculums, more commonly called penis bones, are found in many male mammals.  In North America, particularly in my area of North America, raccoon and opossum baculums are easily available.  While you could order one, it’s much cheaper and more gruesome to get one from a roadkill animal or to hit up a hunter friend.  For more information on pecker bone magic, check out this link from the always informative Lucky Mojo folks: http://www.luckymojo.com/raccoonpenis.html

Raccoon Penis Bone

What about all the other bones that aren’t lucky?  Our special friend Amber has the solution:

Bone divination is a very old way of talking to the spirit realm that has ties to a number of the world’s indigenous magical traditions. It has ties to Appalachia in forms of Hoodoo and Appalachian folk magic, but it was also a common practice in the ancient world from Scandinavia to classical Rome and Judea. References can even be found in Biblical passages dating back to ancient Babylon, such as the one in the book of Jonah in which sailors cast lots in order to divine which member of the crew has angered his god and brought bad fortune. Discoveries of casting bones in Paleolithic sites in Spain and Africa, as well as North and South America, have shown that this form of divination may even go back as far as the beginnings of human spiritual experience. 

There are many different ways of working with bones for divination. Some people, like myself, cast bones and read the patterns they form and relay any messages from guides as well. Traditions from Ancient China or from some parts of the Pacific Islands include animal bones being burned and the cracks on the bones read. Other traditions, such as some from Greece and Serbia, have the reader read the patterns on the bones immediately after an animal is slaughtered or after the animal has been cooked (in a similar way to the use of the wishbone in the modern West). In many of these traditions readers may undergo years of training within a specific practice or working with specific spirits. My own practice has been much more self-made and intuitive.

It all began when I lost my beloved cat and familiar Draco. A few months after his death, I saw a few exposed and cleaned vertebrae on top of his grave. Despite several attempts to rebury the remains, they kept reappearing right where I had left them. Finally I took it as a sign, cleaned them, and placed them in a pouch where they stayed for several months. Eventually I took them to a friend and teacher who looked at them and told me that he saw me doing readings with them someday. I didn’t believe him at first since divination with cards, runes, or other symbolic styles has always been very difficult for me.
However, slowly but surely, more objects came to me; simple things that most people would overlook but which spoke to me in some special way. A 20 sided die, two acorns that I found sitting side by side on another pet’s grave (much as with Draco’s bones looking almost like they had been intentionally placed there), a couple of stones, and a charm from childhood. Five other, smaller bones also came to me. Through communication with my guides, I began to put together a casting cloth with symbols that they relayed to me to facilitate communication between me and them.
For me, the bones are an outlet for communication. As I cast them, my guides relay messages to me. I can’t really describe my practice, since there’s not really a practice to describe. The symbols, the bones, the objects, they all have meaning, and the patterns they form have meaning to me as well, but mostly what I get is messages, images, thoughts and feelings… things that sometimes have very little obvious to do with what’s actually going on the casting cloth.

Amber’s cloth

If I had any advice to give, I’d tell people to find something that works for them. There isn’t a one-size fits all method to this. It’s not like Tarot, or Runes, or any of these other things that can be learned through reading a book, since everything you’re doing goes on inside yourself. If you do feel that Bone reading is right for you, just make sure that you do it respectfully. Listen to the animal you’re taking the bones from, and don’t take them unless you absolutely know you have permission. Since you’re communicating at least in part with the actual spirit of an animal who has died, also take care where you are getting your bones from if you buy them. There are many people out there who you can get bones from who have taken them in a respectful and ethical way.

There are a lot of other good sources out there, and I’m sure you can find some stuff on more traditional practices out there. This is just one person’s experience, and if you’re looking to learn more or get started I would recommend looking around. There are also several established traditions out there that have their own way of doing things, and if you want to work with one of those traditions instead of forging your own way, they may be available options to you as well. Always take care, however, particularly with incorporating any sort of deeply rooted cultural traditions into your practice. Many of these cultures have had a long, tragic history of cultural extermination and abuse, and appropriation of their practices can contribute (and has) to this history. In order to avoid misappropriation, I’d highly recommend learning more about the culture you may be drawn to, not just that one technique, but it’s complete context and any taboos or attitudes regarding it. Don’t use it unless you know you have permission to, and sometimes getting this permission may require seeking out that community with respect and humility, and learning from them directly, earning their trust, and becoming a guest or member of that tradition.
Or, if you want, you can cobble together something that is wholly and uniquely you, from scratch.Open yourself up to spirit and see what happens. Whatever you choose, reading bones can be a powerful way to open yourself up to spirit. It’s a way of asking questions of the spirit world that has been around for tens of thousands of years, is still alive and thriving today, and will continue to exist long after we’re gone.

These folks have pecker bones in their pockets:

Mystic Artisanshttps://www.facebook.com/mysticartisans

Passion And Soulhttp://passionandsoul.com/

Tonia Brown:  www.thebackseatwriter.com

Con Huesos: Part 2–The Charnel House

As long time readers know, I tend to get tied up for long periods of time around Beltane.  What can I say?  Beltane is the best!  So, to pick up where we left off with bones (since you all know that when I typed “April” in the previous post I meant that loosely), we have a guest post from Lee (of other guest posts fame).

There are many ways to clean bones. It can be as easy or as complicated as you make it. Patience is a virtue. The easiest way to clean any bone is to let Mother Nature do it for you. Leave the head or part out side. Winter/fall time is not a good time for this because there are less flies and beetles out to eat the flesh . You end up with jerky-skin covered bones.

Jerky-skin covered skull

Make sure to place the item in a location where another animal can’t drag it off outside. You can place it in the open, maybe put a wire cage of sorts over it to keep scavengers or the neighbor’s dog from toting it off. Lay a trash bag or such over it to keep the moisture up and the flesh eating critters happy. They will work faster in a moist environment. You can place it in one those new dog food bags and forget about it.

Bones and shells left in a deep flower pot.

Heads left in a soft drink crate.

If you want it white, you can leave it out in the sun to bleach.  But be careful, too much sun is even bad for bones; they can become brittle and weak. You can get fancy whitening kits or go to the beauty supply place and get the peroxide 40 whitening and use that. It takes several coats. You can throw the head/part into a bucket of water and wait it out. It’ll come out all clean pretty much.  I use to have a 55 gallon barrel full of animal carcasses. Year or two later, kick it over, and after the smell disperses, you have a yard of bones.

You can boil the head, peel, cut and scrape; it’s just a faster process. Over boiling can weaken the bones too. If you do boil the bones and want to keep it white after it dries, you will want to spray it with some type of sealant.  If not, it will draw moisture and turn yellow.

You can get beetles on line that are used to clean bones, or, and I’m not really saying, you can get meaner beetles off the floor of a commercial chicken house.  Those black beetles are nothing but devourers.  If you have a connection, you could just place the head in a chicken house. Between the cannibal chickens and the beetles, the head will be fine in less than a week. You can even get kits for bone cleaning.  They’ll look all white and pristine. Hell, you can even mail them off to companies that will do it for you. I prefer the look of a skull that’s been left to the weather and elements. 

Here’s the link to the blog party that started this train of thought: http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com/2013/01/witches-in-fiction-2013-to-bone.html

These folks know all about flesh eating beetles:

Con Huesos: 1

Bones are extremely alluring and sexy. They hold us together and they connect us to the Earth. Magaly Guerrero, of “Pagan Culture,” is sponsoring the blog party:

          In accordance with our current MO, The Barbed Pentacle is showing up late to the party (we didn’t even RSVP!). However, we have such a boner for Magaly and the up coming Beltane season, that we’ll be posting bone related posts even after the party is over.

As I said earlier, bones connect our physical beings to the Earth. This is most easily seen when a body is cremated. According to Greg at The Cremation Society of Charlotte (www.csofcharlotte.com), the cremains that a mourner receives is nothing more than ground up bones. There are no clothes, no cadaver container, no hair or finger nails–none of those things are in the “ashes”. It costs $75 to run the cremater for one cadaver  That’s only $25 more than it takes to fire a kiln full of pottery.

 After firing a cadaver at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 1/2 hours, there is nothing left but a cadavers skeletal structure. The temperature of the cremater and the amount of time that it is run is dictated by each state. Typically the temperature mandated is between 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit and 1,600 degrees. A cadaver’s bones are then placed into a big blender-like machine and crushed.

Greg said that all crematoriums strive to produce a fine sand consistency,  but that if a crematorium’s equipment is old, there may be small white chunks left in the cremains.

When someone is cremated, their ashes are usually kept in an urn as a morbid memento or scattered into the wild (which, by the way, in many areas you are suppose to get a permit to do–something about public health).

However, some people incorporate a deceased’s ashes into their own body, either by ingestion or inhalation. The first time that I heard about this, I thought it was a weird anomaly, something borrowed from a more exotic culture. But over the years, anecdotal evidence suggests that this is becoming a more accepted practice along the fringes of American culture.

The first story that I heard of inhaling cremains was about the cremains of Mad Dog. Mad Dog was a Hell’s Angel that wore a piece of his scalp that he had lost in a motorcycle accident on his belt as a weird sort of coup. When Mad Dog died (by accident, on purpose, or bad health–I don’t remember), his club rolled his cremains into a big blunt and passed him around. Mad Dog was smoked in the early 80′s.  While the practice certainly wasn’t mainstream then,  now it’s fairly common to hear some hipster exclaim, “Man if I go, I want to be baked into brownies!” or some such nonsense. The concept has even appeared on South Park.

Inhaling or ingesting cremains is probably not safe and I would assume it’s probably not legal. However, it does give you a lot to think about. When I tried my cremains, I was at the appropriately named La Playa de los Muertos in Sayulita, Mexico.

My companions and I climbed out onto the rocks and drank some of the cremains in rum and pineapple juice and then we smoked them as well. For the most part, the cremains dissolve in liquid. There’s not as much to strain with your teeth as you might think. With smoking them, the cremains remain in your mouth longer since they get sucked into your mouth when you inhale. Even if you put the cremains mainly toward the lit end of whatever you’re smoking, it still happens. It’s gritty and gives a new meaning to “a duster”.

If you decide that you want to ingest or inhale cremains, there are a few things that you should consider. First, once it happens, there’s no going back. While I’m not sure that partaking in cremains makes you a cannibal,  you are taking what’s left of a human being into your body. Kind of like a very personal calcium supplement. Next, you need to consider your method of ingestion or inhalation. Of course, I should urge you to consider legal methods, but you’re already considering taking a dead, burnt up human into your body! The last thing that you should consider doing is grinding up any bone fragments with a mortar and pestle.  Enjoy your calcium!

These folks enjoy true grittiness:

Mystic Artisanshttps://www.facebook.com/mysticartisans

Passion And Soulhttp://passionandsoul.com/

Tonia Brown:  www.thebackseatwriter.com