There are three important bones in your life; your back bone, your funny bone and your wish bone.
I have been a seer longer than I have been a shaman. Twenty-five years ago, when I was fifteen, an illness took me beyond the grave and onto my healers’ path. It took me a while to recover and rehabilitate, that Christmas I received a deck of tarot cards, something new in me took over and I began to read the cards. I experimented with runes and crystal ball gazing, but one thing always pulled me yet terrified me at the same time; the archaic art of bone reading. This year, something called me to start my collection of my bones.
Part of me had an issue with using animal parts, in other parts of the world, alligator feet and penis bones are used! For me they just felt, icky. I am a tiny bit of a hoarded, so I actually enjoyed hunting through my treasure boxes looking for items that could be included in my set. The more I looked the more I found, things started to jump up out at me as if desperate to be a part of the bone party. I had many objects, but I still felt I needed something ‘bone-like’ to put in my set, dare I? `no, so I found wooden pieces, twigs and bits of wood to use, but when I did eventually begin to read with them, they didn’t feel right, they had no spirit. Pieces broke, some became damaged, some I took out.
One night during the summer of 2018, I had a powerful vision, Crow Mother visited me. Authoritative, dignified, she towers over me, her head cocked to one side, as if studying me, deciding my fate. One black beady eye glared at me and I heard the words, ‘You can have our bones, it is an honour to be used for such things.’ Her skull and beak began to glow a pale blue, the centre warm orange like an opal and I knew there and then that I needed to find my bones.
As I was packing to scout the countryside of my forefathers in Wallingford, I set my intentions to the universe to find my bones. I took my son and my dad, I could feel my ancestors beside me as I arrived. It didn’t take long before I found my first bone, a perfectly preserved skull, I think it may have been from a squirrel or a rodent of some sort, I was awe-struck that I even found one, and so soon! How often do you see bones on the floor? Within seconds of finding it, the heavens opened, and we got very wet. We sheltered under a huge great oak, a personal favourite of mine, they bring back happy memories of childhood. There was a large badger set under this tree, we crouched down looking into the hole, telling my four-year-old what lives down there. He loves digging in the dirt and so revelled in finding fresh turf to riffle through, he picked something up and said ‘Look Dadda!’ it was a bone! I continued to dig around and found even more bones, I could not believe it! I could tell from the sound they made and the smoothness that they were pretty ancient bones. Later on, we found the house that my Great-Great-Great grandfather lived in, opposite the graveyard where he was buried. We walked around for a while, and I kid you not, I found several human bones too! No, I didn’t pick them up, I don’t think a human thigh bone would work in my bone reading, grimace. I laughed out loudly, seriously Crow Mother? I said as a crow croaked at me.
If like me, you are interested in acquiring your own set of oracle bones, set your intentions clearly, go into the wild places, walk the secret deer tracks and knock on the doors of badgers. Dig around in the dark ancient soils, they will be there, your bones. Some of your pieces will be in your children’s pockets, some down the back of the sofa, they are treasures after all, go find them! Normally each piece has its own meaning, but not always, some of mine have no meaning at all. I have a crow’s foot that can either represent grasping something important or it can mean being held back. Bone sets are mailable, they adapt as we do, allow it to happen naturally.
Throwing the Bones
Many readers throw their bones on to a circle crafted onto a cloth or skin or large plate, even a cooking hob, you know who you are…I started using two interlocking circles, a vesica piscis, representing the balance between al things, the centre piece representing the sacred yoni. Use what you feel comfortable with, a square will also be sufficient, there is no right or wrong way, its nature, you are nature.
I treat mine with sacredness as `I would my healing mesa, I bless them with incense, palo santo wood, aqua de florida, bells, anything I can get my hands on.
When you are ready, open sacred space in your way, set your cloth out, hold your bones in your hands while thinking about the questions you have in mind, and blow this into the bones, then let them gracefully scatter across the reading space/cloth.
I tend not to read all of the bones, I am normally drawn buy things I see, enter into that daydreaming state, what do you see?
Get closer, have a look through the eyes of serpent where everything is exactly as it is: bone, tooth, claw, button. Look at where there are large collections of things and empty space.
Shift your attention to the mammalian part of your brain the eyes of jaguar, where nothing is what it seems. What’s the feeling here, the emotion? What’s coming up for you? What buttons are being pressed? Look at certain pieces, what are they doing? How are they interacting with each other?
Shift again, the mythic realm, eyes of hummingbird, where everything is and is not…What’s the story? Look for pictures, patterns, images, how do they relate to your questions?
Finally, the god part of your brain, the eyes of eagle condor, everything simple IS…is there a summery? What’s the outcome? Is there a quantum feeling that conveys this reading? What’s the gift?
Thank the bones, put them away, close sacred space.
I have recently started using them in conjunction with tarot cards, and I would urge any avid bone reader to do the same. What fascinates me is how the bones interact with the cards, they add a different dimension to the cards, they point to symbols, they complement the images and play with them like cheeky pixies! They make me feel they are alive, compared to the staticness of the cards. It became a multidimensional reading.
These bones came to me for a reason, they chose me, the animals they once belonged too wanted to be honoured and cherished in a sacred way, and I look after them as I would the living creature they once were.
They have new life in them now, moved by the hand of Spirit, fine tuning my own inner wisdom and inner tuition.
For information on cleaning bones, please do your research, dead things contain harmful bacteria, I have chosen to only use old bones as they have been cleaned by nature, the best cleanser of bones, I then treat them over night in hot water and a handful of washing powder.
Sometimes, the meaning to life finds its way through the deepest cracks in our soul, when we hit that rock bottom of the darkest abyss.
No matter how spiritually disciplined you are, or how ‘awake’ you might think you are, no matter how much yoga you practise or green tea you drink. No matter how much joy and abundance surrounds you, despair, depression and despondency can descend upon you like a suffocating fog. I know this fog, I waded through it for most of my young adult life. The descent into the underworld has always been treacherous, especially when you fall unwittingly; it can feel overwhelming. Old wounds you were quite sure had healed and dealt with, are ripped open, and again, we bleed.
In the deepest and darkest periods of our lives, no-thing, no prayer, no mediation or medication, no soul retrieval or chakra illumination can reach you. All becomes pointless, unbearable, dead, accompanied only by rage or maybe stone-cold numbness. You scramble and trip towards the great gaping maw that opens, and snaps shut, pure annihilation awaits you, and, like the bioluminescent glow of the angler fish’s hook, annihilation seems like a warm welcome.
Here, on the threshold of death, deep in the womb-tomb of our Mother Earth, something new emerges.
Here, in the darkness of despair, she sits.
Here, in the inky void of nothingness, she smiles.
Here, in the blackest night of your soul, she waits patiently for your surrender.
It is only when we surrender to what Is, when we surrender to Her, to the Dark Feminine that transformation can occur.
Born out of chaos, the Dark One is both creator and destroyer, a conundrum that is integral in the dual aspects.
She is the Good Mother, infinitely compassionate and whole bodily nurturing, yet she is wild and sexual, full of scorn and fierce rage, she would rip you apart at the drop of a sarcastic tone. She is the repressed sexuality of all woman of all time. She is the witches burnt at the stake for being too ugly or too beautiful. She is the priestesses who were raped in front of the altars they served at. I am, of course, only talking about the ‘Dark Feminine’ aspect of these archetypical energies, these Goddesses, they are each related, the same, and like yourself, greater than the some of their parts.
She sits waiting for you in the holy caves and chapels as the Black Madonna.
Erich Neumann in the book ‘The Fear of the Feminine’ said that the Dark Mothers womb is the place where all things came from, but in her Terrible Mother aspect, she devours everything that is born, swallowing back into herself, she becomes the grave and the tomb, she is “the flesh devouring sarcophagus, hell and the under-world.”
The Black Madonna sits like all ancient Earth Goddesses of Neolithic times, in the dark womb-tombs of the caves, “here, inside of the earth, the dark abyss of everything living.”
The Dark Mother is within us at a cellular level, with each breath we take we destroy cells and consume them to help recreate new cells and new life.
Do not be confused by the darkness nor by death, if you are in a dark place in your life, ask yourself, what am I not willing to let go of? What is it I am not accepting about myself or my life?
Calling on The Black Madonna feels deeply embracing, if you ask of it, she will hold you in her infinite heart, all of you, all your fears and insecurities, all the shame and guilt, the beauty and the beast.
She stands waiting for you in the temples of India as Kali Ma. She is the Divine, the mistress of time, a wild-fire of rage and fury. She is the destroyer of everything that has served its purpose.
After drinking the blood of Raktaveeja, she became so consumed with rage she could not stop herself from destroying everything in her path. Only Shiva, her beloved, could stop her by sacrificing himself in her wake. Standing on his chest, she stops and notices the emerald green grass around her, she then notices her beloved, and so stops her tsunami of destruction.
Gopi Krishna proposes that this very image symbolises the helplessness and surrender one undergoes during transformation.
When you feel helpless, ask yourself, what am I not willing to let die, for me to be able to live? Calling upon Kali Ma to aid you means calling on the epitome of tough love. She will swiftly remove obstacles on your way to enlightenment, she will sweep you up in a tsunami of spring cleaning and drop you off somewhere quite unexpected. Are you willing to let die that which no longer serves you? Can you accept the unknown that awaits you?
She rocks herself gently in anguish, waiting for you, her sister, in the under-world as Ereshkigal. Waiting to hang your corpse on her meat hook for the three dark days of the moon.
I write this now as I reminisce the underworld journey I just completed into the Cuevas del Drach, the dragon caves in Porto Cristo, Majorca. Sitting in a little white boat, gently lapping my way out of the giant megalithic catacombs, I felt what it must have been like to be Inanna as she was finally released from the clutches of her dark sister, Ereshkigal, accompanied by her demon brood, enchanted, liberated, grateful, humble, empowered; yet still, there is work to be done.
When you are in a place of grief, loss, death or mourning, know that it is a only a phase, it is a moment in time. Sit with it, be with it, accept it for what it is, see it as your grieving sister, just be with her, she will release you, know this.
She dances on the graves of sinners and those who would defy her as Lilith, waiting for you to join her. Her repressed sexuality and suppressed power flares hot embers under her feet. Splinted off from the female psyche, Lilith - Adams first wife, born of the dark earth – represents all the ‘negative’ aspects of women. The evil one, the vamp, the seductress, the whore, filthy one, venomous one, ugly one.
She refused to be subservient to Adam and was banished from the Garden of Eden (as was eventually Adam and his second wife.) But, it is only in the Abrahamic religions of the world that believe this, I do not believe we ever left the Garden we now call Earth.
Lilith is a powerhouse of sisterhood, when you feel defiled, persecuted, desecrated, Lilith would be the women you need. She will melt the chains that hold you imprisoned and take you by the hand to dance naked and free under the pale moonlight.
The Dark Goddess; darkness is something of a taboo subject in many neo spiritual systems, the desperate need for ‘light’ and ‘positive thinking’ is in the midst of a soul shattering backlash as people scream for authenticity. I want my pain to be heard, I want to drag it up from the dark abyss we seem to throw our mess into like a spiritual trash can.
The world was created in a void of darkness. Life came into being from the dark primordial waters of our Mother Earth. Seeds sit, germinating in the dark, wet and tangled soil, waiting to be stirred by the light and warmth of the Father Sun. We, us humans were all once-upon-a-time held in the dark, wet wombs of our biological mothers.
A foetus sits waiting in the in-between, not really alive in the sense we know, and yet not in the world of spirit it recently knew. They are in a deep state of sleep, they are dreaming. Sleep in not only Important for healing our bodies and minds, but to dream, to be held in stillness. We sleep in the dark, a wave of darkness shrouds us every twelve or so hours, we collectively all sink into a state of blissful unconsciousness.
In the dark, we can dream. In the dark, a foetus dreams its world into being before its even born. Surrendering to what is, surrendering to the Dark Feminine, no matter how hard that may be, is reminiscent to surrendering to sleep. Both require trust, non-doing and a fearlessness that enables you to fall into the arms of darkness.
Sometimes in life, we seem to fall into a state of chaos, a place where She is born. Sometimes in life we must go back to the place we were truly born, in order to die to that part of ourselves that no longer serves us, a place where she will hold us. Sometimes in life, we want to tear the whole damn world apart, our own life included. It is only by the grace of She, who calls us silently to stop, that we are reminded that we are loved.
Sometimes in life we find ourselves face to face with the ugly truth, as a shard of glass reflects to us a face we do not recognise. Horror, disgust, shame. We voluntarily hang our heads on the hook of humility. Here, she sits with us, patiently waiting for us to listen to the face in the mirror that follows us everywhere.
Sometimes in life, we realise we are not living our authentic life, not being our authentic selves; the people we are meant to be. We want to break those chains that hold us back and scream NO in the faces of those who want to keep us small, meek, good, pleasant, nice and quiet, normal…She will be waiting for us with her gyrating hips dripping in warm honey, holding a blow-torch to break those chains for you, together you will run, holding hands through the hot coals and embers of a life that no longer serves you, into the cool, wet floor of the wildest of forests.
The Dark Mother aspect of the Sacred Feminine, the female face of God, is a necessity on my shamanic/animistic path and in my life in general. She sits with me holding my hand while I sit in darkness and journey to the underworld. With her, my visions become clear, more vivid as I know they come from the dark springs of my soul. Try it, turn off all the lights, black out the windows, don’t even light any candles. Call her to you, see through her eyes, tell her your dark secrets, ask her the questions you daren’t ask.
During times of depression and despair, I sit with her, face to face, she holds me, my pain, my shame, my vulnerability, and she mirrors back to me pieces of myself I struggle to accept, holding them too with grace and compassion. She doesn’t make it easy for me, true transformation isn’t all unicorns and group hugs, its gritty, painful and dirty work, it’s only for the brave.
When I surrender to her, I feel safe, I feel her embrace when I go to sleep.
We sleep in a dark shroud of her wholeness, a wave of darkness envelopes us, it is only in the dark that we can truly see into the spirit world, as shadows dance with the light creating the otherworld. In the darkness, our inner vision becomes crystal clear.
We animists and shaman know the dark. I find great respite in the dark, as I am sure you do, a solitary comfort I have not yet found elsewhere, apart from maybe the wild places.
But, like the dawn during the darkest hour, our time in the delicious and fertile dark is only as brief as our time in the sun.
As Ereshkigal released her sister Inanna from the underworld, she will release us back into the light. Like the new moon that becomes a crescent moon, once more growing to fullness, we will enjoy the days of joy and abundance, carrying with us the dark, demon seeds that enable us to grow more beautiful and authentic.
I was lucky enough to spend an evening with writer and change maker, Mac McCartney during a talk about his reflections on darkness. He said something that will stay with me forever, “At this moment, there is a wave of birdsong, a dawn chorus, hurtling towards us at great speed, as the sun chases the darkness away.”
So tonight, as you lay in bed, feel the darkness around you. Feel the safety and comfort of the Dark Feminine as she covers you in her midnight coloured shawl and enjoy the dark beauty of sleep and the opportunity and privilege of dreaming; memories of your womb-time.
Shamanism has been a passion and an inspiration for me for many years now.