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Posted Under Paganism & Witchcraft

Working with Bones and Skulls in Witchcraft

Minimal Altar with Skull

A recurring and polarizing topic in the witchcraft community is the act of incorporating animal bones and remains into ritual. If you've been on Instagram for any length of time, you've probably seen plenty of witchy photos featuring various animal parts like teeth, fur, skulls, feet, and claws alongside other magical items. Including bones in magick is a practice as old as time, but it remains a topic that's largely omitted from books on modern witchcraft. This makes it difficult to find practical information about it. Maybe you yourself are drawn to the mysticism of skulls and bones, but are unsure what role these often misunderstood objects would play in your craft. Here are some things to consider.

  1. Bones house powerful energy. Think of bones as living things, as you might plants or even crystals. Just as you would choose various plants or crystals for your workings based on their magical purposes—protection, love, money, etc.—animals also have magickal associations. Not all bones are used for the same thing: Snake energy in magick is very different than, say, fox energy. Which part of the body a bone comes from can also play a role in this. For example, fangs from a coyote are useful for protection spells, whereas the baculum, or penis bone, of a racoon is favored in spells concerning sex and attraction.
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  3. Bones should be honored. If you choose to incorporate the elements of earth, air, fire, and water into your altar, a bone can represent the fifth element of spirit. Because it belongs to a creature that has passed over, its spirit has traversed the afterlife and can access other planes of existence. Consider surrounding the bone with special candles, laying flowers before it, or lighting incense dedicated to it. This will create a relationship between the spirit of the bones and your own, and will enhance your witchcraft in new and interesting ways.
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  5. Bones need to be cleansed. Like other magickal tools, bones can gather up energy over time. If you're experienced with crystals, you already know the importance of clearing unwanted energy from an object. If a bone has been handled by many people on its journey to you or if the animal it came from died a traumatic death, it may have energy attached to it that will hinder your workings. Some ways to clear and bless bones are to let them sit under the light of the full moon, pass them through incense smoke, or rinse them with water while visualizing your intention.
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  7. Bones represent something much larger. When working with the bone or skull of a specific animal, bear in mind that it contains the DNA of every one of its species that ever lived. A bone is also a direct conduit to the spirit or archetype of the animal and all it represents in the natural world, in mythology, in folklore, and in the collective unconscious—that's a lot! Research the stories, myths, and traits of the animal to find out what energy it brings into your life.
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  9. Animal remains aren't for everyone. And that's okay. Just because there's currently a surge in the popularity of bones in the witchy world doesn't mean you have to take part if the idea bothers you. If bones creep you out, just don't use them. There are also some animal remains that are not a result of death to consider, such as shed antlers or snake skin.

There's no need to ever hurt an animal in magick. You can find bones from deceased animals on your own, or purchase them online. There are many people who sell animal remains who can tell you exactly how they source their products. Some are reclaimed after natural deaths due to predators and environment, while others are leftover from hunting and more. It's up to you to decide with which of these you're comfortable.

A Home Protection Skull
Skulls, whether real or illustrated, are often a warning symbol. This can be seen in fairytales where the wicked witch has skulls impaled on the fence posts all around her house to keep people out, or where the victors in battle display the heads of their enemies like trophies to guard against future attack. Even modern cleaning products are marked with the skull and cross bones to warn people of their danger. While these things sound rather foreboding, it's this very cautioning, even frightening energy that will be created when making the home protection skull. After all, the point is to deter unwanted influences from coming into your space.

In my home, we have a cow skull in the front room. It's the first thing you see when you enter our house, and it's been there for quite a few years. Every time a member of our family finds something interesting on our travels, like a feather, stone, or flower, we place it with this skull as a decoration and an offering. This skull brings protective energy to our space and pretty much feels like part of our family.

If you're able to get a skull, try making the protection altar below. It can be from any animal at all, no matter what size, as the energy we're drawing on in this working is the warning, foreboding and cautioning energy of the skull, more so than anything else.

Materials:

  • 1 skull of any kind. You can use a fake skull if you wish.
  • Fresh flowers
  • Tray
  • Pretty stones
  • A spare key to your residence
  • Small paint brush
  • Small container of water

Gather your materials during the full moon. Place the skull on the tray, and surround it with the flowers, plants, and stones. Hold both hands over the skull and spend a moment feeling its energy, aligning it with your own. Take note of its more threatening features and vibrations. Send feelings of love and respect through the palms of your hands into the skull, while you imagine filling it with light. The light you send isn't meant to alter the skull's energy, but rather to mingle with it; accept its frightening reputation and understand there is a place for this in magick and in nature.

Next, dip the paint brush in water. With the water, trace the names or initials of all the household residents onto the skull. The water will evaporate, and the identity of each individual will have been communicated to the skull. You can replace initials or names with your own protective symbols or sigils if you wish.

Now place your spare house key beneath the skull for safe keeping. This act symbolizes that you trust the skull to watch over your home.

Place the skull and offerings in a special place in your space.

Over time, be sure to replace the flowers and plants, keep the area clean, and replenish your offerings regularly. These acts show continued respect to the spirit of the skull in exchange for the protection of your home.

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About Kate Freuler

Kate Freuler has practiced witchcraft for over twenty-five years. She has written for Llewellyn's Magical Almanac, Sabbats Almanac, and Spell-A-Day Almanac. Kate owns and operates an online store called White Moon ...

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