Awakening to the Bones-Bone Reading, Bloodlines, and Beyond
It started when I was around 5 or 6 when I was losing my baby teeth. I dreamed I was in a bathtub and a tooth came out. I placed the tooth to the side on a deep purple rug or safe keeping. When I looked over the side of the tube again, my tooth had multiplied to bones scattered across the rug . They were chattering. His was the first dream I remembered and through many years to come even till today I dream of teeth and bones. I learned the relationship in my mid twenties in that teeth are an extension of the skull and skulls are symbols of the ancestors or dead. It was then that I began my journey to learn how my ancestors would speak through bones.
Already a diviner with tarot and I Ching, I started collecting gemstones and experimenting with reading with them. I had a map I used in conjunction with them. My ancestors began to teach me from there. They would come to me in dreams and show me different configurations and explain the process. At some point I dreamed those gemstones were mixed with bones so I began to add them. After a while they led me to an Nganga who was also trained by a Sangoma. He was from a Botwana lineage and very much a recluse but he saw that I had naturally taken to this form of Divining and began to teach me how to read the bones as a Sangoma would. While for many it is just an intuitive art, it really is a science to it. He taught me how the bones begin as a meeting of the faces of the community and build into the mind of the supreme at its highest level. There were also multiple ways the bones were read from Hakata, to Sabones, to Tsuka, Tuala, Nkisi, etc. It was here that I began to see the relationship to the 16 Odus even though at that time, I had not been initiated to Ifa or Orisa yet. I knew enough , however, to see there were striking similarities that suggested that they had common origins or least that these sciences were related. This was later confirmed as I trained in Ifa.
Later, a dear friend who was an Okomfo in the Akan tradition began to share more about his method of bone divination in his lineage at the Black and White Shrine in Ghana. This widened my perspective of the bones over the years and included new innovations from Ghana that brought more modern concepts to the bones and it’s medicines. Over time, we shared with each other our methods adding and evolving our individual sets. My readings had become quite complex and detailed as I had more than 90 bones in my set.
It came to a screeching halt with my initiation to Ifa. Ifa offered another whole system of Divination that was just as complex as the bones. It demanded my attention and exclusive study. I was encouraged by a Baba who was training me at the time to dedicate a full time study to it so I did so for about 8 or more hours a day for 5 years. I grieved not using the bones but I had other Ifa ancestors who came to me to support my training in Ifa. They too would show up in my dreams and teach me through my dreams in addition to my day training. During that time however , the ancestor who worked with me with the bones became irritated. Stuff from my herbal medicine cabinet became disheveled and fell out. He showed up one day giving me specific instruction to NOT give up the bones for the other tradition. I was told to do both, not one or the other.
It was then that I began to see the implications of African Americans and Diaspora ancestral lineages. That our lineages encompass many African Ancestral bloodlines and those ancestors do speak to some of us strongly. These are truly ancestral traditions that ancestors are connected to, not just purely theological or religious as many westerners believe. Many western practitioners have a habit of dismissing ancestors because it’s not convenient or doesn’t fit into what they want to do or what they were taught. Or also because they simply don’t have that connection so they can’t relate. But here is where they miss the gift of being able to tap what was lost or forgotten. As it gets stuck in what lineage owns what and what is authentic for that lineage, they fail to understand the interrelationships of these lineages and bloodlines. As African Americans they are often intertwined in our bloodlines and these multiple lines become our specific Ase as diviners and practitioners as they are able to come together to what individual ones may not be able to.
My bones don’t read or speak in the same way Ifa or Dilogun speak. They have different approaches and while simularities can be found in the core 16, they expand in far different directions after that. Ifa can speak to a specific issue and solution and soul lessons while the bones will speak to multiple areas of your life simultaneously. Each has their own medicines. Each functions under its own merit. Afa Vodoun tends to expand the use of bones more readily than Ifa in Nigeria through the use of ibo. I believe this may be in part why Voodoo is stronger in America than Cuba. Ifa and Dilogun seemed to be more retained in communities enslaved by Spain while bones were retained in African American Voodoo culture tied to the French as Cameroon, Benin, and Togo were. One could find and consecrate bones much easier than cowries and palm nuts in America. We are also finding, through DNA like my own that there were more people transported from Southern Africa to the Americas than previously known. This explains how bone Divination which was prominent in South and Central Africa found its way to the Southern United States among initiates of Hoodoo and Voodoo. It was also able to lend itself beyond theology because the bones are directly connected to the land and nature you are in and therefore readily adaptable to a new land.
Bones almost died in the US though as more families who brought their bone Divination lineages sought to distance themselves from the past. Whereas possum bones were one of the primary tools at one point, I only know of one woman who still carries her families possumn bone lineage. She said her daughters have shone no interest in it and if she doesn’t teach someone, her lineage will die. Of course I stepped up to volunteer!
My concern now is all of the new practitioners of bone diviners. Some are quite good while others are quite limited in their understanding. Rarely do practictioners speak of the ancestors and their historical roots in Africa. Bone Divination is documented at 30, 000 years ago in South Africa and later in Asia as Africans migrated out of Africa but if you let some folks tell it, it came from Europe! I tell you I’m not having it! And neither are the Ancient African ancestors who developed it and those who brought it here.
I just completed teaching a course on Bone Divination. This course is designed for the serious practitioner interested in continuing the African legacy and Ancestral sciences. With 2 complete course covering apprentice level and mastery and more than 20 hours of detailed video lessons, I intended for this course to be the most comprehensive course on Bone Reading found on the internet. More information and how to register can be found at the link below.