I recently started taking a bone reading class with Iyanifa Ayele Kumari. I take classes on bone reading whenever I see them offered if I am able to do so at the time. I am very happy and comfortable with my method of reading, but I enjoy learning different approaches and methods, and I enjoy the interaction with other bone readers that a class provides. It also forces me to look at bone divination with beginner’s eyes which I find refreshing and challenging.
Since I am starting this class with a new set of bones put together according to the class recommendations, I thought I would share something that helps me to learn a new system – a little black book. When you buy a deck of tarot cards, there is usually a small booklet with card meanings in the box with the deck. It has come to be known as the “little white book.” If there is no full length book available for the deck it is the only source material you have that gives insight into the meanings used by the artist or deck creator. Early on you usually find yourself referring to it frequently until you feel comfortable that you understand the deck.
When you buy a set of bones, you may get a few pages with suggested meanings, or you may get nothing but the bones themselves. This makes sense because bone reading is highly personal, and even when meanings are provided they are usually described as “suggested” meanings. Over time, as you become more comfortable with your set you may devise meanings that have no similarity at all to the suggested meanings. You will most likely add new pieces to the set and you may remove some of the original pieces as well.
Making a book of meanings can help you learn the meanings of your set early on, and in the long term, it will provide documentation for your great-great grandchildren, should your set survive you and be passed down as a family heirloom. Although I say that tongue in cheek, many family practices are lost forever when the keeper of that knowledge passes on. Having a book of meanings will prevent that from happening to your tradition and style of bone reading. Over time as you add pieces and meanings, it will also give you a benchmark to see how far you have come as a diviner. It does not take long to create, and you may even find the creation process enjoyable. Let’s begin.
You will need a blank book. I personally like 4″ X 6″ spiral bound sketch books. They are small enough to be easily stored with your bone set, and they lie down flat making writing easier. They are unlined, but if you are more comfortable with a lined book, by all means get one. The sketchbooks cost a few dollars. A dollar store composition book will also work. And there are books that are in-between these two in size – 5.5″ X 8″ is a popular size for journals. Get whatever size you like.
I usually leave the first 2 pages blank. I always have some idea in my head that I will do a cover page at some point in the future, though it never gets done. In the 4″ X 6″ books I allocate one page, front and back to each piece. If you are using a larger book you may want to put two pieces on each page. Unless you love to write, it is unlikely that you will need more than a page to cover the meanings of your bones. While there is much that can be said about any bone or piece if you want to include references to the animal or symbol, its characteristics, myths, stories etc., I try to keep my books simple and I limit myself to basic meanings, perhaps fleshed out over time as my understanding of the piece broadens.
I like to draw a simple line drawing of the piece. I am no great draftsman, but I can usually manage to get a basic outline drawn if I take my time. This book is for me so the art does not have to be great or even very good. It just has to be recognizable as the piece you are drawing. If you feel that you can’t manage a simple outline, you can always take a photo of your set, print it, cut out the various pieces, and glue them to your pages. I find drawing the bone makes me look at it more closely than I would if I were to take a photograph. Close examination may provide some additional insight into the piece.
Next I write down the suggested meaning if I have one available. I put a line under it and if I have a different meaning, or if I have additional information I write it down under the line. If I don’t have a different meaning at that time the suggested meaning is fine. Since I am taking a class right now and thus learning the teacher’s system, knowing the suggested meaning and understanding how the teacher views a particular bone will make things easier for me in class. It makes sense to learn the rules before you break them. I find that the process of drawing the bone, and writing out the meaning helps me to remember it. I don’t have a great memory and this method helps to reinforce the meaning in my mind in a way that just reading or hearing it does not.
Once I have drawn and written the meaning for each piece I am done. I now have a reference book that I can refer to should I forget the meaning of a particular piece. I also have a place to record any additional insights that I may get about a piece. It is small enough to carry with me should I want to review the meanings while I sitting in a waiting room somewhere.
If you are artistic, you can decorate your book cover, hang bones or other decorations from the spiral, paint the drawings with watercolors etc. I tend to start these books with great plans to fancy them up, but they usually end up plain. Plain or fancy I find them quite useful, especially, if you like to learn different systems. By having a book for each different set that you own, you can quickly refresh your memory should you decide to use one of the other sets.
You could also do the book digitally using word processing or publishing software. However, I find that holding the bone in my hands, examining it, drawing it, and writing its meaning seems to make a stronger impression in my memory than looking at it, then setting it aside to type about it. Of course you should do whatever works best for you. This book could also be used to record your readings, or to just record important readings like year readings, or readings that you feel are significant for whatever reason.
Happy Bone Reading!