I have been following a system of using the alphabet for blog post prompts. I already have a post in the queue for the letter “K,” which is next up. However, a Facebook posting on ancestral work grabbed my attention this morning so I decided to write about using the bones to dialogue with an ancestor.


El Campo Santo Cemetery, Old Town San Diego

El Campo Santo Cemetery, Old Town San Diego



In my bone set I have specific pieces to represent various people both embodied and disembodied. There are pieces to represent family ancestors and pieces to represent other spirits that are around a person. For the ancestor pieces I have specific pieces for parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and further back, and a piece to represent the ancient ancestors so far back that no one knows or remembers their names. I use sea shells for these pieces because they come in such a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. This makes the pieces easy to identify quickly. I also have a piece to represent messages from the spirit world. It is the piece that I give out at my workshops, and send to my Skype students via snail mail – a Mother of Pearl bird. I don’t tell people what they should use the bird for. They may decide that the bird represents a trip by air or they may decide that they don’t like it and throw it away. Bone reading is too personal in my mind for me to try to specify pieces and meanings for others. I am giving my meaning here for ease of understanding. I have another piece in my set to represent messages from living people – the bird is for the dead.


Bone set pieces ancestors


If the bird lands face up, very close to or touching a piece that represents an ancestor or other spirit, I interpret that as the spirit having a message for the person that I am reading for. Pieces nearby can give information on the content of the message, but sometimes the only information is that the ancestor wishes to speak.  If the person works with their ancestors and spirits already, not much more need be said. They will use whatever method their spiritual tradition provides to follow-up on their own. If the person is unfamiliar with spiritual work of this type I sometimes do another throw to get more information. In this second throw I usually take all of the other ancestors out of the set so that the ancestor who wishes to speak has full use of all of the remaining pieces in conveying their message. By these means a person can enter into a dialogue with an ancestor.

Now the caveat. Once I added ancestor pieces to my set and started reading for friends I found that my friends usually got it. Even if they did not do work with their ancestors and spirits they had some sort of familiarity with the idea of ancestor and/or spiritual work. This is because I  tend to hang out with people who have similar interests to my own. When I started reading for a wider public I found that things were sometimes quite different. Some people had no concept of ancestor or spiritual type work. Most of the time people with no previous exposure to ancestor work are pleased to hear information from or about a loved one who has passed on and some even state that they will start to work with their ancestors as a result of the reading.   However, sometimes discussing a person’s ancestors brings back painful memories. Getting more information or even just elaborating on what is already there can make the pain worse.  When I notice a strong reaction in this area I gently ask if the person has had any counseling around the issue and if the answer is no I gently  recommend that the person seek professional counseling of some type in addition to any spiritual work they are having done. Be sensitive, listen to your ancestors and spirits, and know your limitations as a diviner.

That said, the bones are extremely well suited for establishing a dialogue with one’s ancestors,  and most of my experiences reading for others have been positive in this area. Most people are delighted with the idea that a beloved parent or grandparent is still watching over them and is eager to continue or establish a relationship. Many ask for information on how to start working with their ancestors and later come back and tell me about the positive effects this work has had on their lives. Hearing this makes me happy. I think it makes the ancestors happy too.


Happy Bone Reading!