Something that has come up a lot in conversation with various witches recently is the use of animal bones in magic. Animal bones have several uses to a witch. Probably primarily they are used for divination - the layout and positioning of the bones can be read in the same way as a tarot or a rune spread. The bones can also be used in spell casting to draw upon the energies of the animal and to invoke its spirit into the workings. Other witches may use animal bones as offerings or sacrifices to the deities. And there is also a very aesthetic appeal to animals, skulls in particular - many witches like to use them as decoration of a designated working area. Animal bones, as the symbol of death can also be of use in medium or ouija spirit work.
A quick glance at any of the witch forums will show different techniques for gutting and skinning animal corpses and how to clean the skeleton so the bones can be used in magical workings. Undoubtedly burial and retrieval is by far the best way to get a clean skeleton. I speak from experience after my disaster last year when I cleaned a dead badger's skull with the boiling method. It took eight hours, stank the house out, ruined the saucepan and I had dead badger brain, skin and hair over every work surface in the kitchen. Never again! I strongly suggest to anyone thinking of cleaning a skeleton that they either use burial and retrieval or use the bleaching method where you leave the bones in a bucket of bleach until only the skeleton is left undissolved. (And never, ever boil any part of a badger…..)
The use of animal bones does vary between witches. I was chatting to one the other day who was saying how sad she was that her dog had died and she had given him a burial in her back garden. She then went on to say quite matter of factly that she would probably give it six months before digging him up.... Now, call me squicky, but I have to admit I would find it hard to imagine any circumstances where I would dig up my own pet to use its bones. For me, it would feel wrong to use an animal I had personally known and loved. I lost my beloved Snickers degu at the end of last year and I buried her in the back garden. But I just cannot imagine digging her up again. It would feel too utilitarian and I would feel I was disturbing her rest. I wouldn’t push myself to do it either - yes it would be great to have a constant supply of animal bones from my expansive collection of pets – but my personal antipathy to using my pets for this purpose would negate any magic I tried to perform with them.
To the non witch I suppose this animal bone business probably sounds a bit macabre. But it really isn't. The witches who do use their own deceased pets for their parts don't see it as a lack of respect. It is simply something that can be used once the life has departed from the animal. Some even see the close connection they had with the animal when it was alive as adding another dimension into the magic.
It all just goes to show that there isn’t a one size fits all structure for the magical practitioner. It is important to respect what feels right to others and also what feels right to yourself. A witch who works outside her comfort zone will find her magic suffers, a witch who criticises the way others choose to work will find herself losing friends. In witchcraft, as in life, it comes down to finding your own way of doing things and being happy that the things you choose to do genuinely feel right for your own personal way of working. So to dig up Rover or not? Whatever feels right for you….
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