Can Bones Tell the Future?

We recently received a question from a caller on our Wacky Wednesday radio show who had received a small bag of bones from a recently deceased relative. Although the bones had some sentimental value, she was uneasy about keeping them in the house and wondered if she should destroy them. Our answer was unequivocal “yes!”

The reason we could not hesitate because what she described is a sack of bones used by South African traditional healers, known as sangomas, to divine the future. The ritual is called “throwing the bones” and it’s used for divination, for healing, and to resolve social and spiritual ills.

As Winter Ross writes in this article appearing in Spirituality and Health, in a typical session, “the patient or the diviner throws bones on the floor, but it is the ancestral spirits who control the pattern. The ‘bones’ may include animal vertebrae, dominoes, dice, coins, shells, and stones, each with a specific significance to human life. The healer interprets the metaphorical arrangement in relation to the patient’s afflictions, what the ancestors require, and what actions to take to resolve the problem. Diagnosis and RX are accomplished in a series of throws.”

Much is discerned by the pattern, or “constellation” in which the bones fall. For example, depending on how the bones fall, it could mean anything from personal information to the presence of diseases such as diabetes or a heart condition. A certain constellation will tell the diviner if a person needs hospitalization, while a different pattern may reveal that the patient came to the diviner in bad faith.

In some rituals, a third individual, in addition to the diviner and client, is often present in sessions of bone-throwing as a type of interpreter or mediator.

“This individual may be part of the divination staff…or may be a friend of the client or a family member,” this article explains. “The mediator’s role is to know the case, to have gotten acquainted with it, just as the expectation upon the diviner is that clairvoyance will be used to ‘see’ the truth of the case with the help of the bones or the spirits.” The mediator assists in the discernment process by answering questions about the case.

If the pattern of the bones doesn’t seem to be appropriate, the bones are thrown again to produce a new grouping to be read.

This explanation should make clear that the casting of bones, the use of clairvoyance, and the reliance on powers not sourced in God, all amount to placing a soul in grave spiritual danger.

Even though our caller was not involved in these rituals, they were used in a way that summoned powers that are not sourced in God and, therefore, should be taken to a priest for proper disposal.

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