While buying already cleaned bones on the internet is really handy and great, there is nothing quite like processing a found bird or animal by your own hands. I have found that my connection to the animal is stronger and I understand them more, because I know where and how they lived and usually, how they died.
Magical plants and trees have been an interesting addition as well. Do not overlook your plant allies! They can lend a strong healing voice to a reading and can even help in remedial work post-reading.
Anything can be added as long as it fits and be mindful of pieces coming to you, because they will when you open yourself to this kind of work.
Your collection is usually never static. It will change over time just like we do - an ever evolving process.
I must admit, that it was quite frustrating at first to learn. You take a handful random objects, chuck them in a general direction and then attempt to read them based on their landing placement. If you come from a tarot background, this can be a total mind fuck. You'll want to assign tarot meanings as a way to compartmentalize the pieces and their meanings – I kind of did this in the beginning myself. I do not recommend it. Tarot is tarot. Bones are bones. They speak! But you must find your own way of listening.
EVERYTHING CONTAINS A SPIRIT
A common thread I have found among bone throwers is animism. Which is the belief that all things, plants, animals, rock, inanimate objects, contain a spirit. I find this mindset and belief basically necessary to reading bones in my own practice. Each piece contains its own wisdom, its story and all the pieces together create this collective, unique being. Like humans and many other things, no two are alike.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Sometimes a piece will change its meaning.
Sometimes, a piece will decide to leave.
Sometimes a piece will always want to speak (usually of corvid origin, ahem).
Sometimes a piece will never speak.
Sometimes, a piece will break.
Sometimes, everyone wants to speak!
I have found that being flexible and open is necessary. Every cast is an invitation to discover something new and to hear the voice of spirit. The moment you become rigid, movement and flow of voice is lost.
Trust yourself, be fluid.
Your bone throwing set is a living breathing thing and it is good to treat it as such. A few ways I have bonded with my set is as follows:
Talking to them
Giving them my blood, usually menstrual
Sleeping with it under or by my pillow
Carrying a piece with me through the day
Periodically smoking and "watering" them (see in Care and Feeding)
Leaving pinches of tobacco and mugwort in their resting place
Working with them regularily
CARE AND FEEDING
I use a scarf my grandmother gave me to hold my bones. I have found a soft container is best and I feel that my set enjoys a warm gentle place to rest when not in use. You'll come to know the particularities, wants and needs of your set with time. If ever in doubt, just ask, be open, listen and experiment with what works.
I like to feed my set both periodically and before I begin a reading. Most often this comes in the form of homemade Florida Water, western red cedar smoke, wild mugwort and tobacco. Florida Water is a favorite. I just sprinkle this over the bones before a reading, stir them with my hands and talk to them, letting my breath warm and touch the bones while bundled up in their scarf. A pinch of tobacco or mugwort added to them while they're wrapped up and not in use is nice too. Western red cedar is a nice benevolent, clearing and blessing smoke, between uses or after a reading is done. Use what calls to you, listen to what they want.
Ancestors, helping spirits and the spirits within the bone set itself are key to call up before beginning a session. Before I throw, I rattle them around a bit, “wake up, time to wake up!” I will say them close to my face and allow my breath to touch them. I like to “warm” them, stir them alive again. They hear me and begin to stir... then with smoke and perfume I feed them, speaking aloud my question and situation. I then take a handful of bones and give them a gentle toss
Grounding and centering myself, light meditation, entering an altered state
Anointing a candle, lighting it and setting out a glass of water to open the way to spirit.
Calling upon my ancestors and helping spirits to aid me in receiving messages loud and clear
Speaking to my bones and allowing my breath to touch them as I speak aloud my question/situation.
Cast the bones and read away!