Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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What the Bones Said

The last official action of each Grand Sabbat is to throw the bones to determine when the next Sabbat will take place.

The Midwest Grand Sabbat has convened regularly, at intervals of one to three years, for the last 30 years. "Regularly, at irregular intervals," I always say.

Here is the logic of the irregular intervals. If the Sabbat took place every year, wonderful as it is, people would eventually begin to take it for granted. (The Sabbat is always a gift, the True Gift of the Horned to his True People, his to him.) It is, nonetheless, the tribal gathering of the Tribe of Witches which, by its power, recreates the tribe ab initio; therefore, it needs to be repeated with relative frequency lest the tribe should suffer for it. The uncertainly beforehand about when the next will be keeps keen the hunger for the Sabbat, which is indeed—as Jeanne Dibasson said in 1678, and which anyone who has ever been there can tell you—the “witch's true paradise."

This year, a young priestess-in-training (12 years old) asked me how I read the bones.

So I'll tell you.

Between Sabbats, the eponymous bones—astragali (“knucklebones”) of a white-tailed deer—are kept, wrapped in green silk, in their own special jar in the Temple of the Moon.

First you unwrap the silk covering and spread it on the ground. (This gives the reading a “ground.”) You take up the five knucklebones in your hands, ask, shake, and throw.

Then you read.

(Each throw has a name, but I won't go into that here.)

First, eliminate the two outer bones. (Why, then, are there five to begin with? Sorry, there's a deep mystery that I can't tell here, so you'll have to figure that out for yourself.)

Then you count bumps.

Knucklebones are concave on one side and convex on the other. Each hollow = zero. Each bump = one. (If you think that there's symbolism going on with the bumps and hollows, you're right, but you'll have to figure that out for yourself, too.)

This year, the bones said: 2021.

So, there you go, Rose.

See you at the Sabbat.




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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    What a great method, and it takes a burden off the planners too, in a way.

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