Do Bones Have Sex?

I was doing readings at a psychic fair a few months ago, and I asked my standard first question – “How do you identify? Male, female, both, neither, something else?” The person in the chair immediately became indignant. “Do you really ask that question? What’s wrong with people these days?” I cheerfully answered – “Yep. I ask it every time I do a reading for someone new to me.” The person (who grudgingly said “female” after a bit of huffing) went on to have a reading with no further issues. I’ve seen people get annoyed, incredulous, or surprised when I ask the question, but the vast majority just answer and move on, and there are those who respond with “thank you for asking me that.”

The intensity of the reaction of that one person made me wonder where it came from. Why is it such a hot-button issue for some people? Aside from the political tribalism that has overtaken polite discourse in our country, what possible difference should it make to a stranger how I conduct my readings in a way that attempts to be inclusive? And why is the reaction one of disgust, and taking personal offense to the question, bordering on anger? I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

First of all, let me explain why I ask the question, and it’s a simple answer. Some of the bones have a sex – a symbolic gender identity and corresponding energy. When I begin the reading, I remove two bones from my set – a small cowrie shell and a small cantharis shell. If you take a close look at these two shells, you’ll see why I use the cowrie shell to represent a female querant, and the cantharis for male. They’re visual shorthand for the person receiving the reading. But I ask because I don’t make assumptions.  I know that the outward appearance of some people doesn’t necessarily correspond to their gender identity – how they see themselves. I want everyone who receives a reading from me to have the representation they feel most comfortable with, and the respect and dignity they need to feel safe in the presence of their Ancestors.

Why does it matter? Bone readings run on energy – the energy of the Ancestors, of the Angels and Guides, of myself and the person who receives the reading, but mostly the energy of the bones themselves. And some of the bones have a “sex” or gender energy – they are yin, or yang or something in between (and sometimes both at once). I use the cowrie or the cantharis (I set the other one aside and it isn’t used in the reading, unless the person says “both” or “none of the above” to my question, and in that case I use both in the reading) to represent the energy of the person receiving the reading. And the thing is, I’m not qualified to make that judgment myself. I don’t want to inadvertently send the reading off in the wrong direction because I make the wrong assumption. And I want the person to feel seen, heard, and most of all, respected. So I ask the question of everyone, for the small number of people who have an answer that is neither male nor female. I ask it so that they are properly acknowledged.

What other bones have a sex? The bacula (penis bones) are an obvious one. They almost always represent a male presence in the person’s life. Same with the coyote claw, which is nearly always male (though once in a while it will signify a very aggressive female). The cat charm and claw are generally female-energy bones, as are Gaia, and the abalone shell. Sometimes, based on context and position, I can feel that any of the bones represent either a male or female energy. And there are some bones, such as the ruby slippers, and the muskrat, that rarely come up in a male’s reading, and I’m always surprised at the special significance when they do.

Gender and sexual orientation are such hot-button issues in human life. Since I was in high school, I always wondered why sex is so important that the first things most parents hear upon giving birth is “it’s a boy,” or “it’s a girl.” I remember having a discussion with a college professor about whether males and females are the same (apart from outward anatomical differences). She said someday I would understand it better. I felt at the time that she was condescending, but she was so right. SO right. The differences between people of the various sexes are profound, as are the ways in which they’re treated. There are times when I’m convinced that we might not even be of the same species. I totally get the use of inclusive pronouns, as well, even though using “they/them/theirs” to designate one person will always be a challenge for me, after 60 years of using the words as plural only. And now that transgender issues are coming to the fore, there are complexities our Ancestors never imagined.

But what’s clear to me is that everyone is the keeper of their own truth about who they are. It’s none of my business how they identify themselves, other to ensure that they’re properly represented in their bone reading. And it’s not my place to make assumptions about the person sitting opposite me. So I ask the question, every time, because it’s the right thing to do, knowing that some people are going to feel offended by the fact that I’m asking it (perhaps it’s a lack of confidence in their appearance – “Do I look like a man to you?!?”). They have their own reasons for being offended, which I will never understand. But that’s their right, as well.

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