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Charm Casting: The History of Charm Casting

There are many forms of divination, one of the oldest and most diverse being casting. Casting is a divination method in which small objects are assigned meanings, scattered or arranged across a surface, and then interpreted for spiritual messages. The objects used for casting will have designated meanings, but insight is also gathered from how and where these objects land on your divining space.

Runes, bones, sticks, stones, seashells, dice, coins, charms, and other small objects are the tools used for casting. Specific casting tools and practices can be found in the histories and traditions of many different cultures throughout the world. Below are just a few examples of specific casting tools with historical and contemporary significance.


Runes - The Futhark Runes are an ancient alphabet that was used in Germanic and Scandinavian countries before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. The symbols of the Futhark runes are connected to Norse mythology and belief, with each runic symbol representing a specific idea or power.

Bones - Bone casting, also known as ‘throwing bones,’ has origins in many cultures across Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Mediterranean. One unique form of bone casting is Shagai, a Mongolian divination practice that uses four anklebones from a sheep or goat. Each of the four sides of the anklebones represent an animal: a horse, a sheep, a camel, or a goat. When cast, the animal combinations and positions of the bones are interpreted.

Staves - Wood is a popular material to make casting tools out of. Ogham Staves are a divination tool based on an ancient Celtic alphabet. The 20-25 symbols of the Celtic alphabet are representative of a specific tree and meaning. In some Ogham sets, each stave is made from the tree it represents.

Shells - Different shells have spiritual significance in many cultures. Divination using Cowrie Shells originated with the Yoruba people of West Africa. Cowrie Shells were specifically used in Obi divination, where four shells are cast and interpreted based on sixteen different possible outcomes.

Lots - You may have heard the term “casting lots” used to signify a decision made (seemingly) by chance. This practice can actually be connected to ancient Israel, where the casting of lots sometimes included arranging marked stones or broken pieces of pottery as a way to make decisions, selections, or interpret God’s will. A set of Lots may also refer to a divination set of