Reddening the Bones…

The first time I came across the term ‘Reddening  the Bones’ was  back when I was occasionally practicing with a group of Witches back in the UK, quite a few years ago now. We were never a ‘formal’ group, as we all preferred to do our own thing. We are all very solitary in nature. We found a common link between us, even though we were of all ages, backgrounds and experience,  we learned from and encouraged each other to take our own personal craft further. I have spoken about Karl before (and here), and we as the youngest of the group, bonded more than the others. One trip out alone, we came across a fallen magnificent Red Deer Stag. He had been there for a long time, and his bones had been cleaned and whitened by nature. Possibly he had been food for another of my sacred animals. We could not believe we had made this find, as we had stumbled upon him at quite a poignant point in our conversation. We knelt beside the fallen Stag for quite some time, left him gifts of food and water, walked away, and carried on to the place where we would make camp. It was early in the afternoon, and we had plenty of time before the Sun would set. Our conversations were on the Stag, and Karl told me something he had learned from Ray, an ancient tradition of ‘making something red’ to bring a life-force to, a Spirit back, or make sacred an object…

We had in our packs the paraphernalia for a rite we wanted to carry out, and amongst it I had fresh beetroot! The beetroot is a very sacred root to us both, and with it’s Underworld associations it just seemed like too much of a coincidence. We decided we were to build a shrine to our Ancestors in the hills!  So, as I went back to the fallen Stag, Karl set about collecting stones and boiling the beets…

The skull was easily removed as it wasn’t in perfect condition, I left my offerings and wrapped it up and brought it back to the camp…

That night beside the fire, we made our rings of flour and water, and each of us took alternating turns to rub in our paste made of Beetroot mush , and Hunstanton red chalk dust. When  it wasn’t our turn rubbing the bones, we were drumming for the other, as we both recited a charm, over and over, until the Stag had been completely covered. That night He stood watch over our camp as we slept.

The next day we made a small pile of rocks, building them into a mound. Beneath this mound we buried items that represented our Ancestors – a Scottish Thistle, and Heather were amongst our gifts and offerings. We cut out palms, mingling our blood together as it dripped out around our clasped hands onto our freshly built mound of rocks. We then set about washing of the paste in a nearby stream, and set the newly died Stag Skull atop our mound. A skull is no longer a skull when it has been made red, it becomes a powerful direct link to the those beyond the veil. That night after the Sun had set, our fires were lit, our rings were made, we smoldered incense over hot coal, and our Ancestors were asked to join us. We invoked our Gods, and the Spirits of the Land beneath our bare feet, as we danced around the mound. We danced beside and with our Gods, the Spirits and our Ancestors until we couldn’t dance any more…

So, that was the first time I had Reddened something…


The act of Reddening is legendary and perhaps even Palaeolithic in origin, it is the art of giving life to an inanimate object through the use of blood or a blood-like substance, or can be used as part of a rite for Calling a Spirit Back to  objects such as bones (total coverage is not always needed, sometimes I just redden a small part of the skull of smaller animals, such as my Crows), but it can also be used as an act to sanctify and make an object sacred. Over the years I have researched, and used various types of ‘reddenings’ to aid me in my Witchery.  Some more famous examples of ‘reddening’ that most may have seen are the bones of Red Lady of Paviland (who actually wasn’t a lady at all) the Venus of Willendorf also had traces of red ochre, or Madder root, Odhinn states in the Havamal that the runes should  be stained, and act of feeding Mandrake roots blood and dressing them in wine…

“Know how to cut them, know how to read them,
Know how to stain them, know how to prove them,
Know how to evoke them, know how to score them,
Know how to send them.”
~ Hávamál: Odin’s Quest for the Runes.

So, this was the first time I have had the opportunity to work with a Stag skull alone, and my paste was a little different this time. I still used Beetroot. The Ancient Greeks seem to have been the first to discover the value of the Beet, they gathered the leaves of the wild plant, saving the roots for medicinal purposes, to cool the blood. The Oracle at Delphi pronounced that Beets were second only to Horseradish in mystic potency, and Aphrodite apparently ate Beetroots to retain her famed beauty.

Closer to home, and in my personal work, Beetroot has an Underworldly connection, as do most fruits and veg that grow in the ground. I boiled down a large Beet until it was soft enough to mash and let it cool. In the meantime I ground down a few dried Rowan berries to powder, along with a couple of good chunks of Dragon’s Blood Resin. I didn’t have any of my favourite red chalk left, so I used some red brick dust that my friend, Papa Toad Bone, send me as part of a gift a while ago. In Gaelic, Rowan is Caorann, or Rudha-an (red one). The name Rowan is ultimately derived from the proto-Germanic word raudnian meaning  ‘getting red’. In some traditions Rowan berries are associated with the blood of the Gods, and in the Highlands of Scotland using any part of the Rowan, except the berries, was taboo. Unless the wood was to be made into a ritual object. So, since sacred ojects were made out of Rowan, so it seems only right to make an object sacred ‘with’ Rowan…

In a ceremony I mixed together my powders, my Beetroot, Red Wine and my blood. I sprinkled Mr. Stag with Holy Water, fumigated him and then set about slavering on my red paste. I gave my gifts and offerings, then left the paste on for a day or so, until it has dried enough to crumble and brush off. Once He had been buffed down lovingly and carefully he was taken outside, so I could burn some incense without it annoying anyone else in the house. As I opened the door I remembered I had forgotten something. So, as I turned around, I guess I just wasn’t careful enough, because Mr Stag went flying off the plate I had him set on. Only to land perfectly, PERFECTLY, upside down on three tines!

I couldn’t move! I could hardly breathe…

My husband and Mother had heard the commotion and came rushing over, but they soon stood absolutely still as they caught sight of Mr. Stag showing off performing his balancing trick! He was already demanding my full attention and I’d only been working with Him for a small while. My Mother and I compared the hairs on our arms, which were standing on end.

Though for different reasons 🙂

And there you go, one reddened skull… I’ll  be keeping you all updated with what’s next:

Giving Mr. Stag a new skin…

The History of Mr. Stag:
New addition to the family

A’bhiolair uain

The Horned God and the Jackdaw

10 responses to “Reddening the Bones…

  1. That sounds awesome. He looks great.

  2. Excellent post, thanks for sharing, very inspiring!


  3. Remarkable! I got so absorbed by your posts that my tea got cold.

  4. Red is His colour! And your beetroot mixture looks a lot less messy than mine. 🙂

  5. It’s amazing how ‘alive’ he looks with the red. Bet he’s loving it.

  6. JediKnight1967

    Very impressive. Mr Stag looks truly fine in red.

  7. The hairs on my arm stood up straight when I read this post, especially the ending!!! Wow.

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