Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bone Magic Series: How to Ethically Acquire Animal Remains

Bone Magic Series: How to Ethically Acquire Animal Remains

So now that we have covered many of the historical and modern uses of animal remains, how do you go about acquiring them? The good news is, you have several options to legally and ethically acquire bones, furs, feathers, teeth, and claws, you just have to know where to look! I understand not everyone has access to large expanses of woods to find animal remains or trekking through a forest looking for bone may not be your thing. I get it! And because of the internet, it's now easier than ever to acquire animal remains, even for those that are against killing animals, like myself.

Nature Walk

This is how I have acquired most of my animal remains, most of which came from my dad who is an avid hunter (well he used to be) and therefore out in the woods a lot! He stumbles on animal remains all the time and brings them all home. I'm fortunate enough to be given many of the things he finds, and I use them as decor and in my magical practice. You simply need to venture out into the woods and keep an eye out. If you are hiking common trails, especially in a park, you're likely not going to find anything because others have been there before you. Besides, you're not supposed to take anything from parks, but I know people do anyway. Find a wild place, where few people travel and walk the local wildlife trails. Deer wear some pretty clear paths through the woods; these are great places to start. Don't be surprised if you don't find anything on your first walk. You'll likely take a lot of walks before finding anything, but that's part of the fun!


This is an easy way to get animal remains, but not a very pleasant one! Furthermore, there are several downsides to using roadkill remains. First, you run the risk of coming into contact with an infectious disease, including rabies and even leprosy! A word to the wise, if you live anywhere near armadillos, like I do here in Georgia, leave their remains right where you find them! They are notorious for carrying leprosy and no one wants to be a lepper, although you'd certainly have that old world witchy vibe going on. Second, many of the bones may be broken or otherwise harmed. Its the side effect of being hit by a car! Third, the animal remains will need to be cleaned of any remaining flesh, and the process doesn't always smell very nice. I'll cover that move in the next post. Please make sure you follow all local laws regarding roadkill. It is illegal in some areas to touch roadkill, but I won't tell.


If you are a hunter, you can save the remains of the animals you have killed. If you aren't a hunter but don't mind that someone else did the killing, the check out the local animal processing business. Hunting season is year round, meaning something is in season all the time, so hunters are constantly bringing in animals that need to be processed. In Georgia, you can pick up white-tail deer, turkey, wild boar/pig, rabbit, waterfowl, and even bobcat and coyote remains if you get lucky. After they have processed the animal, there are bones and pelts left over. Some of the processing businesses will sell these; some may even give you parts for free! Some smaller businesses are just happy someone is taking it off their hands because a lot of times the unused remains end up in the trash.

Butcher Shop/Grocery Store

There is a couple of option here. One you can buy meat with the bones still in the meat and remove them yourself, or you can ask the local butcher if they have any leftover bones you could buy. Yes, they usually sell the bones here because people like to use them in cooking stock. Keep in mind that cooked bones are more brittle than uncooked bones, but you are more than welcome to use cooked bones. I've seen several witches do it with good results.

Online Stores

Not interested in getting your hands dirty? Not to fear! There are tons of great shops online that ethically acquire animal bones, usually from animals that died of natural causes. Do some research on the companies though. While they may advertise that they ethically and legally sourced the animal remains, you can't be too careful. Be wary of exotic animals and always make sure to check whether or not the animal is listed as endangered. It is illegal to own any remains of an endangered animal unless there is proper paperwork detailing it came from healthy populations or it is from before 1973.

So what shops do I recommend? Curious Nature sources all of their remains from roadkill, zoos, or a byproduct of another industry, such as farming. They purposely try to learn as much as they can about where the remains come from, to ensure they are ethically sourcing their product. You can read more on their stance here. One of the best stores and a personal favorite of mine is The Skull Store. Like Curious Nature, they actively search for ethically and sustainably sources animal remains, not to mention they work with conservation programs, wildlife rehabilitation, and education programs. They never commission an animal to be killed; instead, they purchase animal remains from sustainable sources such as zoos, farms, indigenous peoples, and old collections. Furthermore, they work with law enforcement and wildlife enforcement agencies to help catch poachers and smugglers. You can read their full policy here. This is one of my favorite online sources as they take action in the wildlife community. Another shop I love is Of Moth and Moon. I've ordered from their shop and received some amazing little curiosities. It's a small family business and all of their animal remains come from nature, owl pellets, roadkill, natural deaths, or are the by-product of an industry or pest control. You can request items to come strictly from nature, roadkill, or natural death if you don't want to support an industry that profits from killing animals.

Your Pets

Yes, you can get animal remains from your pets, while they are still alive and well I might add. My cats shed fur, whiskers, and nails all the time. Any of these could easily be used in magical practice. Sometimes a pet may lose a tooth or need to have one extracted. You can ask the vet for that tooth! My chickens constantly shed feathers. I am completely covered up in feathers right now! When your pet passes, you can also opt to have them preserved or use their bones in your practice, if that doesn't bother you too much.


No matter how you decide to acquire your animal remains, please never kill an animal simply to harvest something from it. That's highly unethical and the spirit of the animal will not be pleased. Please follow all local laws and regulations regarding animal remains. I think by now most American witches know they aren't supposed to be picking up feathers, but use your best judgment. If you do come across animal remains in nature, approach it with respect and caution. Disease is a big factor, but the spirit may still be hanging out around. If you sense that it is, ask if you may approach and touch the bones. If its a no, simply thank the animal for its time, leave an offering and move along. If it does allow you to touch it, make your intentions clear and known and ask if you may take a bone or several with you for your magical workings. As of yet, I haven't been told no! You may find the bones are empty, especially if they have been there a while. I would still approach respectfully.

How do you find animal remains to use in your practice?

Interest in the rest of the series? Here's what's to come!

Bone Magic Series


  1. pardon my naivety but why aren't you supposed to pick up feathers if you come across them?

    1. In the United States, and many other countries, migratory birds are protected by law. In the US this is referred to as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Owning feathers, nests, or other parts from migratory birds, which is most birds, is illegal. There is no way to know whether you killed the bird for their feathers or found them on the ground. Of course these rules vary from country to country, so it's best to check in, but in general, most people are not prosecuted for such an offense unless they were caught in the act of killing a protected bird. Use your best judgement and do what feels right to you.

  2. Good morning, I am a solitary young shaman apprentice. I send a huge greeting from Mar del Plata, Argentina and I apologize in advance if there are any grammar errors in the comment. My English is still rough. One day I was at home and I decided to dig a hole in a random place in my yard (which is quite large and has several pets buried in it) to bury some broken bottles that the garbage service did not want to take. In the process I dug up a vertebra. Intrigued, I decided to investigate a little more and... I ended up exhuming the complete skeleton of a dog that was my uncle's pet, which was sacrificed for biting my brother and killing a cat. He lived across the street from my house and one day he decided to move into an apartment and leave the dog with us. I think she went into depression when they took her away from her home and her family, although she had a relationship with us it was not the same and surely this was the cause of her aggression. At the moment of discovery I had a powerful feeling that I had to get her out of there, at the same time I felt some sadness for the animal's unfortunate past. After a good cleaning of the bones, I prayed some mantras to raise her spirit and help her on her way. Immediately afterwards, peace came over me and I wanted to keep the remains. It was as if she had arranged for me to find her and help her leave and move on and she had given me her bones in exchange for her. I'd like some feedback on whether or not I was right exhuming the remains in your opinion and any advice on what I might do with them other than communing with the collective spirit of dogs or a bone tarot.

    1. If you are being truthful in the feelings you felt when you discovered her, then what you did was what she wanted. She was calling to be collected and wishes to be apart of the family once again. She will likely be extremely helpful in spells related to protection, adding an aggressive touch.


This witch loves to hear from her readers, so please share your thoughts below!