Witches like stuff. There is something about lighting a candle, burning incense, or writing words using dragon’s blood ink on parchment paper that just brings a spell together.
None of these items is magical in and of itself. None is actually needed in order to be a witch or do spellcasting. Energy used to create magic and spellcasting comes from everywhere. The moulding and focusing of that energy to create magic comes from within. Tools aid to focus the mind. They can contain magical energies, but only what we put in them ourself.
Whether we need these tools or not, some are just nice to have. Their role as a focus for magical work cannot be denied. Here, I will discuss some of the basic tools found in my witchy home.
An altar is an area that has been set aside to hold something that is special or sacred to you. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want.
The altar can be anything at all. I like wood myself, but any sort of table can work. Just make sure that it will be at a comfortable height for you if you are sitting or kneeling. You can have a dedicated shelf or table, or make do with what is on hand at the moment. I’ve used the hearth in front of the fireplace, a small table, and even a cleared space on the ground.
Unlike many Pagan traditions that place the altar in the North within a ritual circle, I place my altar in the center and generally sit in the West.
Cover the altar with a cloth if you desire. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I’ve gotten most of my altar cloths from the remnant rack at the fabric store. This is because they serve a second purpose of protecting wooden tables from wax spills. If you have a bit of talent for sewing you can put a hem round the edge and possibly sew a few symbols on the cloth, but this certainly isn’t necessary.
Many years ago, someone around me asked “How do you pronounce athame?” The response given by another witch I know was “I pronounce it “knife.” I liked her response so much, I’ve used it ever since.
The athame is used to focus and direct energy. It is associated with the element of air and the direction East.
I keep my ritual knife sharp. I just don’t see the point of having a knife without an edge. Mine is made using 5,000 year old bog oak for the hilt.
Of course, I am also rather fond of a quote paraphrased from Terry Pratchett’s Esmerelda Weatherwax: Anyone can do magic with a knife, it takes skill to do it with an apple corer.
If you don’t have an athame, use your pointed finger.
I have two wands that I use, one more than others. Both are single pieces of wood, found while walking along a beach. No sparklies, no dangly bits. But they resonate within me when I use them. Traditionally, a wand should be around the length of your forearm from inner elbow to wrist, or thereabouts. My wands are smaller than this, but that doesn’t matter to me.
Like the athame, the wand is used to direct energy.
The wand is a symbol of Fire and the direction South.
If you don’t have a wand, use your arm or your pointed finger.
The chalice is very much a symbol of the Goddess. The Holy Grail holding the sacred waters of birth and life. The Cauldron of Cerridwen. Mine was found in a small airport shop while on a stop over in Bahrain on our way home from a holiday in Goa, India in 2000.
This one is used for more casual spellcasting and ritual. My favourite tipple of choice to fill the chalice is mead.
The chalice is a symbol of water. It’s direction is West.
If you don’t have a chalice, any cup will do. Or you can use your cupped hands.
The Besom is a simple broom made of natural fibers. It can be made of straw or wood or other fibers.
It is used during some Pagan rituals to sweep negative energies from the circe area. The ritual area should be physically cleaned before starting a ritual, and after finishing. The besom itself is used not so much for physical cleansing but psychic. In the tradition as I learned it, after sweeping the brush is left facing upwards until the broom has been taken outside and shaken clear of any negative energies. This way none of the negative energies can fall out again.
A pentacle can be anything. It’s a 5-pointed star which represents the 4 Elements plus the Ether. This is actually a symbol found in ceremonial magic, and was introduced into the European Pagan beliefs in the 20th century.
Even so, I do like to use it at times. It’s a matter of taking and using what works for me. In place of a pentacle, I will use a rock, or a piece of clay. If you don’t have a pentacle draw it on a piece of paper, or you can use your entire body
The pentacle is a symbol of Earth. It is the direction North.
Depending upon what work I am doing, I will use a variety of herbs and spices, candles, rattles and drums, or other items to help pull in energy to be used in spellcasting. I tend to use what is on hand and available in my kitchen store cupboards and often times don’t know what I am going to use until I start picking through my herb jars and pulling things out.
- The need for tools in the craft (phaedrasplace.wordpress.com)