Pagan tips: The magical tools of witchcraft
Now that’s magic! A witch can practise their rituals wherever they want, but an altar stocked with the right magical tools can make a witch focused, disciplined and aware when they conduct their ritual or magical working. See what magical tools you might need for your altar, from athames and pentacles to the broomstick.
There are many different magical tools used in modern witchcraft, all with many layers of subtle meaning behind them. Understanding these tools, how they are used and the meaning behind them is part of your journey a witch. Here’s a guide to your magical tools, and how you can use them…
Of all the ritual tools belonging to a witch, perhaps none is as important as the altar. The altar serves as the centre of ritual and acts as an area of sacred space for a witch’s workings.
‘Sacred Space’ means many different things to many people and can also take on new meaning at different times. In regards to an altar, Sacred Space is a place that you have set aside for the placement of all other tools.
If the witch were an office worker, then the altar would be her desk. It is the objects upon the altar that are used in ritual, but the altar forms the base that makes them special.
When we make an altar it is a conscious act in which we declare that we are witches and that the items upon our altar are precious to us.
If we were to just leave our magical tools scattered about the house or kept under our bed in a show-box, then they lose some of their reverence. But by placing them upon an altar, we give to them a position of status, declaring that they mean something to us and that any magical work we do with these tools has just as much meaning.
There are many different kinds of altar. Some are used to make offerings to the Gods, some are used as meditation centres, some as workplaces for communing with the other worlds. Our altar is for magic.
Altars can be permanent or temporary, but either way it is important to maintain their meaning.
Just as ritualistic tools are shown to be meaningful by having a place on our altar, so too do we show the altar to be meaningful by placing it somewhere special. Some people like to have an entire room for rituals, in which they build a permanent altar. But for those among us who don’t have that kind of space, we may simply place our altar in an area that already has some special, personal meaning to us, like the privacy of our bedrooms.
Many people choose their altar placement according to their personal beliefs, such as feng shui, cardinal directions or astrology.
The Athamé is a dagger-like knife used to represent and focus the personal power of the witch. As a projection of power it is commonly used to draw the Circle that surrounds ritual space.
The Athamé itself is a symbol of power, used to direct the will of the wielder. It is associated with the element of Fire and in the Great Rite it is also a symbol of the universal masculine.
The witch’s wand is used in a similar way to the Athamé, for the purposes of directing the will of the witch. However, the wand is associated with the element of Air, and so is more effective for the focus of higher thoughts. But the main difference between the Athamé and the wand is that the Athamé is a weapon, thusly a symbol of protection and force. However, the wand is a symbol of the witch’s status and shows that she has the power to direct her will and commune with the higher planes.
The element of Water is represented through the use of the Chalice, which is a ceremonial drinking vessel. The Chalice is used to take drinks during rituals and at the culmination of ritual work. In some paths it is also used to toast the Gods.
This tool also represents the universal feminine or the womb, especially when combined with the Athamé during the symbolic Great Rite. However, in Asatru the chalice is used as a drinking horn for holding sacred mead.
Completing the main tools associated with the Elements is the Pentacle, which is the tool aligned with Earth.
The Pentacle is a flat board or circle that is usually inscribed with a pentagram (a five-pointed star), though they may also have many other symbols upon them.
This tool acts like a platform upon which many other acts are often performed – especially consecrations. It is symbolic of the Element of Earth, not only as the general Element, but also as the planet Earth itself and on a larger scale it can even be used as a symbol of the universe.
These items make up the core tools of the witch, each representing one of the mystical elements. All of these are commonly found upon a witches alter during rituals, if not all the time.
However, there are also other tools that serve specific uses, as opposed to the broader tools already mentioned. Some of these are common to Wicca, but can also be found in the rituals of non-Wiccan witches, too.
This tool is sometimes referred to as the white handled knife, as that is the form it traditionally takes. The Bailine is a blade, but unlike the Athamé it serves a more practical purpose to the witch.
As a part of rituals it is often used for cutting food either during or after magical workings. In addition, the Bailine is used by the witch to carve sigils, Runes, and other symbols into her other tools and similar relevant items. Sometimes it is also used to carve the tools themselves, by shaping the wood used for a wand or staff (such as the specific ceremonial staff, known as the Stang).
Cauldrons and similar vessels have been prominent in several European mythologies, where they are often seen as magical items. To the witch, her Cauldron represents the divine feminine and the womb of creation.
Some witches may use their Cauldron for scrying, while others will find a more mundane use for it by using it to mix consecrated water which is used to bless the Circle and those in attendance.
If you are lucky enough to have a full sized Cauldron, then you can even feel free to cook a nice broth that can be shared and eaten to regain your strength after more exuberant rituals.
For more Heathen orientated witches (those following a Germanic path), the Cauldron can be used as an excellent Glódhker, which is a type of fire-pot. In this use it represents Muspellsheimr, the first place to exist and the realm of cosmic fire.
A small bell is common among some traditions. The bell is often used to signify the completing of a ritual or spell and some witches also use it to mark the casting of their Circle and the opening of their Circle afterwards. You don’t necessarily need a real bell; there are witches who create their bell by lightly tapping their Athamé against the side of a metal chalice, thusly creating the pleasant ring of a bell. Victorian spiritualist would sometimes use the tinkling of a small bell to call spirits near to them and some witches still use this method when attempting to work with spirits, especially on Samhain. Some say that the fae are also attracted to the pleasant sound of a bell.
Also known as a broomstick, the Besom is the ultimate in stereotypical witchery!
Traditionally, the Besom has two main uses to the witch. Firstly it is a tool for cleaning, used in the preparation of ritual space, simultaneously sweeping away dust and unwanted energies from where you intend to work. This practice goes back at least as far as ancient Egypt where priests would sweep clean their ritual space in much the same way as modern witches do. Secondly it is used in some rituals to represent a doorway, either between two worlds or between one stage of life and another. In this way it can be laid upon the border of the Circle, temporarily making a space where outsiders may come into the Circle, symbolically moving from one world into another. Some Covens perform this practice as part of Initiation Rituals, showing how the new witch is crossing over not only into the Circle, but also into the confidence of the Coven and the mysteries of the Craft.
This particular tool is generally only used in groups and not by solitary witches. Like the Athamé it can be used to direct power and cast the Circle, but it is important that one doesn’t come to think of it as a kind of scaled up Athamé. No, the Sword possesses its own meaning that places it as a unique tool in its own right.
Swords have long been items that denote status, being as they were generally only carried by nobility. As such, the only person who wields a ritual Sword will usually be a High Priest or High Priestess, depending on the ritual and who is running it.
Whereas all the other tools are items used to focus the personal power of the individual, the sword is a focal point for the entire Coven, representing the task being undertaken and the collective will of those trying to achieve it, and held by the person who is overseeing the endeavour.
The magical tools already mentioned are among those that you are most likely to encounter in witchcraft, however, this is not a list of all the tools a witch may need. Some Traditions may have certain tools that are more relevant to their practices, such as Magic Cords, Robes, a Scourge, perhaps even instruments like drums.
But unless you join such a Tradition, there probably won’t be much need for you to use these things, unless you personally wish to. Feel free to research them yourself and see how they make you feel.
Despite all these fancy names and special items, there are some tools that are so mundane that they may almost be forgotten in a list such as this. However, they are by no means any less important and in some cases they may even be more important.
A witch must always be prepared, which is why it is a good idea to make sure that you always have a healthy stock of the following things:
Candles serve so many functions in witchcraft that they may actually be one of the most significant tools we have. They are used to represent the Gods, mark the corners of the Circle, work magic directly or even just to provide ambient lighting for a ritual.
Indeed, if you have no candles then you are missing one of the most versatile tools in witchcraft.
Like candles, incense can also serve many purposes. Some people find it helps them meditate, some offer it up to the Gods, it can also be used in cleansing rituals and Banishings, plus some believe that certain aromas have mystical or medicinal properties.
Don’t forget an incense burner or censer, too.
I’m not sure this needs too much explanation. If you have candles then you will need somewhere to put them. Many people buy or make special candlesticks for the purposes of holding God and Goddess candles during rituals.
Strange as it may sound, a good bowl can work wonders. It has obvious functional properties, such as holding the food for after workings, but a bowl can also be filled with many other useful things. When filled with water the bowl becomes a magic mirror. When filled with offerings it becomes a dedication to the Gods. When filled with salt water it can be used in consecration, preparation and dedication rituals. Oh, and while we are on the subject, keeping some water and salt handy is also a good idea.
A place to practice
It’s not a lot of good getting together all your tools and preparing a ritual or spell if you don’t have anywhere to perform it. A lot of witches like to practice outdoors in natural environments, but it is just as acceptable to practice in your own house. Some people even prefer it.
Not really a ritual tool, but if you are planning on practicing outdoors in the dark, having a torch with you will help ensure that you make it to the ritual.
Although, if this is how you choose to practice, please be careful. It’s great to get close to nature, but it might not be a good idea to be walking around the woods on your own in the middle of the night. At the very least, let people know where you are and where possible never go alone.
A warm coat
Seriously, if you’re engaging in magical rituals outdoors, it can get freezine.
You are always the most important part of any ritual or magical working. Without you there is no magic, so make sure that you keep your mind in your workings. The witch must be focused, disciplined and aware.
Okay, so now you have the information you need to get underway as a witch. All you need to do now is gather your tools and learn to use them. Just try to keep in mind that the tool itself holds no power. They are just things. The power comes from within you and the tools allow you to direct that power. They are a way to channel your energies and focus your mind towards making the connection between your will and the universe.
Learn what your tools represent, establish a personal connection to them and they will become an extension of yourself. With this, they will allow you to reach out into the unseen worlds and explore the mysteries of reality.