A Witch’s Tools


Tools are the implements we use to work magic. Some traditions make a great fetish of tools. This can be daunting for new witches, who sometimes think they cannot begin to cast spells until they have acquired everything on the list. Unlike many witches, I take a minimalist approach to tools. For Years, I used a sword, an athame, and a pentacle. That's it. Occasionally I used a marble mortar that served as a chalice and for grinding herbs. A mortar is also a great place to burn things.


Start making or acquiring tools as you need them. Covens of ten give sets of tools to new members. I have found that, whenever I had need of a tool, I suddenly acquired it by one means or another. These are some of the (often-conflicting) superstitions about tools:


v      They must be formally consecrated before use;

v      Tools should only be used inside the circle;

v      Using tools in the kitchen consecrates the food they are used to prepare;

v      Tools must be made by yourself or received as gifts, not purchased;

v      It is bad luck to haggle over the price of a tool;

v      You should never allow anyone else to handle your tools; The finest tools are those you make yourself, from natural substances;

v      Any sword, knife, or dagger that has ever drawn blood must be purified before consecration;

v      Athames and swords should be symbolic, not actual weapons.


Accept or reject these beliefs as seems right to you. I have never consecrated my tools, because I have never felt the need to do so. Magical use seems self-consecrating to me. I dislike having the vibrations with which I imbue objects disturbed. I, therefore, never let someone touch my tools or my grimoire. I agree that actual weapons are unsuitable tools for a witch.


With the exception of the sword, my tools "hid in plain sight" while I lived in Egypt. I expect the notion of 'kitchen witch' came from the fact that most of the things we use - like herbs, cauldrons, and candles - can be left about the kitchen without attracting attention. This probably helped some witches survive the Burning Times.



Branch into wand, goblet into chance, knife into athame, pot into cauldron. Consecration is a short ceremony that dedicates an object for sacred use. Lay your tools on the altar, cast a circle, and consecrate them. You can devise any sort of ceremony you like for this. Keep it simple, cast the circle, mix salt into water, and sprinkle the tool, saying something like: "Knife, you are brought within this circle of transformation to be forever after my athame." Handle the object with reverence, steeping it in your vibrations, then put it in its appointed place on the altar before closing the circle.



An athame is a ceremonial knife that corresponds to the element of fire in some traditions, to air in others, and to the direction East. Like all the phallic tools, it has male energy and symbolizes animus. It a witch's weapon and most important tool. In some traditions, it must be black-handled (white-handled knives are used only as cutting tools). The hilt of your athame can be plain, or inscribed with magical markings. It can be a new knife acquired for this purpose, or it can be something you have had for a long time and now dedicate for ritual use. Antique stores and flea markets are good places to find daggers and interesting knives, but you must purify (with water, salt, sunlight, crystals, or any combination thereof) any object with unknown provenance in case it has black vibrations.


My athame is a bronze letter opener with an enameled handle that was given to me by a business mentor many years ago. The athame is used for:


v      Mixing salt and water, or potions;

v      Inscribing the circle;

v      Charging, consecrating, or empowering amulets, talismans, or Poppets;

v      Drawing lines;

v      Discrimination and setting limits;

v      Making choices and carrying them out'.



"'With this in my hands, I am the ruler of the circle." A sword is used like an athame, but is more formal and authoritative.  It corresponds to the planet Mars. Some traditions link to the element of air, others to fire. It has male energy.


Your sword could be an actual weapon or ceremonial object. I use a ceremonial sword that could not easily inflict damage on anyone. I bought it at Magickal Childe years ago, and chose it because I dislike the martial connotations of the real weapon. Use your sword for:


v      Invoking the Lords of the Watchtowers;

v      Ruling the circle;

v      Making salutations.


A woman who straps on a sword becomes male in the context of a ritual. You can keep yours on your altar, mount it on the wall above your altar, or keep it hidden away. Swords are irresistible to small boys so are best kept out of sight if you have young children in your house.



Anyone who's ever been to the movies knows what a wand is. Some traditions correspond wands to the element of fire, others to air. South is their direction; their energy is male.


Wands were traditionally cut from one-year-old trees, in a single stroke, at sunrise on a Wednesday. It is said that a wand's length should be the distance from your elbow to your fingertips. As with other tools, you can use any sort of wand you like, even a metal one. If you cut your wand from a tree, do ask the tree's permission first and leave it some small offering in return, like a feather or, a stone. Some witches prefer to use a fallen branch or a piece of driftwood rather than cut a tree.


Witches who make their own wands often carve magical symbols into them, or affix small crystals or gemstones to them. Wands are used for many things, including:


v      Casting circles;

v      Channeling energy;

v      Inviting and controlling entities;

v      Manifestation (changing spirit into matter, concept into form, idea into reality, etc.).


The Egyptian wand was called ur bekau, the mighty one of enchantments. It consisted of a sinuous piece of wood adorned by a ram's head wearing a uraeus at one end. Ur hekau was used in the opening of the Mouth ceremony. Held before a mummy's entombment, this ritual allowed the deceased to speak and eat in the afterlife.


Aaron's rod, a biblical magic wand, was made from an almond tree. The Druid wand was made of ash, with a spiral decoration. Sometimes a curved yew branch hung with tinkling silver bens was used for lunar magic. Irish Druids made their wands of hazel, rowan, or yew. Gallic Druids used oak wands.


A wand with a pinecone on its tip is used to invoke Dionysus. Chinese wizards used peach branches for their wands. The Ainu people of Japan used long pieces of bamboo with leaves attached to make their sacred wands. They whittled the tops into spiral designs. Witch wands for divining metal are made of rowan wood.




A pentacle is a 5-pointed star, usually inside a circle (the circle symbolizes unity and infinity). It corresponds to the element of earth. North is a pentacle's direction; its energy is female. This is the star of the Goddess. It is pointed upward for protection, blessings, consecration, meditation, and positive energy; downward for banishing and binding. Some say you should never invert a pentacle, but rather draw it backward for banishing or binding. The five points (starting at the top) can represent any of the following sets of symbols:


v      Birth, initiation, consummation, repose, death;

v      Love, wisdom, knowledge, law, power.


In some traditions the points represent


v      Spirit, Air, Water, Earth, Fire;


But in other traditions


v      Spirit, Water, Fire, Earth, Air


A pentacle is also a tool used in magical workings. It is usually placed at the center of the altar and magic worked atop it. It can be simple or elaborate, handmade or purchased, fashioned of whatever you like. A pentacle that is drawn or written is called a pentagram.


I use glass-a round sheet of glass with smooth edges. I draw the pentacle on one side of it with a metallic magic marker. I like glass because of its availability, transparency, and clean vibrations. I often put something related to the spell-photograph, documents, whatever-under the glass while I work the spell. You are supposed to break your pentacle when you move to a new home, so glass has another advantage.


Pentacles are also meditation tools. They can be used to call spirits or invite entities. You make the sign of the pentacle by tracing the star in the air, or on some person or object. A silver pentacle offers the most protection.


Do pentacles really protect? I believe so. I kept bees at home for bee venom therapy. They escaped one day. More than fifty bees were loose in my bedroom. My little boy and I were home alone. I closed the bedroom door, trapping them in there, and opened the window. I managed to get out of the room without any of them escaping, shut the door tightly and sealed it with the sign of the pentacle. Then I remembered my son's diapers were in there, so I went back in and repeated the process. It is in the nature of bees to fly out of windows, but this was a cold, overcast day, so I wasn't sure that they would. By nightfall, the bees were gone, except for the ones who never left their box. No one got stung. I just had a lot of honey to clean up. Would the bees have left anyway, without the pentacle on the door? Probably. Did I worry a lot less because I had put it there? Definitely.


Satanists use a downward-pointing pentacle as a symbol of Satan or evil. Their perversion of our sacred symbol doesn't make our symbol evil any more than their inversion of the cross makes that Christian symbol evil.  (**Note from Athena** I do not agree with this…to me “evil” is a very individual and perceptual concept.  IN fact, in some traditions, an inverted pentacle is a sign of attaining the second degree within that path.**)



The chalice is the vessel of the Goddess, the Holy Grail. Water is its element; its energy is female. Made of glass, metal, or wood, it is used for:


v      Mixing salt and water;

v      Mixing potions;

v      Invoking the power to be human, to be real, to be whole;


v      Conjuring emotions;


v      Nurturing;


v      Presenting offerings and pouring out libations;

v      Drinking ritual wine (in traditions that use wine).


I usually use my athame to pour a quantity of salt into a chalice of water, stir it with the athame, then proceed with the spell. I always use tap water, but you can use spring or distilled water if you like.


The chalice I use now is just a glass goblet from a set in my kitchen. It sits on my attar, always full to remind me of all my blessings. It usually just contains water, but I use rosewater when I am giving special thanks to Isis. Water evaporates, so I wash and refill it periodically.



This is the womb of the Goddess, the cauldron of inspiration, a place of resurrection. Its element is water, its direction is center, and its energy is female. Cauldrons are sacred to the Welsh goddess Cerridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron of Inspiration. They are traditionally made of cast iron and have three legs. I don't have one because I'm a city witch, but I'd get one if I lived in a house with a hearth or a place where I could make fires in the yard. I'd make pumpkin soup in my cauldron for Halloween, if I did have one. The cauldron is used for:


v      Brewing herbs and potions;

v      Renewing (rebirth, regeneration, and transformation);


v      Reflecting the Moon (for lunar magic);


v      Jumping over (for fertility);


v      Safely burning things.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has a wonderful ancient cauldron in their Islamic Art collection. It's huge and oddly shaped, has a fancy rim, and it's made of black iron and has three legs. I always wonder if it was used for cooking or magic.



A censer is a vessel, usually brass, in which incense can be burned. It corresponds to the elements of air and fire, for obvious reasons. Its directions are East and South. A censer may be simple or elaborate, and is usually kept on the altar. Middle Eastern shops and Catholic religious stores sell covered censers that come with chains so they can be swung back and forth. These are dramatic when used in rituals.


Put some sand or salt in the bottom of the censer. Heat lumps of charcoal until they are red hot, then use tongs to drop a few of them into the censer. Sprinkle solid incense-dried herbs, gum resins, or seeds-on them. Seeds tend to pop, so covered censers are safest. The bottom of the censer may get very hot, even with the sand or salt, so place it on a surface that is not likely to bum.

Censers are also good for burning incense cones. Joss sticks can be safely burned stuck into the earth of a planter, or in ceramic, metal, or wooden holders made for this purpose. Incense is used for:


v      Fumigating and smudging;

v      Purifying;

v      Raising power;


v      Achieving trance states;


v      Banishing evil spirits;


v      Encouraging and welcoming good spirits.



The witch's besom is a decorative broom used for:


v      Symbolic cleansing;

v      Sweeping away evil, negative influences, or bad vibes;

v      Expelling evil spirits;

v      Aspurging and purification (with water).


A broom symbolizes the union of male and female, the joining of phallic stick to feminine brush. Because of this, brooms have long been used in fertility rites such as jumping over at handfastings or "riding" through crops for the fertility of the land. A mistletoe besom is the broom of the thunder god.



Since water and salt are almost always used in casting spells, you may want to have two special bowls for this purpose. My grandmother's china set came with small footed bowls, so I just use some of these from the kitchen. Witches also often have a special bowl for making offerings to god/desses.



A bell or gong can be kept on the altar and rung to banish spirits, entities, negativity, or anything else. It can also be used ceremonially, to indicate that a ritual is beginning or ending. Whatever use you make of your bell, remember the old saying that you cannot 'unring" a bell.



Priestesses sometimes wear a special necklace inside the circle. This necklace is the circle of rebirth, a sign of the Goddess. It is traditionally made of alternating jet and amber beads, but you can select any sort of necklace that has meaning for you. I wear a gold ankh from Egypt that I never remove, and I have a string of blue and yellow Sumerian beads that are about 5000 years old. I don't see why priests can't also have special necklaces.



Solitary witches don't need these unless they're for cord magic or knot magic. Usually made of silk and 9 feet in length, cords are used by some traditions in coven work for:


v      Binding;

v      Initiations;


v      Control;

v      Taking someone's measure.


There are initiation ceremonies in which novices are literally bound, sometimes naked, to the altar. This is supposed to be a solemn, symbolic, religious act and no doubt has ancient origins. It seems darkly sexual to me, however, and I see much potential for abuse in it. I think it's safest to follow the same rules for sex and Wicca: never, ever, allow anyone to tie you up.



Solitary witches don't need this either. A scourge is a many-tailed whip that is used by covens in some traditions. Like the flail of the pharaohs, it is an emblem of authority. (Having lived in Egypt, however, I suspect the pharaohs actually used them as fly whisks.) Scourges are used for:


v      Severity;

v      Enlightenment;

v      Astral projection;


v      Gaining the Sight;


v      Domination/power over others;


v      Initiation ceremonies.


They can even be used for punishment in hierarchal traditions in which coven members are under the authority of a high priestess. Forty (gentle) lashes is traditional. This seems more like 'S & M' than Wicca to me, but to each his own. Fasting is another way to achieve the first four objectives on this list.



The Celtic torc, a metal circlet worn around the neck, symbolizes power and divinity. The four Tools of Power in ancient Ireland were:


v      The sword/arrow of Nuadha;

v      The spear/rod of Lugh;

v      The cauldron/cup of the Dagda;

v      Stone/shield/mirror of Fal.