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:
They must be
formally consecrated before use;
only be used inside the circle;
Using tools in
the kitchen consecrates the food they are used to prepare;
Tools must be
made by yourself or received as gifts, not purchased;
It is bad luck
to haggle over the price of a tool;
never allow anyone else to handle your tools; The finest tools are those you
make yourself, from natural substances;
knife, or dagger that has ever drawn blood must be purified before consecration;
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:
Mixing salt and
water, or potions;
consecrating, or empowering amulets, talismans, or Poppets;
and setting limits;
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:
Lords of the Watchtowers;
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
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
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:
(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:
initiation, consummation, repose, death;
knowledge, law, power.
In some traditions the points
Water, Earth, Fire;
But in other traditions
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
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:
Mixing salt and
power to be human, to be real, to be whole;
offerings and pouring out libations;
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:
(rebirth, regeneration, and transformation);
Moon (for lunar magic);
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:
welcoming good spirits.
The witch's besom is a
decorative broom used for:
evil, negative influences, or bad vibes;
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"
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:
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:
Domination/power over others;
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
cauldron/cup of the Dagda;
Stone/shield/mirror of Fal.