Magic can be performed without the standard tools. These are only props to help you focus your energy and concentration. You many collect all of these, a few of these, or none of these. I don’t have all of these items but I keep an eye open for things that catch my eye.
There are hundreds of tools, these are just a few…
As with most other religions, tools are used in witchcraft to aid and enhance ritual worship. Tools have no power in themselves, though they do have powerful symbolic significances. Some like the Wand and Athame are used to invoke and direct whatever power we generate or pass through them. While tools are not absolutely necessary to the practice of the craft, some tools are nice to have if only to focus our will and concentration. The basic tools to start with are the elemental tools or those tools which represent the four elements of life: The Pentacle for Earth, The Wand for Fire, The Athame for Air, and The Chalice for Water.
There is a great deal of discussion regarding the linking of tools to certain elements, as a traditional witch I use the above tool correspondences. When we consider the nature of the basic magickal tools of cauldron, pentacle, sword and staff we have to consider the archetype who will wield this tool. These tools are basically defensive weaponry and act as protective symbols within the circle.
Lets start with the cauldron. This is ruled by the element of water. A water person and the Lord (or Lady) of the watchtower, is dreamy, intuitive, a foreteller of the future, maternal – a feeder! With this tool, the water guardian can scry to foretell the future and brew potions and spells.
Next lets move to the Pentacle. The pentacle is basically a shield, this is weilded by the stoic, immovable, determined Earth guardian. “None shall pass”, is this guardians watchword.
Now lets look at the last two guardians, one is passionate, impetuous, quick to react and to temper. A fiery personality! The other is drawn to diplomacy, justice, communication, advocacy and lives within their own thoughts, this guardian may appear a bit calculating, but could never be described as an air head. The last two tools are the staff; a defensive weapon used to block and trip up the opponent, and needs someone with fast reactions, aggression and instinctive movements. The other is the ultimate weapon of destruction, the sweep of its blade brings about permanent justice. Its use needs to be used in a considered way, not a reactive one. This is why in traditional witchcraft and Gardnerian wicca it is put into the hand of the Air guardian, and the staff into the hand of the Fire guardian. Other traditions link it to the material in which it is made, but I don’t feel this gives the right energy to the tool. These tools are weapons, not to be used to dominate, suppress or demean, but for protection, defense and justice.
Having said that, these are my own opinions and one thing I can not stand is dogma and bigottry within the craft. If you prefer the alternative meanings this is fine. Rememeber the most important aspect of magick is belief, you must believe in what you are doing. Never compromise that by doing something against your better judgement.
Tools needn’t be purposely bought or excessively expensive. Take a look around the household, many ordinary implements can be used or improvised as tools. You could even make your own and by doing so, a certain amount of personal power will be infused into the item, thus increasing its effectiveness. Other sources of tools are Car Boot Sales, Junk Shops and Antique Shops. With a little patience you may find tools cropping up in the most unusual places.
All tools as they are collected, should be cleansed of all negative energies and past use influences. You may not know how or for what use they may have been used before you acquired them. To do this, clean the item physically and thoroughly while using visualisation. Some choose to bury the item in the ground for a few days, thus allowing past associations to be dispersed and purified with earth’s energy.
Alternatively you could use the water method. Immerse the item in water, preferably natural water like the Sea, a River, or a Lake. Leave submerged for a couple of hours before removing and drying the item off. Obviously common sense must prevail when using these methods, as you wouldn’t want to ruin the item. Do whatever seems appropriate for each item. After the cleansing process, each tool needs to be consecrated, ready to use for magickal purposes.
Keeping a Grimoire
Also known as a Book of Shadows, a grimoire is a magician’s secret journal of spells and rituals. Here’s where you keep a record of the magic you perform, the ingredients and tools you use, and your results. It’s a bit like a cook’s personal collection of favorite recipes. You may wish to write your spells in a large, elegant book bound in leather or in a simple loose-leaf notebook. What’s inside is more important than what’s outside. If you like, decorate the pages with symbols and designs you find appealing.
Date your entries. You can include moon phases, the zodiac signs in which the sun, moon, and planets were positioned at the time you did the spell, and any other relevant data. For instance, you might want to make note of the time of day and place where you performed a spell or ritual. Make sure to write down your intention in doing the spell and, if you choose, the name of the person for whom it was enacted.
Remember, your grimoire is a very private and secret record. Don’t let anyone else look at it, except perhaps a trusted magical partner with whom you work regularly. Store it in a safe place, so that your information won’t accidentally fall into the wrong hands.
Be sure to describe your results and reactions. You’ll probably do your favorite spells many times, so it’s a good idea to make comments each time you repeat one. If you vary a spell at any time, note that too. Some spells take a while to materialize; if possible, keep track of results that develop over time.
The Book of Shadows is a book that contains a witch’s rituals, spells, runes, dreams, recipes, etc. Within covens, the original Book is copied by hand by the initiates. A solitary may also keep a Book,recording within spells, etc. The Book is normally a secret book.
What is found with in the Book is often spells and such copied from other sources and, of course, those that are uniquely your own. The Book is a record of a witch’s magickal work. What is wonderful about it is that every Book of Shadows should be a little different. Maybe you’ve found clove oil works best for a prosperity spell while the original spell called for patchouli oil. Because of the multitude of personality and available resources, not every Book of Shadows should be the same and therefore not only ONE Book is the right Book.
To make a Book of Shadows, any blank book will do. Most are hard bound, but that’s not mandatory. I prefer a ruled book because of my lack of ability to write in a straight line. The color of the book is optional, but black does seem to be traditional. Today, in this wonderful world of computers and the internet, many witches are keeping their Books on their computers. Just keep in mind that if you keep your Book on computer to back up the data! I work for a wholesale computer parts warehouse. Trust me, I’ve heard more disaster stories about valuable information lost when a computer crashes and the owner didn’t have this must-have info backed up. It’s not a pretty sight.
Traditionally the Book of Shadows was always hand written by the individual. A common custom for new initiates into a Coven, is to hand copy his teacher’s Book of Shadows exactly as it appeared, then later to add his own material as he progressed in the craft. Today with the advantages of technology they are often typed and photocopied, or even computerised onto Floppy Disc’s.
To make your own Book of Shadows, you can use any form of blank book, but perhaps the best type to use are those of a loose-leave nature, thus allowing pages to be shuffled around when preparing for rituals. Mine is a black lever arch file that I put pages usually printed off the computer. I choose font and colour that make it special to me.
At the front I have a card with a book of shadows blessing on it. And a short spell for it not to be discovered by unfriendly eyes. I then use cards to seperate the different sections. How you do this will be up to you. All your reference information and correspondences can be kept in it where you can easily find it. Every time you work a spell or ritual you should write a report on what you did, what you used and the outcome and keep it with the spell for reference. You will come back again and again to your BOS and should always keep it in good order and up to date.
You can keep you lists of herbs, oils, colours, etc… for reference also chants and charges to help you in your work.
The athame is the traditional ritual dagger of the witch. Commonly it has a black handle and steel double-edged blade. Many Wiccans engrave the handle or blade with magickal symbols indicative of deities,spirits or the elements as sources of power. The athame is a tool of command, it is used to direct what power we pass through it. It is used to cast circles by tracing the circumference, to charge and consecrate objects and banish negative energies. In most traditions, it is never used as a mundane knife for cutting purposes, and is used strictly for magickal purposes only. As an elemental tools of the craft, in most traditions it is associated with Air. The phallic symbolism of the knife links it with the God.
The cauldron is probably the tool most associated with witchcraft and is steeped in magickal tradition and mystery. The cauldron is the container in which transmutation, germination, and transformations may occur. It is symbolic of the womb of the Goddess, and is the manifested essence of femininity and fertility. Everything is born from the cauldron of the Goddess and afterwards everything returns back to it. It is also symbolic of the element of water, as well as reincarnation, immortality and inspiration. In ritual the cauldron is used as a container for making brews and potions, or to contain a small fire for use with spells. It can also be used for scrying (divination) by filling it with water and gazing into its depths. In ancient times the cauldron was used as a cooking vessel and for brew making. Traditionally it was made from cast iron, it rests on three legs and has an opening smaller then its widest part.
Caution: Please use good judgment, and above all, common sense when working with anything flammable or combustible.
Using a cauldron, symbol of inspiration and rebirth, has brought new dimensions to both group and solitary work. A cauldron decorates the centre of the Circle during Lesser Sabbats.
An air cauldron at a spring rite creates a misty, magical quality for the ceremony. In summer, the cauldron will flash and spark.
A blue flame burns mysteriously within the Water cauldron during the autumn festival. Throughout Yule, the Earth cauldron burns steadfast and constant. During moon rites, when magick is done, we write the purpose of our working on flash papers and toss them into the burning cauldron while chanting.
A working cauldron should be of cast iron, with a tight-fitting lid, three sturdy legs, and a strong handle. Season your cauldron before using it for the first time. Pour in generous helping of salt and lighter fluid, slosh it up to the rim and wipe dry. For indoor use it MUST have a fireproof base or your workings will summon up yellow-coated salamander spirits from the fire department.
Layer salt, wax shavings, three powdered or ground herbs, lighter fluid and ivy leaves in the cauldron while focus and chanting. Use a candle to light it. When the smoke starts to roll, extinguish the cauldron by putting the lid on.
Using tongs, put a chunk of dry ice is a small glass or ceramic bowl and place the bowl on a cloth in the bottom of the cauldron. Allow the cauldron to smoke as long as the ice lasts. The mists create excellent images for scrying.
Cover the inside bottom with dirt or sand to dissipate heat. Light incense charcoal and add either salt peter for flame and spark or flash powder for a different but spectacular effect. To assist in releasing or firing off peak energy, try using flash “bombs”. Make a small pocket in a piece of flash paper, fill with flash powder and tie with thread. The “bomb” should be about the size of your smallest fingernail. The results are spectacularly bright, so use the powder sparingly. Don’t look directly at the flash as you drop the “bomb” in the cauldron.
At least seven days before the ritual, place equal quantities of three appropriate herbs in a pint glass jar. Fill the rest of the jar with Everclear (200 proof alcohol), cap tightly, and shake gently while concentrating on the purpose of the ritual. Add a chant if its feels right. Let the jar rest in a dark, warm spot and shake twice daily, charging with purpose. Before the ritual, place a fireproof ceramic or glass bowl in the cauldron. Pour in the herb mixture, being careful none spills into the cauldron. Light with a candle to produce a beautiful blue flame.
The cauldron, as the fifth elemental spirit, symbolizes inspiration, rebirth, illumination and rejuvenation.
- Use a Fire cauldron with saltpeter to cast a Circle.
- Use the mists of an Air cauldron for an initiation.
- Burn away hate, prejudice and negative self-images, with a Water cauldron.
- The Earth cauldron is ideal for indoor Beltane rites.
Remember to place a burning cauldron on a fireproof surface. Practice safety when using any volatile materials and you will enjoy your cauldron for many rites.
The Broom or Besom
The broom is a ritual tool of the witch, sacred to both Goddess and the God. The God – through its symbolic phallic shape, The Goddess – through its three-piece make up, the stick, brush and binding cord being symbolic of the triform is aspect of the Goddess. Traditionally the broom was made from three different woods. Ash for the handle, Birch twigs for the brush and Willow for the binding cord. Ash is protective and has command over the four elements. Birch is purifying and draws spirits to one’s service. Willow is sacred to the Goddess. The broom is used for a variety of purposes but most generally to purify and protect. It is used to ritually cleanse an area before magick is performed by symbolically sweeping away negative energies and astral build up. Of old it was used to guard the home and persons within against psychic attack or evil curses, this by placing it across the threshold, windowsills or doorways. It was also placed under the bed or a pillow to protect the sleeper. Traditionally and perhaps the use which most people identify it with, are the old wedding ceremonies, where a couple leapt over the broom to ensure fertility, domestic harmony and longevity. Today pagan hand-fasting rituals often include a broom jump.
The bell is a ritual tool of invocation and banishment. The bell is a feminine symbol of the creative force, that of the Goddess. The bell can be rung to indicate the start of a rite by banishing negative influences before the ritual begins. Often it is used to invoke the Goddess during ritual, or sounded at the four quarters to call forth such spirits as the Watchers and Elementals. Bells can be used to guard the home by warding off evil spells and spirits, or evoking good energies when placed in cupboards or hung on doors. Hung from a cord the bell symbolises the human soul suspended between heaven and earth.
The wand serves to protect and direct your energy to a certain place, thing, person, or dimension. Traditionally the wand is made from the wood of a sacred tree. These include the Willow, Elder, Oak,Apple, Peach, Hazel and Cherry, to mention just a few. Its length should approximate the crook of the elbow to the middle of the index finger. These days many modern materials are used instead, and even tipped with crystals and gems. The wand is a tool of invocation, it is used to evoke the Gods, Goddesses and Spirits. It is also used to bestow blessings, charge objects and draw down the moon during ritual. It is also used to direct energy and is the tool for Fire.
There are many Occult shops that sell wands, but I think if it is possible, make your own. This makes it more personalized. The wand and the Athame are interchangable.
The staff and the wand are common and important tools of several crafts, including shamanism, Wicca, Witchcraft,. The staff is a representation of the world tree,when you meditate, or go into trance, having your staff to lean on can enhance your journey by connecting the wood in the staff to the universal spirit of the world tree. I also find it very good at drawing energy for healing. I feel energy flowing from the ground into the staff, my staff almost buzzes with energy when I use it for healing.
The Chalice is one of the four elemental tools of witchcraft and represents the elements of Water. It is a symbol of containment and often represents the womb of the Goddess. The base is symbolic of the material world, the stem symbolises the connection between man and spirit and the rim or opening symbolically receives spiritual energy. The chalice can be made of any material, in times of old- Horns, Shells and Gourds were used to hold sacred liquids during ritual, and then in later times – Silver became the preferred material, having long been associated with the moon and the Goddess. The chalice is used to hold the blessed water and wine during ritual. It is traditional in many covens to pass the chalice around all members, who then take a drink as a token of unity.
The Bolline or White-Handled knife as it is now known, is the practical knife of the craft. Traditionally it was used to harvest herbs and had a blade in the form of a small sickle. Today it is normally a mundane knife used for cutting and carving. It has a white handle to differentiate it from the Athame, which has a black handle and is used only for magickal purposes. The bolline is used to cut wands and herbs, to mark and carve candles with symbols and to cut cords for use in magick. Any other ritual function requiring the use of a knife, such as cutting flowers for the altar, can be performed with the bolline.
The sword, like the staff, is a tool of command, It is not used often, but can be necessary for certain spellworkings. Its size, style and length are a personal choice; just be careful that you can easily handle the sword you choose. The weight and length of a Scottish Claymore, for example, becomes a real test of endurance after several minutes. For a woman, a sword length of 17 to 25 inches is a good choice. Like the Athame, the sword is of the Element of Air.
A Stang is a forked stick. It is usually made of ash or other sacred trees. Ash is most common, perhaps, because it is the most common wood used as tool handles and Stangs are frequently made from pitchforksor other farming implements. The Stang may be of differing sizes.
The Greater Stang (my terminology!) stands about shoulder to head high, most often with a skull and horns/antlers. A Small Stang is roughly a meter long. At this length, a skull is unwieldy, so it may have antlers/horns or may just be a plain forked stick. Then, there is the Mini Stang. At less than a foot, it is used for travel when space is an issue and/or as a centerpiece on an indoor altar. A Greater Stang may serve as a group or coven altar/tool, while the Small/Mini Stang serves the individual.
A controversial tool and one not really suited to novice practioners. It is the symbol of power and domination. In Ancient Egyptian times, all the Pharoah Priest Kings, held a Flail (Scourge) as a symbol of Power, domination and as a Law Giver. It can be used as a focus tool and to concentrate the mind. It should always be used with care and never to inflict serious pain.
The Mortar & Pestle
Dried herbs can be ground to a fine powder with enough time and persistence. This powder is desirable for various spells, such as love or wealth spells, or for rolling candles in. A coffee grinder may suffice, but the point of the mortar and pestle is largely the transfer of energy intended when you are focusing on imbuing your herbs with your intent while grinding them, making it an ideal (if not old-fashioned) addition to your toolset.
The censer is an incense burner used to contain burning incense during ritual. Any type of censer can be used, even a simple bowl filledwithsand will do. The censer represents the elements of Air andis normally placed before the images of the Goddess and God on the altar.
The Witches’ Robe
Now this is not a magickal tool but it certainly is magickal. There is much to-do about this item as well. Some organized covens claim that it MUST be 100% cotton, it must be black, it must be made by your hand, and the “MUST” goes on and on. If you are a solitaire, then black, blue, purple are very good colors to wear simply because it helps you to connect when you are “Between the Worlds”. Meaning it helps put you in an altered state of mind, away from the mundane world. It puts you in that ritual frame of mind. White can be difficult because it can be guaranteed that you will spill wine on it! It does not have to be 100% cotton, what ever material makes you feel like the Goddess you are – you use. It can be made out of any material you like, but be careful, make sure it is flame retardant and does not have large bell sleeves. (Yes, we had someone catch on fire while in Circle! Remember you are in an altered state, you don’t want to be distracted by your robe.) There are some beautiful robes out there, you don’t have to sew them yourself. You can always buy a robe, add things to it and charge it by running it through charged incense and cleansed salt and water. Offer it up to the Goddess instilling that from hence forth this robe is to be worn only when the Priestess seeks the Goddess whether it be in magickal purposes, ritual, or simply to sit and be with the Goddess. During first Degree initiation, the High Priestess and High Priest charge the Initiate’s robe, bought or sewn. That way they are making the initiate feel that whatever they choose to do while wearing it, the robe would be sacred.
The Witches Mala or Rosary
Witches’ ladders, can also be known as a Witches’ rosaries, are a grouping of beads used for meditation and manifestation. Some witches rosary’s/ladders have 9 beads, some 13, some 40. In buddism a mala is a string of prayer beads like the rosary. You use it to repeat a chant there are two sizes of buddist malas, they are 21 and 101. You would repeat your chant for each bead and is very helpful in meditation. An example would be the Goddess Tara chant which goes.
Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha.
This would then be repeated for the next bead and every bead.
A witches ladder used as prayer beads is simple to make a cord strung with the required number of beads. You may even buy a power bracelet made of your chosen stone and charge and consecrate that as you goddess prayer beads, usuing a chant like:
Lady of the moon, Lady of the Moon,
Come to us, be with us, Lady of the Moon.
The magic mirror is one of the oldest tools employed in both divination and spell casting. The classic magic mirror is a dark concave surface or reflective material. You can construct one for yourself by using the curved glass face of a clock and painting the convex side with glossy black paint. Some people keep one mirror for scrying and divination and one for spells.
The Singulum, or Witches Girdle. this is nine feet in length, and is worn representing the appropriate rank and level in modern Wicca to where you are at. The actual Singulum of the Witch also measures the Magick Circle.
Seekers/Witchlets – White - symbolism of beginnings and purity. Alternatively they could wear an amber Singulum, Showing that they are grounded before their journey. this cord has no knots in it.
First Degree – Green - symbolism of growth and fertility as one advances with the Deity. Showing that they must focus on nature and what nature is revealing to them. This cord is nine feet long with no knots in it.
Second Degree – Yellow - symbolism of wisdom, confidence, communication as one gains experience. Alternatively they wear a white Singulum, which is nine feet long and has at appropriate spaces 8 knots tied into it representing the eight Paths of Enlightenment, also called the Ladder of the Goddess.
Third Degree – Purple - symbolism of spirituality, religion, the divine force, power and healing and all things sacred. Intuition and balance. When a third degree witch becomes an Elder – (One who has spawned new daughter covens) Silver Neck sash is added or a silver buckle on the witches garter for each coven spawned, Alternative cord for an elder is White, Red, Black – With these three cords interwoven, it represents that you are of the High Priesthood, and that you should be respected accordingly, and treated as a representative of the Goddess and God. It means that you are a third Degree, when you add a silver cord to the three it represents that you have your own coven and are the High Priestess, when you add a gold cord it represents that you have your own coven an am a High Priest.
Retired Elder – Black - When a black cord is worn, it is usually by the High Priestess or High Priest who has retired from the honoured position, and given it over to a younger person, this is an honorable way to hand over the coven. This person is now honoured and respected.
Some traditions give different cord colours and some give cords for teaching and training other witches.
I do not have a witches garter which is supposed to have a buckle for every new witch I initiate but I tie a knot for each initiated student in the cord I wear around my ritual robe. I am most looking forward to adding my seven new knots very soon.
The garter is part of the witches’ insignia.
Some authors mix up the cord with the “Witches Garter”. This is a badge of rank which is seldom used nowadays, but a number of witches of certain traditionspossess them and occasionally wear them. The garter was occasionally employed in the old days as a sign of recognition. It would not be much use nowadays when, if anyone wanted to pretend to be a witch, it is the first thing they would think of.
I have seen two witch garters; they are of green snakeskin with gold or silver gilt buckles and were backed with blue silk. They were worn above the left knee.
A badge of rank among high ranking Witches. A true Garter shows a great deal about the wearer that few can read. Much has been made of the incident where the Countess of Salisbury dropped her Garter while dancing with Edward III. The King picked it up and tied it on his own leg and spoke the words “Shame to him who thinks ill of it.” The king, to protect her from the Inquisition and to show that he was king of christians and Witches alike, placed her Garter upon his own leg and started the Order of the Garter, Englands most noble order of Knighthood.
Garters are generally worn only by Witch Queens and Witch Kings and are made of specific materials. The Garter has one buckle for each of the Covens that the Queen has produced. Thus a Garter with a number of buckles shows that that woman has a great deal of experience and should be treated with a great deal of respect simply because of the number of years that it takes anyone to advance in a Traditional Coven.
Most properly an article of clothing, the garter has come to be used as a badge of office rather than a necessity for holding up stockings.
There is a cave painting from the paleolithic era showing a male shaman, dressed in his robes and surrounded by his tribe, as they perform a magical ritual and, while his legs are bare, a garter is very plainly shown around each thigh.
The garter may have been used as a talisman at one time, as noted above, but today it is used to designate status in the Pagan community.
A silver buckle is added to the garter when ever a Priestess leaves the mother coven. The High Priestess of the mother coven may then add a buckle to her garter to symbolize this hiving off of a new coven.
Cord Colours for Initiation
- Witchlets – White – symbolism of beginnings and purity.
- First Degree – Green – symbolism of growth and fertility as one advances with the Deity.
- Second Degree – Yellow – symbolism of wisdom, confidence, communication as one gains experience.
- Third Degree – Purple – symbolism of spirituality, religion, the divine force, power and healing and all things sacred.
- Elder – Silver Neck sash or silver buckle on garter for each coven spawned, Intuition and balance.
Salt & Water
On most altars, small dishes of salt and pure water are offered as purity symbols. Often, the salt used is sea salt or something minimally processed. The dishes do not necessarily have to be special. I used sake jars that I loved, while others may use small soapstone bowls or a saucer and teacup that has been in the family. Use what you have and love. If regular salt is all you have, use it!