Tools of the Witch
This is an introduction to the symbolism of magical tools and how they are used.
Please note that ideas may vary depending on tradition and that not all traditions even utilize these tools. This article is intended as a guide only.
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. It is generally placed in the centre of the altar, and magical workings are performed on top of it. It can also be used in meditations. The Pentacle is often used in ceremonial magic as it blocks evil very effectively.
It’s direction is North and it’s energy is Female.
In the upward direction it is used for Protection, Blessing, Consecration, Meditation and Positive energy. In the downward direction it is used for Banishing and Binding.
The five points of the pentacle can be used to represent several things:
Love, Wisdom, Power, Knowledge and Law
Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit
In Tarot, the pentacle symbolises political action and intrigue.
Bells are used to banish negative energy and evil spirits, they are also used to mark the beginning and end or a ritual or ceremony. It is a tool of the element of air and spirit, the sound represents the creative power of the universe. Bells can also be used in invocations, chants and meditation techniques.
An athame is a ceremonial knife used in Traditional Witchcraft and other pagan beliefs for various rituals. A black-handled knife called an arthame appears in the Key of Solomon. The athame is an important ritual tool but is not used for physical cutting.
The Athames primary use is for ritual and magical purposes only, to direct energy; if things such as herbs or cords need to be cut, another knife called a boline - a white-handled knife -is used. An exception is the "kitchen witchcraft" philosophy, which encourages the everyday use of magical tools to increase the witch's familiarity with them.
Uses: Mixing solutions and potions, charging and consecrating amulets and talismans. Opening and closing magic circles.
Additional Information: Also known as the right handed knife. Athames must be consecrated or purified before use.
Bags and Pouches
Bags and pouches are an important magical tool as they have many uses. You can use them to carry tools safely; or keep tarot decks and crystals protected from negative vibrations and damage; create a Mojo bag; stuff with herbs to make a sachet charm or dream pillow.
Storing a tarot deck in a special place helps the reader to appreciate the significance of her cards. It builds an atmosphere of respect for the tarot reading. It is also believed that care placed in storage practices keeps the cards from absorbing negative energy. A popular storage option is a dark coloured fabric bag. Some people wrap their cards in a cloth before they place the cards in the bag.
Mojo bags (also known as a gris-gris or conjure bag) usually contains a mix of herbs, powders, personal items such as a hair or fingernail clippings, sometimes a coin or dice, a lodestone, a petition paper or prayer, and other objects thought to promote supernatural action or protection.
Herbal sachets are small fabric bags filled with herbs intended to achieve a particular magical goal. They are popular for protection and attracting positive influences into your life such as love, psychic ability, prosperity and the like. Sachets are constructed with appropriate correspondences for the magical intent they are being created to achieve. These correspondences include the time and day they are made, the colour of the cloth used, and the herbs and other items often including crystals which are enclosed in the pouch.
Making dream pillows are an excellent way to make your subconscious mind work with you on problem- solving, divination, etc. Dream pillows will also help when you are troubled by nightmares. For hundreds of years people have used herb mixtures to affect their dreams. In the same way that certain fragrances (like fresh coffee or cut grass) evoke a pleasant memory for you, herbs also evoke pleasant associations of memory.
Book of Shadows
A Book of Shadows is a blank book where witches write down information useful to their craft. It is considered a sacred tool, which means it is an item of power that should be consecrated with all of your other magical tools. Copy spells and rituals into your Book of Shadows by hand – this will not only transfer energy but will also help you memorise the content.
Typically a Book of Shadows will be used to store information on Spells, Rituals, Magical Correspondences, Gods and Goddesses, Festivals, Recipes, Charts, Sketches, Recordings of Magical Workings etc.
1. If you find a rite, spell or piece of information somewhere else, be sure to note down the source. It will help you keep organized, and you'll start to recognize patterns in authors' works.
2. Add a section that includes books you've read, as well as what you thought of them. This way, when you get a chance to share information with others, you'll remember what you've read.
It is important to keep your magical tools in good condition. Boxes offer physical protection from damage, and keep your items clean. By respecting your magical items you will have greater affinity with them, and their powers will be more in harmony with your own. On a metaphysical level, boxes prevent negative energies from affecting your tools.
Boxes can also be used as an integral part of any magical working. In general, a spell box is filled with power items necessary to achieve a goal, although you should follow directions given for specific spells. It may be a cumulative spell done in increments: items are gathered one by one and added to enhance the power oft he box. Sometimes a special box lends itself to a magical or spiritual goal. The box itself can become an intrinsic part of the spell. Some ideas for use include: Attach and incorporate the power items to the box itself, such as charms, beads, shells and feathers; Paint images on the outside or inside of the box to correspond with the spells goals; Embellish with sigils or other symbols using magic ink, henna or other natural dyes.
The besom's components are of both masculine and feminine orientation. The handle, a stave, is masculine in nature while the bristles are feminine. The besom is an important part of hand-fasting ceremonies in some traditions. The couple jumps over the besom during the ceremony as a fertility rite.
Uses include: symbolic and physical cleansing, sweeping away negative vibrations, expelling evil spirits, defining boundaries and purification. Brooms should always be looked after to keep from losing good fortune. It is traditional to keep a broom either by or above the front door, to protect hearth and home from negative energy The broom is sacred to the Goddess Hecate, it's element is Water.
Candle Magic has been around for many, many years, being traced as far back as the Palaeolithic era. It is a very powerful form of sympathetic magic.
There are many factors that play into the art of candle magic. Keep in mind that some candle magic has to be repeated over a period of days. Therefore, you will want to place them in an area that will not be disturbed. Do not choose a place where there is a tv, radio noise or disturbances of any kind. Keep in mind to not put candles near curtains and such, as you would not want to burn your house down. Candle magic should always be performed in a low traffic area.
Any type of candle can be used for candle magic as long as it has been cleansed and consecrated prior to use. Cleansing removes any negative energies that the candle has picked up along the way. As with all supplies you want your candles to be as free of psychic debris as possible.
The candles you use for any type of magical use should be unused. Under no circumstances use a candle which has already adorned a dinner table or been used as a bedroom candle or night-light. Vibrations picked up by second-hand materials or equipment may disturb your workings and negate their effectiveness.
Once you have purchased or made your ritual candle it has to be oiled or 'dressed' before burning. The purpose of dressing the candle is to establish a psychic link between it and the magician through a primal sensory experience. By physically touching the candle during the dressing procedure, you are charging it with your own personal vibrations and also concentrating the desire of your magical act into the wax.
The cauldron or pot symbolizes cyclical time and the lunar calendar, it is the repository of inspiration and magick.
In contemporary Witchcraft, the cauldron is an important magical tool that symbolically combines the influences of the ancient elements of air, fire, water, and earth. Its shape is representative of Mother Nature, and the three legs upon which it stands correspond to the three aspects of the Triple Goddess, the three lunar phases (waxing, full, and waning), and to three as a magical number. Additionally, the cauldron is a symbol of transformation (both physical and spiritual), enlightenment, wisdom, the womb of the Mother Goddess, and rebirth.
Since early times, cauldrons have been used not only for boiling water and cooking food, but for heating up magical brews, poisons, and healing potions. They have also been utilized by alchemists and by Witches as tools of divination, containers for sacred fires and incense, and holy vessels for offerings to the gods of old.
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.
Chalices are used for:
* Mixing salt and water
* Mixing potions
* Invoking the power of the Moon
* Conjuring emotions
* Presenting offerings and pouring libations
* Drinking ritual wine
* Create bonds between coven members
* Proposing toasts
Bowls are an essential witch's tool; they may be used for offerings, wishes, scrying and consecration.
Offering bowls are set upon the altar and presented to the deities in the manner in which an honoured guest would be welcomed into the home. Offerings typically include fresh pure water, fruit, flowers, jewels, incense, scented oils, flower water and shells.
Wishing bowls serve as a vessel to manifest your dreams and desires. Write down your wish on a piece of paper, fold the paper and place it inside your wishing bowl. Focus your intention as you place your wish inside. You may want to add some herbs or stones that share the properties of the wish you desire. Use your bowl as a magickal vessel until manifestation, then burn or bury the paper.
Scrying has been used in many cultures as a means of divining the past, present, or future. Around 2,000 BC, Greece, as well as "early" Britain and its subsequent Celtic population, practised many forms of scrying. The media often used were beryl, crystal, black glass, polished quartz, water, and other transparent or light catching bodies. The best kind of water to use is Moon water: spring, rain or sea water which has been placed in the Moonlight every night for a whole lunar cycle. The water can be blessed in whatever way you feel is appropriate, possibly dedicated to one of the Moon goddesses who rule such activities as these. Scrying is a magical art with many possibilities. Exactly what it is and how it works is for each individual practitioner to decide for themselves, but it will certainly enhance and focus both the psychic and creative abilities of the magician.
Consecration purifies by means of salt, water and incense. The salt, water, and incense stand for the four elements of the Wise - earth, water, and fire, together with air - symbolically constituting the basis for the material universe. By consecrating an object you are using these four basic constituents to "wash" the article of all extraneous vibrations, prior to recharging it with your own will and concentrated power. Bowls have an important role to play in consecration as they are used to safely store the salt, water and incense needed.
A crystal ball is a crystal or glass ball believed by to aid clairvoyance. Celtic tribes, known to exist in Britain as early as 2,000 B.C., were unified by a priesthood known as Druids. Druids are one of the earliest known peoples to have used crystals in divination. Later, during central Europe's Medieval Period (500 – 1500 AD), seers, wizards, sorcerers, psychics, gypsies, fortune tellers, and all other types of diviners also used crystals to "see" into the past, present, or future.
The art or process of "seeing" is known as "scrying," whereby images are seen in crystals (or other mediums such as water) and are interpreted. The information gleaned then is used to make important decisions in one's life, for example - love, marriage, finances, travel, business, etc. When the technique of scrying is used with crystals, or any transparent body, it is known as crystallomancy or crystal gazing.
As with all forms of divination, images often appear as archetypes, whose interpretation is left for the reader or the person having the reading. Images my appear stationary, or move about. They may appear two dimensional or holographic. If you cannot 'see' anything in the crystal ball at first, be patient and keep trying. At the very least a crystal ball will bring energies to the room in which it is placed. Dowsing, sometimes called divining or water witching, is the practice which dowsers detect hidden or buried water, metals, gemstones, or other objects with the aid of simple hand held tools or instruments.
Dowsing can be also used for searching for underground features such as archaeological remains, cavities and tunnels, oil, veins of mineral ore, underground building services, missing items and occasionally missing persons.
Pendulums such as a crystal or a metal weight suspended on a chain are sometimes used in divination and dowsing, particularly in remote or "map dowsing". In one approach, the user first determines which direction (left-right, up-down) will indicate "yes" and which "no," before proceeding to ask the pendulum specific questions. In the practice of radiesthesia, a pendulum is used for medical diagnosis.
Dowsing is reported to date back approximately 7000 years but origins are still unknown. It is accepted, however, that the Egyptians used images of forked rods in some of their artwork as did the Ancient Chinese kings.
Some believe that when dowsing, you are engaged in a dialog with your Higher Self and other spirit guides who are trying to assist you in obtaining the information you seek and/or accessing a repository of unlimited knowledge, referred to by Carl Jung as the "collective unconscious". Various other theories have been given including electromagnetic, subtle geological forces and ESP.
Incense not only smells wonderful; it can be wonderful for you if used in the right manner. Used for thousands of years to promote well-being and balance moods, incense is still a valuable sensory tool today. Many religious ceremonies and spiritual purificatory rites employ incense; it is also used in medicine and for its aesthetic value.
Incense can be, like art for the eyes, music for the ears, or fine cuisine for the palate, an indulgence for the sense of smell. Many people burn incense to appreciate its smell, without assigning any other specific significance to it, in the same way that the forgoing items can be produced or consumed solely for the contemplation or enjoyment of the refined sensory experience.
Use of incense in religion is prevalent in many cultures and may have their roots in the practical and aesthetic uses considering that many religions with not much else in common all use incense. In magic incense is used to raise energy, purify an area, cleanse an area of negative energy, create an atmosphere, focus the mind, alter consciousness and used as an offering to the chosen deity or used to invoke the powers of air. The use of "perfumed", "dipped", or synthetic incense is generally avoided during magical workings, since such artificial materials are believed to not contain the energies useful for magic.
The Runic alphabets are a set of related alphabets using letters known as runes to write various Germanic languages prior to the adoption of the Latin alphabet. The Scandinavian variants are also known as Futhark (or fuþark, derived from their first six letters of the alphabet: F, U, Þ, A, R, and K.
The three best-known runic alphabets are the Elder Futhark, the Anglo-Saxon runes, and the Younger Futhark. The origins of the runic alphabet are uncertain. Many characters of the Elder Futhark bear a close resemblance to characters from the Latin alphabet. In Norse mythology, the runic alphabet is attested to a divine origin. The Noleby Runestone from around 600 CE reads 'I prepare the suitable divine rune'.
Early runes were not so much used as a simple writing system, but rather as magical signs to be used for charms. The name rune itself, taken to mean "secret, something hidden", seems to indicate that knowledge of the runes was originally considered esoteric. A recent study of runic magic suggests that runes were used to create magical objects such as amulets (MacLeod and Mees 2006).
Nowadays Runes are mainly used in divination; they work best if you detail your current circumstances and then ask a specific question. Rune readings are sometimes obscure. They hint toward answers - this is when the rune casters intuition becomes paramount.
Tarot was not widely adopted by mystics, occultists and secret societies until the 18th and 19th centuries. Antoine Court de Gébelin, a Swiss clergyman and Freemason, published Le Monde Primitif, a speculative study which included religious symbolism and its survivals in the modern world. Gébelin further claimed that the name "tarot" came from the Egyptian words tar, meaning "royal", and ro, meaning "road", and that the Tarot therefore represented a "royal road" to wisdom.
The idea of the cards as a mystical key was further developed by Eliphas Lévi and passed to the English-speaking world by The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. His book 'Transcendental Magic' introduced an interpretation of the cards which related them to Hermetic Qabalah. He devised a system which related the Tarot to the Kabbalah and the four elements of alchemy. Tarot divination became increasingly popular from 1910, with the publication of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (designed and executed by two members of the Golden Dawn), which replaced the traditionally simple pip cards with images of symbolic scenes.
Each card has a variety of symbolic meanings that have evolved over the years. Custom or themed tarot decks exist which have even more specific symbolism, although these are more prevalent in the English-speaking world. The minor arcana cards have astrological attributions that can be used as general indicators of timing in the year, based on the Octavian calendar, and the court cards may signify different people in a tarot reading, with each suit's "nature" providing hints about that person's physical and emotional characteristics. In many systems, the four suits are associated with the four elements: Swords with air, Wands with fire, and Cups with water and Pentacles with earth. The numerology of the cards is also considered significant. The tarot is considered to correspond to various systems such as astrology, Pythagorean numerology, and the Kabala.
Carl Jung was the first psychologist to attach importance to tarot symbolism. He regarded the tarot cards as representing archetypes: fundamental types of person or situation embedded in the subconscious of all human beings. The theory of archetypes gives rise to several psychological uses. Since the cards represent these different archetypes within each individual, ideas of the subject's self-perception can be gained by asking them to select a card that they 'identify with'. Equally, the subject can try and clarify the situation by imagining it in terms of the archetypal ideas associated with each card. Some schools of occult thought or symbolic study, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, consider the tarot to function as a textbook and mnemonic device for their teachings. This may be one cause of the word arcana being used to describe the two sections of the tarot deck: arcana is the plural form of the Latin word arcanum, meaning "closed" or "secret."
There are a lot of variations on magick wands, depending on the purpose and the Witchcraft tradition. In many European based Witchcraft traditions, the magick wand is a simple unadorned stick of natural wood, often with the bark still intact. In high ceremonial magick the wands are very elaborate, typically constructed of metal or fine wood, and encrusted with valuable gems. Magick runes or symbols are carved on the length of the wand and typically there is a valuable gemstone at the tip. Many Witches craft a much less expensive ceremonial wand by wrapping a piece of wood with cloth, leather, twine, and other materials. Magick runes or symbols can be burned or carved into the wood or drawn on cloth or leather strips and wrapped onto the wand. Seashells, feathers, crystals, and other items from nature can be tied or glued to the wand.
When you finish choosing or making a wand, you will want to dedicate it to magickal work. The ritual should be short and simple: place the tool on the altar, cast a circle, and perform a short ritual to consecrate the tool. If you belong to a specific Witchcraft tradition, use the ritual specified by your tradition. If you are an eclectic Witch or still undecided on tradition, make up your own short ceremony, possibly based around a poem you write. If you have a permanent altar, you might leave your wand on your altar for 24 hours after your ceremony before making use of your new wand. Any of the Sabbats or New Moon or Full Moon are particularly appropriate times to dedicate a new wand.
Some traditions correspond wands with the element air. Some traditions correspond wands with the element fire. In some traditions, the element is determined by the materials and decorations, including runes and other magick writing. The wand is considered to be a phallic tool and therefore of masculine element and male energy. The wand corresponds with the planet Mars. Wands are most commonly used to channel energy. Match the wand’s materials and decorations and magick writings to the kind of energy being channelled. Wands may be used to cast a circle. Some Witches use an athame for most circles, reserving wands for casting circles of special significance. Wands may be used to invite and control entities and for manifestation.