Tools Of The Magickal Trade And What They Are Used For.
I thought that talking about the tools we use in both witchcraft and shamanism would be a great place to start when it came to magic. Everyone is different in the tools they use I my self am a minimalist when it comes to tools, sometimes I use a candle or just my wand or staff sometimes my athame, it all depends on what I am currently needing to work on.
Below I have composed a list of tools that can be used by a pagan practitioner as well as an explanation of what they are and how they are used.
ATHAME: (pronounced “a-thAM-ay” or “ATH-a-may”)
Many Witches own one or more ritual knives. These are commonly known as “athames” in Wiccan circles. As with all ritual tools, the athame is a very personal magickal item-one which you will want to take some care in obtaining. It should fit well and comfortably in your hand, for one thing. You certainly wouldn’t want it to go flying across the room while you are casting a circle. This type of occurrence could cause a drastic drop in the attendance level at your next circle!
Many Witches make their own blades or “personalize” purchased ones with runes, carvings and other symbols; all of which serve to blend the energy of the tool with their own magickal intentions. Modern Witchcraft books almost always state that the athame is a “black handled double edged iron blade.” You may call this model, “the classic’, if you like! But many other practitioners now use athames made from stainless steel, copper, silver and various other metals, or even carved stone. Some have family heirlooms, such as letter openers which serve the purpose. Some Witches never use a blade at all! So you can see, it is more important that the tool you choose suits you personally rather than reflect the latest fashion craze.
The athame can be used to cast the magick circle, call the “quarters” or elements, and is part of many an opening ritual, handfasting (wedding) or initiation rite. It is associated with the element of Fire and the South. It is customary in some traditions to have your blade given to you as a gift. Some Witches or ceremonial workers give their tools a magickal “name”.
Almost all materials written state-and most Witches/Wiccans, agree- that magickal tools should not be used for any other purpose than ritual work. Which I disagree with, a athame should be an everyday object as it will be imbued with your own energy. Often the blade is left “dull” or un-sharpened because of this, again this is another practice I also disagree with, I think that your ritual tools should be as sharp as needed, you cant cut anything spiritual or not with a dull knife. (Another blade, the “boleen”, with a white handle is sometimes used to harvest herbs or carve symbols, but not used for ritual work. Something I also find incredibly stupid, I feel that having a bunch of different tools such as knives is silly if I have my athame I’m going to used it to cut stuff, like herbs and such.)
The broom or “besom” is used for cleansing ritual areas, hence the term “making a clean sweep”. In handfasting rituals, couples often jump over the broom if they want children. (If you don’t want children, DON’T JUMP! The combination of the “brush” and the handle are a very powerful fertility symbol.) Many Witches have a broom-brushy side up-by their door to protect the home from unwanted outside energies.
Bells have been around for many years, they come in different shapes and sizes, as well as different tones and sounds. The most popular bell in the US is the liberty bell. Another popular bell is the Notre Dame bell found in France. It is any wonder why we like these bell? It might just be the rhythmic sound and vibrations. People have been singing Songs and carols about this beautiful instruments for years, that might just be why there are associated with winter holidays. The bell also has magical associations. It has been believed for centuries to possess a magical and/or spiritual power. They are associated with the divine: their sound is symbolic of creative power, their shape a symbol of the female force and celestial vault. The bell is an uncommon tool. Yet, once you use it in a ritual, you might just feel the need to keep using it. There is no “one way” to use the bell, use your imagination! Here are a few ideas; you can use it to open and close the sacred circle, Invoke the Goddess, ring to ward off negative energies (as well as invite positive energies ), or use it to signal different sections of a ritual and/or Sabbat.
One of the most common symbols of Witchcraft, the cauldron was once found sitting by the fireplace in almost all homes. The cauldron-traditionally with three legs- represents bounty and blessings. In some Celtic Traditions, it is associated with otherworldly figures such as Bran the Blessed and the Goddess Cerridwen. Based on these myths, the cauldron has also come to represent the concept of reincarnation and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Many Witches believe in some form of reincarnation or the transmigration of souls.
Cauldrons can be used to represent water and used for scrying. It is sometimes used in association with elemental fire as well and small “bonfires” can be lit in them to burn spells or incense. Jumping over the cauldron has replaced the “bonfire” leap in modern times and urban spaces. It can, depending on intent and use, be placed in the Female West or Male South. Cauldrons range in size from the small altar models to the antique “floor” type. Many Witches have cauldrons in various sizes for different workings and purposes. Cats like to store their toys in them, too!
The chalice or cup is used on the altar to represent the Female principle of Water. Another chalice or cauldron is sometimes placed in the West as well.
The chalice along with the athame, sword or wand are the modern tools which are used in the enactment of the “Great Rite”-the union of the male and female principle from which Life will spring.
Chalices may be of any material. Many use silver or pewter (be careful with untreated metals when serving wine), but ceramic ones are now quite popular and readily obtainable. Some Witches have many different kinds for different types of rituals. Many a practitioner will avoid real “lead” crystal because of the Saturn energy influence.
The chalice is sometimes passed around the circle so each participant may take a sip from the cup. This is a bonding experience and often the words “May you never thirst!” are passed throughout the circle with the chalice.
Libations of wine or water are often then poured outside to honour the Old Ones and “sabbat” cakes are also offered back to the Source in a similar manner.
THE CLOTHING MAGICKAL:
Clothing is “optional” for many Witches. If you are dedicated into a Tradition, you may practice “skyclad”.
The clothing-robes, capes, jewellery and other items-used in ritual work is usually dedicated to only these uses. Having “special” garments lends an “otherworldly” feel and sets ritual work apart from mundane life.
Many traditions or paths have a “standard” wardrobe which reflects the ethnic background of that path. Scots may wear kilts and Druids may wear hooded robes. Many embroider magickal symbols on their ritual clothing or “hide” small magickal items in the seams and hems to act as talismans for protection.
The Altar pentacle is usually a disk or plate of metal or wood inscribed with the five pointed star in a circle. This is set upon the altar and used to consecrate various other tools and as a focal point of concentration for magickal workings. It is associated with the Female North and the element of Earth. These can now be found made of ceramic and glass. You can even make your own from clay or simply draw and color one on stiff paper.
The staff is a very important tool in some traditions. It is used to mark quarter points or as a “stang” to hold banners representing elements or other unique symbolic flags.
The staff may be used in much the same manner as the wand. It is usually matched “to your measure”- which means it reaches to your shoulder- making it easy and comfortable for you to handle without either knocking yourself upside the head or having it trip you up from behind. Any such incident will amuse your friends, but do little to enhance your image in the magickal community!
They have a role equal to the drum and rattle in several cultures, especially in Scandinavian magic tradition. There are many ways to get a staff. A good way is to walk in the woods with a strong desire to find – or be found by – it. Release all expectations of what it should look like, it’s the Spirit of the stick that counts. A crude branch is fine. It need not be decorated but it should be strong. The important thing is that you can work – and dance – together. Get to know your staff better by walking with it in nature and make a journey to meet with the Spirit of the Staff.
With the coming of the modern “Celtic Revival”, the sword has become a very popular-and quite showy- magickal tool. It can used in place of, or in addition to, the athame. Most groups who hold rituals indoors usually limit the use of the sword to just one for the Priest/Priestess. Ten five- foot swords in a small room could get a bit messy, I would think! However at festivals and outdoor rituals, Witches often bring their own swords to mark the boundaries or quarter points of the circle. There is now a growing interest in actual “sword play” and entire festivals have sprung up which feature events based on swordsman- or woman!-ship.
A container used to contain a hot coal for burning incense. This is best made from a fire resistant or fire proof material. The most common are the “mini-cauldrons’ of iron and the various brass types which come in wonderful shapes and sizes. Some even hang on a chain. The incense itself represents the element of Air while the fire (charcoal) represents Fire. The combination of these two elements are used to purify ritual areas, other tools or the circle itself. INCENSE speaks to our soul and our senses, the smoke can both invoke, ritually purify and bless. Along with drumming, singing and rattling, smoke creates a powerful ritual. In various shamanic traditions you use different kinds of incense – discover yourself what works best. Sage is often used.
The wand represents the element of Air and the Male East. You can purchase a ready made one or collect one from your friendly neighbourhood tree. (Ask first, if you want to harvest one from a living tree- and leave a small token of thanks.) Even dowels, such as those sold in hardware stores, can be painted and decorated quite beautifully.
The wand can be used to cast the circle or direct energy in other magickal ways, such as in spells and incantations. There are wands of glass, copper, silver and other metals, but the “classic” material is still wood. Various woods have different magickal associations and uses. It is very common for a “Wand Witch” to have many wands of various types in his/her magickal closet. Witches who do not use athames often use a wand instead.
Rhythmic power is like the heartbeat of the Earth, and is deeply anchored in our shamanic practice. We journey on the drum beat to the Spirit world and return with power. The drum and the rattle are, on one hand, the tools of our trade, and on the other hand, our allies with their own power and soul. In shamanic work, traditionally, handheld tambourine-like drums are used together with a drumstick. But where does one find a drum? Which should one choose? Should it be a factory made drum, or hand made? Do you think about making your own, but don’t have the tools or experience? Should the skin be from an animal, or is it all right with a synthetic drum skin? The most important is that this partner feels good to you, that the sound is pleasing to you, that you can dance with its power, that you can work together.
Rattles are filled with power and at the same time act as power antennae. In many parts of the world they are used together with drums, and in Siberia they are often built into the drum or drumstick. They are easy to carry, and don’t bother your neighbours if you live in an apartment. They also tend to be much less expensive than drums, and many shops selling goods from “third world” countries have beautiful, powerful, inexpensive rattles for sale.
Mass Produced Drums are not as expensive as hand-made drums, and generally have a good sound. They are available at music stores, and the ones with synthetic skins can be used outside in the rain or very humid places. They are easy to personalize. Even a plastic drum has a Spirit. Respect it, and it will help you. Handmade Drums and Rattles are getting easier to find as there are more and more people making them.
CD’s are another option. Many people who don’t have the money for a drum, or the time to go on a course, find that the alternative of using a drumming CD works very well, using either a headset, thereby not disturbing others, or speakers. This option should never be used in moving vehicles of any kind, and should be regarded with the same respect as other allies used for contacting the Spirit world.
NATIVE AMERICAN STYLE FLUTES:
These are easy to play and good for helping to shift consciousness. Deeper toned flutes require longer fingers, and the 5-holed flute is easier to play than the 6-holed which has more possibilities.
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~The Wyrding Wytch