Table of Contents
Tools of The Craft
In most religions, certain objects are used for ritual purposes. Wicca is not exception.
Though tools aren’t necessary to the practice they do enrich rituals and symbolize complex energies. The tools have no power save for that which we lend to them. Since ritual tools are as much a part of the witch as their arms and legs, we usually own our own. We never so much as touch another witch’s tools without their permission. To do so even if a quick touch, may imprint the tools with your personal vibrational signature shifting the vibration of the tool you touched.
There is no need to purchase your tools from a fancy metaphysical shop. You can find the perfect item from a thrift shop or yard sale or even put your own personal energy into crafting your own item.
The word altar comes from a Latin word that translates to “on high”. A variety of meanings could be put to this meaning: a physically high position, a seat in the stars or a consecrated sacred area. The basic purpose and design of the altar was to request the presence of deity. Ancient altars were often constructed of stone with carved or painted symbols of animals and deity. Today the altar can be made of any material though wood is preferred. Oak is especially recommended for its power and strength, as is Willow, which is sacred to the Goddess.
Usually the altar sits in the center of a cast Circle facing North (the direction of power and manifestation) with the representation of the four elements, representation of Goddess and God, a pentacle, and basic ritual tools.
The Book of Shadows
A Book of Shadows (BOS) is a Wiccan workbook containing rituals, prayers, invocations, spells, correspondences, Wiccan tenets, personal experiences and practices along with any other information a witch or Coven wishes to include. Some Wiccans will pass their Book of Shadows to their children, student or Coven at their physical death or burn it if there is no one to leave it to. In the past a Wiccan’s Book of Shadows was usually handwritten; today it is not unusual to find one that is typed, photocopied or saved to the hard drive of a computer. It is important to understand that all information found in various Books of Shadows are suggestions and not ‘Holy Scripture’ so you should never feel required to believe or follow anyone else’s words or rituals. It is up to you whether you allow others to read what you write in your Book of Shadows. Covens usually allow only Initiated members to read and copy information from their Book of Shadows and some require Initiated members to do so.
The title Book of Shadows first came into being in 1949 when Gerald Gardner thought of calling a witch’s book of rituals and magickal information a Book of Shadows replacing the traditional and functional title of Grimoire. Some Wiccans will tell you that the Book of Shadows is normally bound in black to keep out the negativity of the mundane world, however the reason stems from past traditions when most books were bound in black as there weren’t many colors to choose from.
Candles are used in modern culture of all faiths to light altars, make petitions and as a symbol of bringing the light of Spirit into the darkness of the world. Usually the shape and size of the candle being used isn’t important unless the individual is working with novelty candles (pre-molded forms of animals, people and objects). In this case the shape of the novelty candle is designed to help focus on the desire intention associated with the candle. Seven knobbed candles, candles that burn for seven days, bicolored candles, multicolored candles, floating candles and candles that are one color on the outside and another on the inside are all helpful when practicing spellcraft but all should be used in alignment with the intention of the spell. Generally tapers or votives work well for the majority of the intentions; unscented candles are best and allow for anointing and dressing. The color of the candle should also be alignment with the intention. A white candle can be used for any intention and if burned upside down it will represent a black candle.
Extinguishing the candle is a debated topic. Many individuals feel that one should never blow out a candle, believing that one creative force (the breath of life) should not darken another (the spark of life). These individuals suggest using a candlesnuffer, a small metal or stoneware cup or by clapping your hands sharply over the flame to create a downdraft.
In The Craft candles are used for: representation of The Goddess and God on the altar, illumination within Circle, to mark the Quarters, representation of the element of Fire, spellcraft, offering to Spirit or the ancestors, and repelling negativity
The wand has been utilized for thousands of years in magickal and religious practices. It is an instrument of evocation. It also directs and repels energy. It divides the worlds during Circle casting and connects them again when the magick is done. I has also been used to draw magickal symbols in the astral or physical worlds as well as to stir brew in a cauldron.
In many European based witchcraft traditions, the magick wand is a simple unadorned stick of natural wood, often with the bark still intact. It is typically six inches to two feet in length and a quarter to two inches in diameter, either straight or with bends (one slight bend is the most common), though many are comfortable with a length that measures from wrist to elbow.
The wand can be cut, but is usually uncut and kept exactly as it was found laying on the ground in nature. In earlier times witches would pick their wands from sticks or branched that looked and “felt” right when they held it. They would break off dead wood from a tree never sawing or cutting live wood. These actions aided in keeping the forests healthy stopping vermin and insects from infecting the deadwood spreading to the entire tree. Various kinds of wood are associated with specific kinds of magick and crafting a wand from the specific tree for the magick you will be performing is key.
Not all wands are made of wood some consist of copper tubes or are constructed of hand-blown glass or are made from crystal or stone. In Ceremonial Magick wands are very elaborate, typically constructed of metal or fine gilded wood that has been encrusted with stones or gems and magick runes or sigils carved on the length of the handle with a valuable gemstone at the tip.
An ancient and potent symbol, the chalice is one of the most intimate tools used in Wiccan ritual. It is used to represent feminine energy, fertility, emotion and the element of water. Its purpose is to gather, hold and disperse energy. In many Wiccan traditions, the chalice is made of silver and often engraved with a pentacle or other protection symbol but it can be made of any natural substance such as glass, clay, wood or other metal.
The chalice is used for ceremonial drink, offering libations to the gods, or holding the salt-water solution. Sharing appropriate drinks from the chalice may mark celebrations at each of the Sabbats: Wassail at Yule, fresh milk at Imbolc, eggnog at Ostara, mead at Beltane and Litha, beer at Lammas, apple cider at Mabon and red wine at Samhain.
The chalice is a symbol most shared with other traditions, most notably Christianity. One of the central, and most powerful, rituals of many Christian Churches, the Eucharist or Communion, involves sharing wine and bread among the church community, following the example that Christ set at the last supper. The Grail of Arthurian Legends is a mysterious and enchanting example of a chalice in myth. The origins of the myth, and the associated genuine historical facts, remain hotly debated. Many commentators believe that the medieval Christian associations draw heavily on pre-existing Celtic myth and folklore.
The blade (athame) has been used in ritual ceremony for many thousands of years. It’s the most important ritual tool in Wicca but is also used in various other witchcraft traditions. The athame is a link to our common long-dead ancestors.
Traditionally the handle of the athame is black and double-edged blade is of steel or iron. Since black does absorb power, some of the energy directed with the blade is absorbed into the handle and may be called upon later. Any negative energy that may be absorbed is transformed into neutral energy dissipating it quickly and easily into the Universe. Some witches empower the athame by rubbing a magnet, crystal or lodestone over the blade several times to magnify its power. Engraving magickal symbols or sacred names in the Theban alphabet on the blade or handle is a common practice.
Although the wand and athame are sometimes used interchangeably for casting Circle, the two have very different vibrations. The wand moves and directs energy while the primary focus of the athame is to invoke and banish psychic energy (etheric fire). It tends to the unseen entities and spirits holding the negative out of the cast Circle while attracting and inviting those who are aligned with the intention being manifested within the Circle. In traditional covens the casting of Circle is usually done with either a ritual sword or an athame because it is associated with the element of fire. When the circle is purified, it is traditionally done with the three elements of air, water and earth because the element of fire has already been imbued into the circle by the use of the blade.
The athame is also used to invoke the elemental Guardians of the four directions typically by drawing elemental pentagrams at each quarter. This traditional practice is one of the reasons given for the requirement that the blade be double-edged; cutting a pentagram in the air with a single-edged blade would require awkward twisting of the hand and wrist, in order to keep the single cutting edge in the direction of motion. The double-edged blade also reminds us that there are two sides to the magickal coin: life and death. The athame is not typically used for physical cutting – that is done with the boline.
As a masculine principle, the athame is used in combination with the chalice, as a feminine principle, evoking the act of procreation (universal creativity). The athame represents the element of fire/ the Sun/The God while the chalice represents the element of water/ the Moon/The Goddess. The marriage of the Sun and Moon (the union of opposites) is an ancient idea in alchemy. The Sacred Marriage of God and Goddess is an even more ancient idea in paganism.
Fire and water are considered to be polar opposite elements (in alchemy and traditional magick). They are considered to be the two primordial elements, the combination of which gave rise to earth and air. For this reason, covens that associate the athame with air may decide to use the wand to bless the wine chalice, instead of using the athame. A union of air and water does not carry the same symbolic significance of the union of fire and water does.
The main function of the pentacle is to shield and protect but it also directs and grounds all the energies that are invited into Circle. This famous symbol of Witchcraft is taken from Ceremonial Magick. In older times the pentacle was crafted from disposable materials such as clay or dough. To be caught in possession of a pentacle in those days could very well endanger your life. Now pentacles are crafted in metals such as copper, brass, silver or gold.
Astronomers discovered that the pentacle is actually the geometric design depicting how the planet Venus moves in the heavens and it is from this design that they believe the peoples of the Euphrates-Tigris region drew the first pentagram eight thousand years ago. It is because the pentacle is reflective of Venus’s pattern in the sky from our point of view that is sometimes referred to as the Morning Star and the Evening Star.
There are two types of pentacles: the working pentacle and the ritual pentacle:
Cauldrons have largely fallen out of use in the developed world as cooking vessels. In Ancient times the cauldron was used for a variety of purposes for food, to brew remedies and medicines. Every household had a cauldron, which was being used consistently throughout the day.
The cauldron symbolizes not only the point of metamorphosis or transformation that occurs during the magickal process but also represents the “Womb of the Goddess”, the source from which all magick flows, due to the fact that it can hold something within it. On an altar the cauldron represents earth because it is a working tool. It also is a symbol of fertility, renewal, rebirth, abundance, prosperity and nourishment. It is more adaptable than the chalice as it can be used in conjunction with all four natural elements – the cauldron (earth) the fluid it contains (water) the fire beneath it (fire) and steam and aromas rising from it (air).
Most often a cauldron is made of cast iron so as to hold the heat of the fire and is used to burn loose incense on a charcoal disc, to make black salt, for mixing herbs, to burn petitions and scrying and has three legs representing the Maiden, Mother and Crone. The opening of the cauldron is usually smaller than its widest part. The cauldron can be used instead of a besom or bonfire during some rituals and rites such as handfasting, Beltane and Samhain. It can also be utilized instead of the chalice for the Great Rite when used in conjunction with a staff or besom.
The besom is the oldest of magickal tools. The broom was an everyday household object during The Middle Ages and was often placed near the hearth or near doors to protect the openings from evil spirits. A practicing witch’s wand would be hid within the besom, as it would not be held as evidence of witchcraft in court.
The besom is a traditionally constructed of three woods: an ash stouter pole or handle, a birch wig or brush and willow for the binding string; as a result the brush of the besom is rounded instead of flat. Ash represents protection as well as, one’s ability to work with four elements, the birch represents purification and draws spirits to the witch’s service and the willow is sacred to the Goddess.
Besoms have numerous magickal uses today. It is most commonly used to cleanse the ritual area before circle casting by sweeping the area without the bristles touching the ground. While sweeping the witch will visualize the negative energy being swept out of the area. Besoms are also used to guard the gateway to the Circle as well as guarding the home by hanging it on the back of the door or on a windowsill. Two crossed besoms hung on a wall or the back of a door will protect the home from unwanted influences. Placing the besom across a doorway allows your departed friends and family to speak to you. To bring rain, stand outside and swing a broom in the air over your head and placing a broom on your porch will act as a lightening rod. Place a besom under the bed or beneath your pillows at night to protect from nightmares and if you are going away for any length of time, place a besom in your bed with bristles on pillow to guard against evil spirits while you’re gone.
At handfasting couples ‘jump the broom’ to cross the threshold of their new homes ensuring fertility, domestic harmony and longevity as well as a conformation of their commitment to each other. During Beltane witches may jump the besom or a bonfire for purification, protection, fertility and prosperity.
The bell is a ritual instrument of incredible antiquity. Ringing a bell creates energetic vibrations, which have powerful effects aligning with the volume and tone of the ring as well as the material use in the construction of the bell.
The bell is a feminine symbol. It is used for a variety of reasons within ritual. They are used to evoke God Herself, to banish negative or low vibrating energies, to prepare sacred space, to mark various sections within the ritual, to signal a spell's beginning or ending, and to call forth the dead (ancestors). Bells are often used outside of ritual Circle as well. They can be hung on the front door to protect the home, to bless a home, as charms for fertility and protection and to keep negative energies away.
The white-handled knife or boline is an important practical tool. It is used frequently for inscribing candles and carving runes, for harvesting herbs and plant material. It handles all the mundane tasks that other ritual tools cannot. The boline is usually smaller than the athame with a single-edged blade and a white handle to distinguish it from the athame.
The Mortar and Pestle
A stone bowl and grinding implement used to prepare herbs or other materials for healing or magick. The mortar represents the womb while the pestle represents the phallus. This tool is used to crush or grind herbs, resins and other plant material. Prehistoric mortars have been found among the archaeological remains of many peoples dating back to Neolithic times.
Food processors, blenders and coffee grinders have taken the place of many a witch’s mortar and pestle but using one aids in our power by imbuing our personal energy into the task at hand.