There are many and varied tools that are used in the Wiccan practice of magick. These, in and of themselves are not inherently the “source” of magickal power, but work as conduits and points of focus for the magickal practitioner. Your tools become an extension of your energy, stimulate the correct resonance of visual/neural communication and open your receptivity to the magnetism of like attracting like. Now, that I’ve made that statement I will also say that you may often hear it said that there is really no need for any tools other than yourself in working magick; and this statement would be both true and false.
The energy, focus and intent are specifically your products, so if you did not have your tools with you and needed to perform a magickal working, improvisation on finding suitable “stand-ins” or using nothing but your own physiologic devices would be necessary. This is one of the reasons why we practice with our tools and work to understand their basic energetic signature and elemental affinity. Having this information goes a long way in providing the foundation upon which to build should all you have at hand is, literally, your hand.
In making the case for needing your tools (in addition to your physiology), we are symbol driven beings that respond to visual stimuli. The kinesthetic/tactile resonance and engagement of the senses in connecting to and working with a specific tool are vital components in synthesizing the wholeness of the actions of the working and the purposeful intent together. The magickal tools serve to stimulate you sensorially and energetically; with the goal of aligning your state of consciousness with the specific intent and focus of the working. Your personal energy, which becomes a vested part of the tools you claim as your own, works in resonance with the energetic state you are holding when the ritual or working is begun. You could think of your tools as holding your energetic imprint and the memory of all the workings you have done previously. When activated the tool becomes a library of resource for defining the appropriate energy needed then and you hold the library card that enables the book’s magick to be brought to life through its reading. Because your tools become so much a part of your magickal being, it is not unusual for a Witch to bring his/her athame into the ritual space (worn on the person of the witch) even if the coven’s or another’s tools are present that will be actively used.
An athame is easily carried in a sheath that can be attached to the cords worn around the waist and can be used should someone need to be “cut in or out” (using the athame to scribe (or cut) a doorway in the energetic fabric of the cast circle) of the circle during ritual. The wand may be placed twined within the cords worn over the ritual robes and readied to direct and focus a stream of energy towards a specific point during the ritual or working; if called upon. Many witches wear an amulet in the shape of a Pentagram and serves as their own personal space of connection to all of the elements as manifest form. In some group rituals, everyone is asked to bring their personal chalice to be used in the ritual celebration or working; rather than using the coven’s chalice. Having your own specific tools and using them regularly strengthens their intent.
So, what are these tools and how do you go about acquiring them? The basic set of tools for the working Witch align with the elements:
Air/Intellect/Mind = Athame, Swords or Daggers *
Fire/Will/Desire = Wands and Staves *
* in some traditions these tools are switched in their elemental assignment
Water/Emotion/Intuitive Nature = Cauldron and Chalice
Earth/Body/Foundation = Pentacle
There are several thoughts on the acquisition of your tools. Some believe they should be made (ideal if you are handy in this area). Others suggest that the tools may be purchased. And, others are of the belief that your tools should never be gifted from another. Personally, I do not agree with this last piece of advice as I see no difference in purchasing from a second party or being gifted from a loved one, friend or mentor. In all cases, your tools should be consecrated (or cleansed) and dedicated once acquired and before use in any working. Particularly, if you purchased or were gifted them. They have been handled and thus shaped by another’s energy and will, which even if benign is not in accord with your own personal energy. It is also for this reason that tools should not be shared, especially those that you work with often and have deep connection to.
An Athame serves as your personal knife. Traditionally this would have had a hilt (handle) that is black and a double-sided blade. Athames come in different sizes, lengths, and a variety of materials that are used for the hilt. When you select your athame, keep in mind how it feels in your hand. It should be neither too large and cumbersome – in that case select a sword – nor too small and light in weight. Think of it as an extension of your hand. It should be made of a metal that can be sharpened, as traditionally this was the tool used to cut herbs and place inscriptions on candles. The sharpness of the blade and its power to cut are powerful reminders to us as we work our magick of the responsibility that we hold within our potential. We have the ability to cut away that which is no longer needed, as well as the power, when exercised less than judiciously to harm.
A Sword is not quite as portable as an Athame, and not absolutely necessary to have immediately. Occasionally, a circle may be cast using a sword, providing there is adequate space to safely wield it. It could be used in much the same way as the Athame, but because of its size and greater substance is considered a tool of great command. The energy projected is denser and generally of more ample volume. Because of the size and weight of most swords, great care and consideration should be given to selection. Make sure that the size and weight are such that you can safely handle it.
Traditionally, the Wand or Staff would be made of wood and crafted in some way by the Witch using it. Branches from a tree, particularly of willow or birch can be used to create a wand. You may select to wrap leather cording about it, stain it to darken the wood, embed it with crystals or place a terminated point of crystal at one or both ends. A larger, more substantial branch can be adorned in the same to create a staff. Since most wood tends to retains some moisture, unless it has fallen long before and sat in the sun, it is a good idea to allow the branch to dry out thoroughly at room temperature before affixing an gems, etc. to it.
Again, the length of the wand should be determined by what feels comfortable to you as you are holding it outwards. Traditionally, the length should be no more than the length of your forearm. The staff should be at least shoulder length in height and as thick as you can comfortably hold.
The Staff is often thought to carry the energies of both the sword and the wand. Elementally, a staff is the holder of great knowledge and wisdom (the airy property of the sword) and the fires of will and action (the fiery nature of the wand).
The Chalice and the Cauldron represent the Goddess. They are the vessels that hold the mystery of life, the sacred elixir and fluids of creation and just as the feminine holds the seed of manifest potential within her womb, these tools carry that potential as well. In ritual work, the chalice is used in correspondence with the athame in the symbolic Great Rite. The chalice serves as the sacred feminine, the vagina and receives the blade of the athame in its form as the phallus or penis of the God.
The uses for your chalice are many. Charging water or other liquid to be consumed as part of an empowerment ritual within your chalice connects you to the powers of the creative womb. Pouring energy into the empty chalice and allowing it to build and then releasing makes for an intent of blossoming and expanding the spiritual gifts. Once you have mastered the connection of the chalice to the Divine Goddess you carry within, that energy will guide your uses.
The Cauldron is the larger version of the chalice and is often used to hold bale fires, to hold water for scrying or to provide the vessel to combine herbs for potions and spell work. The cauldron has been one of the primary symbols for the Witch and is most often the vessel that contains the powers of healing and transformation shown within the myths of the Celts and their Deities. Cast iron cauldrons can be found in a variety of sizes, so the need to have a large and extremely heavy one is not necessary. I have a very small one which I use as an incense burner or for working spells that need the container of the feminine womb to germinate and grow.
A Pentacle is generally a flat disc of wood or metal upon which a pentagram has been inscribed and is enclosed within a circle. The Pentagram or five-pointed star contains all of the alchemical elements within its pattern and the circle encompassing it represents the never-ending cycles and the continuum of all that is contained. It represents the foundations that have been laid in working through those elements and the harmony and balance of the natural world has tool of the North, or Earth. The Pentagram is a symbol of protection and as a tool of the earth and grounding can help to stabilize excess energy.
The Pentagram as a tool of grounding and magnetic attraction is often worn as an amulet in ritual space. In this way, the Pentacle is one and the same with he/she wearing it and is a reminder of their connection to all of the elemental energies present.
Read More about the Pentagram/Pentacle here:
The Power of Four:
These are the four basic tools that are used in the Witch’s craft. They are a manifest representation of the alchemical elements, hold the energy of their wielder and are powerful energetic allies that work co-creatively with the witch’s intent and will. We’ll explore some of the other commonly used tools of the Craft in next week’s post.
The Elemental Connection