This article briefly describes the tools that are available and how they’re used in ritual work. Some witches use many tools in their ritual work, others use just a few, and some witches use no tools at all, just their mind and will. Tools can help you visualize your power flow, or can help you get in the right frame of mind.
You can find tools in an occult shop, at a flea market, at the local general store, or sometimes just by taking a walk in the woods or a park. However, if you find something that seems okay, but just okay, it might not be the right one for you. Your personal working tools should call to you; resonate with you. After you’‘ve used them for a while, they will almost become part of you. You don’t want something to be part of you that started out as “just okay.”
When you find an item, take it home and cleanse it to remove any negative energy that the item may have collected. Then cast a circle at an appropriate time (frequently at a new moon for beginnings) and consecrate it to your specific use. Once consecrated, a tool for witchcraft shouldn’‘t be available for everyday use. You wouldn’t want, for example, to have your athame around the kitchen as a general kitchen knife. Keep your tools in a special place, like a bureau drawer that’‘s only for craft things, or in a large chest that doubles as your altar.
Here is a brief description of the tools that can be used.
This is the area where you put many of your working tools, and some of your symbols. The altar can be a small or medium-sized table, a large box or chest with a flat top, or even a flattish rock. It should be big enough to hold whatever you want to put on it, and stable so any burning candles won’‘t fall over if you brush against the altar.
While not needed, a nice cloth can dress up an altar. You can have one only, ether black or white, or several of different colours for different Sabbats or ritual types. It can be plain, or decorated with symbols of elements, the Goddess and God, seasons, or anything that is meaningful to you.
This is one of a witch’s main tools. Traditionally, it is a black-handled knife. It can, however, be made of wood or crystal, or other substance. The athame directs power, and can cut energies or psychic bindings. Negative energy can be removed from an item by touching the point of the athame to an item and visualising the energy being blasted away. Likewise, other tools can be consecrated with the touch of the point, usually after it has been sprinkled with consecrated water. It is also used to bless the Cakes and Wine at the end of the working.
In many Tarot decks, the athame is the same as the sword. A sword can be used in place of or in addition to an athame, but since a sword is rather large, indoor use is generally not feasible.
Some say since the athame never cuts anything physically, it can be a dull knife. However, the best symbol for a thing is the thing itself, and I’d rather not use a dull knife to cut something important. I want it nice and sharp on the other plane, so I have my athame as sharp as I can make it.
There is one exception to the ban on cutting physical things with an athame: it can be used to cut a handfasting cake!
Associations: The God; Air (East) or Fire (South), depending on tradition
A bell can be rung when calling the Quarters or during the invitation to the Lord and Lady. It can also be used to banish negative energies in a cleansing.
Associations: The Goddess
The bolline is the counterpart to the athame. It is a white-handled knife, frequently (though not always) in the shape of a sickle, and it is the instrument that harvests your herbs, scribes symbols into candles, and cuts cords.
Book of Shadows / Grimoire / Mirror Book
This special book is your record of rituals, spells and chants, and incense and other recipes. It can be your personal copy of the coven Book of Shadows, or it can be a collection of things you have found on your own. It should be kept in a special place and not be shared casually.
Many modern witches will use a ring binder so that individual pages can be inserted easily, or moved or modified as needed. You can decorate your book however you please. Cleansing and consecrating your book before you write in it would help keep your information safe.
Technically, you’d use a journal format to keep a record of what books you’ve read and your thoughts and notes about them, lessons you’ve taken, etc. This is the Mirror Book. Your Grimoire is a collection of spells and chants. The Book of Shadows contains rituals, tables of correspondences, and recipes. However, if you have one book that does all these things, it can be called a Book of Shadows (or Book of Light to some).
Associations: Air (East)
Broom or Besom
Contrary to popular culture and Harry Potter, witches don’t fly around on brooms. The besom sweeps away negative energy from a space, cleansing the space in preparation for your ritual work.
A witch can also hop on her broom, bristles forward, around a field that has just been sown with seeds. The upward motion encourages the crops to grow well. If you must leave a circle and there’s no one to guard the doorway, you can leave your broom at the doorway to guard it.
Your broom can be a standard household broom, one that looks more rustic, or a decorative spiced broom. Always keep your broom with the bristles upward or horizontal to keep the positive energy from falling out.
Associations: Air (East)
Candles can be used for many things. The fire represents the South at a Quarter station, the flame can be used as a meditation focus, and there are many spells that involve candle magic.
Candles are one of the best methods for using color symbology. You can use a coloured candle at each compass point to represent the elements, and you can use candles to represent the Goddess and God on your altar. Check a good correspondence table to see what colours can be used for what purpose.
It is recommended that you don’t blow out the candle flame, as this can anger the fire elementals. Use a candle snuffer or pinch the wick with your damp fingers. In many candle spells, let the candle burn out on its own.
You may want to have a way to keep the candle wax from dripping on whatever surface it’s on, too.
Associations: Fire (South), though coloured candles can be used to represent any of the elements
The cauldron was an ancient cooking pot. Stews, potions, and hot spiced wine all came from the witch’s cauldron.
Nowadays, it’s more symbolic, perhaps holding the consecrated water on the altar. Of course, the cauldron on the altar would need to be much smaller than the one usually pictured in cartoons!
The Beltaine Bonfire can also be built in the cauldron, both to contain it, and to represent the creative force of the God within the nurturing space of the Goddess.
Associations: The Goddess, and Water (West)
The censer is a small bowl or plate in on on which the incense is burnt. If the incense is in stick form, a long slightly curved burner will work best. If the incense is powder or resin, you will want a bowl in which you can place the charcoal on which to burn the incense. It can be a bowl specifically designed as a censer, or you can use a pretty bowl you like that has sand at the bottom to prevent damage to the bowl and the altar.
Some censers have a lid, and a chain by which the censer can be carried and swung to send the smoke in a specific direction.
Associations: Air (East) and Fire (South)
Cord or Belt
A special belt woven of cord can be worn in ritual work. It can be braided or knotted, much as in cord magic. In fact, many witches will use cord magic to make their belt.
Cup or Chalice
Like the cauldron, the cup can contain consecrated water on the altar. It or a second cup could also hold the wine for the end of ritual feast.
Sometimes the Great Rite may be performed by the High Priest holding his athame and lowering it gently into the chalice held by the High Priestess. This represents the God entering the Goddess and creating union.
Associations: The Goddess, and Water (West)
Element or Quarter symbols
You may place symbols representing each element at its proper location around the room or ritual area. What you use as symbols are limited only by your imagination, availability of items, and budget.
Some symbols can be:
Air (East) – a blue or gold candle, a bird’s feather, incense, a fan, a bird statue
Fire (South) – a red candle, an anvil (forge), a red dragon statue
Water (West) – a green or blue candle, some seaweed or river reed, a shell, a dolphin statue
Earth (North) – a gold or green candle, a gemstone or crystal, a gold token, a badger statue
Many things can represent the God on your altar: a statue of a man, a gold (for the Sun) candle, antlers from a deer, a two-pronged candleholder representing the two facets of the God. The usual symbol for the God is a circle with a half-moon pointed upwards sitting on top of the circle.
Goddess and God Crowns
In some covens, the High Priestess and High Priest will wear crowns signifying their unity with the Goddess and God. The High Priestess may wear a crown of flowers in the spring, and of rowan leaves in the fall. The High Priest can wear a crown of antlers or of oak or holly leaves. Crowns can also be made of metal and have the Goddess and God symbols on them.
As with the God, many things can represent the Goddess: a statue of a lady, a white or silver (for the Moon) candle, flowers or wheat, a three-pronged candleholder representing the three facets of the Goddess. The usual symbol for the Goddess is a left-facing crescent, a circle, and a right-facing crescent joined together horizontally.
Incense, in addition to adding a nice atmosphere to a working, can also be used in purification and cleansing, in casting the circle, and to represent either Air (since smoke rises into the air) or Fire (since it takes flame to activate it). Different fragrances and herbs can be blended to make your own incense.
If you wish to wear jewellery in a circle, you should wear only the jewellery that is consecrated to your purpose. Fourteen bangle bracelets and ropes of necklaces would only be a distraction. A Goddess or God circlet, a pentacle necklace, a ring signifying your coven Degree – all can be used for various purposes.
Oils, like incense, can be used for its scent, and, when consecrated, to help cleanse and purify. Oil is also used in anointing an item or a person. If the item is being consecrated, a touch of oil can help it stay that way. A person being initiated will be anointed with oil during the ceremony.
Oil can also be used during candle magic to help infuse the candle with its purpose.
Tools can be placed on the pentacle during consecration, and objects to be used in spellwork can be charged on the it. A pentacle can be made of just about any durable material – pottery, wood, metal, stone, etc. It can be very simple and plain, but beautiful, or it can be very decorated and elaborate.
Associations: Earth (North)
If you choose to wear a robe for ritual work, it should be worn for no other purpose. It can be plain or decorated, sleeved or not (though I recommend against long flowing sleeves that can catch on a chalice or candle), and hooded or not. Some witches will have several robes of different colours for different work types or seasons.
Salt is a great purifier. You can bury small tools or objects in salt to cleanse them of negative energies before you consecrate them or use them in workings. You would draw a pentacle in the dish of salt to consecrate it, and then use the consecrated salt to cleanse and bless the water, circle, etc. at the start of each ritual.
Salt can also be used to purify the water for a ritual bath before the working.
Associations: Earth (North)
Of course all witches have a magic wand, right? Well, sort of. The wand is used to direct energy, not to wave about making sparkles and fireworks. It is usually made of wood, though it can be of crystal or metal. It can be decorated with crystals or feathers, carved, or plain.
Wands are a symbol of the growing and creative force of the Goddess, since wooden wands usually come from growing trees. If you choose to get your wand from a living tree, try to cut it in the winter or very early spring when the tree is dormant, and always ask the tree’s permission before you cut.
Different woods have different associations. For instance, a willow wand can be used for someone who has an affinity for Water; an oak, someone who has an affinity for Earth. Check a correspondence table to find a good wood to use in your wand.
Associations: The Goddess; Air (East) or Fire (South), depending on tradition
Consecrated water is used for purifying and cleansing. A tuft of pine needles can be used to sprinkle each witch as he or she enters the circle, showing that the person is clean and ready to work.
Water can also be used to cleanse objects before they are consecrated. Placing a waterproof object in flowing water for a time washes away all negative energies.
Associations: The Goddess; Water (West)
Remember, your imagination and ideas should be the source of what your tools will look like or consist of. And the lack of a tool won’t mean a lack of efficacy in your spellwork. If you have the will, the Lord and Lady will hear your intent, and the action will happen, according to the Threefold Law. If a tool will help you visualise and direct your will, then use it. Otherwise, there’s no need to buy or create a lot of “witchy” things that will just lay useless in a drawer.