The Witch’s Tools

Helpfun Hints: Hidden in Plain Sight – Altar Alternatives

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Helpfun Hints: Hidden in Plain Sight – Altar Alternatives

Most witches like to have an altar, but not every witch lives someplace where he or she is comfortable having all their magickal stuff right out in plain view. So here is a list of the usual items we witchy types tend to have on our altars, and a few possible, less obviously Pagan substitutes:

GOD/GODDESS STATUES = GOLD/SILVER CANDLES OR PLAQUE OF THE TREE OF LIFE

ATHAME = FANCY LETTER-OPENER OR WOODEN BRANCH

CHALICE = ANY NICE CUP OR GOBLET, OR SMALL BOWL

SALT & WATER = STONE AND SEASHELL

QUARTER CANDLES = ROCK (EARTH), FEATHER (AIR), SHELL (WATER), AND TEALIGHT (FIRE)

You can always put out flowers as an offering and a few colored stones (for the quarters), and no one will be the wiser. After all, you know what they’re for-and so do the gods-and that’s all that really matters.
 

Deborah Blake. Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft

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The Witch’s Altar

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The Witch’s Altar

They say that home is where the heart is–if so, then a Witch’s home is her altar. That is where your most precious tools live; athame, god and goddess candles, incense, crystals….whatever you use to connect with the gods in your most private rituals.

Your altar is where you go when you are most troubled and in need of help. It is where you go in your moments of joy to give thanks.

You stand at your altar to summon what you want and banish what you don’t, to ask for help and to ask for answers.

What better definition of home could you have?

So tend your altar carefully. Find items that you will treasure, and set them lovingly in their places. You don’t need a lot. One candle or six (god and goddess and the four quarters)-it’s your choice. That one perfect leaf, feather, or rock. As long as it means something to you, youar altar is where it belongs.

And your altar is where you belong, too. It is the one place where you can truly be you, with nothing hidden or held back. Laugh, cry, howl, or simply be silent… it’s all good.

So go to your altar often even if only for a minute or two at a time, and check in with yourself, the gods and the universe. Ground back to the earth and to your truest self. And don’t forget to dust on occasion, either.

Deborah Blake. Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft

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Let’s Talk Witch – Ever Wonder Where The Grimoire Came From & Why We Keep One?

Magic of Dragons

Ever Wonder Where The Grimoire Came From &  Why We Keep One?

The religious practices upon which Wicca is partially based were primarily an oral tradition passed down to neophytes by more experienced practitioners. It’s said that small groups of practitioners met in secret and would possess little knowledge of the whereabouts or practices of other groups. This was done for protection, so that if one group was discovered there would be no way for the members to reveal or disclose the whereabouts of other practitioners. Unfortunately, this fragmented approach has left us severely wanting in the area of verifiable information. It is very difficult to piece together the rites and rituals of an oral tradition when the practitioners are scattered and disjointed and few written records exist. Consider this excerpt from the Preface to the Book of Shadows as recorded by Doreen Valiente, who adapted selected works of Gerald Gardner, considered by many to be the father of modern Wicca:

Keep a book in your own
hand of write. Let
brothers and sisters copy
what they will; but never
let the book out of your
hands and never keep the
writings of another, for if
found in their hand of
write they may well be
taken and tortured. Each
shall guard his own
writing and destroy it
whenever danger
threatens. Learn as much
as you may by heart, and
when danger is past,
rewrite your book if it be
safe. For this reason, if
any die, destroy their book
if they have not been able
to for an’ it be found ‘tis
clear proof against them,
and “ye may not be a
witch alone,” so all their
friends be in danger of
torture. So destroy
everything not necessary.
If your book be found on
you ‘tis clear proof against
you alone and you may be
tortured. Keep all thoughts
of the cult from
your mind an’ say you had
bad dreams, a devil
caused you to write this
without your knowledge.
Think to yourself “I know
nothing. I remember
nothing. I have forgotten
all.” Drive this into your mind …

While this preface has never been proven to be authentic, it is certainly a fascinating representation of the threat of capture that many witches experienced.

When so much information is missing, it becomes our responsibility to rewrite the rituals and legends as they relate to our modern experience. We may never go back, only forward.

 

Judy Ann Olsen, A Witch’s Grimoire, Create Your Own Book of Shadows

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Consecrating Your Tools

Consecrating Your Tools

 

Most magical traditions make use of the familiar magical Elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Some traditions have specific tools which are important to them. There is also a fifth magical element – that of spirit. The simplest consecration that can be made is to offer each of the objects to spirit that they may be used for the best purpose possible. You can specifically dedicate any tool using a short invocation such as:

I dedicate this magical tool to the purpose for which it is intended

You can, of course, be as creative with your speech as you desire. Anything else that is done will be according to the traditions of your own belief.

With all your tools, when you first purchase them or have them made, cleanse them before use, then dedicate them by filling them with your own energy as you did with your altar objects. You might also offer them to your appropriate deity.

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Consecrating Altar Objects

Consecrating Altar Objects

If you are not using completely new objects on your altar – here we are referring to the basic ‘furnishings’ of candle holders etc – you should cleanse them before you dedicate them to your purpose. Treat them in the same way as you would any crystals you use, by soaking them overnight in salt water to remove anyone else’s vibrations and then standing them in sunshine (or moonshine) for at least 12 hours to charge them with the appropriate energy.

 

When you are ready, hold each object and allow your own energy to flow into it, followed by the energy of your idea of Ultimate Power. (That way you make a very powerful link between yourself, the object and the Ultimate.) Ask this Power to bless the object and any working you may do with it and perceive yourself as truly a medium or channel for the energy.

 

Hopefully, each time you use any of the objects, you will immediately be able to reinforce that link rather than having to re-establish it. It is like a refrain continually running in the background. Now place the objects on your altar however it feels right for you.

 

Finally, if appropriate, create and caste your circle so that it includes yourself and your altar. The magic circle defines the ritual area, holds in personal power and shuts out all distractions and negative energies. You now have a sacred space set up which is your link to the powers that be. Again it is a matter of personal choice as to whether you choose to re-dedicate your altar and what it contains on a regular basis

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Dedicating Your Altar

Dedicating Your Altar

 

Now you have turned your space into an altar, dedicate it in such a way that it will support any workings you may choose to do. One good way is to dedicate it to the principle of the Greater Good – that none may be harmed by anything that you may do. (Remember that traditionally any harm you instigate deliberately will return to you threefold, particularly when it comes from such a sacred space.) It will depend on your basic belief just how you choose to dedicate the altar further, perhaps to the Moon deity and all her manifestations, perhaps to the Gods of power.

 

Try to put as much passion and energy into the dedication as you can and remember to include a prayer for protection of your sacred space. Some people will need to cast a circle each time they do a working, while others will feel that just by setting the altar up in the way suggested that that space is consecrated henceforth. If you wish to follow the principles of feng shui rather than Wicca within your work, your placings will be slightly different, as they will also be if you choose to follow the tenets of other religions.

 

However, whatever you do, you should take care to dedicate all of your tools and altar furnishings to the purpose in hand. You are empowering them and making them usable only in ritual and magical work. If you try to use them for any other purpose, you will negate that magical power.

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Setting Up Your Altar

Setting Up Your Altar

 

To turn your dressed table into a proper altar, you will need as basics the following objects:

 

1. Two candles with candle holders – you might like to think of one representing the female principle and one the male. You may also choose, in addition, candles of a color suitable for the ritual or spell you are working.

 

2. An incense holder and incense suitable for the particular working.

 

3. A representation of the deity or deities you prefer to work with. An image of the Goddess, for instance, could be anything from a statue of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, Kuan Yin, to seashells, chalices, bowls, or certain stones that symbolize the womb or motherhood.

 

4. A small vase for flowers or fresh herbs.
Other objects appropriate for ceremonial working are:

• • An athame, which is a sacred knife for ceremonial use; it should never be used for anything else.

• • A white-handled knife (called a boline) for cutting branches, herbs, etc.

• • A burin, which is a sharp-pointed instrument for inscribing magical objects such as candles.

• • A small earthenware or ceramic bowl, or a small cauldron, for mixing ingredients.

• A bowl of water.

• • A bowl of salt or sand, representing Earth.

• • A consecrated cloth, or a pentacle, on which to place dedicated objects.
Some people additionally use bells to summon the powers of the Elements, whilst others have additional candles with the colors representing both themselves and the work they wish to do. You can also have other items on your altar, such as crystals, amulets and talismans.

 

You can do what you wish with your own altar provided you have thought through very carefully your logical or emotional reasons for including whatever you have there. You might, for instance, choose to have differing representations of the Earth Mother from diverse religions or include a pretty gift to establish a psychic link with the person who gave it to you.

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Ingredients and Tools of the Witch

Ingredients and Tools of the Witch

Tools

When performing your spells and magical workings, you will probably find that you tend to use some objects more than others. Below is a list of the ones that are most commonly used.

 
ALTAR OBJECTS

These is a general term for the objects that you place on your altar – candle holders, flower vases, crystals etc. – which do not necessarily have a specific magical use of their own – they are present to create an ambiance. You should remember to dedicate them to the purpose in hand by presenting them to your chosen deity. Some may prefer to work according to Celtic tradition, Norse, Graeco-Roman or Wiccan.

 
ATHAME

By tradition, the athame is a ceremonial knife used especially in the performing of spells. It is not used for cutting of herbs and so on: its role is ceremonial – for example, indicating the quarters or directions. By tradition it should be of the best and purest metal available. Its handle is usually black and sometimes carved with magical designs and symbols. Many experienced magical practitioners consider that the most powerful athame is one which has been inherited.

 
BESOM

A besom is a different name for a broom, and is particularly associated with the easily recognisable so-called ‘witch’s broom’ of old. A particularly personal tool, it is often made specifically for the practitioner, from twigs from the tree of her choice. It is usually kept specifically to be used in the sacred space or circle – this time for cleansing – and is also used both symbolically and spiritually.

 
BOLINE

The boline as a knife traditionally used in cutting plants, herbs, wands and other objects for magical workings. It is not the same as the athame which is purely ceremonial, but is akin to the gardener’s pruning knife as a useful, practical tool. It often has a white handle and a curved blade. It is consecrated because this is a way of honouring its purpose.

 
BURINE

A burine is a sharp pointed instrument used for inscribing candles and other magical objects with symbols, words and pictures in order to make spells more effective. In many ways, it is more effective than either the boline or the athame and is seen much more as an instrument which pierces a surface rather than cuts it.

 
CANDLES

Candles are such an integral part of a spell makers work that they have become a whole branch of magic all their own. They represent the element of fire, but also light. As explained in more detail later, various colours bring different things to magical workings and they are an important part of any ritual.

 
CAULDRON

Because cauldrons were easily disguised as cooking utensils in olden days, most people today tend to think of them as a large cast-iron pot. There has lately been a return to original materials and nowadays they can be made of almost anything. They are often of a size that can be stood on the altar, or in the sacred space. They are used mainly as containers for herbs, candles and other magical objects,

 
CHALICE

Used as a ceremonial drinking vessel, the chalice is sometimes made from precious metal, although it can also be made from glass. An elegant object, the chalice will usually be beautifully decorated with elaborate designs which may have magical significance – or jewels and gemstones.

 
PAPER

During spells we often need to write our wishes or aims down and it is good to have some paper ready prepared, Parchment type is best, but heavier good quality is also good. You consecrate it by holding it for a short period in the smoke from your favourite incense.

 
PEN AND INK

Traditionally, quill pens were used for writing spells and incantations, but if you can’t find a quill then use the best pen you can afford. Try to keep it especially for magical work and consecrate it by passing it carefully over the top of a candle or through incense. Also buy a good quality ink and, if not already formulated for magical purposes, consecrate that in the same way. Neither pen nor ink should be used for other purposes.

 
PENTACLE

The pentacle is a shallow dish which is usually inscribed with a pentagram – a five-pointed star. It is used as a ‘power point’ for consecrating other objects such as water or wine in a chalice, amulets and tools.

 
PESTLE AND MORTAR

The pestle and mortar are so symbolic of the union of God and Goddess that they deserve a special mention within the use of magical tools. Mainly used to prepare herbal mixtures and incenses they can also become part of your altar furniture when consecrated.

 
SCRYING TOOLS

Scrying is the practice of using certain channelling tools which should be consecrated before use – such as crystals, mirrors, coloured water, runes etc – to try to gain an insight into external events. Any object can be used for scrying, though usually they are reflective, and they employ the arts of concentration and contemplation.

 
STAFF

The staff is used very frequently by practitioners today, particularly if they are of the Druidic persuasion. Longer than the wand, it has the same attributes and uses. A staff is deliberately fashioned for the practitioner from wood taken from sacred trees, such as oak, hawthorn and hazelnut.

 
WAND

The wand should be no longer than the forearm and is often made from sacred wood. Since this is a very personal object, it should be chosen carefully and equally carefully attuned to your own energies. It cannot be used magically until it has been consecrated.

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