Ritual Tools That Won’t Break the Bank
Author: Bronwen Forbes
We’ve all seen them, either on EBay or some online Wicca supply shop – or even the Pagan bookstore in our own town: ritual tools and altar pieces that are apparently only for the independently wealthy. Well, seeing as how I am still a full-time student, i.e. broke, I’ve been searching for alternative sources for ritual tools and other altar accoutrements priced reasonably enough to guarantee I could afford to eat meat for the rest of the month. I’d like to share them with you.
My first stop was, believe it or not, my local Wal-Mart. And if the items mentioned below can be found in my Wally World out in the middle of southwestern USA nowhere, I’ll bet they’re at your Wal-Mart, too.
I remember a few years ago that tree branches given a “spiral” look by having a grapevine grow around them were quite the popular item at various Pagan gatherings. Unfortunately, these polished, um, sticks were priced at seventy dollars each, if not more! Ouch!
Even here on the edge of the great Southwestern desert, we have trees. Which means your chances of having access to free wand material are even better than mine. Find a tree you like, either because it’s your favorite kind (oak, maple, etc.) or because it’s located near your home and you think it’s friendly, or whatever. Note: if the tree is not on your property, get permission before you cut a branch or two. Also note: get permission from the tree before you start chopping. Tradition holds that a wand should be the length of the owner’s arm from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow. Let the wood “cure” for a season or two; carefully remove the bark, and presto! Free wand!
If you’re not totally into the traditional athame, which is a double-edged blade with a black handle, Wal-Mart is your new best friend. If you’re drawn to kitchen witchery (herbalism, cooking, food spells, etc.) , the housewares aisle has a plethora of really nice kitchen knives (and I mean pretty darn nice) starting at around three dollars each. Or you can check out the hunting and camping department. They had some wicked (and I mean that in a good way, of course) hunting knives, averaging around fourteen dollars apiece.
Either way, these are much cooler, cheaper and more practical (!) than the easily bendable mermaid-shaped athame with Austrian crystal eyes for twenty bucks on EBay.
If you’re very lucky, once or twice a year there will be some sort of arts fair in your town. These fairs attract a lot of potters. Potters like to make chalices, and will sell the ones where the glaze “didn’t come out quite right” for five to ten dollars. And then you have a handmade, one-of-a-kind chalice!
If you’re mostly lucky, there is a paint-your-own-pottery shop nearby. For about five dollars per painting session and three to ten dollars for the cup, again, you have a one-of-a-kind chalice that you glazed yourself. How cool is that?
However, there is always our friend Wal-Mart, which sells something call tea goblets. Tea goblets are basically short, fat wine glasses with very little stem and lots of cup space. Last Friday I noticed a choice of green or brown tea goblets for $2.22 apiece, or a box of four clear ones for about nine dollars. They looked pretty nice!
Assuming you don’t want to pay at least $40 for a brass or copper disc with a pentacle etched on it (and since you’re reading this, I’m guessing that’s a pretty fair assumption) , again, you’ll find everything you need to make a nice wooden one at Wal-Mart. A wooden disk six inches in diameter costs $.97 and can be found in the craft aisle. A protractor (assuming you don’t have one left over from geometry) costs about a dollar. Craft paint is also pretty cheap!
Or, you can forego the wooden disk, find a nice free round-ish, flat-ish rock somewhere, and paint a pentacle on that.
Even if you have absolutely no artistic talent whatsoever (like me) , it’s not that hard to draw a perfectly symmetrical 5-pointed star (that’s what the protractor is for) , and then paint over it.
Wal-Mart sells soapstone stick incense burners for just under $2. They’re not fancy, but they’re nice. If I didn’t have a plethora of wooden ones all over the house, I’d probably get one (I think the wooden ones breed when I’m not looking!) . They also sell reasonably nice cut glass candlesticks for about $3 each. In the potpourri section (usually near the fabric/craft section) they have potpourri-replenishing oils. I wouldn’t use the oils straight, I’d mix them with a small bit of unscented baby oil, but they smelled pretty good.
If you just can’t bring yourself to shop for ritual and altar items at Wal-Mart, don’t panic! Check out garage sales, flea markets, junky little antique stores, and estate sales. With a little time, effort, and patience, you’re very likely to find exactly what you want for next to nothing – like my prized pentacle-shaped cast iron pot trivet that set me back a whole three bucks at a junky antique store.
A ritual tool is not made more powerful by a high price tag or fancy decoration, but by use, by respect, and by intent. Let me give you an example: when I found myself unexpectedly living alone a few years ago, I went to the local flea market to pick up some kitchen items. I was broke, but I needed pots to cook in!
One of my finds was an old white enamel pasta pot for next to nothing. It came with a few dings in the enamel, but I have proudly served my coven many a soup, stew, or lasagna whose noodles were cooked in that pot. That pot is practically part of the coven, now. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.