The Broke College Student: How To Obtain Some Magickal Tools
As my senior year of college comes to an end and I look back on the years I spent here, I wish to share my thoughts — as a broke college student exploring spirituality and coming to Wicca or another Pagan path — on how you too might obtain some of the basic magickal tools.
Magickal tools like the athame, the cauldron, the wand, the pentacle and many, many others have permeated Pagan culture since our roots. They’re some of the most identifiable aspects of many Pagan paths, and I know of very few, limited though my knowledge may be, who do away completely with those traditional trappings. Even in this day and age, magickal tools still hold a special place in Paganism. We love our tools, and many, if not all of them, would be almost impossible for us to part with.
That said, for the seeker entering a Wiccan or Pagan path, these tools present two challenges: On the one hand, many people feel these tools are completely necessary in order to be considered legitimate in their practice. I won’t deny I felt this way when I first came to Wicca, and there’s still a small part of me (growing smaller every day, but still present in my mind) that feels the need to have these tools in order to work ‘proper’ magick. Much of what we read and watch seems to only confirm these feelings that one cannot be a Witch or Pagan or follow any spiritual path without the proper tools. I’ve read many Wiccan books that stress the necessity of these tools, their importance and place in the circle. Even Pagan non-fiction seems to subtly hint at how important they are.
And these feelings lead to the second challenge for seekers: budget. In today’s economy, the typical college student (at least, from my experience) doesn’t always have a lot of money to spend. What money we do have is usually put towards paying tuition, buying text books, getting something to eat, buying clothes, doing laundry in many cases, paying rent for apartments, and paying for countless other expenses. For some, parents or legal guardians provide most of the monetary aid for everyday expenses, and asking them for money for magickal tools can be difficult (if not impossible) depending on how they feel about the student-in-question’s spiritual decisions. For those who don’t or can’t rely on parental monetary aid (and even for those who do) , work provides the majority of our budget, and many times the budget can’t be stretched to include the purchase of that beautiful new wand.
Also, many magickal tools available on the market today are often expensive, depending on the labor and materials involved in creating them. I remember many a time when I’ve admired a gorgeous handcrafted athame, looked at the price tag, and cringed at how expensive it was. Sticker shock doesn’t just apply to mundane expenses, and even those who have a stable source of income looking for magickal tools, college student or not, may still feel it. As I’m thinking about it now, younger Pagans have an even harder time of it. Often times, they will not have a paying job and may rely on a small allowance that they will either want to spend on other things or can’t use to purchase magickal tools for whatever reason.
Okay, enough with the doom and gloom. Let’s talk about ways to alleviate these problems.
First, I want to say this: the most important tool in any spiritual path is your own will. This is the most powerful tool you have, and it doesn’t cost anything. We are born with it, we develop it over the course of our lives, and it’s something we can’t misplace. In many of the books I’ve read about Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism (and in my own experience) , the individual will is the most important tool and necessitates no other tool.
I know, you’re probably saying, “Luna, what are you talking about? Are you saying all magickal tools aside from the will aren’t necessary?” Well, let’s think about this. No matter what tools are used in a ritual, they are used to carry out the will of the individual towards change (hopefully positive change) that will better one’s life. Without that will behind the tools, magick cannot take place. Are those tools still valuable to the individual Pagan? Of course! I doubt we’d still be using them today if they weren’t important. But it’s important to understand that the tools are extensions of your own will, and that your own will is the most important tool you will ever have.
I’m guessing a lot of you are wondering why I say this. Well, for most of my Wiccan experience, I haven’t always had the tools I wanted. It took a couple years before I bought my first pentacle, and, at the time of writing this, I still do not own an athame or wand. Yet I’ve found that, even without these tools, my magick is still effective. Why is that? Because, no matter how many tools I have to help me, it has been my will powering the magick. It’s because I want to bring about the changes I wish to see in my life, whether it’s helping to heal my dog after her third knee surgery or wishing my friends luck in dealing with various challenges. My will is what enables my magick, and it’s something I doubt I could live without.
Now, for those of you who still want these tools, fear not. There are ways to acquire them without giving up an arm or a leg. And I want to suggest one that not only has proved successful for me but will hopefully be accessible to almost everyone reading this: art classes.
Yes, I said art classes.
It might be my experience as an art major, but this is one of the most effective and meaningful ways to acquire magickal tools. Most if not all schools, regardless of level, provide art classes for their students and even require students to take some in order to graduate. Even community education programs offer a variety of art classes to the public for those of us in the working world. For those younger Pagans still enrolled in school, this will often be free to you (relatively speaking, given how our taxes fund your education here in the U.S.) and, since you’re already taking these classes, it’s worth it to make something meaningful. Not only that, but you also have access to teachers who know how to work with the materials successfully and safely.
About a year and a half ago, I spent a field experience for my Educational Psychology class helping out with a number of elementary school art classes, where the teachers even invited me to participate in the projects and make my own work, if only to provide an example to the children. At the time, the kids were entering their ceramics unit, creating columns and plates and other items. From the projects I worked on with those kids, I gained a chalice and pentacle, both of which still sit on my bookshelf at home today and still use in ritual.
But more than this accessibility, art classes and projects give you not only the ability to create these tools but to infuse them with your own spirit and make them unique to you. I think I speak for myself, as well as many Pagan artisans who make tools, that there is something special about making tools with your own hands. Just this last semester, I made several chalices through my ceramics class, and this semester for my senior seminar I’m hoping to make my own cauldron. In our world today, I feel that, with the availability of almost anything via the Internet, we may have lost touch with this aspect of our magickal lives. In fact, I’m willing to state outright that, while there is something to be said for purchasing a beautiful cauldron from a Pagan artisan (and indeed, this helps support the artisan’s livelihood and should be encouraged) , there’s definitely something special, a feeling irreplaceable, that comes with crafting your own tools by hand.
Magickal tools are meaningful and often essential parts of the Pagan experience, and many times acquiring them is difficult for a variety of circumstances but it is not impossible… even for the broke college student. Always remember that you already have the most important and powerful tool: you.