As the great wheel turns, we find ourselves slowly re-emerging from the deep dreamtime of winter into the portal of Imbolc.
Imbolc is an important day of purification and initiation; on the Sun’s day, February 2, the energies are very airy. This Sabbat is a good day for coven work, with an emotionally detached masculine Moon and Sun on the Sun’s day.
Dress yourself and your altar in white, while serving white beverages or any dairy food to honor the calving season. Spread the top of a one-pound round Camembert or Bire cheese with raspberry preserves. Cut a circle of puff pastry large enough to cover the cheese, wrap it, tucking the ends of the pastry under. Use scraps to decorate the top with goddess symbols. Brush with beaten egg yolk. Bake at 425 degrees until golden, and serve hot and melting on crackers. During this ritual, bless and dedicate all candles you will need for other ritual work throughout the year. A good way to start the ceremony is to light candles in the darkened room with chanting to encourage the lengthening days.
©️ By K. D. Spitzer Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2002 Page 41
IMPORTANT NOTE for the Southern Hemisphere Imbolc falls on August 1st.
(I know to be a real flashback the post should be from a previous year, but I want to make sure when I look up posts from Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook that I do not repeat something I have already posted.)
Imbolg Sachet of Light
Also called Candlemas, Imbolg (or Imbolc) is the sabbat of “gestation,” seeing as the earth is readying for her renewal of spring. Because of this, as well as due to the ancient Celtic associations with the goddess Brigid, Imbolg is widely considered a festival of the divine feminine.
To harness the light of life and renewal that is also awakening in ourselves, gather a number of seeds from a verity of plants. This mixture can contain anything from sunflower seeds to wildflower seeds, or even a variety of plants you intend to plant later in the spring. Place these inside a sachet bag along with a battery powered light, such as an artificial tea light. Bury it within the mixture of seeds.
With all the lights in the room turned off, turn your focus to the glowing to the glowing sachet and envision all the wonderful things you intend to manifest this year. Deeply focus: visualize smile, chant words of power, and make the sachet an illuminating personalize spell. What do you do with the sachet and seeds is totally up to your Witchy intuition!
Raven Digitals Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2022 Page 43
On December 21 (or 22nd some years) we encounter the longest night of the year and the shortest day of the year. After that, the days grow longer until the Summer solstice. In various spiritual and pagan traditions, this seasonal cross-quarter is also known as Yule and is celebrated as a holiday.
In modern times, we typically celebrate Christmas, but long, long ago, Yule was celebrated by the Ancient Celts and various other Pagan religions. Perhaps one of the oldest winter celebrations in the entire world, ancient hunters and gatherers would mark their years based on the different seasons. And each seasonal cross-quarter, including the equinoxes and solstices, was thought to have spiritual significance.
According to Almanac.com, Yule comes from the old English word ‘Geol’ which is the equivalent of the old Norse word, jol. Both of which referred to the winter festivals that took place in celebration of the halfway point of winter.
Long before Christianity, the Ancient Celts and ancient British pagans would celebrate Yule, but when Christianity and…
To understand the difference between summer and winter solstices, we need to have a clear understanding of the word solstice. We know that earth revolves around sun in an elliptical orbit, but it also spins around its own axis. This is an imaginary line going right across the planet from North Pole to South Pole. Fortunately for our planet, this axis is not perpendicular but tilted about 23.5 degrees and it is this tilt that gives us seasons on earth. This tilt makes one half of earth receive more direct rays from sun than the other half which remains away from earth.
The axis, when it tilts towards the sun, it makes northern hemisphere receive more direct rays from the sun than southern hemisphere. This phenomenon occurs between June and September and thus this is the period when it is summer season in the northern hemisphere. Again, this axis tilts away from the sun between December and March which is why we have winter season in the northern hemisphere during this period. While it is summers in northern hemisphere as it receives more direct rays from the sun, it is winter in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa in winters.
The summer solstice sets off the official start of summer as the Northern Hemisphere angles itself at the point in its orbit closest to the sun, causing the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year.
Many cultures, both ancient and modern, celebrate the sunlight with rituals and holidays.
What is the summer solstice?
The term solstice comes from the Latin words “sol” (sun) and “stitium” (still or stopped). It is used to describe the exact moment when the poles are tilted at their maximum toward or away from the sun.
The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer, which is the circle marking the latitude 23.5 degrees north, and which runs through …
I know I have been doing separate posts for Yule and Litha things but when I came across these two recipes, in Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2012, one for each season of the year the two hemispheres are going into, they sounded yummy to me to have together. I apologize in advance for not calculating from American measurements to other parts of Mother Earth. I just found this website https://www.europeancuisines.com/ while it says European Cuisines it covers other countries as well.
(SIDE NOTE if you do not have a Sun shaped disc to pour the batter in use cookie cutters for whatever shapes remind you of the Sun or use a knife to cut out a shape. Even a young children could use cookie cutters with the child’s caregivers supervising. Than either eat the scraps from the cut outs or put them outside for the wildlife in your area to celebrate the Solstice with your family. This is a good day to have breakfast for dinner/supper/tea or use for part of your feast after your families Solstice ritual)
Sun God Supreme
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons of melted butter or oil
3/4 cup yogurt
Garnish with 3 cups cubed fruit, all colors
Sift dry ingredients together. Then separately whisk wet ingredients together. Combined wet and dry ingredients, mixing for no more then 20 strokes, one for each day in June (or December) until the Solstice. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes while you prepare the fruit, set the table, and heat the frying pan lightly coated with oil or butter on a medium heat.
(SIDE NOTE Depending on the ages of the people attending your celebration feast designated cutting the fruit, setting and clearing the table, and doing dishes along with wiping the table and kitchen surfaces. If you allow a child of 3 to cut up their pancake with a plastic knife this can also be used to slice bananas or other soft fruit. This is a family celebration so let the family help with the work and as your homes’ Priestess you can relax and enjoy the feast and time together with a lot less stress)
Pour batter into sun-shaped discs (or pour batter from a measuring cup with a lip to get lovely round pancakes.) cook until bubbles that have formed in the batter burst and make little dry craters. Flip one and briefly cook the other side. Serve on brighly colored plates surrounded by fruit of all colors, which represent the abundant growth and glory of the Earth Goddess. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup and enjoy.
Pancakes combine the traditional foods of Litha — butter, milk, cakes, and honey — represent the Sun God at the height of his reign.
Copyright Dallas Jennifer Cobb page 77
Magical Mulled Cider
(SIDE NOTE This cider contains no alcohol so the whole family can enjoy it. If you want to spike it for the adults I have used dark rum measured to taste of the person drinking it. It is also good cooled to room temperature but I did not like the taste will chilled in the refrigerator)
1 quart (or 1 liter) apple cider
6 orange, sliced to look like the sun
12 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cinnamon sticks
Honey to taste
Toast the return of the Sun God, and the holy rebirth, with this warming drink when you gather with friends and family on the longest night of the year, Best made over an open fire, but easily concocted on a stove indoors will warm the hearth, heart, and home. Sip this and know anything is possible.
In a large pot combine apple cider which represents the Sun God, cloves, nutmeg, and ground cinnamon. Simmer for at least half an hour to make your house smell wonderfully festive, or longer for a stronger mulled taste. This simmering symbolically brings the God and Goddess together. and adds a little “spice” to the mix. Pour into a mug, carefully an orange slice into each cup. Add cinnamon stick and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Copyright by Dallas Jennifer Cobb page 129
Beltane is a cross-quarter holiday on the Wheel of the Year that honors the return of summer, the return of the fertility of the Earth, and the element of fire. It’s a nature-based holiday that many of our ancestors celebrated for a long time, and now we get to carry that tradition forward.
Like Samhain, Beltane is a time when the veil is thin. This holiday is a particularly beautiful time to connect with nature spirits, as well as any other beings you’re wanting to create a connection with.
At Beltane, we honor the goddess as part of us. We honor the body, pleasure, sensuality, and sexuality. We bask in the fiery energy of the sun and the fertile energy that’s present.
In this blog, I’m sharing three rituals and suggested tools for Beltane that you can work with to honor this sacred holiday. Keep scrolling to watch a video and read more!
OPTIONAL RITUAL TOOLS FOR BELTANE
Feel free to add any of the symbols and tools outlined below to your Beltane rituals or altar. They each correspond with the energy of Beltane. They are not necessary and should be viewed as optional layered energy in your rituals.
Scents and plants: Sandalwood, ylang-ylang, lilac, angelica, jasmine, and rose
Candle colors: Pink, orange, and red
Tools and Symbols: Cowry shell, flowers, and anything that represents pleasure and creativity to you
PLEASURE RITUAL FOR BELTANE…
Also known as: Bealtaine, Beltane, Bhealtainn, Bealtinne, Festival of Tana (Strega), Giamonios, Rudemass, and Walburga (Teutonic), Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain),Fairy Day,Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch)
Date: May 1
Animals: Swallow, dove, swan, Cats, lynx, leopard
Deities: Flower Goddesses, Divine Couples, Deities of the Hunt, Aphrodite, artemis, Bast, Diana, Faunus, Flora, Maia, Pan, the Horned God, Venus, and all Gods and Goddesses who preside over fertility.
Tools: broom, May Pole, cauldron
Stones/Gems: emerald, malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz
Colors: green, soft pink, blue, yellow, red, brown
Flowers & herbs: almond tree/shrub, ash, broom, cinquefoil, clover, Dittany of Crete, elder, foxglove, frankincense, honeysuckle, rowan, sorrel, hawthorn, ivy, lily of the valley, marigold, meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, thyme, woodruff may be burned; angelica, bluebells, daisy, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, primrose, and rose may be decorations, st. john’s wort, yarrow, basically all flowers.
Incense: frankincense, lilac, rose
Symbols & decorations: maypole, strings of beads or flowers, ribbons, spring flowers, fires, fertility, growing things, ploughs, cauldrons of flowers, butterchurn, baskets, eggs
Food: dairy, bread, cereals, oatmeal cakes, cherries, strawberries, wine, green salads
Activities & rituals: fertilize, nurture and boost existing goals, games, activities of pleasure, leaping bonfires, making garlands, May Pole dance, planting seeds, walking one’s property, feasting
Wiccan mythology: sexual union and/or marriage of the Goddess and God
It’s association with fire also makes Beltaine a holiday of purification.
Wiccan weddings are frequently held on or around Beltaine.
Beltane Foods to Bring to your Fire Festival
A beautiful, spring sun shines overhead on a beautiful Beltane morning, bringing blessings of warmth, love, and passion to every Witch present at the festival of Beltane. A bright fire burns in the distance, marking the celebration between Ostara and the Summer Solstice. The Green Man and Mother Earth each bless handfastings while dozens of Witches happily maypole dance to celebrate the fertility of this beautiful Sabbat.
45 minutes into the Beltane celebration, you think to yourself, “Is it time for the cakes and ale? I’m so ready for the feast! Oh! Hail and welcome!” We’ve literally all been there. Good news; food is a huge part of Wiccan and Pagan celebrations!
In this article, we’ll share the fruits, vegetables, meats, and foods that are best for a Beltane fire festival.
Beltane Recipes and Food Correspondences
- Cacao (Chocolate)
- Dandelion (any edible flowers)
- Jalapeno Peppers
- Serrano Peppers
Herbs & Spices
- Smoked Paprika
- Banana Bread
- Bannock Bread
- Goat’s Cheese
- Ginger Ale
- Honeyed Wine
- Mugwort Tea
- Nettle Tea
- White Grape Juice
- Chocolate Sauce
- Curry Sauces
- Hot Sauce
- Olive Oil
Beltane Activities and Correspondences
Guest Author – Leslie Ravenwing
Herbs – hawthorn, honeysuckle, St John’s wort, wood ruff, all flowers.
Colors- Green, Yellow, Pink, Blue
Foods – Strawberries, Cherries, Fruits, Salads, Wine
Goddesses – Aphrodite, Asherah, Belili, Brigid, Danu, Freya, Flora, Gwenhwyvar, Hina, Ishtar, Maia, Mary, Oiwyn, Oshun, Ostara, Sappha, Tonantzin, Vesta
Gods – Beltene, Cernunnous, Cupid/Eros, Manawyddan and Pan
Activities and Rituals
Fertilize, nurture and boost existing goals, games, activities of pleasure, leaping bonfires, making garlands, May Pole dance, planting seeds, walking one’s property, feasting
Stones/Gems – Emerald, malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz
Other Names – Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain),May Day, Fairy Day,Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltaine, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch)
-Make paper baskets (use yarn as a handle) and place real or silk flowers in each basket. Hang them on door knobs of neighbors and family members but don’t let them know you did it!
-If you have children, make necklaces out of diasies and place them around their necks for the day to bring protection to them.
-Begin planting for the season.
-Create a MayPole and dance around it with your family or friends.
-Make a dish of fruits, berries, nuts and leave in the wood for the animals and fae folk to enjoy
– This is a night for bonfires, torch-lit processions and the high revelry of witches, preferably in high places. It is prime time for the Great Rite, a night (like Samhain) when the Goddess descends into women. Cailleach Beara (Cally Berry, Brighid’s crone aspect) turns to stone this night and does not to return until Samhain. Beltane Eve also marks the setting of the Pleiades
With my thanks to Lady Abyss for this information first posted May 2016.
CIRCLE MAKING THROUGH THE SEASONS
By Selena Fox – Copyright 1985
Reprinted with the expressed written permission of Selena Fox/Circle
Whether you celebrate the Pagan seasonal holidays indoors or outside, alone or
with others, you can enhance the beauty and effectiveness of you Sabbat
ceremonies by decorating your circle with gifts of Nature appropriate to the
Marking the circle space and the four directions on the ground or floor aids in
visualizing the circle of energy that forms in a place during a ritual. Doing
this is very helpful for beginners in ritual, for new groups, and for ecumenical
workings which include people of many paths. Using seasonal decorations to mark
the circle and quarters strengthens the connection of the participants and the
ceremony with Nature and the particular energy of a holiday. For the same
reason, it also is good to have some seasonal decorations on the altar, whether
it is positioned centrally as we do or at some other place in the circle.
When possible, those taking part in a Sabbat ceremony should ritually collect
decorations for the circle from Nature themselves. When collecting plant parts,
be they dried or fresh, from gardens, parks, or the wilds, before you begin, be
sure to honor the Spirits of the Plants and the Spirit of the Place you are
visiting. Pause a few moments, commune with them through silent meditation,
state your need for circle decorations, and ask for their help. Then, let them
intuitively guide you during the gathering process. When you are done, give
thanks for the gifts you have received. Remember that the decorations you gather
are parts of other life-forms here on Planet Earth, rather than non-sentient
things for you to manipulate for your own purposes. Respect Nature Spirits and
they will become you friends and bring special blessings to your seasonal
Spending time in natural settings to collect decorations before a rite can
greatly help you spiritually align yourself to the season. This is especially
important for you to do if you spend a lot of your waking life inside buildings
and traveling around in heavily urbanized areas. However, if circumstances are
such that you cannot gather decorations from Nature for a holiday, you can still
ask Plant Spirits for guidance in your selection process when you shop in the
Once you have obtained the decorations, as you place them in and around your
circle focus on honoring the space, the plants, the season, and the ritual about
to happen. This can be done silently as a meditation or by jubilantly singing
and moving to a seasonal song. For group rituals, outlining the circle is a
wonderful way to get all participants, including children, involved in preparing
for the ritual. The shared experience of creating the space aids in attunement
and in developing a strong group spirit necessary for effective ceremonies. When
everyone is responsible for bringing a particular kind of decoration to outline
a circle, such as pine boughs for Yule, not only does the circle take form with
greater ease, but more importantly, marking out the circle with everyone’s
contributions symbolizes the blending together of the individual energies of
participants into a harmonious whole.
After a seasonal ritual is over, remove decorations from the circle with the
spirit of thanksgiving. These decorations not only embody the energy of the
Nature Spirits worked with during their gathering, but also contain the energy
of the ritual. They have served as ceremonial tools and should be taken away
with respect, not hurriedly swept up and thrown into a trash can. Often, we
return the natural decorations we have used to Mother Earth, letting wildlife
feed on fruits and grains, and mulching the plants in our gardens with flowers
and greens. Decorations also can be placed on personal altars after the ceremony
as reminders of the season or given as healing gifts to friends who were not
able to be present at the ceremony. If they have been energized for a particular
purpose during a ceremony, decorations can also serve as charms.
The suggestions I present here for each holiday are drawn primarily from my own
experiences doing Sabbats with groups of people in these Northlands, and should
be adapted to suit your own circumstances, such as local climate and vegetation
cycles, ceremonial place, number of ritual participants, and type of spiritual
path. I’ve included ideas for outlining the circle space itself, marking the
quarters and decorating a central altar.
SAMHAIN / HALLOWEEN
Outline the circle with dry colored leaves and perhaps some nuts and sprigs of
dried herbs such as curled dock flowers. At each of the four quarters, stand a
shock of dried corn stalks with a lighted carved pumpkin or jack-o-lantern at
the base. On the altar in the center, place a large jack-o-lantern to symbolize
the Spirit of the holiday and the Otherworld, and surround it with acorns,
symbols of rebirth, and with photographs and other mementos of dead friends,
relatives, and ancestors you would like to honor. You might also place a lit
votive candle by mementos of each loved one to represent their Spirit which
YULE / WINTER SOLSTICE
Outline the circle with pine cones and freshly cut pine boughs. Set tall red
candles at the four quarters with holly at their bases. In the center, lay a
Yule wreath of evergreens, preferably one you have fashioned yourself. In the
center of the wreath, place a large red candle to represent the reborn Sun.
Place it in a small cauldron, if you have one, to symbolize the Goddess of
Rebirth. Around the outside of the wreath make another circle with sprigs of
mistletoe which can be energized during the rite and later given to participants
and friends to bring blessings to their homes in the New Solar Year. Our
community Yule altar also contains eight red ribbons representing the Wheel of
the Year, eight plates for Sabbat cakes, and personal blessing candles brought
IMBOLC / CANDLEMAS
Outline the circle with white votive candles, symbolizing the purification
aspect of this holiday. Place large white candles at each of the quarters and at
the center. Surround the central candle with any early greens and buds that have
appeared in your area, and with sunflower seeds to represent the promise of
renewed life in coming Spring. The seeds can be later set out for wild birds.
White candles also can be set in the center by participants to symbolize self-
purification and spiritual awakening.
OSTARA / SPRING EQUINOX
Outline the circle with any greenery that has appeared already in the Spring,
such as budding willow branches, ground ivy and other herbs. If Winter snows
still abound, which often is the case here in Wisconsin, use a green cord or
green ribbons to form the circle and represent the greening of Spring. You could
also outline the circle with packets of seeds which will later be planted in
gardens. At each of the four quarters, place a green candle. In the center of
the circle, place a basket with brightly colored hard-boiled eggs in it,
representing the Spring Goddess and the resurrection of life. These eggs can be
eaten as part of the rite or later buried in gardens as fertility charms.
BELTANE / MAY DAY
Outline the circle with a variety of flowers and tree blossoms, symbolizing the
blossoming of life. For group ceremonies, have everyone exchange some of the
flowers they bring with other participants before the outlining of the circle
begins. This ancient gesture of friendship aids in group attunement, generates a
festive mood, and strengthens connection with the love energy of the holiday. At
each of the four quarters, place a basket or vase of flowers. In the center, set
a Maypole decorated with brightly colored ribbons to represent the activating
principle of Nature. The ribbons should be an even number of streamers if the
traditional Maypole dance will be done. Otherwise, each participant should tie a
bit of ribbon around the pole to symbolize wishes for personal growth in the
coming Summer. Free-form ecstatic dancing can then be done around the pole to
energize the wishes. After the rite, take flowers to gardens to bless them and
LITHA / SUMMER SOLSTICE
Outline the circle with candle lanterns or candles set in earth in wide-mouthed
jars. A beautiful and powerful way to create the circle space with these lights
is to have participants carry the candles in a ritual procession at dusk to the
ceremonial spot, circle it several times clockwise, come to a standstill once a
comfortable sized circle is made, and then set them down behind them. This works
very well especially with large groups and it is a part of each year’s opening
ritual at the International Pagan Spirit Gathering we sponsor at Solstice time.
Luminarias, which are candles set in sand in small paper bags, are another
stunning way to create a ring of light for an evening Solstice ceremony.
However, the ring of light is made, torches or large candles work well in the
four quarters. In the center of the circle, kindle a large bonfire of sacred
woods and herbs, if your location permits. You might want to feed the fire as it
rises with the dried wreath from Yule as we do each year to symbolize the peak
of the Solar Year. Otherwise, set a large red candle in the center, and surround
it with oak boughs, yarrow flowers, and other sacred plants of the season
growing in the area.
LUGHNASSAD / LAMMAS
Outline the circle with stalks of wheat or other grains, if available. Or, if
you prefer, make the circle with sprigs of sweet smelling herbs such as mint and
basil, and with wildflowers such as Queen Anne’s Lace and red clover blossoms.
Set baskets of herbs and Summer flowers at the four quarters and in the center,
representing the productiveness of Nature. Also on the central altar, place a
freshly-bakes loaf of bread to symbolize the Spirit of the holiday. The bread
can be shared among participants and with the Earth as a form of communion.
MABON / FALL EQUINOX
Outline the circle with gourds, apples, nuts, and other foods of the season.
Preferably, these are ones grown in your own gardens or in fields in the local
areas. Set a large gourd or pile of fruits and vegetables at each of the
quarters to represent harvest abundance. In the center, place a thanksgiving
cornucopia or cauldron filled to overflowing with offerings of harvest produce
and herbs. Ears of multi-colored Indian corn also are an excellent seasonal
altar decoration. The foods that ring the circle can later be eaten in a Harvest
feast. The central offerings should be returned to the Earth in thanksgiving.
With my thanks to Lady Abyss for this great information first posted this in January 2011
The Tools Of Ritual Magick
Formal ritual magick requires its own special tools. These may be real or symbolic.
The list I give here is intended only as a guide: some of these may not be relevant to your own way of working. I have listed the areas of the circle in which each tool is traditionally placed. There are many sources of magical tools and, as I mentioned in the section on spells, you may already have a number in your home. You do not need to spend a great deal of money unless you wish, but I would suggest that you take time in finding the right items. Even if you work in a group, you may like to build up a set for your own personal work.
Some people prefer to make their own magical tools and this certainly does endow them with energies. I have suggested books that tell you how to make your own candles for special ceremonies and even your own knife. Woodcarvers are an excellent source for small staves suitable as wands and will often make items to order. In time, you will build up a collection of items and by personalising and charging them, you make them not only powerful, but also your own.
Keep your magical tools in a special place, separate from your everyday household items, wrapped in a natural fabric. You can buy excellent hessian bags and may wish to keep fragile or items that will scratch in separate ones. You can also use silk. Secure your bags with three protective knots.
You may have heard various warnings about needing to destroy charged tools on the demise of the owner, and the dire consequences of their being touched by any outsider. This is real late-night-cinema stuff. But common sense dictates that you should not leave knives, sharp wands, etc. where children might harm themselves and on the whole it is better to keep magical items away from the curious and the sceptical.
There is really no reason why you should not use your kitchen knife for cutting vegetables and then, after a quick purification in water or incense, chop herbs in an impromptu spell, or open your circle with it. But on the whole it is better to keep a separate knife for your special ceremonies.
I believe that even formal tools are like electrical devices that are lying unplugged and unused: they contain the potential to help or harm only if misused. What is more, without your personal vibes, which act as your password, the power cannot flow; you have not created an independent life form.
The following tools are commonly used in formal magick.
An athame is, quite simply, a ceremonial knife. It is one of the ritual tools that entered the tradition through the influence of magicians and witches who set out the wisdom, mainly at the beginning of the twentieth century and in the upsurge of covens during the 1950s. Gerald Gardener, one of the founding fathers of Wicca, considered ritual knives and swords of prime importance in modern formal witchcraft.
You can obtain an athame from a specialist magical shop, but as I said before, any knife – even a letter opener – will do, although it should preferably have a silver-coloured blade. Athames are traditionally double-edged and black-handled, but a single-edged blade is better if you are new to magick, to avoid unintentional cuts.
There is a vast array of scouting and craft knives available, with black wooden handles on which you can engrave magical symbols such as your zodiacal and planetary glyphs with a pyrographic set obtained from an art shop. You can also paint moons, stars, spirals, suns, or crosses with silver paint. I use a curved-bladed knife with a silver engraved scabbard, which I bought from a souvenir shop in Spain.
The athame is set in the East of the altar and represents the element of Air. Like the sword, it is traditionally used for drawing magical circles on the ground and directing magical Air energies into a symbol. When you are casting a circle, you can point your athame diagonally towards the ground, so that you do not need to stoop to draw (which is not very elegant and bad for the back). With practice, the movement becomes as graceful as with a sword.
The athame can also be used as a conductor of energy, especially in solitary rituals, being held above the head with both hands to draw down light and energy into the body. This uses the same principle as that of arching your arms over your head to create a light body as described on page 124. One method of releasing the power is then to bring the athame down with a swift, cutting movement, horizontally at waist level, then thrust it away from the body and upwards once more to release this power. If others are present, direct the athame towards the centre of the circle. After the ritual you can drain excess energies by pointing the athame to the ground.
An athame may be used to invoke the elemental Guardian Spirits by drawing a pentagram in the air and for closing down the elemental energies after the ritual. With its cutting steel of Mars, it is effective in power, matters of the mind, change, action, justice, banishing magick, protection and for cutting through inertia and stagnation. The athame is sometimes also associated with the Fire element.
If you don’t like the idea of a full-sized athame, there are some lovely paper knives in the shape of swords or with animal or birds’ heads.
Some covens give each of their members a tiny athame, to be used for drawing down energies during ceremonies. The main athame is used by the person leading the ritual who may draw the circle, open all four quarters and close them after the ritual.
An athame with a white handle is used for cutting wands, harvesting herbs for magick or healing, carving the traditional Samhain jack-o’-lantern, and etching runes and other magical or astrological symbols on candles and talismans. Some practitioners believe that you should never use metal for cutting herbs but instead pull them up, shred them and pound them in a mortar and pestle, kept for the purpose. Pearl-handled athames are considered to be especially magical.
Like the athame, the sword stands in the East of the circle as a tool of the Air element. Swords are the suit symbol of Air in the Tarot and are also one of the Christian as well as the Celtic Grail treasures.
Each of the Tarot suits and the main elemental ritual items in magick, represented by these four suits, is associated with one of the treasures of the Celts. The treasures belonged to the Celtic Father God, Dagda, and are said to be guarded in the Otherworld by Merlin. There were 13 treasures in total, but four have come into pre-eminence in magick and Tarot reading.
These four main sacred artefacts – swords, pentacles, wands and cups, or chalices – have parallels in Christianity and were associated with the legendary quest of the knights of King Arthur, who attempted to find them. The Grail Cup was the most famous of these. The Christian sword of King David, identified in legend with Arthur’s sword Excalibur, appears in Celtic tradition as the sword of Nuada whose hand was cut off in battle.
With a new hand fashioned from silver, he went on to lead his people to victory. According to one account, the Christian treasures were brought in AD 64 to Glastonbury in England by Joseph of Arimathea, the rich merchant who caught Christ’s blood in the chalice as He was on the cross and took care of His burial after the crucifixion.
Some present-day, peace-loving witches, myself included, do not really like the concept of using swords, even though they are pretty spectacular for drawing out a circle on a forest floor, and swords are rarely used in home ritual magick. If you do want to use one, however, you can obtain reproduction ceremonial swords.
The sword is the male symbol to the female symbol of the cauldron, and plunging the swords into the waters of the cauldron can be used in love rituals and for the union of male and female, god and goddess energies as the culmination of any rite. However, the chalice and the athame, or wand, tend to be used for the same purpose, unless it is a very grand ceremony.
The bell stands in the North of the circle and is an Earth symbol. It is an optional tool and can be made from either crystal or protective brass. Best for magick is the kind that you strike.
The bell is traditionally rung nine times at the beginning and close of each ritual; the person ringing the bell should stand in the South of the circle, facing North. (Nine is the magical number of completion and perfection.) It is also rung to invoke the protection of angels or the power of a deity and in ceremonies to welcome departed members to the circle. You can also sound the bell in each of the four elemental quadrants, before creating the invoking pentagram, to request the presence of each elemental guardian. It can also be sounded as you pass your chosen symbol around each quadrant of the circle. However, you should not use the bell to excess – it is better under-utilised.
The broom, or besom, was originally – and still is – a domestic artefact. It represents magically the union of male and female in the handle and the bristles and so is a tool of balance. Brooms have several uses in magick. A broom is sometimes rested horizontal to the altar to add protection, and couples jump over one in their handfasting ceremony. Most important, you should use your broom to cleanse the ritual area before every ritual.
Brooms are easily obtainable from any garden centre (you want one in the traditional ‘witches’ broomstick’ shape, not an ordinary brush). Brooms made with an ash handle and birch twigs bound with willow are traditionally recognised as being especially potent, being endowed with protective and healing energies. Some practitioners carve or paint a crescent moon at the top of the handle, others decorate theirs with their personal ruling planetary and birth sign glyphs entwined.
When cleansing the area for rituals, you might like to scatter dried lavender or pot pourri and sweep it in circles widdershins, saying:
Out with sorrow, out with pain,
Joyous things alone remain.
You can also sweep areas of your home such as uncarpeted floors, patio paths and yards to cleanse the home of negativity. Remember to sweep out of the front door, away from the house and eventually into the gutter, or if in you live in a flat, you can collect the lavender and dust in a pan and send it down the waste disposal unit.
You may also wish to cleanse the area further by sprinkling salt and pepper dissolved in water after sweeping. If you are working on carpet, you can use a very soft broom (some modern witches even hoover in circles widdershins and sprinkle the area with water in which a few drops of a cleansing flower essence, such as Glastonbury Thorn, has been added).
The broom is an Earth artefact.
The cauldron is the one ritual tool that is positively charged by being the centre of domestic life and can replace the altar as a focus for less formal magick spells. If you can obtain a flameproof cauldron with a tripod, you can, on special occasions such as Hallowe’en, light a fire out of doors and heat up a brew of herbs and spices in the cauldron. When not in use, you can keep your cauldron filled with flowers or pot pourri.
If your circle is large enough, you can place your cauldron in the centre. Then, if you are working in a group, form your circle of power around it, so that the altar is within the outer consecrated circle and you make a human inner circle with the cauldron as the hub. If you are working alone, you can have your altar in the centre with the cauldron in front of it. Alternatively, you can have a small pot or cauldron in the centre of the altar.
Experiment with the different positions both for group and solitary work and walk or dance your way around to work out the logistics. Some practitioners do not use a cauldron at all.
In your rituals, you can light a candle in front of the cauldron, fill it with sand in which to stand candles, or surround it with a circle of red candles to represent Fire. Wishes written on paper can be burned in the candles. Water darkened with mugwort may be placed in the cauldron, especially on seasonal festivals such as Hallowe’en and May Eve, and white candle wax dripped on the surface to create divinatory images that offer insights into potential paths.
You can cast flower petals into the cauldron water to get energies flowing. For banishing, add dead leaves and tip the cauldron water into a flowing source of water. You can also burn incense in the cauldron if this is the focus of a ritual.
The cauldron is a tool of Spirit or Akasha, the fifth element.
The chalice, or ritual cup, used for rituals is traditionally made of silver, but you can also use crystal, glass, stainless steel or pewter. The chalice represents the Water element and is placed in the West of the altar. Like the sword, it is a sacred Grail treasure and is a source of spiritual inspiration.
The Grail cup is most usually represented as the chalice that Christ used at the Last Supper, in which His blood was collected after the crucifixion. As such, it signifies not only a source of healing and spiritual sustenance, but also offers direct access to the godhead through the sacred blood it once contained. Tradition says that the original Grail cup was incorporated by Roman craftsmen into a gold and jewelled chalice called the Marian Chalice after Mary Magdalene. In Celtic tradition, it became the Cauldron of Dagda.
In rituals, the chalice can be filled with pure or scented water with rose petals floating on top. I have also mentioned its ritual use with the athame in male/female sacred rites, as the symbolic union of god and goddess that has in many modern covens replaced an actual sexual union (that now tends to occur in privacy between established couples only).
The chalice is also central to the sacred rite of cakes and ale that occurs at the end of formal ceremonies – the pagan and much older equivalent of the Christian holy communion. The offering of the body of the Corn God is made in the honey cakes on the pentacle, or sacred dish, and the beer or wine in the chalice is fermented from the sacrificed barley wine. In primaeval times, actual blood was used to symbolise the sacrifice of the Sacred King at Lughnassadh, the festival of the first corn harvest. The rite goes back thousands of years.
The cakes and ale are consumed by the people acting as High Priestess and Priest in a dual energy rite or by those initiated in those roles. Crumbs and wine are first offered to the Earth Mother or poured into a libation dish (a small dish for offerings). Then the priestess offers the priest a tiny cake and then takes one herself and he offers her the wine before drinking himself. The dual roles work just as well in a single-sex coven. The cakes and ale are then passed round the circle and each person partakes of the body and blood of the Earth, offering a few words of thanks for blessings received.
In some groups each person has an individual chalice set before them, but everyone still drinks one after the other, offering thanks, unless there is a communal chant of blessing before drinking.
The chalice can be filled with wine or fruit juice or water, depending on the needs and preferences of the group.
The cakes and ale ceremony and the male/female chalice rite can both be easily incorporated into a solitary ritual.
The pentacle is a symbol of the Earth and is familiar to users of Tarot packs. It is placed in the North of the altar.
It consists of a flat, round dish or disc, engraved with a pentagram within a circle. The pentacle has been a magical sign for thousands of years. The five-pointed star of the pentagram within it is a sacred symbol of Isis and the single top point is considered by many to represent the Triple Goddess.
You can place crystals or a symbol of the focus of the ritual or charged herbs on the pentacle to endow it with Earth energies. It can then be passed through the other elements or empowered by passing over the pentacle incense for Air, a candle for Fire and burning oils or water itself for the Water element.
The pentacle can be moved to the centre of the altar once the symbol on it has been fully charged. It is very easy to make a pentacle of clay, wood, wax or metal, and on it mark a pentagram with the single point extending upwards. This is what you might call the all-purpose pentagram – drawn this way it always has a positive influence.
You might also like to make a larger pentacle for holding the tiny cakes for the cakes and ale ceremony. You can find special recipes for these cakes in books but any tiny honey cakes will serve well.
The wand is a symbol of Fire and should be placed in the South of the altar.
The wand is sometimes represented by a spear. Both the wand and spear, like the athame and sword, are male symbols. The spear, another Fire symbol, is not used in magick, except occasionally in the form of a sharpened stick in sacred sex rites, when it is plunged into the cauldron or the chalice as a symbol of the sacred union of Earth and Sky, Water and Fire.
The wand is traditionally a thin piece of wood about 50 centimetres (21 inches) long, preferably cut from a living tree (some conservationists disagree unless the tree is being pruned). After a strong wind or in a forest where trees are being constantly felled, it is often possible to find a suitable branch from which the wand can be cut. It should be narrowed to a point at one end and rubbed smooth.
You can make a series of wands from different woods for your ceremonies.
Ash is a magical wood, associated with healing and positive energies.
Elder wands are symbols of faerie magick and so are good for any visualisation work.
Hazel comes from the tree of wisdom and justice and is linked with the magick of the Sun. The wand should be cut from a tree that has not yet borne fruit.
Rowan is a protective wood and so is good for defensive and banishing magick.
Willow is the tree of intuition and is said to be endowed with the blessing of the Moon.
You can also use a long, clear quartz crystal, pointed at one end and rounded at the other, as a wand. In its crystalline form, especially, the wand is used for directing healing energies from the circle to wherever they are needed.
The wand is used for directing energies and for making circles of power in the air – hence the image of the faerie godmother waving her wand – deosil for energies to attract energies and widdershins for banishing. It can be used to draw pentagrams in the air at the four quarters and it can also be used for drawing an invisible circle when you are working on carpet or another fabric that cannot be physically marked.
In some traditions, the wand is a tool of Air and so this and the athame, or the sword, are fairly interchangeable. However, the wand seems more effective for casting and uncasting circles, invoking quarters and closing power. It is also particularly good for directing energies in rites of love, healing, fertility, prosperity and abundance.
— Practical Guide to Witchcraft and Magic Spells By Cassandra Eason
With my thanks to Lady Abyss for this great information first posted in April of 2019