Tools of a Witch
Written and Compiled by George Knowles
As with most other religions, tools are used in witchcraft to aid and enhance ritual worship. Tools have no power in themselves, though they do have powerful symbolic significances. Some like the Wand and Athame (pronounced ath-ay -me) are used to invoke and direct whatever power we generate or pass through them.
While tools are not absolutely necessary to the practice of the craft, some tools are nice to have if only to focus our will and concentration. The basic tools to start with are the elemental tools or those tools which represent the four elements of life: The Pentacle for Earth, The Wand for Air, The Athame for Fire, and The Chalice for Water.
Tools needn’t be purposely bought or excessively expensive. Take a look around the household, many ordinary implements can be used or improvised as tools. You could even make your own and by doing so, a certain amount of personal power will be infused into the item, thus increasing its effectiveness. Other sources of tools are Car Boot Sales, Junk Shops and Antique Shops. With a little patience you may find tools cropping up in the most unusual places.
All tools as they are collected, should be cleansed of all negative energies and past use influences. Lets face it, you won’t know how or for what use they may have been used before you acquired them. To do this, clean the item physically and thoroughly while using visualisation. Then bury the item in the ground for a few days, thus allowing past associations to be dispersed and purified with earth’s energy.
Alternatively you could use the water method. Immerse the item in water, preferably natural water like the Sea, a River, or a Lake. If these are not available to you, used a bowl of water and add a few pinches of Sea Salt. Leave submerged for a couple of hours before removing and drying the item off. Obviously common sense must prevail when using these methods, as you wouldn’t want to ruin the item. Do whatever seems appropriate for each item. After the cleansing process, each tool needs to be consecrated, ready to use for magickal purposes. (More about this later).
Below is a list of the standard tools used in witchcraft together with their uses and significances. For other correspondences see:
Athame - The athame is the traditional ritual dagger of the witch. Commonly it has a black handle and steel double-edged blade. Many Wiccans engrave the handle or blade with magickal symbols indicative of deities, spirits or the elements as sources of power. The athame is a tool of command, it is used to direct what power we pass through it. It is used to cast circles by tracing the circumference, to charge and consecrate objects and banish negative energies. In most traditions, it is never used as a mundane knife for cutting purposes, and is used strictly for magickal purposes only. As an elemental tools of the craft, in most traditions it is associated with the elements of Fire, in others it is associated with Air. The phallic symbolism of the knife links it with the God.
Pentacle - The pentacle is a traditional tool of the craft. Originally it is thought to have been adopted from ceremonial magic. It is usually a round solid disc often made from stone, wood or cooper. On the disc is engraved or painted an up-right five pointed star enclosed inside a circle called the Pentagram. A disc decorated in this manner then becomes called a Pentacle. In some traditions other symbols are added indicative of deities, spirits or the elements as sources of power. The pentacle is normally the centerpiece of the alter on which objects are placed to be consecrated or charged, such things as amulets, charms and tools are placed on it, as is the salt and water for blessing. The pentacle represents the elements of Earth and is sometimes used to summon the Gods and Goddesses. For a more detailed description of the pentacle - pentagram see ( Pentagram - Pentacle ).
Wand - The wand is one of the prime magical tools of the witch. Traditionally the wand is made from the wood of a sacred tree. These include the Willow, Elder, Oak, Apple, Peach, Hazel and Cherry, to mention just a few. Its length should approximate the crook of the elbow to the middle of the index finger. These days many modern materials are used instead, and even tipped with crystals and gems. The wand is a tool of invocation, it is used to evoke the Gods, Goddesses and Spirits. It is also used to bestow blessings, charge objects and draw down the moon during ritual. In most traditions the wand represents the elements of Air, in others it represents the elements of Fire.
Censer or Thurible - The censer is an incense burner used to contain burning incense during ritual. Any type of censer can be used, even a simple bowl filled with sand will do. The censer represents the elements of Air and is normally placed before the images of the Goddess and God on the altar.
Chalice - The Chalice is one of the four elemental tools of witchcraft and represents the elements of Water. It is a symbol of containment and often represents the womb of the Goddess. The base is symbolic of the material world, the stem symbolises the connection between man and spirit and the rim or opening symbolically receives spiritual energy.
The chalice can be made of any material, in times of old - Horns, Shells and Gourds were used to hold sacred liquids during ritual, and then in later times - Silver became the preferred material, having long been associated with the moon and the Goddess. The chalice is used to hold the blessed water and wine during ritual. It is traditional in many covens to pass the chalice around all members, who then take a drink as a token of unity.
Broom - The broom is a ritual tool of the witch, sacred to both Goddess and the God. The God - through its symbolic phallic shape, The Goddess - through its three-piece make up, the stick, brush and binding cord being symbolic of the triformis aspect of the Goddess.
Traditionally the broom was made from three different woods. Ash for the handle, Birch twigs for the brush and Willow for the binding cord. Ash is protective and has command over the four elements. Birch is purifying and draws spirits to one’s service. Willow is sacred to the Goddess.
The broom is used for a variety of purposes but most generally to purify and protect. It is used to ritually cleanse an area before magick is performed by symbolically sweeping away negative energies and astral build up. Of old it was used to guard the home and persons within against psychic attack or evil curses, this by placing it across the threshold, windowsills or doorways. It was also placed under the bed or a pillow to protect the sleeper.
Traditionally and perhaps the use which most people identify it with, are the old wedding ceremonies of the Gypsies and the early American slaves, where a couple leapt over the broom to ensure fertility, domestic harmony and longevity. Today pagan hand-fasting rituals often include a broom jump.
Bolline - The Bolline or White-Handled knife as it is now known, is the practical knife of the craft. Traditionally it was used to harvest herbs and had a blade in the form of a small sickle. Today it is normally a mundane knife used for cutting and carving. It has a white handle to differentiate it from the Athame, which has a black handle and is used only for magickal purposes. The bolline is used to cut wands and herbs, to mark and carve candles with symbols and to cut cords for use in magick. Any other ritual function requiring the use of a knife, such as cutting flowers for the altar, can be performed with the bolline.
Cauldron - The cauldron is probably the tool most associated with witchcraft and is steeped in magickal tradition and mystery. The cauldron is the container in which transmutation, germination, and transformations may occur. It is symbolic of the womb of the Goddess, and is the manifested essence of femininity and fertility. Everything is born from the cauldron of the Goddess and afterwards everything returns back to it. It is also symbolic of the element of water, as well as reincarnation, immortality and inspiration.
In ritual the cauldron is used as a container for making brews and potions, or to contain a small fire for use with spells. It can also be used for scrying (divination) by filling it with water and gazing into its depths.
In ancient times the cauldron was used as a cooking vessel and for brew making. Traditionally it was made from cast iron, it rests on three legs and has an opening smaller then its widest part. Cauldrons are made in many sizes but can be difficult to find, so you will need to persevere if you want one.
Bell - The bell is a ritual tool of invocation and banishment. The bell is a feminine symbol of the creative force, that of the Goddess. The bell can be rung to indicate the start of a rite by banishing negative influences before the ritual begins. Often it is used to invoke the Goddess during ritual, or sounded at the four quarters to call forth such spirits as the Watchers and Elementals.
Bells can be used to guard the home by warding off evil spells and spirits, or evoking good energies when placed in cupboards or hung on doors. Hung from a cord the bell symbolises the human soul suspended between heaven and earth.
Book of Shadows - The Book of Shadows is the workbook of the witch. In it is recorded: Rituals guidelines, Invocations, Spells, Runes, Rules of a particular Coven or Tradition, Symbols, Poems, Chants, and anything else of use to the witch during ritual.
Traditionally the Book of Shadows was always hand written by the individual. A common custom for new initiates into a Coven, is to hand copy his teacher’s Book of Shadows exactly as it appeared, then later to add his own material as he progressed in the craft. Today with the advantages of technology they are often typed and photocopied, or even computerised onto Floppy Disc’s.
To make your own Book of Shadows, you can use any form of blank book, but perhaps the best type to use are those of a loose-leave nature, thus allowing pages to be shuffled around when preparing for rituals. My personal Book of Shadows is made from recycled paper, bound up in natural tree bark covers, these are available in some art shops and bookstores.
Wicca, A guide for the Solitary Practitioner - By Scott Cunningham
Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft - By Raven Grimassi
A Witches' Bible - By Janet and Stewart Farrar
Witchcraft for tomorrow - By Doreen Valiente