When people first discover Paganism, they often rush to go buy every single magical tool they can find. After all, the books tell us to buy this, that, and the kitchen sink, so you better hustle on over to Ye Local Wytchy Shoppe and get stuff!
But once you get it, what do you DO with it?
It is important to understand that magical tools have an actual purpose, before you go out and grab one. Tools are often representative of one of the four classical elements, which may help you select the tool you need for your purpose.
Many Pagan traditions use the following tools in some capacity, but not all do. If you don’t feel that you need a particular item, don’t feel obligated to use it in your practice.
1. The Wand
Clichéd as it may sound, the wand is one of the most popular magical tools in Wicca, as well as in some ceremonial magic traditions. It has a number of magical purposes. A wand is used for the directing of energy during a ritual. Because it’s a phallic symbol it is used to represent male energy, power, and virility. Representative of the element of Air (although in a few traditions it symbolizes Fire), the wand can be used to consecrate a sacred space, or invoke deity.
The cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess, and it’s all about femininity. The cauldron is the womb in which life begins. Although it usually represents the element Water, the cauldron is an interesting tool because it can tie in to all four elements. You place it upon the Earth, heat it with Fire, fill it with Water, and send the steam up into the Air. In Celtic legend, the goddess Cerridwen possessed a cauldron of immortality and inspiration. In some traditions, a cup or chalice is used in place of a cauldron, and in others the cauldron and cup are used together. A cup is just a small cauldron, and can be made of any material.
Often referred to as the athame (pronounced a-tha-may) in Wiccan traditions, the magic knife is not used for cutting but for the directing of energy and manipulation of power. In some branches of Paganism, a sword is used in place of the athame. The traditional athame is double-edged and although the tip is usually pointed, the edges of the blade are often dull. After all, it’s a ceremonial knife rather than a practical one. Commonly linked with the element Fire, the athame is a phallic symbol and is often used to represent the God. The athame is used for casting a circle or for the direction of energy.
Nearly every tradition of Wicca (and many Pagan paths) uses the pentacle as a symbol. Not to be confused with the pentagram (a five-pointed star), the pentacle is a flat piece of wood, metal, clay, or wax inscribed with magical symbols. The most commonly seen symbol, however, is the pentagram itself, which is why the two terms are often confused.
In ceremonial magic, the pentacle is used as a protective talisman. However, in most Wiccan traditions it is seen as representative of the element of Earth, and can be used on the altar as a place to hold items that are going to be ritually consecrated. You can make your own, or buy one commercially.
While it comes in handy during a good game of Quidditch, the broom – or besom – is also useful for sweeping a ceremonial area out before ritual. A light sweeping not only cleans the physical space, it also clears out negative energies that may have accumulated in the area since the last cleaning. The broom is a purifier, so it is connected to the element of Water. It is not uncommon to meet witches who have broom collections, and it is fairly easy to make your own besom if you dont wish to buy one. The traditional magical formula includes a bundle of birch twigs, a staff of ash or oak, and a binding made from willow wands.
In the Catholic church, it’s not uncommon to see a priest swinging a censer full of incense during mass. In some traditions of Wicca, the censer is used in a similar fashion. The censer is used to hold smoldering incense during a ritual or ceremony. It can either swing from a chain or sit on a table. The censer doesn’t have to be fancy or high-tech or expensive. A bowl of sand, a seashell, a small plate, or a cup of salt will hold your incense just fine. In most Wiccan traditions, the incense represents Air, and can be burned in the form of sticks, cones, or raw materials placed upon a disc of charcoal.
You can blend your own incense easily.
Hundreds of years ago, rural folks knew that loud noise drove away evil spirits, and the bell is a prime example of a good noisemaker. The ringing of a bell causes vibrations which are the source of great power. Variations on the bell include the shaking of a sistrum, a ritual rattle, or the use of a singing bowl. All of these can help bring harmony to a magical circle. In some forms of Wicca, the bell is rung to begin or end a rite, or to evoke the Goddess.
No Pagan ceremony really feels complete without the use of candles. In some traditions, a candle is used to represent the God and another used for the Goddess. In others, a candle is simply used to indicate the element of Fire. Candles are often a tool in sympathetic magic rites, and can be used to symbolize people, concepts, and emotions. A simple candle magic spell involves selecting a candle based upon color correspondences, then inscribing it with sigils and anointing it with the appropriate oil.
9. Book of Shadows (BOS)
Despite popular movies and television shows, there is no one single book of shadows. A book of shadows, or BOS, is a Wiccan or Pagan’s notebook of information. It usually contains spells, rituals, correspondence charts, information about the rules of magic, invocations, myths and legends of various pantheons, etc. Sometimes information in a BOS is passed along from one Wiccan to another (and in a coven setting, there may be a coven BOS as well as individual members’ books), but you can create your own with a little bit of effort. A BOS is a very personal thing, and should contain the information you find most important.