The 4 Important Tools for a New Witch
1. The Athame
The ritual knife, or athame, is one of the prime Wicca altar tools.
(It is pronounced AH-tha-may or ah-THAW-may.)
Traditionally black-handled, the athame lives in the East, the direction that represents mind, thought, and choice.
An athame doesn’t have to be metal. You can find ones made out of wood or carved stone, if you prefer. It’s not used as a physical knife, anyway, but a symbolic one.
Athames hold yang [god] energy.
Athames are used to direct energy, typically in casting ritual Circles and recalling them. They may also be used to cut energetic ties.
Ordinarily, an athame is not used to cut anything on the physical plane.
2. The Wand
The wand is like a portable, handy version of a broom. There is a theory that originally one instrument performed all the purposes served by the two today.
A wand can be made of any natural material. Wood is traditional. Since all woods have unique Powers, you may like to choose the wood to suit your particular needs.
Wands can be used for divination and channeling magickal energy. They can be used to cast and recall circles, in place of the athame.
The magickal wand goes in the South, for the power of will, magick, and transformation.
It also represents yang, or god, energy.
3. The Chalice
The Wiccan chalice is one of the most important altar tools. It signifies the Mother Goddess.
As such, it is a “yin” altar tool.
Some people like very fancy bejeweled cups for their altar chalice, but this is not necessary. A cup or wine-type glass of any material will do, or even a bowl. Something that holds water and, ideally, is round or curvy is good.
Silver is always nice for Goddess tools – a silver chalice is a perfect Wiccan chalice.
The altar chalice is placed in the West, the direction of Water and the yinnest of the yin.
The Wiccan chalice is used for ceremonial drink, offering libations to the Divine, or holding the salt-water solution.
4. The Pentacle
The Pentacle is a flat board or circle that is usually inscribed with a pentagram (a five-pointed star), though they may also have many other symbols upon them.
This tool acts like a platform upon which many other acts are often performed –especially consecrations. It is symbolic of the Element of Earth, not only as the general Element, but also as the planet Earth itself and on a larger scale it can even be used as a symbol of the universe.
It is generally placed in the centre of the altar, and magical workings are performed on top of it. It can also be used in meditations. The Pentacle is often used in ceremonial magic as it blocks evil very effectively.
It’s direction is North and it’s energy is Female.
In the upward direction it is used for Protection, Blessing, Consecration, Meditation and Positive energy. In the downward direction it is used for Banishing and Binding.
The five points of the pentacle can be used to represent several things:
- Five Senses
- Human Body
- Love, Wisdom, Power, Knowledge and Law
- Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit
In Tarot, the pentacle symbolises political action and intrigue.
Other popular tools for your altar
Bells are like the Voice of the Goddess. When you ring one, it brings the Divine’s attention to you. And your attention to the Divine!
A bell with a lovely tone will call beautiful, healing energy to you. Bells can also be used to clear energy. At the end of a ritual is a good time for this, but if unwanted energy crops up during a ritual, you can use the bell to disperse it.
Candles – Direction Candles
At minimum, I recommend two large altar candles to look great, provide lighting, and set the mood.
Candles are also used for spells, and for rituals.
For example: One candle for each of the directions, colour-coded, are often used on a Wiccan altar. One would go in each appropriate direction . . .
- For North: black, green, or brown
- For East: yellow or white
- For South: red or orange
- For West: blue or aqua
- For Centre, where you aren’t using God and Goddess candles: white, silver, or gold.
Candles are used to invoke and hold the Powers of each direction.
Images or representations of any gods and goddesses who are special to you are always welcome on an altar. Though of course we could not respectfully consider them “altar tools.”
They are more than reminders of Divinity. Statues of the gods and goddesses can actually hold the vibrations of the Divine.
So your altar becomes a living temple – a place where the Divine dwells.
A small dish, bowl, or cup can go in the centre, ready to receive offerings for the gods and goddesses. (See below.)
You can also use your altar chalice or cauldron for this purpose.
Later, pour or bury the offerings in the Earth, or into living water (rivers, lakes, etc) to carry them to the Divine.
Traditionally cast iron, a cauldron is like a 3-legged rounded cooking pot. You can get them in sizes from huge to tiny.
Cauldrons are handy items for burning things, like incense and herbs. This is one of the reasons it is one of the most common altar tools.
Put an incense charcoal in the bottom, and sprinkle the herbs and powders onto it for very pagan incense.
(Caution is required when burning anything, of course. Cast iron on legs, if made properly, will keep the heat from the surface it’s standing on, but check to make sure. Also be aware of anything flammable nearby or above the cauldron – particularly sleeves and hair!)
Cauldrons can also be used to hold “witches’ brews,” that is, magickal spells in liquid form. These range from simple salt-water purifications to complex spells.
Book of Shadows
If you have a Book of Shadows it should be kept on your altar, preferably. It is one of your most important altar tools. If your altar is not private enough, or you can’t keep it there for another reason, then keeping it under your altar is best.
If you have other books that you use for reference for spells or rituals, it may be handy to keep nearby. It’s better to remain within the cast circle than to leave it to look up something.
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A cup or wine-type glass of any material- is one of the most important altar tools.
The chalice is another Wicca symbol for the Great Goddess, the Mother of the Universe. The chalice is likely a modern version of the cauldron. It represents yin [“female”] energy of water.
In Wicca, the chalice is one of the four elemental tools of witchcraft (along with the pentacle, the athame and the wand), and represents the element of Water. It is a symbol of containment and 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.
In the Wiccan Great Rite, a chalice (as a feminine principle) is often used in combination with the athame (a ceremonial black-handled knife, as a male principle) as a ritual symbolic representation of sexual intercourse, and as a symbol of universal creativity.
The chalice can be made of any material. In olden times, horns, shells and gourds were used to hold sacred liquids during ritual.
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, and it is traditional in many covens to pass the chalice around all members, who then take a drink, as a token of unity.
Learn Wiccan Witchcraft….
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An element shrine is a place where you can connect with one element or all four. For example, if you build a water shrine, you can include a crystal goblet of water, a small water fountain, shells, river stones, and pictures of waterfalls, rainstorms, or calm lakes. You may place a soft blue scarf under these objects and perhaps add a clear quartz crystal or two to represent ice. A fire shrine may be a collection of candles in reds and golds on a crimson cloth, perhaps with a small copper or brass figurine of a lion or a dragon.
The important thing is to think about what the element means to you and to gather a small selection of items that evoke the feeling that element inspires in you. It is important to remember that a shrine is not an altar. The altar is a place of focus consecrated to the spiritual use of the green witch. It is used as a place to hold tools and equipment during a spell or ritual, and a place to work on charms and witch crafts.
An altar can be permanent or temporary. Many witches set up a temporary altar each time they wish to work. As shrines may be used to honor deities or elements, the altar is not required for this purpose, and thus can be considered more of a workspace. Many green witches use whatever surface they wish as an altar, perhaps using the same cloth to spread over various surfaces each time they set up their altar. In this case, the cloth itself becomes the altar, carrying the energy associated with repeated spiritual workings. Green witches follow their intuition, and so may not perform rituals or work spells in the same place each time, choosing the location according to what feels right for their purpose. For the green witch, this means that a workbench or a craft table may sometimes serve as an altar. The practicality of the green witch determines where she works, and very often these sorts of tasks are undertaken in a variety of different places. Potions and salves may be created in the kitchen, while the creation of a protective wreath may take place in the garage. You may choose to formally consecrate your temporary altar each time you set it up, or not, as the mundane is sacred to the green witch. A simple blessing with the four elements can serve to consecrate the surface you have chosen to use as an altar. As a green witch, you may also consider using a stone or stump as a permanent outdoor altar in a corner of your yard or balcony, if you have one.
My person shrine.
A shrine, however, is a place to honor something or someone or to leave offerings, a place where you can collect things of personal significance and various energies to weave together an energy that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. A shrine creates a location for a certain kind of energy. The wonderful thing about a shrine is no one has to know what it is. It can be as simple as a photograph, a candle, a seashell, and a colored ribbon grouped together on a shelf. You know why those particular things are together; anyone else looking at them will likely think that it’s simply a decorative arrangement. What’s important is that the energy produced by combining these objects accomplishes the goal you envision for it.
An element shrine doesn’t have to be in a place generally associated with that element. For example, you don’t have to put an earth shrine outside, or a water shrine in the bathroom, or a fire shrine in your kitchen.
Experiment with having four separate shrines in four different places. You can try building the earth shrine in the northern part of your house, the air shrine to the east, the fire to the south, and the water to the west, which is how they’re usually associated with directions in various traditions of Western occultism. Or think about the kinds of energy you feel in various areas within your home, and site a shrine accordingly even if it’s not in one of the traditional directions. If you have a room where a lot of thinking and communicating take place, try setting an air shrine there. If you have a room where everyone relaxes and feels at peace after a long day, try setting up an earth or water shrine there. Make sure to have one shrine for each element so that your home remains balanced.
You can also experiment with creating a single shrine to all four elements. Place this shrine where it feels right to you. This may be near your own personal sanctuary, near the door so that it is the first thing you see when you enter and the last before you leave, or near the center of your home. In a shrine to all four elements, you don’t need to collect multiple representations of a single element. Instead, choose one or two objects to symbolize each element and group them in an arrangement that pleases you and feels right. Shrines are fluid things; you can add objects as you feel drawn to or remove objects when you feel they no longer serve their purpose. Make sure, however, that you always have at least one item to represent each element at all times. Traditionally, a small dish of salt or sand holds the energy of earth, a candle holds the energies of fire, a small dish or glass of water holds water energy, and a stick of incense or a fresh flower holds the energies of air. If you’re worried about salt or water being knocked over, try a small potted plant or a stone for earth and a shell for water. Light the candle and the incense only when you are in the room. Doing this once a day for a few minutes can help you collect your thoughts and your energies. It gives you a moment of peace to commune with these four basic building blocks of nature.
Before you begin the ritual, take a moment to compose a short book blessing that you will copy into the book itself during the ritual
Piece of plain white cloth (of natural fibers)
Book, tool, or object to be dedicated
Bowl of salt or soil to represent element of earth
Stick or herbal incense to represent element of air
Censer or heatproof dish (and charcoal tablet if using herbal incense)
Candle and holder to represent element of fire
Bowl of water to represent element of water
A prepared book blessing
Anointing oil (plain olive oil, or a blend of oils for blessing
Begin the ritual
1. Center and ground. Create sacred space or cast your circle, as you wish. Either is appropriate for this ritual.
2. Invite elemental energy to be present. For example:
I CALL YOU, POWERS OF EARTH,
TO BE PRESENT AS I DEDICATE MY BOOK OF SHADOWS.
WELCOME TO MY CIRCLE.
Do this for all four elements.
3. Invite the Divine to be present in the form of the Goddess and God. Use the names of specific god-forms if you work regularly with them.
4. Pick up the white cloth and run it over the book’s covers, both inside and out. Run it gently along the edges of the pages. If there are any tags or foreign matter on the book, remove them. In this step you are physically cleansing the book.
5. From the bowl of salt or earth, take a pinch and sprinkle it on the book, saying:
BOOK, I PURIFY YOU WITH THE ELEMENT OF EARTH.
MAY YOUR ENERGY BE PURIFIED OF NEGATIVE ENERGY.
SO MOTE IT BE.
If you wish, you may purify with the remaining three elements, although the salt will suffice.
6. Center and ground again. Hold the book in your hands and open your energy center. Allow your awareness to flow into the book. Feel your energy filling it, and visualize it glowing brighter and brighter. As the glow of your energy permeates it, visualize any other energies clinging to it simply dissolving away. Say:
I CONSECRATE YOU, BOOK OF SHADOWS.
TO SERVE AS MY RECORD OF MY MAGICAL WORK.
I CHARGE YOU BY ALL THAT I HOLD GOOD AND TRUE:
BE FOR ME A FAITHFUL RECORD OF MY LIFE, MY WORK, AND MY LOVE.
SO MOTE IT BE.
7. Take the book and touch it with another bit of earth or salt; pass it through the smoke of the incense; let the light cast by the flame of the candle dance across it; and sprinkle it with a few drops of water. As you do so, imagine the energies of each element filling the book with positive energy and the touch of elemental energy that will further consecrate it.
8. Open the book and write your book blessing inside on the first page. Take a touch of oil on your finger and draw whatever symbols of protection and wisdom you desire, if any, on the front and back covers. As you do, charge the book with the positive energy that you and the elements have created.
9. When you are done, thank and release the deities you have invited to be present. Thank and release the elements for their help as well. Dismantle your circle or declare your ritual complete if you have used sacred space. A simple “It is done” can suffice..
Dedication Ceremonies (Coming soon)