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.