A Witch's Tools

Athame : (ATH-a-may) The athame has an ancient history. It is a knife, dull (usually for saftey sake- it IS a knife after all) and double-edged, often with a black or dark coloured handle. It isn't used for cutting purposes, but to direct the energy raised during rites and spells. It is seldom used to invoke or call upon the Deities for it is an instrument of commanding and power manipulation. We'd rather invite the Goddess and God, than try to command or manipulate them.
A dark handle isn't an absolute must, but black absorbs power. When the knife is used in ritual to direct energy, some of the power is absorbed into the handle and can be called upon later. Some engrave their athames with magical symbols, usually taken from The Key of Solomon, but this isn't necessary. As with most magical tools, the knife becomes powerful by your touch and usage. However, if you so desire, scratch words, symbols or runes onto its blade or handle.
A sword is sometimes used, being nothing more than a large knife, but can be difficult due to its size.

Because of its symbolism, a tool that causes change, it is commonly linked with the element of fire, and is a phallic symbol which links it with the God.

Bell: The bell is a ritual instrument of antiquity. Ringing a bell unleashes vibrations which have powerful effects according to its tone, volume and material of construction. The bell is a feminine symbol and is often used to invoke the Goddess. It is also rung to ward off evil spells and spirits or to evoke good energies. Hung on the door, it guards the home. Any type bell may be used.

Besom: (BEE-som) This is the old name meaning broom. It is used in magic and ritual and is sacred to both the Goddess and the God. Laid across a threshold the broom halts all spells sent into the house or against those who reside within. The broom is a purifier and may be used to begin a ritual by sweeping the area lightly with the broom. After this the altar is set up, the tools carried out, and the ritual begun.
The broom is linked with the element of water and is used also in all types of water spells including those of love and psychic working.
The broom used for magic, as with all magical tools, should be reserved for this purpose only.

Bolline: (bow-LEEN) The bolline is a first cousin of the athame, the magic knife. The basic difference between the athame and the bolline is that the former is used purely for symbolic or energy directing purposes, and the bolline is used for cutting herbs, thread, cloth, to cut wands, to inscribe symbols onto candles or on wood, clay, or wax. Some traditions dictate that this be a knife used only within the magic circle, but this would limit its usefulness. It may be used, if you wish, to harvest flowers to place on the altar during ritual. Be sure that it is new and clean, and buy it without haggling over the price.

Cauldron: This is an ancient vessel of cooking and brew making, steeped in magical tradition and mystery. The cauldron is the container in which magical transformations occur; the scared grail, the holy spring, the sea of Primeval creation.
The cauldron is the symbol of the Goddess, the essence of femininity and fertility. It is also symbolic of the element of water, reincarnation, immortality and inspiration.
Ideally the cauldron should be made of iron, resting on three legs, with its opening smaller than its widest point, but this isn't a must. The cauldron can be used as an instrument for scrying, or it can serve as a container to make up a brew.

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(some information taken from the writings of Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, 1988)

Censer: The censer is an incense burner. It can be elaborate like those used in a Church, or as simple as a seashell. Any bowl or cup, half-filled with sand or salt will serve well. The salt or sand absorbs the heat from the charcoal or incense and prevents the bowl from cracking. The censer represents the element of air, and is often placed before the images of the Deities on the altar.

Cup: The cup is simply a cauldron on a stem. It symbolizes the Goddess and fertility, and is related to the element of water. It can be used to hold water or a ritual beverage imbibed during the ritual. It may be made of nearly any substance.

Grimoire: (grIm-wAr) Also called a Book of Shadows it is a workbook containing invocations, ritual patterns, spells, runes and so on. Some are passed from one person to another, but the vast majority are composed by each individual. Until recently a Book of Shadows was usually handwritten, but it may be typed, photocopied or even computerized. All Books of Shadows are suggestions, not "holy writ". It is a good idea to copy your spells or rites by hand however, to ensure that you've read the work completely. Ideally, however, all rites are memorized or created spontaneously. If you choose to read your rites, be sure your copies are legible by candlelight.

Mortar and Pestle: The Mortar and Pestle is probably one of the more essential tools of the Craft. Although it is not directly related to ritual, it is used to make all the incenses, powders and such that we use in ritual.
The best ones are the stone type, as they do not hold onto odours like the ceramic type can.

Pentacle: This is usually a flat piece of brass, gold, silver, wood, wax or clay, inscribed with certain symbols. The most common and the only necessary one is the pentagram, the five pointed star which has been used in magic for millennia. The pentacle represents the element of earth and is a convenient tool upon which to place amulets, charms or other objects to be ritually consecrated. It is also used to summon the Goddess and the God. It may also be hung over doors and windows to act as protection.

Wand: The wand is one of the prime magical tools. Just as the bolline is used to consecrate, cut and perform the more lowly operations, the wand is an instrument of invocation, of invitation. The Goddess and God may be called to watch the ritual with words and an uplifted wand. It is sometimes used to direct energy, to draw magical symbols or a circle on the ground, to point toward danger while balanced on the caster's arm, or even to stir a brew. It represents the element of air and is sacred to the Gods.
The actual wood of the wand depends on the interests of the user.
Hazel and elder are most often used as these trees make excellent all-purpose wands. Some, however, are more specialized, such as :
Love magic- Apple
Healling magic- Ash
Exorcisms- Elder
Prosperity- Fir
Protection- Rowan
Purification and blessing- Birch
Moon magic and wishing magic- willow
Fertility magic- Oak tipped with an acorn, or Fir tipped with a pine cone
Any stick you use will be infused with energy and power, even dowels purchased from a hardware store. Find one that feels comfortable, and it will do just fine.

Crystal Sphere: (optional) The crystal has long been used in divination. It is sometimes placed on the altar to represent the Goddess. Its shape is Goddess symbolic, as are all circles. Periodic exposure to moonlight, or rubbing the crystal with mugwort, will increase its ability to spark our psychic powers. It may be the center of Full Moon rituals.

Altar: A table, made of Oak(for its power and strength) or Willow (sacred to the Goddess) are the ideals, but any material can be used. The altar is sometimes round, to represent the Goddess, but it may also be square, symbolic of the elements.
The tools are usually arranged upon the altar in a pleasing pattern, and the altar is sent in the center of the magic circle facing North. North is the direction of power and associated with the Earth. It may also be placed facing the East, where the Sun and Moon rise.

The left side of the altar is usually dedicated to the Goddess. Tools sacred to Her are placed there: the cup, the pentacle, bell, crystal, and cauldron. An image of the Goddess may also stand there (or if you don't desire one, a green, silver or white candle) and a broom may be laid against the table on that side.

The right side of the altar is usually dedicated to the God. Tools sacred to Him are placed there: a God image or red, yellow, or gold candle, as are the censer, wand, athame, and bolline.

Images of the Goddess and God are not absolute necessities. We aren't idol worshippers. We don't believe that any statue, pile of rocks, candle, or any other item actually IS the deity represented. Its merely a matter of personal preference.