Altar, Ritual Tools, Equipment & Other Miscellaneous Paraphernalia

Tools are Tools, they are not required for Magic!

Example of Items on a typical AltarExample of Items on a typical AltarAltar Cloth
Wand
A ritual knife/Athame
Chalice
Pentagram
Cauldron
Besom/broom
Candles
Earth
Bells
Salt
Crystal Ball
Poppet
Censer
Incense
Book Of Shadows
Offering Bowls
Feathers
Crystals


The Altar

What is an altar? It is your sacred personal workspace, somewhere you cast spells, perform rituals, keep your ritual items and magical supplies together. Your altar is to you what a desk is to someone who works in an office. Though it is not compulsory that you have a dedicated altar space it can help you focus if you have a central place to work as when you work you must be focused and disciplined. Your altar should be set up in such a way it reflects your own beliefs. There are no set rules, you follow your heart when setting up your altar. There are many different kinds of altar. Depending on your path, some are shrines to the Gods, some are a central place for meditation, but a witchcraft altar is for magic.

A Simple AltarA Simple Altar

Altar or Shrine?
Will you be performing spells and rituals or looking for a place for personal devotion? Most people would say an altar is where a craft person usually keeps their ritual items and supplies to perform spells and rituals. A shrine is a place that holds religious items to enhance your own personal worship. What most new people to the craft do not understand is that they are both used for the same purpose. This personal space is your altar, your shrine. It is the place you cast spells, you pray, you perform your rituals. How you set this up or even if you have one is a very personal preference, there is no right or wrong unless you do something that does not feel right to you.

Setting up an altar
When you first set up an altar you are declaring you are a witch. Your altar has to be treated with respect, as a sacred space. Do not place it where you will pop your mobile phone down, or keys etc. It must be respected. It can be something temporary or permanent. Some use a box that they can pack their tools away after each ritual, others have a set place for a permanent established altar.
The tools you choose to keep on your altar should reflect your own personality and style of witchcraft. These are some typical items that can be found on altars but you do not actually need all, or any!


A Simple Witch's AltarA Simple Witch's Altar

Make your altar reflect your beliefs
What you put on your altar is pretty much up to you. Depending on what path you follow it will show on what you place on your altar. If you follow a typical pagan path then your altar display will usually consists of a few traditional ritual tools. Remember it is totally up to you what you place on your altar, there are no hard or fast rules. A good place to start is an altar cloth. Any cloth will suffice though some like a cloth with an image of their belief like a pentagram.

All objects you place on your altar should have a personal connection to you. If you like to cast candle spells then have an altar filled with candles. If you like crystals then fill your altar space with those. Your altar will probably look fairly bare at first. As you continue on your path and hone your skills in Paganism or Witchcraft you will acquire more paraphernalia that has a personal meaning to you and the craft you follow and before long your altar will be full of tools and ritual items with a special personal connection to you.

Setting up a shrine
Depending on what path you follow, you may have connections with one or more deities. If you follow the Wicca path you will probably have set your altar up with representations of the God and Goddess, otherwise you can place small statues, candles or other items to represent the gods or goddesses of your pantheon. Before you begin you should do some meditation with and research about the deities you are working with.  Find out what kind of symbols, colours and  objects are connected with or sacred to that deity. As with all things, go with whatever you feel is right for you and what is around you. This is a place of your own personal expression of your devotion. Go with your instinct.

There are a wide range of ritual or "working" tools associated with Magic. The tools or objects used in making magic are not essential, they are just tools. They hold no inherent power within themselves, but focus and refine the power within you. They are visual and manual aids or symbols to help in contacting the subconscious mind and persuading it to work the magic you desire.

The success of magic is in the belief, emotion and discipline you bring to the ritual, not in the tools you use. Most magic is a state of mind, tools are used to help you reach that state, whether its a crystal ball for divination, burning resin for atmosphere, speaking a blessing for calm, in the end its all about your inner self. Remember, magic comes from WITHIN.

Don't worry about having all your magical tools at once, they will come to you when the time is right as you discover which tools you use in your rituals. Truthfully you don't really need any of them to work magic. They simply serve as props to keep your conscious mind occupied while the sub-conscious carries out your magical intentions. They can help with focus and visualizations. Over time you will find your own toolset.

Athame, Wands & The Cauldron
There are a wide range of ritual or "working" tools associated with Magic. The tools or objects used in making magic are not essential, they are just tools. They hold no inherent power within themselves, but focus and refine the power within you. They are visual and manual aids or symbols to help in contacting the subconscious mind and persuading it to work the magic you desire.

The success of magic is in the belief, emotion and discipline you bring to the ritual, not in the tools you use. Most magic is a state of mind, tools are used to help you reach that state, whether its a crystal ball for divination, burning resin for atmosphere, speaking a blessing for calm, in the end its all about your innerself. Remember, magic comes from WITHIN.

Don't worry about having all your magical tools at once, they will come to you when the time is right as you discover which tools you use in your rituals. Truthfully you don't really need any of them to work magic. They simply serve as props to keep your conscious mind occupied while the sub-conscious carries out your magical intentions. They can help with focus and visualizations. Over time you will find your own toolset.

Ritual Dagger the Athame
Athame - Ritual and Ceremonial Dagger of the (Wicca) Witch
This is a Wicca item but I have included it as it is often the most talked about item.
An Athame (pronounced Ath-a-may or Ath-a-me) is a magical knife reserved for ritual and ceremonial work witches use as an extension of their body. In Wicca the blade is never used for cutting and no attempt is made to keep it sharp, though often great care is taken to make it artistic.

The Boline (Traditionally white handled with curved blade) is the Wicca working knife and swords are often used for outdoor rituals where more space is available. The Athame knife is traditionally either black handled or wooden handled, with the blade made of steel. There are as many different types of Athame available as there are knives.

Most "traditional" Wicca say ONLY a black handled Athame is "proper". It is not exactly clear as to why the black handle became a traditional, though many historic texts point back to King Solomon who was said to use a black handle knife in his rituals and spells. This black handled blade then became a symbol of the Athame since Solomon was revered as one of the greatest wizards to ever have lived.

In the practices of Wicca and most high magic paths, the Athame is considered an essential tool as it is used to represent the direction of east and the element of air (and therefore of the intellect). If you are not on the Wicca path an Athame is NOT necessary. Most non-Wicca followers of the craft are of the opinion the Athame is associated with the Fire Element and the South. The association of blade = east + air does not necessarily hold true in the Olde craft (i.e. pre-Wiccan) Witchcraft however. This is honest disagreement among Witches, so respecting everyone's individual view, experiment and see which works best for you personally.

Wood is often used in an Athame blade because of it’s representation of Nature and the Earth. The Athame is considered to be a phallic tool and therefore of masculine element and male energy.
Personally as a Witch I think the Athame is a working tool and in times past a personal weapon and should be treated as such. It should be kept sharp and cleaned. If you have difficulty with the idea of the Athame being a weapon I would suggest that you remember that before Wicca,  our pagan ancestors were often hunters of various sorts. While we do not hunt as such today, if you wish to follow and honor the Olde ways you should remember it represents a link with those long-dead ancestors in each of us.

Your First Athame
Some Witches believe that your Athame should never be purchased, that either you must make your own tools or receive them as gifts. That probably worked fine in ancient times, but would you know how to make their own knife today? If you don’t belong to a restrictive tradition or if you're a witch, go with what looks and feels right. It is often believed that an Athame will pick up a mind of its own, that often they become alive and almost have their own personality. The more you use it, the more you place your energies and will into it and then it becomes an extension of yourself so beware of any negativity when using this tool.

If your Athame is to be purchased new, then look at the shape and size depending upon what appeals to you. If a clean plain black or white handled double edged blade is what you feel most comfortable with, by all means, use that.  If your Athame is brand new and has never been used then it is “dormant” or basically it has yet to be given life. The more you use it, the more you place your energies and will into this ritual tool, the more and more this blade will take on a life of its own.

You change an ordinary knife into an Athame through a consecration ritual. This can be a newly purchased knife or a keepsake you’ve had for years. You might even find a great knife or dagger to use as an Athame at a second hand shop, flea market, antique store, Festivals or Fair. If you  purchase a used knife make very certain there are no negative vibrations on it by cleansing and consecrating it before use.

A gift of an Athame is considered a great honor. The Athame will have all the energy of years of use by the previous owner. That energy can help guide and empower your own magic, merging your magical energy with the magical energy of the Witch who gave the gift. Obviously you don’t cleanse out the previous energy from a gift Athame (in this case, you want that energy to stay in the Athame)
Uses for the Athame

In Wicca The Athame is normally used for summoning and banishing the spirit entities who are called to be present as guardians of the ceremony as well as to cast the circle at the beginning of rituals, thus establishing the magical space within which rituals are performed. More unusual ways to use the Athame are for casting away negative energies or shielding yourself from them.

An Athame is also used for spell casting. Some spells require incorporation potions or blessed salt with water. The tip of an Athame may be used to measure the proper proportions and to stir the mixture. Most commonly an Athame is used for charging or empowering magical objects like amulets, talismans or poppets (magical dolls).

Some Witches use their Athame to cut as well as to cast. Ensure that your Athame can be used for cutting if that is something you are going to use it for. As a witch my Athame is a working blade, and as such is kept sharp at all times. Make sure it is solid enough to last. If this is the case, the blade should be of a metal that can be sharpened as you will use this knife to cut herbs and incise candles. The sharp edge is also a reminder of the power we take into our hands when we work magic.

You want to be careful about who else touches or handles your Athame. Some Witches don’t let anyone else touch their tools at all. Magical tools are sensitive and will absorb the energy of anyone who touches them. Wicca has it that the blade of an Athame must never be "contaminated" by contact with blood. Wicca's also state if a knife has ever drawn blood, it must be purified before it can be consecrated as an Athame. Also if you ever accidentally cut yourself with your Athame, you must purify it. I am a witch, not a Wiccan. My own feeling is that a blade has not been properly consecrated until it has been "blooded", for my own belief is that the Olde ways do demand sacrifices of us - and that sacrifice is of ourselves to the Craft.

Cauldron
What are the first things that come to mind when you think all of a witch. Most people will think of a black cat, a broom, a pointed hat and a cauldron.
A cauldron is where a witch will mix her spells and potions. Other uses of a cauldron include burning resin, for make black salt, scrying, mixing herbs or for burning spells.
A cauldron is a cooking pot with three feet usually made of cast iron and most modern cauldrons are engraved with a pagan symbol including the pentagram. Available in a wide variation of sizes, a Cauldron is usually one of the first things a witch will acquire.

Wands
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.
Magic wands are thin sticks made of different materials, including wood or metal, and used as a conductor when practicing Wiccan rituals or other types of magical  rituals. Wands have been around since Egyptian times and have always been associated with magical properties and religious connotations.

In practice, the wand is the primary working tool of the Witch.  It represents his or her rod of power and authority.  During ritual, the wand becomes and extension of the Witch's magical jurisdiction.  Personal power is forced through the wand, with a laser-like intensity, toward a specific target.  When the psychic energy and target meet, activation occurs, and the Witch's intentions are set into motion.
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 main reason the wand is so popular is its simplicity.  There is nothing complicated or difficult to understand about its construction or purpose.  The wand is simply a tool for channeling energy from the spiritual plane to the material plane.

Wand Tradition
Traditionally, both a wand and staff should be of wood and made by the person who will use them. If your purchase these or have them made, fill them with your own vibrations before using them. This is easily done by handling them often and deliberately sending you own positive thoughts into the object.
A wand is very easy to make.  A small branch (ash or oak is best) with a crystal or favorite rock attached, wrapped in leather, works nicely.  A simple copper tube with crystals, amethyst, or rose quartz connected to the ends produces a wonderful energy conductor.  Brass tubing found in most craft shops has all sorts of possibilities, and even wooden dowels from a lumber store can, with some imagination, be turned into elegant wands.

The wand and staff can be naturally-formed tree branches or made of dowels ornamented with crystals, stones, wooden beads, or whatever else you fancy. The length of the wand depends upon what feels comfortable to you, but tradition states that it should be no longer than your forearm. You may strip the bark off of it or leave it on, whichever you prefer. It may be left natural or stained/varnished/oiled. Wands are of the Element of Air and are aligned with the East (although some traditions hold that the wand is an instrument of fire and aligned with the South)

These are the most common items found in a Witch's home
Altar
Athame (or Ritual Dagger)
Grimoire or Book Of Shadows
Cauldron
Censer
Chalice
Correspondence Tables
Scrying & Divination
Crystals
Essential Oils
Herbs
Mortar & Pestle
Resin & Incense
Spellbooks
Wand

My Tools of the Witchcraft Trade
My altar is my personal sacred place. It is where I keep my tools close to me. My altar reflects my gothic side and my love of dragons. There is a lot of black in and around my altar space, and dragons feature heavily as do crystals especially Black Obsidian. As with other followers of the craft, I created my altar over time as I honed my skills and path. As I am now a follower of dragon magic and practice divination, my altar reflects that part of my craft.

<pictures coming soon>

 


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