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Essential Magical Tools

Dear Witchful Thinking,

When you are new to the Craft, there is so much stuff to buy! Incense and besoms and athames…it’s all a little over-whelming. If you could only have a few items to practice with, what would they be?


K-Jo and J/K

Dear K-Jo and J/K,

Ok. I’m going to tell you an arcane secret. Something you don’t learn until years and years of studying magic…a secret that will astonish and amaze and surprise you….

You don’t need a single thing to practice magic or do ritual, except the will to do so.

Here’s the catch, though: it takes a fair bit of practice to get to that point. Most people don’t pick it up the first time they try.

The purpose of magic and ritual is to commune with the Universe, manipulate the energy in our favor, and to create change. All the tools used to do that, all the spell components, arcane words and formalized gestures are psychological triggers to help us move the energy in alignment with our will.

Science tells us that once something has been done, it makes it easier to do again. By repeatedly using the same symbolism over time, it makes a kind of path that the energy recognizes. So for new magical practitioners, they can access these pathways and have more effective magic. The Lesser Banishing of the Pentagram, for example, has been done the same way by thousands of magicians for a hundred year. You can bet that it is effective at grounding the practitioner and banishing negativity. In the first place, if it didn’t work, no one would do it again, let alone hundreds of thousands of times.

But the tools and paraphernalia work, or else we wouldn’t need them and encourage others to use them. They give us something tangible to work with and look at, which sends signals to the brain and activates certain parts of it. Slightly less than half of the population are kinesthetic learners, meaning they learn by doing. Only about a quarter of us prefer to think entirely abstractly–these are the folks who probably don’t need tools.

One of my old altars. Look at all the stuff!

That being said, I love the paraphernalia. The quest to make that perfect blend of incense, finding that beautiful besom, or symbolic athame, is a meditative and magical joy in itself. When you first start, you’ll probably use what you have around your house in a kind of “kitchen Witch” way. So you’ll use an actual broom for a besom, and an actual steak knife for an athame…that sort of thing. Or you’ll find that you accidentally have magical things around the house. My first athame was a little boot knife I bought at a Renaissance Fair for $5. At the time, I liked the stag motif on it, never knowing it symbolized the Horned God.

If I could only have three things, I would have an athame, my tarot deck, and a lighter. Why?

  • The athame puts your will out into the Universe. You use it to cast a circle, make doors and open and close gates. For me it is a mental trigger that I’m about to do some magical work and need to focus my will. While I could use anything to assert my will, I prefer the power symbol of the double-bladed knife. It is like an avatar of myself. The style and decoration of the knife show my personality and my power.
  • The tarot deck allows me to have long conversations with the Universe over tea. I can ask questions and get answers. Sometimes I’m not feeling too sharp or receptive, and the tarot deck helps me focus my questions and helps me make decisions. I know about myself that I’m not a good enough omen reader or psychic to do it without them.
  • The lighter means I have the power to create sparks, and thus fire. I can often find a piece of cedar around here that would be good as clearing incense, but without a lighter, it’s just a bit of bark, and the aromas are trapped inside of it. I can also burn paper to banish or transform thought. Or I could light a candle. Fire is change and transformation. There is something deep in our psyche which connects us to fire. It would be essential to me that I could cause that change.

I think that’s all I would need. Everything else, I could visualize or make do without. But I do keep ritual kits around, especially in my car, so if I wanted to do a spontaneous ritual, it could easily be done. I often do ritual in an inter-religious setting, so the tools and paraphernalia are important to help others figure out what we are doing. And as much as I don’t require them, they really do.

What are your essential magical tools?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,
  1. Me
    January 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?

  1. February 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm

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