Some Thoughts on Magical Tools
The only necessary tool is your mind. All the others are props. To the degree that you can focus your mind by your self, you will not need props to help you do so.
There seems to be two schools on the creation, care and feeding of tools. I call these two approaches, the “ceremonial magic” school and the “kitchen witch” school. For the “ceremonial magic” school, the mundane is separate from the sacred. If you use tools consecrated for magical work for mundane activities, you may dissipate their energies or “contaminate” the tools. By this view, you should choose tools and equipment carefully, never bargain for them; consecrate, decorate, and store them in particular ways; and never use them for anything other than their consecrated purposes. For example, if you have leftover wine from a ritual, it is to be discarded rather than used for dinner the next night.
The kitchen witch generally sees all of creation as being imbued with the Divine and considers everything to be sacred (no division between “sacred and mundane”) S/he uses whatever is at hand that works: kitchen knives, this morning’s cereal bowl, the family salt, etc. The sacredness of all life is recognized when leftover ritual food is used for next night’s dinner.
My personal approach is somewhere between the two schools. I see creation as does a kitchen witch. I make no separation between “sacred” and “mundane” in the world (rather, they are two modes of thinking about the same things). I do, however, have an altar that contains objects that I use solely for magical/ritual workings. I supplement these with everyday objects when I need to. I have no qualms about using everyday dishes, or my cooking herbs for rituals. I also have no problem for using my ritual candles when the electricity goes out, either.
I think of tools as being of two types: Focusing tools, which are often symbolic objects that engage the senses, and working tools, which may include divinatory tools. Focusing tools keep your mind on the purpose of the working. They may include symbolic objects of the elements/hallows such as the athame or sword (air — some traditions consider swords and knives to be associated with fire); spear, torch, wand, candle (fire — some traditions consider wands and spears to be associated with air); bowl, cup, chalice, cauldron (water); plate, paten, pentacle, stone (earth); Deity images; objects with deep meaning for your own life; etc. They may also include things that engage the senses such as scents (created by incense or essential oils), colors (created by candles, robes, altar cloths, images), sounds (music, chants, poetry, vocalizations, drumming), tactile stimulation (cold, heat, textures), or tastes (ritual foods). Again all of these things serve to keep your attention focused. The preparation of the ritual space and the ritual objects as well as the actual working should allow you to let all concerns but the matter at hand to drift away. When you are well-practiced at this, you can do all of this focusing within your own mind and the tools become unnecessary — but still satisfying to use. I tend to take the “ceremonial magic” approach with my focusing tools — they are used primarily
The second kind of tool is the working tool and this, too, can be used in the focusing process. These tools are practical objects such as knives, scissors, thread, pens, paper, cords, cloth, salt, water whatever you need to perform the ritual. You should have a good supply of these things near your ritual space. Also divinatory objects such as runes, scrying mirrors, Tarot and other card decks, I Ching wands or coins, pendulums, etc. can be included in the working tools.
More on the symbolic objects
You may want have around you (on your altar, on a pendant you wear, or on your desk at work) symbolic items that focus your mind on particular results or tasks. The following are examples of the types of symbolic objects you might want to use for certain situations.
Use cutting blade or air symbols
- when you want to analyze a situation;
- divide a situation into its component parts;
- communicate or be communicated to more clearly;
- when you want to find the truth of a matter (be prepared for the consequences of this request);
- when you want to balance a situation, or find justice (fairness); or,
- to “cut” a magical circle.
Use puncturing or forceful symbols or fire symbols
- when you want to recombine parts of elements of a situation into a new matrix;
- when you want to reforge something (a situation, your life, whatever) anew or forge something new;
- when you need energy;
- when you need to be creative;
- when you are starting a business enterprise;
- when you have challenges to be met;
- when you need deep healing;
- when you need to let go of the old and embrace the new; or,
- when you seek change.
Use uniting or fluid symbols or water symbols
- when you feel scattered;
- when you need emotional healing;
- when you want to know union with the divine and with all of creation;
- when you need abundance;
- when you need compassion or need to be compassionate;
- when you need love; or,
- when you need merger or union of disparate things.
Use stable, solid, foundation symbols or earth symbols
- when you need material abundance or security;
- when you want to learn or teach tradition and history;
- when you need stability and some degree of “unchangingness”;
- when you wish to contact the ancestors or ancestral wisdom;
- when you need to deal with matters of jobs, training, vocation;
- when you need to reflect on lessons learned;
- when you need to focus on the details; or,
- when you need patience.
Use transcendent, integrating, interweaving, symbols, spirit symbols, or Deity symbols
- when you need to integrate the powers of the elements within you;
- when you need to integrate your various selves or aspects;
- when you need to commune with the Divine, both within you and around you;
- when you walk in the Otherworldly realms; or,
- when you seek balance within yourself or within Creation.
My altar is formed of a table top supported on two three-drawer storage units. My working tools (water, altar candles for illumination, candles of various colors, candle holders, Tarot decks, other card decks with suitable images, pens, paper, oils, incense sticks, charcoal, herbs, thread, needles, working knife, candle snuffer, matches, drum, books, and my magical journal) are kept in these drawers when not in use. When I am not using my altar to perform a ritual or act of magic, my altar contains many objects. When “in use,” I put aside those things that are not needed for that particular ritual or act of magic. The symbolic objects I generally have on my altar are:
Air: Athame, various owl images, incense and incense holder.
Fire: Wand, soft sculpture dragon, dragon box, dragon necklace, red candle.
Water: Chalice, cauldron, scallop shell box, various shells, salmon image.
Earth: Wooden bowl of salt covered with a clay disk inscribed with a pentacle, a unicorn image, various coins, stones, glass marble, pentacles.
Spirit: Mirror, many quartered-circle pendants, crystals, spiral pedants.
Goddess: various owls, resin sculpture of the Medusa, Celtic goddess pendant, card with Eriu depicted, various post cards with images inspired with ancient images of mother goddesses, appropriate Tarot images for each season, white, red, or black candles.
God: Pendant with the Bath Solar God, pendant with antlered-God image, green man pendant, card with image of Gawain, appropriate Tarot images for each season, gold, or white candles.
The most important thing is that you use the tools and symbols you most associate with the your desired results. Experimentation and practice will enable you to develop your personal correspondences for magical tools.