Major Religions & Spiritual Beliefs
Wicca ritual tool: Athame with a steel blade and bog-oak hilt, with the Triple Moon in silver.
Casting the circle may involve the invocation of the "Guardians" of the cardinal points, alongside their respective classical element; Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Once the circle is cast, a seasonal ritual may be performed, prayers to the God and Goddess are said, and spells are sometimes worked.
Wicca Tools used in Magic Rituals: The Wiccan practice usually includes a special set of magical tools. These may include a knife called an athame, a wand, a pentacle and a chalice, but other tools include a broomstick known as a besom, a cauldron, candles, incense and a curved blade known as a boline. An altar is usually present in the circle, on which ritual tools are placed and representations of the God and the Goddess may be displayed. Before entering the circle, some traditions fast for the day, and/or ritually bathe. After a ritual has finished, the God, Goddess and Guardians are thanked and the circle is closed.
A more sensationalised aspect of Wicca, particularly in Gardnerian Wicca, is the traditional practice of working in the nude, also known as skyclad. This practice seemingly derives from a line in Aradia, Charles Leland's supposed record of Italian witchcraft. Skyclad working is mostly the province of Initiatory Wiccans, who are outnumbered by the less strictly observant Eclectics. When they work clothed, Wiccans may wear robes with cords tied around the waist, "Renaissance-faire"-type clothing or normal street clothes. Each full moon, and in some cases a new moon, is marked with a ritual called an Esbat.
Magical Tools used in the Wicca ReligionIn the neopagan religion of Wicca, a range of magical tools are used in ritual practice. Each of these tools has different uses and associations, and are used primarily to direct energies. They are used at an altar, inside a magic circle.
In traditional Gardnerian Wicca, the tools are often divided into personal tools, which are for use by, and owned by, an individual Wiccan, and coven tools, used collectively by the coven. This practice may derive partly from Masonic traditions (such as the use of the Square and Compasses), from which Wicca draws some material, and partly from the rituals of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The latter made much use of material from medieval grimoires such as the Key of Solomon, which has many illustrations of magical tools and instructions for their preparation.
In Wicca, ritual tools are used during rituals which both honour the deities, and work magic. The general idea is that the tool directs psychic energies to perform a certain action.
Tarot Card: The Magician from the Waite-Smith tarot card deck, depicted using the same tools that some modern Wiccans use in magic ritual ceremonies.
Wiccan tools are usually only used by their owner (or, in the case of coven tools, by the coven as a group), to ensure that they only carry their owner's spiritual vibrations.
In Gardnerian Wicca, as layed down by Gerald Gardner, someone who had been initiated in the 1st degree had to create (or, alternately purchase and then engrave) their own ritual tools. One of the requirements for being initiated for the 2nd degree is that the Wiccan had to name all of the ritual tools and explain what their purpose and associations were.
This is followed by the declaration of:
Aradia and Cernunnos, deign to bless and to consecrate this tool, that it may obtain necessary virtue through thee for all acts of love and beauty. Aradia and Cernunnos, bless this instrument prepared in thine honour.
Various different tools are used in Wiccan ritual. Chief amongst them in importance are the pentacle, athame (or sword), wand and chalice, each of which represents one of the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.
The athame is traditionally a black-handled knife, and Gardner described it as "the true Witch's weapon" in the Book of Shadows, something for which he has been criticised by Frederic Lamond, who believes that there should be no "weapons" in Wicca. The athame is used to cast a magic circle, and to control spirits.
The term "athame" in its modern spelling is unique to Wicca, but originates from words found in two historical copies of the Key of Solomon, though was not included in Macgregor Mathers' published version. One version, currently held in the Biblioteque de l'Arsenal, Paris, uses the term "arthame" to describe a black handled knife. This was adopted by C.J.S Thompson in his 1927 book The Mysteries and Secrets of Magic and by Grillot de Givry, in his 1931 book Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy. The historian Ronald Hutton theorised that Gardner got it either directly or indirectly from one of these sources, although changed the spelling. The athame is usually enscribed on the handle, sometimes in the Theban alphabet.
What is the Athame used for? The athame's primary use is to direct energy; if things such as herbs or cords need to be cut, another knife called a boline - a white-handled knife - is used. An exception is the "kitchen witchcraft" philosophy, which actively encourages the use of magical tools for mundane purposes to increase the witch's familiarity with them.
An athame may be employed in the demarcation of the Magic circle rite. As a masculine principle, it is often used in combination with the chalice, as feminine principle, evoking the act of procreation, as a symbol of universal creativity. This is a symbol of the Great Rite in Wiccan rituals. Some modern witchcraft traditions may prefer not to use iron blades, instead preferring alternatives such as copper, bronze or wood. This is most common amongst traditions that have a particular fondness of the Sidhe, to whom iron is supposedly harmful.
In Gardnerian Wicca, the wand is symbolic for the element of Fire, though in some traditions it instead symbolises Air. It can be made from any material, including wood, metal and rock, and Wiccan wands are sometimes set with gemstones or crystals.
In his Book of Shadows, Gerald Gardner stated that the wand is "used to summon certain spirits with whom it would not be meet to use the athame". Frederic Lamond states that this referred to elemental spirits, who were traditionally believed to be scared of iron and steel
According to the Kitchen Witchcraft philosophy, the use of magical tools for mundane purposes like cooking is actively encouraged, and as such there is little or no need for a boline as a separate tool from the athame. Some traditions, such as that of Robert Cochrane, also prescribe the use of a single knife for both ritual and practical purposes.
Many of the bolines advertised in on-line 'magick shops' have a characteristic crescent shape, and are described as being for harvesting herbs. This crescent shape is reminiscent of the sickle described in the Key of Solomon, a medieval grimoire which is one of the sources for modern Wicca. Confusingly, an Italian version of the Key of Solomon has a hook-shaped knife called an artauo (a possible root for athame) and a straight, needle-shaped blade called a bolino. When the name 'boline' was first used to describe the crescent-shaped blade is not clear.
In many traditions of Wicca, the colour of a person's cingulum indicates what rank of initiation they are; in several Australian covens for instance, green denotes a novice, white denotes an initiate of the first degree, blue for the second, and a plaited red, white and blue for the third, with the High Priest wearing a gold cingulum (symbolising the sun), and the High Priestess wearing silver (symbolising the moon).
Wiccan High Priest Raymond Buckland said that the cingulum should not be worn, but kept especially for spellcraft.
The besom is an important part of Wiccan handfasting ceremonies in some traditions. A traditional Wiccan besom is an ash stave handle with bristles made from birch twigs. These twigs are tied on using thin pieces of willow wood. It is used to cleanse the ritual area before circle casting.
As a tool, the besom is usually thought of as masculine in nature due to its phallic shape and symbolism. However the besom's components are of both masculine and feminine orientation. The handle, an ash stave, is masculine in nature while the birch used for the bristles is thought of as feminine in nature.
Besom brooms, witches brooms and "flying"
Flying ointment, also known as witches' flying ointment, green ointment, magic salve and lycanthropic ointment, is a hallucinogenic ointment said to be used by witches in the Early Modern period. The witches would prepare the "flying ointment" to aid them in their journey. There are many recipes for this ointment all having a base of either Atropa belladonna or Mandragora officinarum, both highly psychoactive drugs producing visions and encouraging astral projection. The ointment was rubbed all over the body using the broom with a personal account given by one witch who described the act of rubbing the ointment on her hands and feet which gave a sensation of flying. Witches mounted broomsticks and would leap around the fields, smeared with the flying ointment, to "teach" the crops how high to grow. The ointment would give them imaginary "trips" so they thought they flew distances.
Doreen Valiente, the Gardnerian High Priestess, claimed that when she was initiated into the craft by Gerald Gardner, she was naked, but accidentally left her necklace on, only to be told that it was traditional for witches to wear such things.
In the tradition of Seax-Wica, the spear is used as a ritual tool as it is symbolic of the god Woden, who, in that tradition, is viewed as an emanation of God in place of the Horned God. According to Norse mythology, the god Odin, who is the Norse equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon Woden, carried the spear Gungnir.
Ritual tools from the Key of Solomon.
There are elaborate rituals prescribed for the creation and consecration of magical tools. These often include the ritual passing of the tool through representations of the four elements. Some tools are ascribed correspondences to a particular element, one commonly cited correspondence being:
These four tools may be seen in the occult tarot deck designed by Golden Dawn members A.E.Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, most obviously in the card known as The Magician. Some practitioners distinguish High Magic and Low Magic. The former is based on Ceremonial magic and may be more commonly practiced in Alexandrian covens. The latter is more typical of the Hedgewitch, who would be more likely to use everyday tools and utensils, rather than fabricating specially made magical tools.