Hello Witchlings and welcome to another blog in my Witchcraft 101 series.
In this blog, I wanna go over tools commonly used in the craft, what they are used for and why I use them in my craft or not. Heads up, this is going to be a long one (it’s exactly 4444 words long).
As always everything is in alphabetical order including:
Blades (Athame, Boline, Sword), bells & chimes, besom, breath, candles (holders, lanterns & douters), cauldron, chalice, crystals, tools of divination (Pendulum, Runes and Tarot), Grimoire (BoS), Incense burners, mirrors, mortar & pestle, offering bowl, pentacle and wand & staff.
Tools in the craft
When you think of tools used in the craft you probably think of the cauldron, wand, chalice, athame and pentacle. These are a few of the common tools and are especially common and sometimes even considered essential to people of the Wiccan path. I’m not one of those people.
If you ask me, we already have all the tools we need at our disposal before we even realise we are a witch. Yes. You don’t really need any of these tools. It’s also very personal if a tool works out for you or not. For this reason, I recommend you to not just go ham and buy them all starting off. If you can make them, do so, it’s not only a great way to incorporate your energy and intention into the tool but can also save you a lot of money. Another good thing is to substitute a tool with the one you may already have in your kitchen just to try out. If you are interested in kitchen witchery this may even be a perfect go-to for you as you can use things you probably already have. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend money on tools, I have done so plenty myself, but I would be hesitant about it before you spend hundreds and never use this wonderful tool.
The power comes from you, the tool simple helps you direct focus in different ways. If you choose to use none of these tools that are 100% okay.
A lot of these descriptions come from Wicca oriented sources (listed at the end).
Side-note, I do not cover the altar here as I want to make it its own post. I didn’t feel it was right to include it here as in my personal opinion it’s not just a tool. There will also be an additional post specifically on Grimoires as I can talk about this a whole lot more than I feel is appropriate here and deserves a post of its own.
Through the ages, there have been several types of blades used in the craft namely the Athame, Boline and Sword. Blades are often considered connected to the element of fire (from being forged) and air for their more mental state of use.
The athame and boline I learned about from Wiccan sources when I started off. I own both but I actually only use my boline, despite having spent quite some money on my fancy athame. Using an athame simply isn’t for me, I rely much more on visualisation.
An Athame is traditionally a ritual knife, double-edged with a black handle. It is not meant for cutting herbs, that’s the boline its purpose. In fact, you cannot physically cut anything with the athame. It is used for directing energy, casting circles, cutting through the layers of existence so to speak. It can also replace the wand. It symbolises the masculine aspect of divinity.
The boline is a functional knife but solely used within the craft for ritual purposes like cutting herbs, thread, etc. as well as carving symbols into things like candles. It is a sharp blade and traditionally has a white handle. From all the typical craft tools this is one of my favourites. I use it for almost every spell or ritual I do and has been put to good use in the 11 years of actively practising.
Now I personally don’t own a sword, but my mother does. The sword is a much more ceremonial tool and most common among Celtic and Norse pagans and witches. It is used quite similarly to the athame, wand and staff, as its purpose is to direct energy.
Bells & Chimes
The altar bell and wind chimes and singing bowls are also commonly found in the craft. Commonly these are used to cleanse and realign the energy in the space. The bells are also thought to keep away or warn for bad energy and spirits, which is why chimes are often kept near doors or windows. They are naturally connected to the air element, and one of my favourite ways of cleansing a space when I can’t use smoke at that time. I personally have an altar bell, a singing bowl and a small chime bell attached to one of my plants underneath my window.
Next time you hear or hold and a bell, chime or singing bowl try to feel the vibrations inside your body and you’ll see why these tools have been used for centuries throughout varying cultures.
Another classic witches tool is the Besom or broom. What do we do with the broom? Yep, we sweep. We sweep the space clean, not just of dust and dirt but also of the negative energy lingering there. In Wicca, it is common to sweep before casting a circle. You can use a more modern broom, or one of that iconic twig bound brooms, one of which I have myself. There are even small hand brooms you can get to cleanse your altar for example. You can easily make your own broom as well, there’s plenty of sources online on how to do it. The broom is due to its cleansing and purifying quality considered connected to the element water, but in my opinion also to the element earth due to its wooden materials. I’ve heard of people that don’t feel it’s purifying as much but rather using the earth’s energy as a way to transmuting the bad energy into good (like grounding).
I do have one of those twig besoms that my father gifted me for my 22nd birthday this year and I haven’t used it a lot but the few times I did I really liked it. I do keep my space energetically clean in many ways so this is just one of them. Also, a besom by the door is said to keep out negativity, so who knows it might be a nice passive tool as well.
A fun fact about the besom is that the original reason why it was publicly associated with witches has nothing to do with actual witchcraft but is actually drugs related. Riding a broom stems from a time when a certain drug was smeared onto this broom and then ridden naked to receive the various effects causing people to act weirdly. This was, of course, an odd sight, and not what we witches used our brooms for.
Okay, this isn’t as common but I did want to include it as everyone possesses this tool and it’s very often overlooked. The breath, obviously being connected to the element of air, is one of the many ways we can use our life force in our practice. I use this a lot to breath my force and intention into a tool or spell, especially with my runes it’s my favourite technique. If you have a spell that calls for something that symbolises your life force (often this is listed as blood) you can sometimes substitute it with your breath (or spit).
Candle, Holder, Lantern & douter
I didn’t want to include this at first as I thought it was quite specific in a way (more spell specific maybe). They are probably the most common tool used in pretty much any practice. Candles obviously are connected to the element of fire. They can be plain, dressed in oils and herbs, carved, shaped, coloured, you name it. They are a very common and versatile tool, often used in many types of practices like meditation, prayer, spells, rituals, I could go on. Some people have a candle to represent a deity or specific energy. Some people prefer to use LED candles for safety and purely symbolic reasons or to cut down on the usage of candles when on a tight budget and that is still great, especially if you can customise said candles as well one way or another.
The holders can be equally customisable, low, high, carved from wood or stone, made of glass, painted, adorned with symbols or other things, and come in varying shapes to support the varying shapes of candles. These varying qualities can add on to your candle correspondence.
What I do think stands out from all these, but is still candle related, are lanterns. Lanterns symbolise the (guiding) light in the dark. Being an avid shadow worker this is big for me personally. You can still customise it by what candle you put inside. You can decorate the lantern just like you can a candle holder. Lanterns or candles in front of windows are also considered a way to guide spirits back to wherever you believe they need to go.
A douter is also known as a candle snuffer or extinguisher and is a tool still commonly used to safely extinguish candles. it’s often a long handle with a bell-shaped end that you cover the flame with. Sometimes in spells, you don’t want to blow out the candle (other than safety and practical reasons) and instead use a douter. I use a douter in my practice when I need to leave the candle for any reason during a spell that requires it to entirely burn up.
The cauldron is another iconic tool in witchcraft. In media, it’s often used for brewing potions (or boiling children if you ask fairy tails and movies). While it is indeed a great tool for brewing various things it is also commonly used as a container for burning items like incense or used as a place for offerings. Some people even use it as a substitute for a fireplace. It is associated with the element water and with the divine feminine and seen similar to the chalice in that regards. It is extremely common in goddess oriented practices as it can be symbolic for the womb and its symbolic view of being a vessel in which creation is possible. You can also use the cauldron for scrying by filling it with water.
I haven’t owned a cauldron for most of my years practising and didn’t really miss having it. That was until my connection to the goddess Cerridwyn (my preferred spelling) was revealed and I felt I needed a cauldron in her honour. I’m quite a hoarder so I don’t have a massive amount of space and it was purely meant to be devoted to her and any possible offerings so I went and got a small cast iron one which I decorated for her. I love using it for that purpose and while I may at some point get a smaller one to use for spells and rituals not specific to Cerridwyn, it is certainly not a priority for me now as I have other tools that fit the various uses.
The chalice is another common item, especially among Wiccans in my experience. It is associated with the element water and with the divine feminine. The chalice is often used for a ritual drink (often wine) or libation (aka for a deity). In covens or group rituals it may be used to pass a drink around the group as a way of having everyone involved in the ritual, maybe speaking intention out over it. A chalice can be made of any kind of material, but silver, glass and ceramic ones are common. If you go for a specific colour or metal you can further customise it to intent. Some people choose to have different chalices depending on the occasion.
The chalice is not something I use, at least not in the traditional sense. I do have a glass teacup specifically for libations but that’s really it and I consider it separate from my craft.
Didn’t want to include it but seeing how incredibly popular crystals are becoming nowadays I felt it was necessary to include them here. Crystals come in a TON of different variations (I have a book with 455 different types and I believe that’s not all of them…). I personally grew up with a mother that loves crystals so I was into this stuff long before I became a witch and I have quite the collection myself (around 100 different types).
Crystals all have different chemical makeup which in term supports varying types of energy. There’s a lot of debating how they work and such, and I have some unpopular opinions on that, but I do have a certificate on crystal healing and use them quite a lot in my practice. If crystals grab your interest be sure to put in a lot of research as there are equally as much fake imitations out there as real ones. And I’m not even getting started on how ridiculous pricing can be sometimes depending on which crystal we are talking about.
If you want to get into crystals, please don’t buy from Wish or Aliexpress as the quality tends to be bad, fake or supports child labour and other unethical practices for the cheap prices. A good crystal to start off with if you just want to have 1 piece is a clear quartz point. Clear quartz can replace a lot of crystals in spells (but not all) and is great for directing and focusing intent and energy.
Tools of Divination
I’m not going into all the tools of divination as there are A LOT of them. I will cover, in my experience, the 3 most often used tools of divination. Some of these may work for you, some may not. Just cause some seem more popular doesn’t mean you should use it. If none of these seems right for you maybe look into the various other forms of divination.
A pendulum is a tool best used for yes or no questions (unless used with a pendulum board) and for measuring energy. Some people use it to find lost items but I’ve never had any luck with that myself. Pendulums can be many things, from your favourite necklace, a ring on a thread to one of those fancy wooden, metal or crystal pendulums.
I own several myself, most are made of crystal but I also have one with a coin at the end and one made of a chrome spiral. I don’t use them as much myself as I often find other tools more useful/natural to me, but I do actively use them when scanning the energy in a room or during crystal healings.
With runes, I don’t mean the witches runes (which technically aren’t runes, to begin with) but the symbol alphabet from the old Scandinavian culture. Most common are Elder Futhark, which is assumed to be the oldest (hence “elder”) Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, which is a later variation from the downward migration to UK, Germany and The Netherlands among others, and Younger Futhark which is also a later variation.
Traditionally runes are carved or burned onto wooden pieces, but nowadays you can also find them made of clay, metal, stone and crystal. I personally prefer the weight of stone runes but there is something about wooden runes, especially mode of Ashen wood, that makes it special. Maybe that’s just my Norse path showing through knowing the tree of life Yggdrasil was an Ash tree.
The runes are traditionally thrown or cast and there are several ways of doing this, but can also be pulled from a bag and interpreted that way. Runes can also be used in spells or writing although there’s a bit of a discussion on both of those. Some people say each rune holds the power of what it represents, some disagree, and some say you can only write with the alphabets known to have been used for writing.
Before whatever way I use them I use my breath to breath in my intention, as Odin once breathed life into us. I also use them in a lot of my spells and rituals.
Tarot may be the most popular form of divination, even outside the witchcraft community. It has a rich history and comes in many shapes, sizes and depictions. However, one thing always remains the same, the 78 card system and the card correspondences. Some believe the guidance from the cards comes from a deity or spirit, some from their own subconscious and some think its all random but effective nonetheless. Tarot isn’t usually seen as predicting the future but more giving more information to reflect on a situation or question and give you advice on how to proceed and what you may gain from it. And no. You’re not contacting spirits just for using it once. Unless you specifically ask a spirit for guidance.
I’ve been using Tarot several years longer than I’ve been a witch because my mother taught me at a young age and I’ve been hooked ever since. Don’t believe me? I think my collection of 21 decks including 1 that I am making myself says enough. I use my cards on the daily, whenever I feel stuck and even go about doing yearly spread to get a feel about my year to come.
Grimoire (Book of Shadows)
So I said you didn’t need any of these tools but if you should have at least one it should be a Grimoire in my opinion.
A grimoire or book of shadows is an empty book you use to record your subjects of study in as well as spells and experiences. Some say its solely spells and experiences, some say only info, I say do it all. The term Book of Shadows is more so associated with it in Wicca, and there’s some debate about the distinction of the 2 terms but I don’t think it matters that much personally in this case. Traditionally these books are simple yet elegant, often sold as leather-bound and sometimes with handmade paper and fancy locks. In reality, your grimoire can be any kind of book with any kind of cover or paper. As long as it serves the purpose. Some people go the fancy route and some use simple notebooks or binders or even go fully digital.
Some people choose to write in special alphabets or different languages so others can’t read it. Some include a blessing or written spell at the front to keep it from prying eyes. I do none of these nowadays while I have in the past.
I have used a grimoire since the beginning and it has been my most helpful tool along the way. When we learn new information and write it down we use different parts in the brain that help us memorise it, as well as allows us to look back at studied material later on. When you record spells and your experience with them you also learn what works for you and what not, as well as if you got the desired results later on. Essentially it can serve as a record keeper for your entire spiritual journey and I personally think that is priceless. Besides, if you ever choose to do so, you can pass your filled book down to a new witchling or child of your own.
Because I find this such an important tool I will be writing a separate post on this with some different systems to use or things to include in your book.
The incense itself can be a tool to set the intention with herbal correspondence, and some believe it can cleanse a space just like burning the actual herbs (I personally believe its a less potent form of cleansing compared to dried herbs).
Just as there are many forms of incense there are many types of burners. Most iconic is the sticks and cones but there are also spiral sticks, back-flow cone variations of those (back-flow is used for those waterfall burners) and they have their own specific burners, although some burners can be used for multiple types.
Another variation is pellets or loose incense, which require a raster burner or charcoal piece to be used. The nice thing of loose incense is that it uses dried herbs and you can customise the blend to intention. I have several burners but my favourite ones are my Drakkar stick holder (shaped like a Viking longboat) and my raster burner with a flower pattern (looks similar to a wax burner)
Wax melts and oils work similarly to incense in this regard and that is why I am not covering those here.
Mirrors can be used for varying reasons. One of the ways can be for divination aka scrying (often using a black or obsidian mirror) or meditation where you gaze into the mirror to reach a state of trance. Another way is where people believe mirrors are gates to other dimensions and by using a mirror in a ritual they can access these dimensions. Yet another way is to use it as a form of protection where you use the mirror to reflect negative energy back at the sender.
As you can see the uses vary quite a bit. I personally have used mirrors for these varying reasons, mostly black mirrors, but I don’t use them a lot. My favourite being the obsidian mirror. Luckily people often have at least one mirror in their home already, so you don’t need to go out and get one to try using it in your practice.
Mortar & Pestle
This handy kitchen tool comes in many shapes, sizes and materials and can be quite useful in the craft when it comes to crushing herbs and other materials and mixing them. The mortar is the bowl and the pestle is the tool used for the crushing. While they do come in varying materials I do personally recommend a stone set with a bit of texture to properly crush and grind the materials, and not a ceramic one which can break when using too much force. (A ceramic one can be a good one to start though.) And while I’m a sucker for brass metal tools I do not recommend it as it’s not best for a lot of herbs and spices.
Now if you never use herbs or spices and such this may not be the tool for you. I hadn’t used mine for a long time to the point I almost regretted it until I decided to look more into herbs and their uses and it has gotten a lot of use since. So unless herbs are an essential part of your practice, maybe skip getting this one.
I guess this one speaks for itself in a way. An offering bowl is, well, a bowl in which you serve or collect offerings to a spirit or deity. Even if you don’t worship anything it can be used for offerings to spirit guides or your ancestors. Of course, if none of that applies to you, then this isn’t the tool for you to use. The bowl can be made of anything appropriate for the kind of offering you’re using. Common offerings could be food or drink, herbs, incense (ashes) or maybe things you’ve crafted yourself.
Most of mine are ceramic, but I also have a few made of glass (some of which I made myself). And don’t forget to empty them out or clean them once in a while if you’re using them for foods and such.
Some people say everyone considering themselves a witch should have a pentacle in their space. I disagree. The use of a pentacle, while common, is a traditional tool within Wicca. A pentacle is a pentagram (a 5 pointed star) encircled, often carved or burned into a flat surface of varying materials, commonly wood, clay or stone. It represents the element of earth and is often used as a place on the altar to hold items to be consecrated.
I do not use a pentacle in my practice and have never thought I needed it apart from the few months I explored Wicca starting off. Because the pentagram is considered a representation of all the elements, as well as being a symbol adopted to represent witchcraft, a lot of witches feel it is an essential tool. To me, other than being a symbol it doesn’t serve any purpose, thus I do not use it. It is up to you to decide if you find it important or not and if so, try to make your own from a piece of wood.
Wand & Staff
When you think of witches and magic another thing that may come to mind is the wand. A very iconic piece, again, and it sometimes has a bit of a Harry Potter feel to it.
The wand is one of the most popular ceremonial tools and is used to direct/channel energy during a ritual, similar to the Athame. It represents the divine masculine and is connected to the element of air or fire depending on whom you ask (I say fire). Wands can be made of any material but are commonly made of wood and are relatively easy to make yourself. When made of wood it also carries the properties of said wood. As I stated earlier, wands and athames can replace one another in ritual.
The staff looks a lot like the wand but represents power and authority. It is also considered a divine masculine item and the same elemental connection can be made as with the wand. This one you can also make yourself. Depending on the tradition some say everyone can use it and some say only the High Priest(ess) can.
I don’t use a staff or a traditional wand. I have made several throughout the years to try out and see what works for me. I even made a very pretty one out of an old paintbrush, but it’s not really my thing it seems. However, last year I obtained a small raw wand shaped piece of Mahogany Obsidian and it instantly replaced where others would use a wand or athame, as it has 2 pointed tips for channelling. Nothing has worked as well for me as this piece of obsidian, but I am quite obsidian obsessed so maybe I’m a little biased.