When we think of magic, what comes more to mind than the vision of a witch, standing over a cauldron, muttering phrases while waving a magic wand. Indeed, the visual of a witch is often accompanied by a broom, wand, cauldron, or any manner tools and objects. For todays lesson, we will go over the basics of these tools, including the most common ones, and also what you can do to substitute for them if you do not have these items.
Please know that magic doesn’t actually require any tools, however the use of tools helps to focus the mind and makes the working of magic easier, but please do not believe that you must actually purchase or use any of these items.
Athame or Sword
Substitution: Kitchen knife, Pointer finger on dominant hand
The Athame is a sacred knife the typically has a black or yellow handle and a double sided blade, similar to a medieval dagger. While swords used to be the preferred object to be used, and still is in many forms of higher magic, the Athame took over popularity due to its more discreet nature while still being able to accomplish the desired work. This item represent the element of Fire and has different uses depending on the traditions you follow. It is mainly used to direct energy, symbolize the cutting of energy, and assist in controlling spirits.
Substitution: Any type of fireproof bowl
The Cauldron has long been considered synonymous with witcraft, ever since Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and the image of old crones stirring a potion around the fire. The Cauldron works as a place to contain and cast away energy. Often used to represent the “womb” of the goddess, this is the object that contains the magic to let it simmer. Most often used as a safe place to burn paper or sigils, mix essential oils or brews, and can be used for scrying if filled with water.
Substitution: A cup
The Chalice is a magical cup that is used to represent the energy of water. Often considered the same as the Cauldron for most workings, the Chalice is a bit different in its uses. While the Cauldron can be used to do most things, the Chalice should only be used to hold a sacrificial drink, typically wine, and should not be used for anything else (for health reasons to name a few). An interesting note is that that Chalice was considered to be the basis of the legend of the Holy Grail
Substitution: Broom, Brush, Hair Brush
The Besom is a collection of twigs and hay that is wrapped around a strong stick or branch (yup, think old time broom). While the symbol of a witch flying through the air on a broom is as old as time, the besom does not grant that power. Instead, it symbolizes cleansing and home. Used in handfasting ceremonies (where the happy couple jump over the broom), fertility rites (where the handle is used to represent a phallus), and cleansing rituals (sweeping from east to west is said to remove any negative energy or entity), the Besom is as important to witchcraft as it is iconic.
Mortar and Pestle
Substitution: A strong bowl, preferably metal, and the back of a knife
While having no specific elemental practice, or indeed any magical one, the Mortar and Pestle are used by many witches for the grinding of their herbs and ingredients. Some spells require certain items mixed together to dress a candle, use as incense, or used in a pouch, no witch would be able to do this without the help of the trusty Mortar and Pestle.
Pentacle or Paten
Substitution: A pentagram written on paper
The Pentacle or Paten is a clay disk with a pentagram or other sigil or symbol written on it. It is a consecrated item and used to symbolize the element of Earth in most standard altar practices. The items use changes depending on the nature of the symbol inscribed on it, as such I will leave it’s use to your imagination.
Substitution: Any stick that is the length of a forearm, Kitchen spoon, Pointer finger of Non Dominant hand
The wand is an interesting and versatile item. While used to represent the element of Air, in some practices it is used to represent the element of Fire instead. While similar to the Athame in that it is mainly used to control and manipulate energy. That being said, Gerald Gardner (a contemporary Wiccan author and founder) wrote in his Book of Shadows “used to summon certain spirits with whom it would not be meet to use the athame”
Substitution: A kitchen knife or sharp needle
The Boline is a knife that is typically used in the physical practice of magic. Used for the cutting of herbs, carving of sigils, and other practical applications, the Boline is a dagger that usually has a white hilt and the blade is in the shape of a crescent moon. In some practices the Athame is said to never be allowed to draw blood or be used as an actual knife, which is why the Boline is used instead.
Substitution: A small bowl or any incense holder
The Censer is a specific type of incense holder the is held in the hands. Often used with Catholic practices, you might recognize it as the object the priest holds as they walk up and down the aisle that lets out smoke. Held by a chain, the censor holds burning coals of incense and is typically swung back and forth to disperse the incense into the air. While not practical for small rooms or single workings, any standard incense holder will work in it’s place.
I was hesitant to include this on the list as this is an item that is used to bring some degree of self harm, however I felt it important to include as it is very important to some cultures. The scourge is a small whip that is help in the dominant hand, often with a handle and many leather strips coming from it. It is used opposite the “Goddesses Kiss” in rituals and instead is used to represent sacrifice and hardship. The standard practice is to hold the item and whip yourself over the opposite shoulder, hitting your back. Normally only a mild sting, it is important to note this item is not supposed to be used hard enough to inflict actual damage, instead the sting and pain of the blows is used to remind the practicing witch of sacrifice and the hardships of life.
The Singulum is an interesting object, mainly as it has no substitutions and cannot be used by solitary practitioners. The reason being is the Singulum is used only to denote rank in a coven. While smaller or modern covens might not have the need for them, they were widely used in the late 19th and early 20th century. When witchcraft was coming back into the public eye thanks to rise of spiritualism and mysticism, many men of power were attempting to join and learn from these mysteries. The Singulum was used as a way to rank members, a way to display rank, as well as to make sure to show who knew what about the various mysteries. Oftentimes a girdle, cumberbon, or lapel, the Singulum was of different colors according to rank and was worn in a visible spot. This way people of a higher rank knew with whom they could talk to about the various mysteries, without mentioning forbidden topics to those not of the appropriate initiation rank.
There you have it folks, a list of the most common tools found in witchcraft, their basic use, and potential substitutions! While not mean to be a comprehensive list by any means, I hope this gave you enough information to have a good understanding of the basics and a desire to jump into the knowledge further!