On Tools and Psychodrama
I wanted to write this post because I see a trend that the witch’s tools are something inherently wiccan or only for certain witchcraft traditions. That for practicing magic and doing ritual you don’t need all of these tools, which is absolutely true. However, they can help. They are called Tools for a reason and they can help raise energy, guide it and empower any magic you do. So for this post I wanted to dive into the why of tools and the specific tools of a witch!
Psychodrama (This is a concept that within our own tradition is usually seen as advanced magic, but I think the witch community could benefit from this view on tools.) Psychodrama is a term used within paganism and witchcraft to describe the tools, steps and preparations you can use to get yourself into an altered state of mind. This state is sometimes called the ‘Ritual mind’ and basically means the state of mind where you are most open to your own power (magic) and the power and magic around you.
Konstantinos describes psychodrama in his book Nocturnal Witchcraft as such: “Ritual is psychodrama. For the most part, tools or ritual aids are only there to help jar our subconscious mind into an altered state. Think of our waking consciousness as being a barrier to phychic and magickal abilities. Conditioned to dealing with purely physical aspects of the world, our waking minds block out the subtle states we seek in magickal rites.That’s why ritual is so important. Its actions and accoutrements help us break down our barriers and be more receptive to the unseen energies around us.”
Amber and Azrael Arynn K take it a bit further in their book Ritualcraft (which is a must-have for anyone interested in theoretical witchcraft). They speak about the Younger Self: the “inner child” which is no longer a child but likes to be enticed with sounds, sights and feelings. The Younger Self is connected to the subconsciousness and is basically the part of ourselves that stil wonders, is still in awe with the beauty of the world and firmly believes in magic(k). They write: “Younger Self’s literalism allows it to see events and possibilities in a way that may be beyond the ability of the conscious mind. Remember “dress up”? Your Younger Self does. Hence, the covener in the circle sees the priestess in her living room, wearing her moon headdress, short Roman robe, and holding a miniature silver bow, while the covener’s unconscious sees Diana running with her hounds under a dull moon in a deep forest.”
So when you, the witch, put on your robe or your witchiest clothes, light your candles on the altar you set up and pick up your athame you are telling your inner witch (Younger Self) “let’s do some magick!” The tools help you get into a mindset where you are more confident, more powerful and believe wholeheartedly in your magic and abilities.
Now do you need tools to perform magic? No you don’t, but I do recommend trying it out. Go all out for a ritual once. I firmly believe that the more energy you put into magic, the stronger your magic will be. So if you have a “bigger” goal take the time to plan a bigger ritual every once in a while and break out whatever tools you have/think you need.
Also remember that tools are objects that you consecrate, bless and imbue with your own magic and whatever powers you call upon. They can be powerful things. Using these tools can strengthen your magic and help you raise power.
The use of ritual tools might seem very wiccan, but it really isn’t. Gardner got it from his good friend Aleister Crowley, one of the most famous High Magicians and followers of the Golden Dawn that has ever lived. The idea of objects especially for religious or spiritual purposes is not new either: Egyptian priests had sacred knives, Christian priests have consecrated goblets and so on. Don’t let the fact that the founder of wicca coined this tools scare you off. Try things out and take what works for you.
There are some tools that, when I started practicing years ago, were considered “the essential tools of a witch”. I’m talking about the athame, the pentacle, the chalice and the wand. I’ll add in a few others, simply because I like talking about stuff (which is why this post is already so long!)
Athame – Traditionally a double edged blade with a black handle. The double edged blade stands for the duality in the Craft and in nature: masculine and feminine, light and dark, day and night, the inner and outer world. The black handle is to absorb and gather energy, which helps the witch in ritual. In most traditions you never, ever cut anything with an athame. The athame is a tool that is used to guide energy, both from the witch outward and from outside forces (deity, spirits, nature, etc.) inwards. A witch uses an athame to draw a circle, to call upon deity, spirits and elemental guardians, uses it to bless and consecrate objects and to draw and raise power. It is the most important and personal tool a witch can have (so never touch another witch’s athame please!) Because of all this, the theory is that the blade needs to be clean and not “contaminated” by the energy of candles or herbs that might be cut with it. Our High Priest used to say “the handle belongs to you, and you can decorate and do with it whatever you want, but the blade belongs to the Goddess, keep it sacred and clean.” He was a polytheistic pagan, but you can replace the word Goddess with whatever Universe, Energy, Magic you believe in and still understand where he’s coming from. That all being said, there are witches who use their athame as a carving or cutting tool, but I’ve found them to be rare.
Boline – Which brings us to the second knife, the boline. Traditionally a partner of the athame: a double edged blade with a white handle. This knife is a “working knife” used to cut, carve, whatever you need it for. The white handle was to cleanse the energy of the ingredients being cut. You see a lot of sickles nowadays, blades in the shape of a crescent moon. This was inspired by the (modern) druids who used to carry a golden sickle and used it to cut sacred herbs. Kitchenwitches and witches dedicated to the moon started using the sickle as a boline and it became popularized. (There’s nothing wrong with sickles. I have two…;))
Pentacle – The pentacle is flat surface that has a pentagram or pentacle on it. It can be painted on, carved or burned, it doens’t matter. The pentacle is a symbol for the element earth and is considered a witch’s working space. Because the pentacle is a symbol for the four elements and the spirit/divine, the pentacle itself is a place where all the elemental and divine power comes together. It’s a powerful place to charge spells and spell-ingredients and can be used as a beacon or focus during rituals.
Chalice – The chalice is usually in the shape of a wineglass and traditionally silver. It represents the element water and is reminiscent of the “womb” of the Universe. The place where we all come from and all power and magic is born from. The chalice can be used to hold (blessed) water, to bless the circle or consecrate objects with, or it can hold the wine for the “cake and ales” part of the ritual where blessed wine and cakes are eaten and sacrificed.
Wand – Another tool used to raise and guide energy. The wand is a symbol of either fire or air, depending on who you ask. They can be a plain wooden branch or heavily adorned with metals, gemstones and symbols. They can be as powerful and personal as an athame and can be used for the same ritual purposes. It can also be a symbol of masculinity, where the chalice is a symbol of femininity.
Bell – Usually a silver or brass bell with a handle. It can be used to cleanse a ritual space by simply ringing the bell, the pitch and vibrations “clear the air” so to speak. In group rituals it’s used to designate the end of a part, so the next practitioner knows when to begin. (which of course can also be used in solo rituals) It’s also a symbol of the element air.
Broom – The most iconic of the witch’s tools: the witch’s broom. It’s used to sweep out negativity and clean the sacred space. A broom next to the front door is said to protect against negativity and evil. During a handfasting (a pagan wedding ceremony) the couple jumps over the broom for luck and fertility, something also sometimes done solo on Beltaine. During witch’s flight rituals, where you’d use a flying ointment to journey or astral travel, the broom can act as a focus when held and can help the journey.
There are so many other tools out there (which I might come back to some day), but these are what I consider “the basics”. Remember, they don’t all have to be expensive silver things that you bought at the local witch store (though, if it’s your thing then that’s also fine!) A simple glass plate with a painted pentagram can be a pentacle. A letteropener with a black painted handle can be an athame. A pretty wineglass can be a chalice. Make it as simple or as fancy as you want it (or both! I’ve done both at one time or another). And remember: No, you don’t need tools to practice magic, but they can help strengthen and guide your magic.
Experiment, research, and happy ‘crafting!
(First posted on my Tumblr)