The Altar & Tools
So why have an altar and tools? Simply, it alows us to have a focus for our mind and energy. Same concept as when you are cooking, driving or anything really we use tools to get to our end destination and we do these things without really thinking, because we have learnt how, half the time we don't really think about how we got there.
Your altar is a special area set asidefor religious and magickal workings, basically your wiccan workbench. If you are preparing a talisman or a magickal potion or remedy do it at your altar. It can be a small coffee table or whatever surface you can use, my old house we used the mantlepiece above the fireplace, in another house I had one set up in a spare room. If outdoors a stone, a tree stump or even a log thats lying somewhere. One thing to consider when setting up an altar, is the direction it faces. It is traditional to have your altar facing North, but if that is just not possible due to the size or arrangement of your living space, then you may need to place it elsewhere.
If you choose to have items to represent the 4 elements, they are usually placed at their corresponding direction:
- Fire - South (athame, candles)
- Water - West (chalice, sea shells)
- Earth - North (pentacle, bowl of salt or earth)
- Air - East (incense, wand, feathers)
Below are listed some of the basic tools used and alot of these things are around you in everyday life, it's just a matter of finding them and cleansing and dedicating them.
Simply a cloth used to dress your altar table, you can go out an buy one, make your own or use something you already have lying around. It is traditional to use the corresponding color cloth for each season but for now one is fine. I like hunting in second hand shops and material shops for altar cloth.
An athame is a black hilted knife, some use a white handled knife, it comes down to what you are comfortable with and what tradition you chose to follow. The athame is used for rituals and circle magick and is one of the primary tools. It is always a double edged blade about 5 - 6 inches long and it is only used for ritual, do not use it for anything else. The athame represents intellect, right thinking and calculation.
Some traditions don't use this others replace the athame with the wand, it's a personal choice. Wands are typically made of hardwoods such as Oak and Maple but may be any type of tree-type and can be adorned with a crystal, they represent communication in it's entirerity. It's said the atham is the masculine whereas the wand is the feminine tool.
The Chalice is the counterpart to the athame, the Goddess symbol. It is used in the Great Rite and holds the Ritual Goddess Wine. It's also known as the cauldron, the cup and the bowl. Because this holds the winer I prefer to have a cauldron for other uses. The chalice needs to be made of brass, animal horn, crystal, glass or ceramic, anything of the earth.
Some use these in initiation rituals but as a solitary I use it for measuring out the radius of the circle, and when need be binding.
A non-flammable container for burning incense in. It's function is to purify the ritual space or area you are magickally working. Incense helps the witch reach an altered state of conciousness and come in cones, sticks and powdered form.
A pentagram kept on your altar used for protection, these can be purchased in a number of places
Book Of Shadows
This is your magickal journal and contains all your spells & rituals. You may well need this during a ritual and to note down everything that happened afterwards.
Other Things You May Find Useful
A white hilted knife, traditionally the working knife. Used for cutting herbs, cords and candles whilst doing ritual work.
Used in rituals for signalling the beginnings, calling in the elements and ending a ritual. For centuriesit has been thought to have certain magickal properties.
Otherwise known as the broomstick! And no we don't use it to fly, instead for ritual cleansing and symbolism. Couples leap a Besom when getting handfasted and as symbol decoration. It is great for sweeping negativity out of your home, "out with the bad, in with the new".
Others things to have handy are amulets which are used to hold spells, usually for protection. Bowls, used to hold salt and water on your altar keep these specifically for these uses. Candles, assorted colors for different occasions and a candle snuffer as its an insult to blow the flame out. Divination tools such as runes, tarot cards, pendulum and anything else you may want to use. A cauldron for scrying. Music, the right kind of music can enhance a ritual and help you focus more. Statues of the goddess and god, shaping your own out of clay can add a more personal touch. Research these more and use what works for you.